A preacher in the Churches of Christ, among whom and from which I also serve God in his universal church, asks why the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house were commanded to be baptized (Acts 10:48) if they already were saved. Their baptism could not be “for remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), he says, if they already had been forgiven.
* * *
Three reasons spring immediately to mind why Peter commanded these folks to be baptized. First, because Jesus commanded those who preach the gospel to baptize hearers who believe it (Matt. 28:19). As an obedient apostle, Peter did what Jesus ordained. Second, because baptism is the New Testament way for new believers initially to express their faith (Mk. 16:16; Col. 2:12). These were new believers. Third, because baptism visibly symbolizes identification with the church, the People of God (Acts 11:2-3, 17). This was Peter’s original problem — he didn’t want to allow Gentiles into the fellowship (Acts 10:9-20).
The baptism of this household was “for remission of sins” in the same way anyone else’s baptism is “for remission of sins.” It was the visible, public declaration and expression of invisible, internal faith in Jesus Christ, through which faith everyone who believes in Jesus has remission of sins (Acts 10:43). In a similar manner, baptism declares and evidences repentance, which, according to Jesus as quoted by Luke, also brings remission of sins (Lk. 24:47). What is said of the inner states of the heart (repentance and faith) may be fairly stated also of the outward act (baptism in water) which expresses and manifests those inward dispositions.
No one should be surprised, therefore, that this story ends with Peter commanding this ancient Italian military family to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).