Faith Is, Chapter Twenty
In Acts 10:44 there is a very interesting account of the conversion of the household of Cornelius. For years now those who want to believe that we are born again when we are baptized in water try to say that this account was just an exception in the Bible of someone being saved before they were baptized in water. In the first place there is no such thing. We cannot bind God as to what He can do. This is the evidence that God accepts a man when he believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Acts 10:44 says,
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."
In the last chapter I was talking to you about the importance of water baptism as to our obedience to the commands of Jesus. I want to make a very bold statement to those of you who have been taught, as I was, that the act of water baptism is when we are born again . The act of being baptized in water is not when we are born again! In the above scripture it is recorded that Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he heard the gospel presented to him by the Apostle Peter. He had not yet been baptized in water.
Paul said in Rom. 10: 8-11,
"The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
Cornelius and his people believed in their heart what Peter was telling them as he was telling them and the Lord baptized them in His Holy Spirit into the Spiritual Body of Christ and they begin to speak in tongues and praise the Lord. This was the fulfilling of exactly what the Apostle Paul talked about in Rom. 10:8!
Why is it that religion always wants to put God in a box and limit Him to what He can do? Don't you see that the most important process that we go through in our being born again is what happen to us inside and not what happens on the outside. Christ does not dwell or live on the outside of us but He lives in us and through us. Paul said in Col. 1:26-27,
"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!"
Let me quote to you what Jesus had to say about this in Luke 17:20,
"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you."
The Apostle Paul in his understanding of what the Spirit of Christ had taught him went all the way back to Abraham bypassing the Law of Moses to teach us how to be pleasing to God. He said in Rom. 4:1-25, (NIV)
"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Paul was talking here to Jews who trusted in circumcision to save them. He clearly points out that the righteousness that was credited to Abraham was credited to him before he was circumcised and that circumcision was a sign of what had happened when he believed the Lord.
In verse 23 Paul says,
"The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead."
This is the exact thing that occurs with us when we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Water baptism is a sign or a seal of what has happened to us when we believed in our hearts and confessed with our mouth that Jesus is Lord. It is an outward expression of what has happened on the inside of us just like communion is a likeness of partaking of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Is it necessary that we understand all the implications of communion in order to participate in it? No! Nor is it necessary that we understand all the implications of water baptism when we are baptism. All we have to know is that the Lord commands us to do it!
Paul said in Col. 2:9-15,
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
If you have not been baptized in water may I encourage you to do so as an obedient servant of our Lord.