44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,
47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
still speaking (v.44) — Peter had just begun his message (Acts 11:15)
those of the circumcision (v.45) — Jews — those who came from Joppa with Peter
astonished (v.45) = distraught — the same word is translated “amazed” in Acts 2:7
tongues (v.46) — the ability to speak a language without learning it. Here, tongues functioned as evidence to Peter and the Jews that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentiles.
can anyone forbid (v.47) — a challenge, of sorts, to the astonished Jews
stay (v.48) — Peter had no problem, after this experience, staying in the house he once thought it unlawful to enter (Acts 10:28)
Most Bible teachers have taught that Peter used the “keys of the kingdom,” first with Israel, at Pentecost, and then with the Gentiles at the home of Cornelius. This is not confirmed by the Scriptures, however, nor can it be. Peter did not open the door to these Gentiles. God took the matter out of his hands, interrupting his sermon and opening the door Himself, while “they of the circumcision” looked on in astonishment.
It is a fair question to ask how Peter would have concluded his sermon had he not been interrupted, for the Scripture sheds clear light on this question.
Suppose Peter had continued with his sermon and his hearers, like those at Pentecost, had been convicted and had asked: “What shall we do?” What would Peter have replied? There can be but one answer. He had not, like Paul, been sent to preach faith in Christ without works, for salvation. Those who believed under his ministry, even among the Gentiles, were to be “baptized for the remission of sins” (Cf. Acts 2:38 with Mark 16:15-16). But before Peter had come to this, and just after he had stated the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, God interrupted his sermon and took the matter out of his hands. Hence Peter later defended himself before the other apostles, saying: “What was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). — Stam, pages 98-99.
Here is still another departure from the program of the “great commission” which should be carefully noted. Gentiles, from here on and for some time to come, under Paul’s ministry, were to be baptized, since God had not yet fully and officially set Israel and the kingdom program aside, but water baptism was never to be required of Gentiles for salvation, as it was to have been under the “great commission.” Nor were they to receive the Holy Spirit only after being baptized as outlined in the “great commission” (Mark 16:16-18; Acts 2:38). Thus Paul could challenge those saved under his ministry: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2).
As far as the Scriptures are concerned, the twelve did not again minister to Gentiles. Thus the ministry of Peter, the chief of the twelve, to this one Gentile household, coming as it did, after the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Saul, was designed by God to cause Peter and the church at Jerusalem to give public recognition and endorsement to Paul’s subsequent ministry among the Gentiles when the issue was later brought up (See Acts 15:7-11, 22-29). — Stam, pages 100-101.