The Gentile Pentecost
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. – Acts 10:44-48
Within the context of the church's history in Acts, the Holy Spirit had been quiet since Pentecost. The remainder of Acts depicts the fulfillment of Christ promise (Acts 1:4-5). The Holy Spirit continues its claim over the church and expands the defined borders of the church. As will be seen in the next chapter, this expansion of the Holy Spirit is the New Covenant promise. Through the Apostles, Israel has been baptized in Acts 2. This is in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets and John 3. Now, the Holy Spirit begins His reach outward to the nations. These are not the Jewish adherents of the nations but the Gentile nations. This point is crucial because the Holy Spirit will move forward first. He will stake His new conquest of the nations and provide Peter with reason for the waters of baptism to follow.
Here in Acts 10 Peter is the source of this trek into the covenant expansion to the Gentiles. This and Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ's promise in Matthew (Matt 16:13-20). Cornelius, a God fearing Gentile, has reached out to Peter. A Divine vision is required to move Peter to accept this expansion towards the Gentiles. The gospel ultimately is preached and another Divine sign is given to convince Peter of God's work. The Holy Spirit falls without the laying on of hands. This is a worldview shattering event for the Jews with Peter (Acts 10:45). The gospel has spread and miraculous signs were required to testify to its validity.
It is at this point that individuals who seek to differentiate between Spirit and water baptism will draw between the verses. It is between Acts 10:44 and Acts 10:48 that the separatists thrive. However, the link to Pentecost is demonstrated by the “speaking in tongues” (Acts 10:44). Those who argue from this text for a distinction between water and Spirit baptism must explain why the gift of tongues is repeated. Claiming a separation lays the tracks to normative speaking in tongues. As has been shown in the baptism of Christ this separation is a unique preface to Pentecost and not the norm. So here also, this mini-Pentecost is not normative (unless the Pentecostal position is to be adopted). The Pentecostal point is proven unless this passage is read as a historically distinct recapitulation of Pentecost in the expansion of the New Covenant.