He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message…So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Act 10:42-48 NIV)
The apostolic sermons all start off with the history of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The apostles also point to his return in glory and also to the coming judgment facing all people – dead and alive. They demonstrate that all prophets gave witness to him and that all, who believe in him, will receive forgiveness of sins. The history and future of Jesus Christ, the prophetic promises pointing towards him throughout the Old Testament and finally belief in him and the forgiveness of sins are the main parts of the apostolic homilies.
As they were delivering these sermons, our Lord was with them. He was working faith through them in those listening and he confirmed their words with mighty signs, miracles and wonders. That’s how it was at Pentecost and also in the scriptural reading above. Cornelius and his people received St. Peter’s sermon as the word of God. Their hearts were filled by it with light and confidence. Besides these internal experiences there were also outward confirmations of powerful signs and miracles. They began to speak in tongues as on Pentecost and the apostles praised God, that he had given pagans repentance to life and the gift of his most holy Spirit.
This made St. Peter recognize that Pentecost is for all people and that even the pagans can come to Christ directly – and do not have to come via Judaism. When St. Peter say that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were granted to the pagans, he no longer hesitated to hand out to them the regular gifts of the same Spirit and ordered that they be baptized too. Those glorify the children of God, these however save them. Salvation is necessary, vital and crucial, glorification is good, but remains optional.
Faith is given to Cornelius, therefore baptism can’t be refused. He, who grants faith, also gives baptism. Therefore obey the command of our Lord Jesus Christ and hold fast to his promise: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!
God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free Lasting to eternity! (Erdmann Neumeister 1671-1756; tr. Robert E. Voelker 1957)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the high Christian holiday of Monday after Pentecost. It is found on Pg. 209 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.