The Spirit blows where it will…

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Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking (to the household of Cornelius the Roman centurion), the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. 

I mentioned yesterday that, in much of the Old Testament, God was a tribal deity. God sided with Israel against other nations in protecting Israel and providing for Israel. So here we read about the apostle Peter proclaiming the gospel to a family of Gentiles (at God’s direction) – and the Holy Spirit being poured out among them. Surprise! Then, seeing no reason not to, they baptize the new Gentile believers in Jesus’ name. Again, in the theology of the day God was exclusive to Israel. The fact that Gentiles received the gospel and were baptized in the Holy Spirit broke the rules as they were known at that time.

I also note that the Holy Spirit comes on the people – THEN they are baptized in water. In our Lutheran tradition we teach that the Holy Spirit is given AT our water baptism. This passage, and several others in the New Testament, push back against this teaching. I’ve mentioned before in this space how I too experienced a separate encounter with God (baptism in the Holy Spirit) many years after being baptized in water. I can’t explain why that happened, I just know that it did.

I am reminded this morning that the Spirit blows where it will (John 3:8). And that we must always be prepared to be surprised by the Spirit, open to see the Spirit move in ways that defy our conventions. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

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