In Acts chapter 10, the Apostle Peter was lodging with Simon the Tanner, in the port city of Joppa. Simon’s house was by the seaside, and Peter was on the roof praying when he received a vision from God. The day before, in Caesarea, another man had received a vision that would directly tie in with Peter’s vision. The man’s name was Cornelius. He was a roman centurion of the Italian band. He was a just man who believed in God, and had a giving heart. He supported the things of God, and had a good report among the Jewish nation, and he was always praying.
It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when Cornelius had his vision. In the vision, an angel of God came to him, and basically told him that God recognized all the good he was doing, and approved. God saw his heart, and knew he believed in him. The angel told Cornelius to send some men to Joppa to find Peter, and he would come, and tell him and his family how to be saved (Acts 11:14).
He told him that Peter was in Joppa, at Simon the Tanner’s house, by the sea side. When the angel left, Cornelius called two of his servants, and a trustworthy soldier under his command, and sent them to Joppa.
The Next day, Peter went up on the roof of Simon’s house to pray. Around lunch time Peter got hungry. He would have eaten something, but while the food was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
Notice first, that this is not literally happening. Acts 10:17 makes it clear that this is a vision. In the vision, Peter saw heaven open up, and some sort of vessel came down, like a sheet that had been tied up at all four corners. In it, there were all kinds of unclean animals and birds.
Then, he heard a voice say, “Rise, Peter, kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). But Peter said, “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten any thing that is common, or unclean” (Acts 10:14). Then the Lord spoke to him again, and said, “What God hath cleansed, don’t you call it common” (Acts 10:15). This happened three times, then the vessel was carried back up into heaven. When Peter came out of the trance, he thought about the vision. That’s probably all he could think about. He didn’t know what the vision meant.
In the old testament, God had spelled out many health laws, and there are certain animals that are harmful to our health, so he said, “You shall NOT eat their flesh” (Leviticus 11). Many people today don’t think we have to worry about these health laws any more, and we can now eat anything we want. This vision that Peter had is one passage of scripture they use to show that. Was that what the Lord was saying? Let’s see.
First, notice that Peter didn’t immediately know what the vision meant. He knew the health laws, and he knew they had not changed. He said he had never eaten anything common, or unclean, and he didn’t seem to want to. This was years after Jesus had died, and he still hadn’t eaten unclean animals.
Unclean animals have nothing to do with ceremonial uncleanness, as some new Bible translations suggest. God has always made a distinction between unclean and clean animals. We see it at the flood. Hundreds of years before there was ever a Jew on earth. “Unclean” means “Unhealthy” or “Diseased.” Remember the lepers had to warn people away when they came near, so the leprosy wouldn’t spread to others. They would shout, “Unclean, Unclean.”
Eating unclean animals cause diseases in humans even today. Cancer, strokes, blood disease, and heart disease, just to name a few. That’s why God said, “You shall NOT eat their flesh”. So no, this vision was not the Lord’s attempt to let us know we can now eat “Unclean” animals. That’s certainly not what Peter thought it meant. What did it mean? Lets see.
While Peter was thinking about what this vision meant, the men that Cornelius had sent were standing at the gate of the Tanner’s house, asking to see Peter. The Holy Spirit spoke to Peter, and told him the three men were there, looking for him. He told him to go down off the rooftop, and go with the men, without doubting, because he had sent them.
Peter went down and met the men, and introduced himself. When he asked what they wanted with him, they told him about Cornelius the roman centurion, and about his vision from God, telling him to send for Peter. The next day, Peter and some of the brothers from Joppa headed out to Caesarea with the men Cornelius had sent.
When they arrived at the home of Cornelius, he came out to met them, and fell down at Peter’s feet to worship him. Peter lifted him up, and said, “Stand up, I’m only a man, just like you” (Acts 10:26). They talked as they went into the house. Once inside, Peter saw that many people were gathered there. Cornelius had invited his kinfolks, and his friends to hear Peter tell them how to be saved (Acts 11:14).
A great idea, right? We should always invite our family and friends to come, and hear God’s word. Peter began by saying, “You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
There it is. The meaning of Peter’s vision. Call No Man Common or Unclean. It had nothing to do with eating unclean animals. It had nothing to do with eating at all. God was showing Peter that all men were created equal. In fact, Peter goes on to say he now knows that “God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, those who fear God, and do right, are accepted by him” (Acts 10:34-35).
One person is no better than another in God’s eyes. Cornelius was a servant of God even though he was a Roman Gentile, and not a Jew. More proof that this vision has to do with Gentiles, and not food, is found in Acts Chapter 11.
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, You went in to uncircumcised men, and did eat with them.
4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
Peter told the Apostles, and brethren the details of his vision, and the vision Cornelius had, and what he did, and how the Gentiles had been saved, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:5-16). Then he said, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Act 11:17)
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then God has also the granted Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Many of the Jews accepted the fact that God included the Gentiles in his family, but there were some who didn’t, and many still don’t today. Many don’t even believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. Among those who did accept the Gentiles conversion, there was disagreement on whether or not they should be circumcised.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, you all know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Throughout the Bible, there is example after example of gentiles becoming part of God’s people, like Rehab, and Ruth (Joshua 2, Hebrews 11, Ruth 1-4). Many of the Egyptians left Egypt with the Hebrews and joined God’s people (Exodus 12:38). God even spelled out rules concerning those who are not born into his people, but choose to join them.
The Jewish religion was never exclusive to the Jews, but the religious leaders of the Jewish nation had somehow began to believe it was. God wanted that to be set right, and by Peter telling Cornelius, and a house full of his family and friends, this truth started to spread everywhere. Now gentiles all over the world understand that we can become heirs to the promises God made to Abraham. We can receive citizenship into God’s kingdom, and have eternal life, through the shed blood of Jesus, the Messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world. Praise the Lord for this knowledge, and gift.
Bible Truth For The End Time
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