The following series of questions and my responses is very lengthy. I normally do not publish an exchange like this (I have had several), but I thought this one to be worth the time anyone might take to read the whole thing. I think the exchange is instructive in a couple of ways, outside of the topic itself. It shows, first, the problems we have when two people define the same “religious” word differently. It also shows the corners one can paint oneself into by using a non-biblical definition. In this case it was the necessary conclusion from the questioner’s definition that a person can be saved and still have none of his sins forgiven, as well as his position that the Holy Spirit is given differently to Jews and non-Jews. Additionally, it shows that there are some people who will not change their mind, regardless of how much scripture they are shown that says they are wrong. I will leave it up to each reader to decide whether it is the questioner or myself that falls under that last point.
Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. There are two reasons why we know Cornelius was saved before being baptized. 1. Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before being baptized. That he had the Holy Spirit, 1 John 4:13 states that he abided in God and that God abided in him. To abide in God and to have God abide in you describes one who is already a believer not an unbeliever. One can not have God Almighty (the Holy Spirit) abiding in them and still be a child of the devil (unsaved). To have the Holy Spirit means that one is already saved. Such was the case of Cornelius before he was baptized. 2. The gift of tongues was given to those who were already believers not to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 12:10). Cornelius is said to have spoke in tongues before he was baptized (Acts 10:46, 48). Therefore Cornelius was already saved before being baptized. In relation to point #1, every time in Acts someone spoke in tongues they had already received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 10:44-48; 19:6). - Not all believers spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30) but those who did were already saved. Also those who have the gift of tongues are said to be already "in the church" (1 Corinthians 12:28) that is Christ's body (Colossians 1:24). Cornelius then was already "in" the church and Christ's body before he was baptized. Let it be further noted that in the days prior to Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon and empowered both the saved and the unsaved (including a donkey) to carry out God's will. However it is after Pentecost (John 7:37-39) that the Holy Spirit permanently indwelt only those who were believers, not unbelievers (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; 1 John 4:13). The "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 10:45 is the same "gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38. 1. The same phrase - Peter states that it is the "same gift" (Acts 11:17). 2. The same author (Luke). 3. The same speaker (Peter). 4. The same book (Acts). 5. The same context (the theme of Christ's Lordship/resurrection to unsaved people). 6. The same response (acceptance). The same phrase, by the same author, by the same speaker, in the same book, in the same context with the same response but two different meanings? Very improbable. In terms of the eunuch, in Acts 8:37 he states that "Jesus Christ is the Son of God." According to 1 John 4:15 he was already abiding in God and God was abiding in him before he was baptized.
I would like to commend you for seeing what so many people refuse to see. That is, that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and in Acts 10 are identical, and unique. This outpouring only occurred those two times, and for one purpose. To show the using of the “keys of the kingdom;” the opening of the kingdom, the church, to a group of people. In Acts 2, Jews received the outpouring, and preached that one must repent and be immersed in order to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. (This gift is not the same as the outpouring of the spirit that came on the apostles.) In Acts 9, it was to show that those who were not Jews could enter the kingdom. And again there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that it came on any other non-Jews. So the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the household of Cornelius was the same, as you say.
It is, therefore, not to be confused with the “gift of the Holy Spirit” promised to all believers, or the “gifts of the Spirit” that came to some on whom the apostles (and presumably Cornelius’ household) had laid their hands. Those are distinct things, which are also distinct from what happened to the apostles and Cornelius. The relatively unimportant gift of speaking in tongues was the most visible manifestation of what was given to them, and they were able to pass it and other gifts on in a limited degree (Acts 8:18; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). (That the “gift” of Acts 2:38 is not the same as the “gifts” of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is clear from Acts 8:15-16.) The gifts of the Holy Spirit in a limited measure appear to have been limited to those who were in the church, although even some of those used them wrongly. Since those are distinct from the outpouring that happened on Cornelius, we can not make any generalizations from them to his situation. That is, just because the limited gifts appear to be limited to the church, that does not mean the full outpouring was necessarily so. Nor does it mean it was necessarily not. We just can’t draw any conclusions from the data.
