“Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:34 – 38)
Peter is preaching and evangelizing Cornelius the Centurion who, after being visited by “a dazzling man in white” sent for him. The teaching of Jesus’ ministry included the fact that he had been baptized by John the Baptism, and makes a sort of beginning of his ministry. I think it safe to assume, beloved readers, that the baptism was a much a outer sign of Jesus commitment to the Lord God as it was an opportunity for the Lord God to recognize Jesus and denote his special status.
Baptism is carried out in different traditions and in different ways. In my faith tradition it is done by young adults or older adolescents when they reach the age and realization that the Divine is calling them into relationship and calling them to a new way of living. In your faith tradition it might be different. But most of the time it is an outer symbolism of inner change – no matter what the age.
Peter’s preaching is a very brief synopsis of Jesus’ life and death.
“We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God 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.” (Verses 39 – 43)
The question is, and if I may – has always been – is it baptism that prompts a changed life, or does a changed life manifest itself outwardly in baptism? I am, actually, not a good person to answer that question. Since I have been very young, not even having reached pre-adolescence (think about 7 years old) I have been taught about Jesus, the Lord God, and “making a decision for the Lord God”. Long before baptism would have been appropriate in my faith tradition, I committed myself to the Lord God. I cannot remember those younger years clearly/completely as to how it actually changed my life, but I remember struggling with trying to find an outer way to show the inner commitment. And I remember that Peter’s teaching here (as it was taught to me by my elders) was pretty much what convinced to commit my life to the Divine.
We read further in this account that Cornelius and his household professed faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized. They also received the Spirit of God, holy baptism, this is separate from water baptism. This passage reflects that the holy baptism came first, then water baptism. It may be different in your faith tradition, beloved reader. Here, when Peter was done preaching, Cornelius and his household spoke in tongues and extolled God. And the water baptism seems to have been as dramatic a step as the speaking in tongues. Often, beloved reader, in our modern times water baptism does not have the same changing effect. Maybe it should.
I invite you, beloved reader, to think back to when you realized that you were called to faith. And to think about the steps that lead you to that, the steps that lead to baptism, and what your journey has been like since then. Just as re-reading scripture is good, so is thinking about your first steps in faith. Share it with others; perhaps even evangelize to others. Who knows what that “message in a nutshell” may result in! Shalom & Selah!