Sometimes while we set and meditate on God’s Word, we may come across difficult passages that are hard to understand. That is why it is so important to let the Holy Spirit (Spirit of Truth) assist us in understanding what God wants us to know about His Word. When we come upon a single scripture that is not clear to us, it is only because we have not allowed God to speak to us. God is not the author of confusion and He certainly does not contradict Himself. So when we come across a scripture that is not clear to us, then we must go further into God’s Word to find the “Truth”.
Let me show you what I mean. The following scripture out of the Book of Acts, Chapter two, seems to be very confusing and appears to be in conflict with scriptures that clearly show that God's free gift of Salvation is by grace alone and we can do nothing to earn it. But remember, God is not the author of confusion, so if we are confused we must continue to pray and meditate on the Word of God to come to the “Truth”.
In Acts 2:38, is God telling us that in order to be “Saved” we must be baptized? If we read Acts 2:38 without going any further, it appears that Peter was saying that in order to be “Saved” we must repent and be baptized.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
Now if we read a little further into God’s Word, we come across the following scriptures that seem to put everything that Peter was saying in Acts 2:38 into prospective. In Acts, Chapter 10, we begin to read about the Holy Spirit working in Peter, and a wealthy Gentile by the name of Cornelius, life. Let us see what the Word of God has to say:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)
As you can see, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard: The Jewish believers present were amazed because they saw that the Gentiles had received the same gift of speaking in tongues that they had received on the day of Pentecost that is recorded in Acts Chapter 2. The good news had reached the Jews, the Samaritans, and now the Gentiles. All were united by the same faith, in the same Lord, with the same gift of the Holy Spirit.
In these scriptures, it is clear that the people were baptized after they received the Holy Spirit, publicly declaring their allegiance to Christ and identification with the Christian community. Willingness to be baptized is the consistent response in the Book of Acts of all who placed their faith in Christ. It is the appropriate response (Matt. 28:19, 20) of a regenerated heart (Acts 2:36–38). The manifestation of the Holy Spirit was the same to the Gentiles at Caesarea as it was to the Jews at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4).
Notice how Cornelius wanted Peter to stay with him for several days. Cornelius was a new believer and realized his need for teaching and fellowship. As believers we too should be eager to learn more about our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to recognize our need to be with more mature Christians, and strive to learn from them. This is the Christian fellowship that Cornelius wanted and that our Lord established with His church.
Baptized with the Holy Spirit: This statement is found seven times in the New Testament (see also Acts 1:5; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; 1 Cor. 12:13). The reference is to a once-for-all act whereby Christ places believers in the care and safekeeping of the Holy Spirit until the day He returns.