You especially emphasize 1 John 4:13-15. Besides the fact that the indwelling of the Spirit is clearly not the same as the outpouring of the Spirit on the apostles and the household of Cornelius, one must look at the context of these passages. Otherwise one would say that it is impossible for an unsaved person to love someone else, and therefore everyone who loves must be saved whether they believe in God or not. Otherwise one has to come to the conclusion that the devils that inhabited the men in Matthew 8:28-32 and the unclean spirits of Mark 3:11 were saved, because they called Jesus the son of God. Since John is not saying that unclean spirits are saved, then he must be saying something else. The whole purpose of John’s writings (all five books) was to combat the Gnostic idea that the body and the spirit were totally separate, and that one could sin with the body and still keep his spirit clean. These people were saying that Jesus could not have come in the flesh, because flesh and spirit can not mix. So what he is addressing in this passage is those who say that Jesus was not the son of God because he was flesh and blood. He says those people deny the whole point of the gospel. Even if they have been immersed for forgiveness of sins, that was obviously a counterfeit because they do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even if they claimed faith, and prayed for Jesus to come into their hearts, that was a counterfeit because they do not believe that Jesus can have anything to do with the flesh. Those who claim to be Christians and acknowledge the incarnation of Christ, on the other hand, avoid this proof of their hypocrisy because they admit what these others can’t.
Can the Holy Spirit give gifts to those who are not in Christ? You even admit this was possible before Pentecost. Could the Holy Spirit have given gifts, even to the full outpouring of himself, on Gentiles who had not been given the opportunity or the hope of salvation for ten years since Christ’s death? Considering the point of the event, that the Gentiles could be saved, I hesitate to tell God “you can’t do that.” I know he didn’t do that with saved or unsaved Jews for that ten years, but if the point was not to show that non-Jews were subject to salvation then there was no need for this unique event to happen at this time. It is the very uniqueness of the two events that cancels any argument as to whether the Spirit could have come on Cornelius before he was saved. We have nothing else to compare it to.
I guess I’m just confused as to the meaning or definition of salvation. Since the stated purpose of immersion is “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), “wash[ing] away sins” (Acts 22:16), and salvation (1 Peter 3:21), then are you saying you can be saved without being saved, or that you can be saved without having your sins forgiven? Since baptism is the point at which we begin a new life (Romans 6), enter the body (the church) (1 Corinthians 12:13) and “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), then must you not be saying that we can be saved in our old life of sin and without putting on Christ or being in his church? The impression I have always had from the Bible (1 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 4:18) is that salvation is from sins. If we are not saved from our sins, if salvation is not forgiveness of sins, then before I can answer your comments any further, I would need to know your definition of salvation. If being raised to walk in a new life to be freed from sin like Jesus was raised from the dead (Romans 6:3-7) is not the same as salvation, then I would need to know your definition of salvation. It may simply be that we agree, but are using words differently.
I would also like to know what you consider to be the purpose of baptism. If it is not for the removal of sin, or entry into Christ, or to begin a new life, as the scriptures say, then why is it commanded? And if it is commanded and one isn’t immersed then can they be saved without obeying a command clearly stated by Jesus and the apostles? In other words, if one is saved before baptism, then is immersion an optional command, and where do you find that in scripture?
