Question:In your post from April 5th, you state "Biblically, the only way we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit is at baptism (Acts 2:38). " From Acts 10 it appears that salvation (receiving the Holy Spirit) comes before baptism (Acts 10:47), What is you response to this event? In full disclosure, I hold to the latter view but I wanted to hear the response from your viewpoint.
Good question. I prefer to let Peter himself tell us what happened at Cornelius’ house. In Acts 11:15, Peter explained that when he began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them "as he had come on us at the beginning." Peter called this a “baptism” or immersion in the Holy Spirit. This is a rather obvious reference to what happened to the apostles at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. This “baptism” of the Holy Spirit in this case was not the salvation event of anyone, but rather a sign from God that what was happening was endorsed by Him. The analogy seems to be this. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the starting gun of the spreading of the gospel message to the Jews, whereas the outpouring at Cornelius’ house, on a smaller scale, was the starting gun for the evangelism of the Gentiles. It was God’s stamp of approval on salvation being offered to the Gentiles. In Acts 2, where the Spirit was poured out on a few, salvation did not occur when the Spirit was poured out. Salvation was announced in the sermon and the moment of forgiveness of sins, according to Peter was when the people repented and were baptized in water. This is when they received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins, as Peter clearly declared. The same applies to Acts 10, where the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was a prelude to Gentiles repenting, being baptized and receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. After his message was heard and accepted, the people were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. To connect these water baptism with forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit is rather obvious, as the pattern in Acts 2 and in Acts 10 is essentially identical. Like I said at the beginning, we do not have to rely simply on the apparent analogy because Peter specifically said to the Church leaders that what happened at Cornelius’ house was the same as what had happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.
To be honest with you, this is the only reasonable explanation of the two passages I have ever heard. Other explanations seem to be ad hoc—looking to save a pre-held belief rather than straightforward interpretation of the passages.
I hope this helps.