Removing Cultural Prohibitions: Acts 10:9-23
“9) On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10) But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11) and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12) and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13) A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14) But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15) Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16) This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. 17) Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18) and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. 19) While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20) But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” 21) Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22) They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” 23) So he invited them in and gave them lodging. And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” Acts‬ ‭10‬:‭9‬-‭23‬
A new paradigm was beginning. God was about to undo a three fold prohibition against the Gentiles. The Old Testament Law through Moses considered them unclean. Jesus had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He had warned His disciple not to go in the Way of the Gentiles or to any city of the Samaritans. (Matthew 10:5-6) These three prohibitions had been burned into Peter’s mind from childhood. No wonder the number “three” was important in this text.
Three Gentile men were sent to Peter by Cornelius. Peter saw the same vision three times. It appears from the text that it took the men three days to complete their journey. Three is also the number of God or the trinity.
As to the vision of the unclean animals, God was telling Peter that if all animals were now considered clean, certainly the work of Jesus on the cross made all people clean. He was driving home the point that people created in the image of God have surpassing more value than animals. God loves all people and Jesus died to atone for all people.
The wall of separation between God a man was torn down by Christ. The wall of separation between people groups was also torn down. Jesus reversed the dispersion of people groups from the Tower of Babel. He was now dispersing His disciples to all people groups around the world.
What God was revealing to Peter was far more than a new diet. He was sending his disciples to all people, customs and diets around the world. The basis for prejudice and discrimination between the races was now being removed and bridged by Agape love.
The point at which unreached people groups know that you love and care for them is when you eat their foods around a common table. Though I have my preferences for healthy eating, I refuse to allow foods to hinder the work of God or the spread of the Gospel. God has given me the grace to eat and in most cases eventually enjoy foods from around the world. I have invited Jesus to be Lord of my taste buds.
This chapter might seem insignificant at first reading, but it launched the Great Commission for the early disciples. People were now to be valued above foods, customs, politics and all things that drive wedges, separate or divide. The Gospel can transcend any wall or barrier. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 needs to be embraced by every disciple of Jesus Christ.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global