The text is clear. Cornelius already "received" the Spirit before he was baptized. 1 John 4:13 states that because he had the Spirit he abided in God and God abided in him. That is a believer not an unbeliever. Also the fact that Cornelius had the NT gift of tongues DOES prove that he was saved before he was baptized. 1 Corinthians 12:28 states that this gift is for those "IN" not "out" of but IN the body of Christ. Cornelius had this NT gift given only to believers before he was baptized. Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 These passages actually demonstrate that baptism comes after salvation. 1 Corinthians 10:2 reads that they were "baptized into Moses" (eis Moses) in that the Israelites identified with Moses even though they had already accepted his leadership before the Red Sea (Exodus 12:21, 28, 35, 50). We are "baptized into (eis) Jesus Christ". This shows our public identification with Him. Like with the Israelites already accepting Moses as their leader before their baptism in the Red Sea so too Christians have already accepted Jesus as their leader (Savior) before their baptism in water. In terms of Galatians 3:27, notice it says that those who "have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." The word "put on" is the Greek word "enduo". This same word is used fore those who are already Christians in Romans 13:14. They are told to "put on" (enduo) Christ even though they are already saved. The same holds true for Galatians 3:27. Those who are already saved also "put on" (enduo) Christ at their baptism. Also, why dogmatically assume that the baptism in Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 is a physical baptism and not a spiritual one? 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of a spiritual not a physical baptism. "Baptized" is not literal anymore than "body". Both are spiritual. "Drink" is also spiritual. Paul uses the same terminology both in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:28 (this would apply to Romans 6:3 for both have the exact same expression "baptized into Christ"): 1 Corinthians 12:13 Jews Greeks slaves free Galatians 3:28 Jew Greek slave free Given the above evidence there is good reason to believe that they are spiritual baptisms not physical ones. Baptism shows our visible entrance into the NT church.
The easiest argument would be that 1 Corinthians 12:28 does not say what you claim it says. It does say that some in the church spoke in human languages they had not learned. It does not say that ONLY those in the church had this ability. However, I will not use that argument.
The text is clear, as you say. Cornelius already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. As far as we know, so did the apostles. (That is, we have no record whether they were baptized before all the others in Acts 2 or not.) Still, since those are the only two times that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred in scripture, we can not draw any conclusions from them in relation to other people.
Again, by your use of 1 John 4, the demons must love God, believe in him, and be saved. The “spirit” in 1 John 4:13 is shown by the context to be the spirit of love, not necessarily the Holy Spirit, the word of God. Not every time that a New Testament writer uses the word “spirit” is he necessarily talking about the Holy Spirit. If the spirit being in one is evidence that God is in them and they in God, then so is confessing that Jesus is the son of God (v. 15). Thus the demons also, according to John, are in God and God in them. Taking the verse out of context in this way necessarily leads you to such erroneous conclusions.
Your comparison of the Israelites being “baptized into Moses” in 1 Corinthians 10:2 as the same as being baptized into Christ in Galatians 3:27 would be an excellent argument against the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” or “perseverance of the saints.” I’m not sure your analysis is valid, however. It could as easily, or even more easily, be argued that Israel did not begin their new life as a free nation until they were baptized “in the cloud and in the sea.” So, too, a man doesn’t begin a new life in Christ until he has been immersed in water. But it is not my job to pit one unfounded analysis of scripture against another. The passage in Galatians is not vital to the argument. In fact, it is even incidental to Paul’s argument in the passage that both Jews and non-Jews are legitimately in the church.
The passage in Romans 6 is more clear and to the point. It specifically says that immersion is the point at which one passes from the old life of sin to the new life in Christ. Paul says that without it we can not be like the resurrected Jesus. We are still in our old life of sin. To this you ask why dogmatically assume that the immersion here is a physical and not spiritual one. According to 1 Peter 3:20-21, it is both. It is a physical act with a spiritual application. The only reason for anyone to say that the immersion of Romans 6, unlike the immersion of Christ himself and others, is not a physical immersion in water is because someone refuses to accept what Paul is saying in the passage. The only reason for changing the meaning of the word (or even for using the word baptism rather than translating it “immersion”) is to make it mean what someone wants it to mean rather than what it meant at the time it was written. You say that 1 Corinthians 12:13 doesn’t refer to a physical immersion, even though every Jew that read Paul would have thought immediately of the physical immersion that had been part of their practice for so many centuries.
You conclude by answering one of my questions. I asked what you considered the purpose of immersion, and you replied that it “shows our visible entrance into the NT church.” On that point I will agree with you wholeheartedly. It is what I have been saying all along. Baptism is our entrance into the church. At least, I agree unless you are saying that you can enter the church without visibly entering the church. If you can invisibly enter the church without visibly doing so, why be immersed at all?
