Thoughts from Acts 10:9-16
We are commenting on the breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles. for our next “thoughts” is Acts 10:9-16, and the title of these thoughts is “God’s Supreme Will.”
When an angel spoke to Cornelius, he immediately (Acts 10:7-8) sent two servants and one solder to Joppa. The next day they arrived at the home of Simon the tanner where Peter was staying. Simon’s house was by the sea. As these men traveled, Peter was praying.
While Peter was praying, God spoke to him through an experience that Luke later (Acts 10:19) calls a vision. Peter falls into a trance, sees an object like a sheet coming down, and hears a voice speaking to him. These dramatic events are a part of the process of opening a door of faith to the Gentiles. In our next “thoughts” we will examine several key points about this experience.
One, prayer opens the door for God to work.
Peter was on Simon’s housetop praying. This was a housetop and not an upper room. Many homes in Palestine had an outdoor flight of steps to a flat root. The flat roofs were commonly used as places to pray and for other purposes. Many times, great things happen while we are praying. God uses our prayers as He works His striking wonders and opens doors of ministry.
As Peter was praying, he became hungry and desired to eat. While a meal was being prepared, he “fell into a trance” and saw a vision. A trance, according to one respected source, “is a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended.” Peter’s experience (Acts 10:10) is an illustration of this meaning. Whatever his precise state of mind, he saw a vision.
Two, God may ask us to do the unusual.
We are studying the breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles. Peter saw the sky open up and an object like a great sheet coming down. It was lowered by the four corners to the ground. God was about to ask Peter to do what he normally would not do. To reach the Gentiles, he must overcome some of his past views. He was very familiar with the Jewish laws about clean and unclean animals. These laws are presented in Leviticus 11:1-47.
The sheet was filled with “all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.” The word “all,” in this case, means “all varieties,” not every single living creature. For example, both clean and unclean animals are on the sheet. To my mind of Peter, it was an unholy mixture. This was not a small problem for Peter. It took a total reorientation to the will of God. Sometimes, God may ask us to do something that we normally would not do. When we do something unusual, we must be sure that it is God who is directing us.
Three, we should not object to God’s command.
At this point, a voice said, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” Peter replied, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Peter had not ever eaten food that was common to all and was considered unholy. He had not eaten food that the Jews regarded as unclean. Because of this, Peter politely refused to obey God’s command.
Keep in mind that God was not asking Peter to do anything immoral. He was not being asked to lie, steal, bear false witness, or do anything else that was against God’s moral goodness. God was simply alerting Peter to the fact that the dietary rules were about to change. Peter may have felt that eating common food was immoral, but it was not. God will not ask us to do anything immoral or unethical. So, when God asks us to adapt to cultural situations and customs, we should not refuse.
Four, God’s command supersedes our customs.
After Peter objected (Acts 10:15) to God’s command, “Again a voice came to him a second time.” What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Then, to reassure Peter, even more, the voice spoke a third time. Here is clear evidence that dietary laws were not timeless and changeless. This warning was given three times before the “object” was taken up into heaven. God reserves the right to change or interpret any dietary laws. God’s command supersedes our customs.
Peter applied his vision about food to the Gentiles. Speaking to Cornelius and his friends, Peter (Acts 10:28) said: “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him, and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” God’s command regarding food is applied by analogy to having fellowship with the Gentiles. The gospel was for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews.
The matter concludes that God’s will is supreme. He is Holy, good, and righteous. He will never command us to break His unchanging moral character. There are, however, many cultural customs that we may hold dear. These are subject to change. The will of God is supreme. When God speaks, we should obey. He will guide us each step of the way. When we follow His will, the kingdom of God will be blessed.
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.