Salvation Before Baptism?
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. Acts 10:44-48
In the passage above, just after the verses where Peter is preaching, we read of the Holy Spirit coming down on “all those who heard the word” (v.44). It is after the Holy Spirit came down on these people that Peter “commanded them to be baptized” (v.48).
Many faith-only “Christians” would likely point to this passage as an example proving that baptism is not required for salvation - that it is an outward sign that takes place after a person has been saved. After all, in verse 43 of Acts 10 Peter says that “whoever believes in [Jesus] will receive remission of sins”.
It is easy to look at verses 44-48 and think maybe salvation takes place prior to a person’s baptism. But we must expand our vision. In the next chapter we receive further explanation while Peter explains to the Jewish brethren what took place with Cornelius and his household.
Acts 11:14 says that Peter would tell them how to be saved, which does take place in Acts 10:34-43 (believe) and also includes verse 47-48 (baptism) and would have included other words for the complete package (ie. repentance). Some may argue that they had heard the words for salvation, ending in verse 43 with believing, and their salvation began in verse 44. However, this assumes that verse 44 happens chronologically after verse 43, which would be incorrect.
Verse 44 takes place while “Peter was still speaking these words” - as in: the words written for us in the previous verses. And in verse 15 of chapter 11 we are told that the Holy Spirit came as Peter began to speak. So the Holy Spirit had come before Peter had told them the words by which they would be saved.
Salvation came to Cornelius and his household when they were baptized - not before. When the Holy Spirit fell on them, it was not for their salvation, but to show the Jewish believers who were with Peter that salvation was for the Gentiles too (v.45-47).
-- John Thrower Jr.