Being Made Clean: A Study of Acts

In the book of Acts, [10:10-16] Peter, an apostle of Jesus has a vision:

And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Now Peter was a Jew. In accordance to Jewish customs and laws Peter could not eat any of the things described. Leviticus 11:41-45 states clearly:

And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth [shall be] an abomination; it shall not be eaten. Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon [all] four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they [are] an abomination. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. For I [am] the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I [am] holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I [am] the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I [am] holy.

In the book of Leviticus the children of Israel are given very specific instructions on how to conduct themselves. Leviticus is the third book of the Old Testament. It contains instructions for the Levites the priests including how sacrifices are to be conducted, offerings and dietary restrictions. Peter was correct in stating that he could not eat these things, since the time of Moses these items were considered unclean or common. These animals are forbidden according to Jewish Laws. Peter is saying that he has never eaten anything that is forbidden. Peter was a devout Jewish man, he knew the laws and he followed them. Verse 15 says “What God has cleansed, that call not thou common” God told Peter, if I say it is cleansed then it is cleansed. Things that are common or are unclean are defined as defiled, unholy, impure, foul. These animals were called an abomination in Leviticus 11:41-44. Abomination means disgusting or abhorrent. God spoke to Paul and told him what was unclean is now clean because I say so.

This vision was repeated three times to Peter. God wanted to make sure Paul got the message. If God says it’s O.K. then it is O.K.!!

This event is significant for several reasons. It shows the cleansing power of God. God has made an abomination clean. God has told Peter who he is to minister to.

Further in Acts 10 Peter goes to the home of Cornelius a centurion in the Roman Army who lives in Caesarea. Cornelius is a Gentile. A Gentile is someone who is not a child of Israel. Cornelius is not a Jew he is considered to Jews of this time to be a pagan or a heathen. Now the bible clearly states that Cornelius is a devout man and he actually feared God, his entire household feared God.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band], [A] devout [man], and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.

Cornelius gave generously to charity and he regularly prayed to the God of Israel. This fact did not matter he was still considered a Gentile “heathen”. Accordingly, Jews were not to associate with Gentiles. [Acts 1-:1-2]

And he said unto them, Ye 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 hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Peter is saying that it is against Jewish laws for me to come into a Gentile home. But God has shown me that I should never think of anyone as defiled, unclean, unholy, impure or foul. Peter did not decide on his own but was shown by God that no man (or woman) is defiled, unclean, unholy, impure or foul. God is making the determination here. Through Christ Jesus we are all included. Because we take Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can never be thought of as defiled unclean, unholy, impure or foul. Never. The Good News of Jesus of Nazareth is for all. God has already made the determination and no one here on earth can change that. [Acts 10:28]

Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. [Acts 10:34-35]

Peter is saying that God is no respecter of persons. That is almost too easy. God does not play favorites. If you take Jesus as your LORD and Savior and worship God in faith, you are the same as all other Christians. Our God is not a respecter of persons, he is a respecter of faith. In every nation, Jew or Gentile, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. Jesus died so that could have all righteousness. We are in right standing with God and can go boldly to the throne and make our requests known to him.