The Study of the Holy Spirit

"All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also."  Acts 10:45

Part C:  The Significance of Tongues in the House of Cornelius. Acts 10


"Peter Baptizing the Centurion Cornelius" by Francesco Trevisani, 1709

C.          What was the significance of speaking in tongues in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)?

1.               Cornelius was a Roman centurion who lived in Caesarea.  He was a devout fearer of God, but he did not know about Jesus Christ (Acts 10:1-2).  God took special pains to call Cornelius, his relatives, and his close friends to a saving faith in Jesus (Acts 10:24).

2.               In a vision, an angel instructed Cornelius to send for Simon Peter, who was residing in Joppa (Acts 10:3-6).

3.               In Joppa, meanwhile, Peter fell into a trance.  In the vision he thrice was commanded, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Acts 10:9-16).  As Peter was pondering the meaning of this vision, Cornelius’ soldier and two servants arrived, and the Holy Spirit instructed Peter to “accompany them without misgivings,” for God Himself had sent them (Acts 10:17-20).

4.               Peter and some “brethren from Joppa” set off with the delegation for Caesarea.  Peter reported to those gathered in Cornelius’ house that God had instructed him to associate freely with these Gentiles.  Why had Cornelius sent for him (Acts 10:23-29)?  Cornelius explained the instructions of the angel, and ended his response by saying that they were waiting to hear all that Peter had “been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:30-33).

5.               Peter began a presentation of the Gospel.  He acknowledged God’s impartiality in establishing a relationship with people of any nationality (Acts 10:34-35).  God spoke peace to the sons of Israel through Jesus of Nazareth, anointing him as Messiah by His Spirit.  Thus empowered, Jesus healed all afflicted by the devil (Acts 10:36-38).  Though the Jewish people crucified Him, God raised Him from death, and He appeared to chosen witnesses (Acts 10:39-41).  The risen Messiah charged these witnesses with the responsibility of preaching to Israel that Jesus is the judge of both the living and the dead (Acts 10:42).  Now Peter arrived at His punch line:  All the prophets testify that every person who believes in the name of Jesus “receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).

6.               The results were electric!  The Holy Spirit immediately “fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44)!  Why did He fall on them?  Obviously because they all trusted in Jesus at that point!  It is fascinating to observe the reactions of the Jewish brothers who had come along with Peter.  They were all stunned that God had poured out His Spirit on people from among the nations (Gentiles) as well as on the Jews (Acts 10:45)!  How could they tell?  They were hearing the new Gentile converts “speaking with tongues and exalting God” (Acts 10:46).  Peter, without hesitation, concluded, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  He immediately “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47-48).

7.               What was the significance of this speaking in tongues by these new Gentile converts?  Their speaking in tongues served as a sign to the Jewish believers there gathered that God had determined to pour out His Spirit on Gentile as well as on Jewish believers.  This was a definitive moment in Church history!

8.               When Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, he was immediately “called on the carpet” for eating with uncircumcised men (Acts 11:1-3).  In defending his actions, Peter meticulously rehearsed the history of the events (Acts 11:4-14).  Then he said that, as he began to speak, the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles just as He had on us (Jewish people) “at the beginning” (Acts 11:15).  Peter equated this event as a fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of being “baptized with the Spirit” (Acts 11:16).

9.               So the second recorded event of speaking in tongues in the Book of Acts served as a sign to Jewish believers that believing Gentiles, having been granted the gift of the Spirit, had equal access into salvation and God’s blessings in the Church (Eph. 3:6).  In the words of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

Part B: The Significance of Tongues in Acts 2 Part D: The Significance of Tongues in Acts 19:1-7.

The Significance of Speaking in Tongues

Part C:  The Significance of Tongues in Acts 10

Prepared by James T. Bartsch

Originally published April, 2009. Updated February 4, 2022


Published Online by WordExplain

Email Contact:

 Return to Pneumatology, The Study of the Holy Spirit, Index Page

 Return to Theology Index Page

This study is based on, and the links to Scripture reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. (

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.  Used by Permission.)

Search here.

Updated February 4, 2022