Question about the justification of Cornelius in Acts 10


Peter says in Acts 11 that he remembers Jesus telling him that John baptized with water but that He would baptized with the Holy Spirit. So my question is… was Cornelius baptized by the Holy Spirit when the Spirit fell on him and allowed him to speak in tongues, or did the Spirit fall on Cornelius and just give him the charismatic gift of speaking in tongues to show to Peter and the Jewish audience present that the Gentiles were also able to receive the sacrament of water baptism? And when Peter commanded them to be baptized with water immediately after, was this the baptism of the Holy Spirit he was talking about… water baptism empowered with the Holy Spirit now able to forgive sins?

Any wisdom on his subject would be very appreciated! :smiley:


Also looking for wisdom…


I think we need to remember that the connotations of “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is tainted by Pentecostal of the use of the term to mean strictly speaking in tongues and other outward things.

In this passage Peter is comparing the baptism of John as being a symbolic physical act to the baptism of the Holy Spirit which causes a real grace in us that transforms is and really and truly makes us a new creation in Christ.

We should also note that God acted extraordinarily in multiple ways to demonstrate that the gospel was also for the Gentiles. By sending a sign of the Holy Spirit before baptism. This is not necessarily saying that the people received the graces of baptism prior to baptism, but perhaps just a sign of God working to make it clear the gospel is for the whole world.

We can also see a case for baptism by desire in Acts 10 in regard to this.


Ok so what you are saying is that when Peter said Jesus mentioned that He would baptize with the Holy Spirit, he was talking about when he baptized Cornelius in sacrament of baptism with water… Not when the spirit fell on him before they received the sacrament correct??? So Cornelius was not baptized by the Spirit prior to receiving the sacrament… they weren’t saved before receiving water baptism of the Holy Spirit from Peter correct? When the Spirit fell on him, and allowed them to speak in tongues that was not baptism of the Holy Spirit coreect???


The charismatic gifts are gratia gratis data (gifts freely given) and have nothing to do with justification of the recipient. They are given to help bring about the salvation of others through the instrumentality of the recipient of the gift.

Another example would be Caiaphas’ prophecy, that it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish. His having exercised the gift of prophecy in no wise indicates that he was at that moment in a state of grace.


Yeah, basically, although I am hesitant to affirm “before water baptism they weren’t saved”. I don’t think we can definitively say that.

Strictly speaking yes, but the church teaches that there is a baptism of desire that Cornelius clearly displays. Basically he wants baptism and is seeking it out so if he died prior he could still be saved by his desire for it. The order of catechumens are protected in the same way today.

So I think you get what I was trying to share but be cautious in speaking of salvation since God is not limited to the sacraments .

Also, you could say that Cornelius was "baptized"by the Holy Spirit in the sense that he was “immersed” with the Holy Spirit. As another poster said, this was God acting uniquely to display his power to others which is different than the sacrament of baptism Cornelius needed for salvation.


Haydock Bible commentary on Acts 10:47

Ver. 47.* Can any man forbid water? *&c. Or doubt that these, on whom the Holy Ghost hath descended, may be made members of the Christian Church, by baptism, as Christ ordained? (Witham) —

Such may be the grace of God occasionally towards men, and such their great charity and contrition, that they may have remission, justification, and sanctification, before the external sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and penance be received; as we see in this example: where, at Peter’s preaching, they all received the Holy Ghost before any sacrament. But here we also learn one necessary lesson, that such, notwithstanding, must needs receive the sacraments appointed by Christ, which whosoever contemneth, can never be justified. (St. Augustine, sup. Levit. q. 84. T. 4.)


Interesting. Well I defer to St Augustine of course; but still, he does not say that there is a separate “baptism of the Holy Ghost” as a matter of course, but rather that God *occasionally *acts in this fashion. Nor does he say that this extraordinary action of God must needs be accompanied by charismatic gifts.


that is excellent but many Trad and Wholly others disagree on topic with. :o

God bless as You


The commentary notes give 2 different interpretations. Witham’s & Augustine’s.

Witham sees the gift of the Holy Spirit as a sign to the early Church showing God’s will that gentiles be baptized/initiated into the Christian Church (New Covenant) without first having to undergo initiation into the Old Covenant/Circumcision.
(cf Acts10:45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 10:46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 10:47 “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. )

Also note that Augustine states the necessity to still receive the sacraments (Baptism).


Actually, I think the passage in which Peter is “permitting” the Baptism of those people at that time is part of the justification for making sure folks know what they are supposed to know before they get Baptized. This is what going thru RCIA is all about. You prepare to receive the Sacrament(s). You are being guided by the Holy Spirit the whole time and so are those who are instructing you. You don’t need o be speaking in tongues to know that the Holy Spirit is active in your life. God promised that He would remain with us thru the coming of the Paraclete. It happened and it hasn’t left and won’t till the last day. I think some cradle Catholics would do well to learn about the process of instructions and the basic framework of the RCIA programs. You’d actually learn something about the faith that is very important and then could compare your faith journey to what the Church wants for you in that journey and if you are actually on course!



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