First Gentile Believers ~ Part 6

Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized

In my last post, we learned that Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa, and Kefa Preached the Gospel. In this post, we learn that Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized.

44 Kefa was still saying these things when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on all who were hearing the message. 45 All the believers from the Circumcision faction who had accompanied Kefa were amazed that the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh was also being poured out 46 on the Goyim, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Kefa’s response was, 47 “Is anyone prepared to prohibit these people from being immersed in water? After all, they have received the Ruach HaKodesh, just as we did.” 48 And he ordered that they be immersed in the name of Yeshua, the Messiah. Then they asked Kefa to stay on with them for a few days. ~ Acts 10:44-48 (CJB)

Had Kefa and company not seen for themselves that the Ruach HaKodesh came on these non-Jews precisely as, on themselves, they would not have immersed them with the manifestation of speaking in other languages. As with Kefa (vv. 9–29), it took a supernatural act of God to dislodge their resistance to bringing Gentiles into the Body of the Messiah, accomplished and symbolized by immersion. Cornelius, his family, and his friends were the first Gentiles to enter the Messianic Community without becoming Jews first.

This was highly reminiscent of the Ethiopian eunuch’s request for baptism (Acts 8:36). As with the eunuch, there was now no barrier, no way anyone could hinder the baptism of these Gentiles and their full inclusion into the Messianic Community.

Verse 45 presents an interesting phrase that may have snuck by us, the believers from the Circumcision faction, or, more literally, “the believers from the Circumcision,” which could mean not a faction but all Jewish believers. Which is it? In his commentary on this passage, David Stern has this to say:

In Acts 15:5, 21:20; Galatians 2:12; and Titus 1:10, “the Circumcision Faction” refers to a subgroup of Messianic Jews, namely, those who insisted that Gentiles could not join the Messianic Community merely by trusting in God and His Messiah Yeshua; they had to become Jewish proselytes. This faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered God-fearers fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism. Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews had never arisen.

But at Romans 4:9, 4:12, 15:8; Galatians 2:7–9 and Ephesians 2:11, “the Circumcision” is used merely to distinguish Jews from Gentiles.

Whether it means all Messianic Jews or the faction that wanted Gentile Believers to convert to Judaism is elucidated by what it was that bothered them. It is not reasonable to suppose that all Messianic Jews, or even a significant majority of them, would have both experienced amazement at God’s giving the Ruach HaKodesh to Gentiles (this verse) and criticized Kefa for entering Gentiles’ homes and eating with them (Acts 11:2–3). Only Jews (Messianic or non-Messianic) concerned with Gentiles would have had such reactions. Therefore, my rendering of the Circumcision faction. [1]

In my next post, we follow Kefa Back to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

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