9. The Beginning of Preaching to the Gentiles through the Conversion of Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10:1 - 11:18)
9 Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. 10 He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, 12 in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. 13 A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” 10:16 This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven.
Peter was much in prayer. Without effectual, spiritual prayer there is no revelation. Prayer and Bible reading are like turning on a radio and tuning it to the required signal. If you are not willfully and rightfully tuned to the Spirit of the holy God, you will never hear the voice of God, and neither will you feel His graces or experience His guidance. He who studies the Bible prayerfully communicates with God.
Peter and Cornelius prayed regularly every day. Their lives and works were knit together by prayer. Have you, dear brother, organized your prayer life? Your continuous prayer and deep penetration into the Holy Bible are more important than providing nourishment and strength for your body through eating. Your soul must hunger for God and long for His righteousness. Your thirst can only be quenched by the water of life. Do not despise yourself, but be open for the Spirit of God to work in your life. Study the gospel every day, that you may regularly receive grace upon grace.
Peter saw heaven opened and all kinds of animals appearing. His first thought was about food, for he had grown hungry after offering up long prayers. The sweet smelling aroma of food ascended to the rooftop as the meal was being prepared in the household. Peter prayed and waited. God was using the severe hunger that His servant felt. He took him into a vision and showed him heaven opened at midday. Suddenly, Peter saw a large sheet coming down from heaven, until it touched the earth. He thought he would find in it some culinary treasures of delicious food and fruits. Unfortunately, he only found in it scorpions, snakes, lizards, chameleons, turtles, crabs, and thousands of other animals and insects, all regarded unclean by the Jews. He shuddered, feeling disgust at their ugly forms and shapes. Have you, dear brother, understood the meaning of these unclean animals? They are like men who, in themselves, are also unclean. When God looks at us He, too, feels disgust at our abominable acts, adultery, and proud thoughts. Have you ever sensed any of the impurity from your bad heart?
Immediately the apostle heard a voice saying to him: “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!” God wants us to overcome the feeling that we are in harmony with His divine pleasure. Peter, however, was opposing the Lord’s will, even in the trance. He claimed that the Holy One Himself had forbidden Jews to eat anything unclean or defiled, as a token of their abstaining from all forms of sin. Peter was not willing to sin and become unclean. Thus he wholeheartedly pushed away this offer, regarding it as a temptation to lead him into uncleanness. How about you, dear friend? Do you oppose every temptation to sin, even in your sleep or in your dreams? Blessed are you if you hate sin with all your heart. The Holy Spirit wants to strengthen and guide you, and show you a way out of every temptation.
God did not want Peter to eat poisonous animals. He wanted him, however, to unconditionally obey, so that his legalistic mindset might be broken. The Most High did not compel Peter to refrain from shivering at the thought of sin, but to learn how to love sinners. Sin remains evil, even though the Holy One loves the sinner. Without doubt men are wicked and unclean and, therefore, rejected by the Spirit of God, as were the creeping animals Peter saw. You need to know yourself. Do you resemble an angel or an animal? Are your intents good or bad, upright or vile? Man’s heart is evil from his youth.
God did not destroy those who bore His image, but cleansed all men in principle. The blood of his Son brings redemption, which surpasses all our understanding. All men are clean in the eyes of God, in spite of their sin, for He reconciled the world to Himself through Him who was crucified. So do not make salvation narrower. Do you know anyone who is a murderer, corrupt, an adulterer, haughty or boastful? Be aware that Jesus bore his sins on the cross and atoned for them, wiping out his iniquities completely. This sinner, however, does not yet known the grace prepared for him through forgiveness and atonement.
Do not forget that God looks at all men equally. From the time the blood of Christ flowed on the cross in Gethsemane the Holy One considers every man clean and holy. The Holy Spirit had to show this vision to Peter three times, for the natural mind and human understanding deem it impossible for that which is corrupt to be sound, and for evil to be good. God, however, is patient. He thrice confirmed to the dull Peter that the cross had overcome the mind of natural man. These three appearances indicate that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desires with all His redemptive will that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Salvation has been completed. God looks at all men as justified by the blood of his Son. Except for that he would have to destroy them immediately for the sake of His holiness.
PRAYER: O heavenly Father, forgive me my doubts and opposition to Your salvation. Overcome my mind, broaden my heart, and enlighten my faith, that I may realize the capacity and glory of Your salvation and testify to all men that Your beloved Son forgave, on the cross, the sins of all men. Open my mouth to speak wisdom, and grant my confession the power of the truth.
- What was the meaning of God’s word to Peter? “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”