The devout gentile, Cornelius, in the time during the first century was most fortunate to have an angel come to him (Acts 10:1-8). The angel gave him no words from God wherein at that moment he was saved, but he was told by the angel to send for one apostle, Peter, that belonged to God. From Peter he would hears words that must be heard and obeyed. Did Cornelius know what he was going to hear? Not exactly, but he knew that from God’s servant he was going to hear something, and we can be sure that Cornelius expected to hear something relative to spirituality. Dutifully and full of excitement Cornelius sent messengers to call for Peter. Peter comes to the house of Cornelius, teaching the truth of God. Cornelius obeyed the message he heard, becoming a Christian.
Later, in Jerusalem, Peter explained himself when called upon by others to do so (Acts 11:1-18).
There are some points we do not want to lose sight of in these two chapters of Acts (chapters 10 and 11). First, Cornelius was called upon by God (through an angel) to hear words that would come from Peter (Acts 10:6). Second, when Peter explained this situation to those who questioned him, he made clear that the words spoken were the words of eternal life (Acts 11:14). Third, as Peter spoke to those who assembled together to hear him, the Holy Spirit came down upon “all who heard the word” (10:44). This point of the Holy Spirit coming down on them was to confirm in the mind of Peter (others) that God accepted more than just the people of Jewish heritage (11:17). In 11:19, one can see how this new way of thinking was an initial struggle for those who came out of Judaism. Fourth, that which Paul taught the Philippians jailor (Acts 16:31-33) was the exact same as that which Peter taught Cornelius (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 15:11). Thus, fifth, though the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and those who heard the word, they were not saved until they had believed and were baptized (10:48). Peter called this “repentance to life” (11:18).
Objection considered. Someone might reply that Cornelius had to be saved before baptism because in Acts 11:17, the gift was received because they believed in the Lord. This means they were saved before baptism. First, look at the verse again. Peter referred to himself and those of Jewish heritage in receiving this gift from God (Acts 2:1-4). Second, with this recognition that Cornelius did indeed believe on the Lord, because the Almighty included baptism and repentance in His plan of salvation (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38), to relegate baptism as unnecessary to salvation is to take God’s will and put it under one’s foot because of doctrinal ideology, not biblical teaching. Third, Peter knew that baptism in the name of the Lord was “with a view to” the remission (forgiveness) of sins (Acts 2:38), since he taught it by inspiration and the authority of the Holy Spirit. There is no biblical reason, there is no emotional reason and there is no logical reason for him to say (or accept) but that their salvation was contingent upon them submitting to the death of the old life and the resurrection of the new in the watery grave of baptism.
Therefore, the purpose of Holy Spirit’s outpouring in Acts 10 was not toward salvation, but with a view toward confirmation (cf. Hebrews 2:1-4). RT