You did not answer my other questions. If baptism shows our visible entrance into the NT church, and that is its only value, then can one be saved without it? (Putting one into the strange position of being saved while refusing to obey a direct command of Jesus and the apostles.) The other question was what your definition of salvation was. Since you are saying that you can be saved before having your sins forgiven and that you can be saved before being saved (and 1 Peter 3:20-21 specifically mentions water), then what can you mean by salvation? Until you define what you mean by salvation I have no way of knowing whether we are even talking about the same thing.
The text is clear. Cornelius already "received" the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. 1 John 4:13 states that he abided in God and God abided in him and that before he was baptized. I wonder why you did not really deal with 1 Corinthians 12:28. The NT gift of tongues was given to those IN the body of Christ not "out" of it. Thus Cornelius by having the NT gift of tongues was already IN the body of Christ and that BEFORE he was baptized. As stated Galatians 3 and Romans 6 most likely refer to the spiritual baptism not the physical one. 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes this clear that it is a spiritual baptism not a physical one.
I am still waiting for your definition of salvation. Until I have that, we are really arguing about something that we may actually agree on.
Now, to answer your latest e-mail. I did deal with 1 Corinthians 12:28, sort of. Since the giving of the full measure of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and to the household of Cornelius was different than the limited gifts of the Spirit that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (that came by the laying on of the hands of those who had received the full measure of the Spirit in Acts 2 and 10), it is difficult to draw any conclusions from that. Whether immersion in water is necessary for initiating salvation or not, from Acts 10 we can draw two inescapable facts and at least one conclusion. First fact, they were immersed in water. This example is clearly speaking of a physical immersion, although it also has a strong spiritual component as well (forgiveness of sins). Second fact, immersion in water was specifically commanded. The conclusion, then, is that, whether or not immersion in water is necessary for initiating salvation, one can not be saved without it. Otherwise, one is in the position of being saved while continuing in violation of a command of God through Jesus and the apostles. If one can violate that command with impunity, why not any command? In Romans 6 Paul clearly says that we can not continue in sin if we are saved.
What is a spiritual baptism, as opposed to a physical one? How can you distinguish between the two unless the writer of scripture tells you? That is, in most cases where a purely figurative immersion is mentioned, that in which one is immersed is also mentioned. For instance, “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11) In most cases where immersion is mentioned without an additional medium, water is the clearly intended medium. So in 1 Corinthians 12:13, since the agent is mentioned (the Holy Spirit) but not the medium, the medium is most likely water. Certainly there were Jews in the Corinthian church, and they would have understood the passage to be referring to immersion in water. Paul, himself a Jewish rabbi, would know that immersion in water was both a physical and spiritual act. A gentile could not convert to Judaism without immersion in water. Thus he began a new life in the body of Jews. Surely this is the picture Paul is using in both Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. It is a spiritual and physical immersion that brings one into a body of believers. Paul uses the analogy of a human body to show the work of individual member in the corporate body of the church. But that doesn’t alter the immersion in water that was required. In fact, it actually emphasizes that such an immersion was necessary to put one into the corporate body. It takes someone who refuses to accept the meaning as it was historically intended to change it to mean something else.
Immersion, as a religious rite, is both a physical and spiritual act, and the two can not be separated. If it is purely a physical act, it is merely getting wet. If it is a purely spiritual act, it loses the significance of a burial and resurrection that Paul so emphasized in Romans 6. (This shows that Romans 6 is specifically speaking of immersion in water.) It must be both. When Peter said (1 Peter 3:20-21) that immersion in water “saves you,” he went on to point out that it was a spiritual, as well as physical, immersion. It wasn’t just washing away bodily dirt (in fact, immersion in a mikvah only followed cleaning the body of dirt), but also the washing away of spiritual dirt. Peter emphasized that you can not separate the spiritual immersion from the physical immersion.
What Cornelius did is the definition of salvation. He believed. Again to have the Holy Spirit and speak in the NT gift of tongues is ONLY for those IN the body of Christ not "out of" it but IN it. Therefore Cornelius was already IN the body of Christ and that BEFORE he was baptized.
