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God gives salvation

by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | August 27, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way? When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'"

-- Acts 11:15-18, ESV

These verses culminate the thrilling account of the first acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by a Gentile audience. The whole gospel is now for the whole world, and onward it goes. We've celebrated Cornelius and Simon Peter; now, it is time to give credit where credit is due. We must credit God, for no one can be saved unless God gives them salvation. How does God do it?

The Bible reveals one God in three persons, and the person of God most prominent in the book of Acts is the Holy Spirit. God the Father appoints (ref. Acts 13:48), God the Son atones (ref. Romans 5:11, KJV), but it is God the Spirit who applies salvation to a soul. On this fateful day at Cornelius' house, "The Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word" (ref. Acts 10:44).

Before He fell on them, the Holy Spirit whispered to them in the "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:12). Something told Cornelius he needed Jesus, something told Peter he needed to preach to Cornelius, and that something was a someone, God the Holy Spirit.

Before He fell on them, the Holy Spirit convicted them (John 16:8). There is no salvation for sinners apart from conviction of sin and a hunger for the righteousness of Christ. The Holy Spirit lets us know we are lost, then, He tells us we are loved.

When He fell on them, the Holy Spirit gave them the love of God. The word translated "fell" is otherwise translated "embraced" in Luke 15:20, the parable of the prodigal son. In one incredible moment, the prodigal son feels, at the same time, the terrible weight of his sin against the father, and simultaneously the absolute forgiveness and unconditional love the father has given to him. This is how Pilgrim becomes Christian. This is how a soul is saved.

No sinner can be saved apart the Spirit of God, His communication and conviction and compassion. This is all a gift from God, a gift of His love (ref. John 3:16), a love big and powerful enough to save any sinner and transform them into a saint, with evidence to prove it.

True Christians put God first in their lives. One cannot experience the amazing grace of God in salvation without being amazed by it, changed by it, guided by it going forward. There is some ebb and flow to be sure, but the river keeps running, from justification to sanctification to glorification.

True Christians experience "water for baptizing." Baptism is a sacred ritual and a simple commandment. Notice it is performed after conversion, upon professing believers, after they have received the Holy Spirit.

True Christians hunger for the preaching and teaching of the word of God. To this day, they will flock to a church with pastors who preach and teach it, buy copies of Bibles and read it, and show their true colors by their love and obedience to the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.

Now, for the final report, which Simon Peter had to give when he got back to the mother church in Jerusalem. Some of the Jewish boys were hardliners against the Gentiles, thinking God loved the Jews only, not the world. But all these things had happened to Cornelius, and Peter, and them, to demonstrate that the whole gospel is for the whole world.

Acts 11:18 is the bottom line in every salvation story. God is the author and finisher, Christ is the Alpha and Omega, and the Holy Spirit gives faith and repentance required for becoming a born again Christian. It is all God, it is all a gift from God, and all the children of God receive faith and repentance from God. Therefore, God, and God alone, gets the glory.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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