At last, we can agree. Now that you have defined salvation as believing, I will agree that, by that definition, Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. But also, by that definition people are saved while in sin. By that definition maybe even the great agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, would be saved, because his reported last words were something like, “Dear God, if there is a God, have mercy on my soul, if I have a soul.” Certainly, by that definition the devil and his angels saved, because they also believe (James 2:19).
If salvation is believing in God, or in Jesus as God’s son, what, then, is one saved from? Not believing? Of what value is that? If you are saved from ignorance, but not from sin, what difference does that make to God, who can not abide sin?
I just have a problem with saying that salvation is the same as believing. I don't find that definition in the Bible. By that definition you can be saved whether you repent or not. You can be saved while continuing to sin, because it is not sin you are being saved from. On the other hand, Peter contrasts salvation with sin. “And if the righteous be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:18) This would include not only the unbelieving (ungodly) but any sinner, even if they believed.
Of course, all this is dependent on your definition of belief. If belief, and therefore salvation, is more than just mental acknowledgement that Jesus is the son of God, how much more is it? If it is believing enough to obey, then where do you draw the line at which commands must be obeyed and which are optional?
So there we have it Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. Baptism had NOTHING to do with him being saved. Nothing. The fact that he had the NT gift of tongues given to those "IN" the body of Christ proves this. Cornelius was saved by believing. Beleiving IS obeying (Acts 6:7; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 2:6-8). The demons don't believe in terms of their eternal salvation; people do. That is the difference. Also all our sins are forgiven by Christ's blood (Ephesians 1:7). So positionally we are without sin. However practically we still do sin (1 John 1:9).
By your definition of salvation, Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. Immersion had nothing to do with his salvation. That is, Cornelius could be saved without having his sins forgiven; salvation is from unbelief rather than from sin.
That’s an interesting position you hold. You agree with me that believing involves obeying. Or at least, as you put it, believing is obeying (although the first two scriptures to which you refer don’t come close to saying that). And yet you say one can be saved without obeying a specific and direct command of Jesus and the apostles. That is, one can obey without obeying. I agree that the demons don’t believe in terms of their eternal salvation, because faith involves doing what God has asked us to do. Acknowledging God’s existence without acting on that faith is useless (James 2).
Besides saying that one can be saved by an obedience that doesn’t obey, you are also saying one can have one’s sins forgiven without having them forgiven, that we are saved but not saved from our sins. I do not disagree with your last two statements. The question is when the Bible says we are forgiven of our sins. You say it is when we are in Christ, and we achieve that state when we believe. Peter and Paul both say that we don’t receive forgiveness of sins until we are immersed (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Both of them say that this is a physical immersion in water. Therefore, that must be the point at which we become “in Christ.”
Your position appears to me to be that if I offer you a Rolex watch, all you have to do is trust that I will give it to you. It can stay in the box on the table in front of me, but it is yours and when you no longer need a watch you might avail yourself of it. My position is that if I offer you a Rolex watch, and all you have to do is open the box and put it on your wrist, as long as it stays in the box you have no claim on it. You can trust me all you want, even do everything I tell you to do except open the box, and the watch still isn’t yours.
Clearly neither of us is about to change what we believe. At this point we appear to be repeating the same arguments back and forth. Unless either of us injects new material, corresponding further is just a waste of time for both of us.
Cornelius was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. One can be filled with God and still be lost? No. Also he had the NT gift of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28 is clear. It is a gift given to those "IN" the body of Christ not "out of" it.
Acts 2:38 and 22:16 These passages only refer to the Jews associated with the baptismal ministries of John and Jesus. In order to attain the forgiveness of rejecting and crucifying their Messiah they needed to repent and be baptized. It was then they would receive the Holy Spirit. Cornelius (a Gentile) received the Holy Spirit before his baptism. It is in Cornelius that Luke demonstrates the normative pattern of how Gentiles are to receive the Holy Spirit. That is through their faith alone apart from water baptism. In fact, when Paul recollects his conversion experience it is to the Jews in the Temple that he relates the necessity of baptism (Acts 22:16) but to King Agrippa (the Gentile audience) in Acts 26 baptism is not at all mentioned. This is not to say that these Jews are saved any different from the Gentiles. All are saved by grace through faith. God temporarily withheld the Holy Spirit from them until they were baptized. They were however justified before this time. They already accepted that Jesus is the Christ before they were baptized. This in itself would be regenerating (1 John 5:1).
Ah! A new thought. And one I have never heard before. The idea that baptism was only for the Jews, and not the Gentiles. After all, as I pointed out before, immersion was a Jewish rite before a Christian one.
Perhaps the reason I have never heard that argument before is that it is so easily disproved by scripture. It is based on two false assumptions.
The first is the assumption that King Agrippa was a non-Jewish audience and would not be subject to a Jewish rite. Granted, Herod Agrippa II was an Idumean (Edomite) and possibly technically a gentile. However, even Paul admits in his speech that he is an expert in Judaism (Acts 26:3) and a believer (Acts 26:27). Herod Agrippa’s father was so loved by the Jews it is hard to believe that they would have accepted him as king and loved him if he had not, at least in name, converted. Acts 13:1 seems to indicate that he was brought up as a Jew, so his son would likely also have been raised a Jew. Paul did not need to mention immersion because Agrippa was already familiar with it. Also, we don’t know that Paul didn’t mention immersion, only that it is not recorded by Luke. Since Luke had already mentioned it twice in his account, he may have edited it out of this speech as having been already established.
The second assumption is that non-Jews were never taught about immersion or commanded to be immersed. Cornelius was the first non-Jew on record to be commanded to be immersed. (Acts 10:47-48). He was not the only one. The other obvious example would be the jailer in Philippi in Acts 16. He was clearly not Jewish, and yet was immersed. There are other passages that show it was not limited to Jews. Although you contend that 1 Corinthians 12:13 was not literal immersion, Paul says that whatever it was it was for the non-Jews in Corinth. In Galatians 3:27, for which there is no reason to doubt that he is talking about immersion in water, Paul says that it was for all. The book is written to those who would say that non-Jews had to follow the Law of Moses, yet Paul includes immersion with the requirements to be kept by non-Jews, rather than those which they did not need to keep.
“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” (Colossians 2:11-13)
Verse 13 clearly identifies the people Paul is addressing as non-Jews. Yet he says that they were immersed, that being the same as being buried with Christ so they could walk in a new life.
Immersion in water was clearly not for the Jews only, but was practiced by Jewish and non-Jewish Christians. Since its purpose, the forgiveness of sins, was for all people, then it would make no sense that it be required only by a few Christians. Why would God save every Christian, but forgive the sins of only a few, the Jews?
Baptism is for all but only the Jews received the Spirit by being baptized. It does not apply to the Gentiles for Cornelius already received the Spirit and spoke in tongues before he was baptized. Both show that he was already saved before he was baptized.
Colossians 2:11, 12 Water baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament. Circumcision symbolizes purification from defilement. It's a sign not a cause of the remission of sins. Abraham was justified before his circumcision (Romans 4:10, 11) just as believers are justified before their baptism.
Yours is an interesting take on the gift of speaking in unlearned human languages. I just wish you had some scriptural evidence to show that only the Jews received the Spirit by being immersed. The only argument I see is that it is proved by the unique case of Cornelius, which by its nature proves nothing about the gifts of the Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Do you have any scripture to back up your theory?
Thank you for reminding me to reread Colossians 2:11-12. It is another of the scriptures that points out that immersion in water was for the purpose of “putting off” sin and beginning a new life. Of course, since your definition of salvation has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins then one would not need to be baptized to be saved, but still needs to be baptized to have their sins forgiven or to be “born again.” Circumcision was never a sign of purification under the Law of Moses. The only “sign” of purification was not a sign showing that one had been purified, but the final act in the process of purification, and that was immersion in water.
Circumcision was both a sign that one was in a covenant with God (Genesis 17:11) and the covenant itself (Genesis 17:13). Without circumcision a male Jew was not part of the contract between God and Abraham. In essence, it was the signature on the contract. If, as you say, immersion in water is the circumcision of the New Testament, then you are saying that one can not enter into the testament/covenant between God, his Son, and man without immersion. Baptism is the signature to the covenant. Again you argue that you can be saved without being in a relationship with God. If salvation is faith, and if baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament, and if one can be saved without baptism, then you must be saying that faith has nothing to do with being in a right relationship or covenant with God.
I wish I could live by your definition of salvation, because then I could do anything I want and still be saved. Since it has nothing to do with forgiveness of sin, I can sin and still be saved. Since it has nothing to do with a covenant with God I can sell my soul to the devil and still be saved. Unfortunately for my fleshly desires, the Bible teaches me that forgiveness of sins is part and parcel with salvation.
Acts 2:38 makes it clear that the reception of the Spirit comes after baptism. Equally clear is that Acts 10:44-48 shows that the reception of the Spirit comes before baptism. Contradiction? No. Acts 2 applies to Jews while Acts 10 applies to Gentiles (that's you!). Yes the NT gift of tongues is given to those "IN" the body of Christ not "out of" it but IN it. Thus Cornelius by having this NT gift was IN the body of Christ and that before he was baptized. Also Cornelius was filled with the Holy Spirit but wasn't saved until he was baptized? That doesn't make sense. For that would mean if he had a heart attack before being baptized then he would go to hell. But that means God would be in hell with him. Impossible.
Can't see what you missed in Colossians 2. Baptism is being compared to circumcision. As one is justified BEFORE circumcision so too with baptism. (Romans 4:10-11)
I thought you might bring up that passage to say one is justified before circumcision. However, the passage doesn’t apply. Even if you define “reckoned to him as righteousness” as justification, Paul is saying that Abraham was a special case (just as I argue that Cornelius was a special case). Abraham was considered righteous, and subsequently the covenant of circumcision was given to him. Once the covenant was made, then those who enter the covenant (through circumcision) may not be considered righteous independent of it. Those who were not born into the covenant and who did not willingly take it upon themselves (non-Jews) could have righteousness reckoned to them without circumcision. Paul’s point to the Romans here is that both Jews and non-Jews can be considered righteous because Abraham was considered righteous before God instituted the covenant of circumcision. His point is that God could have reckoned him as righteous after circumcision, but if he had done so then only the Jews could be saved. So to use the passage to say that in all cases justification came before circumcision is to miss Paul’s whole point here. It, incidentally, also implies that a newborn child requires justification even before he has the opportunity to sin.
You seem also to have missed the point of Colossians 2:10-11. Paul is not saying that baptism corresponds with circumcision in all respects. He says it is a cutting sin off the body spiritually, just as circumcision is cutting the foreskin off the body physically. He does not compare immersion to the covanental aspects of circumcision, just to the physical. As I mentioned before, it is more comparable (in all but the physical act of cutting) to the immersion for purification than it is to circumcision. Just because Paul compares it to one aspect does not mean he is comparing it in all ways.
There are no special cases when it comes to salvation. It is the same for everyone. Only one God only one way. If there are two ways (or more) then perhaps there are two Gods.
Here we again get into a difference of definition of salvation. If, as I argue, salvation is forgiveness of sins, then the uniqueness of Abraham, the apostles, or Cornelius has nothing to do directly with the forgiveness of sin (i.e. salvation). If, as you argue, you can be saved without having your sins forgiven, then Cornelius and the apostles could not be special cases (although Peter argues in Acts 11 that they are). Abraham could still be unique in relation to circumcision, because that is what Paul argues in Romans 4. I am not saying there are two ways to salvation. The only way is through Jesus the Messiah.
Incidentally, I do thank you for challenging my answers. You have made me think and question what I have previously written. It has strengthened my belief in the truth of the Bible, and my faith that what I have held is what the Bible says.