A lot of people read the events around Peter and the vision he saw, to say that “God revoked the Food Laws”. Is this true? Can we come to the conclusion that God was trying to communicate to Peter that the Food Laws were no more after Christ’s death through this Vision? The objective of this study is not to conclude whether the Food Laws are valid for today, or not. (This will be a separate study, hopefully in the near future). The objective of this article is to study the said passage, so that we can figure out what it means, and what it does not mean. Whether God really did tell Peter to start eating all animals without separating clean and unclean, or whether God’s message was something else.
Let us start at the beginning of the Chapter and work ourselves down step by step. Since this is a verse by verse commentary, I have underlined the critical verses, if you want to get the facts, fast.
We know a few things about Cornelius. He was a Centurion of the Italian Regiment. He was posted in Caesarea, a place in Palestine. Mar 8:27, says that Yeshua Himself visited Ceasarea.
He was a godly man. He feared God with all his household, helped the poor and prayed constantly to God.
It says that he saw a vision about the 9th Hour. Later in verse 30, he confesses that he was fasting and praying at the 9th hour in his house. This was a separated time of prayer as seen in Acts 3:1. In this vision he saw, an Angel of God speaking to him.
And the Angel says that his “prayers” and the “compassion he had towards the poor” has reached God.
He is given direction to send men to Joppa(another place in palestine) to bring Simon Peter to him, so Peter could direct Cornelius as to what must be done.
When the Angel had left Cornelius, he called two servants and a god-fearing/devout soldier and told them what had happened and sent them to Joppa, as he was commanded.
While Cornelius’ men were approaching Joppa the next day, Peter went upstairs to pray around the 6th hour of the day.
It says Peter was very hungry, but the food was still being prepared. And he suddenly fell into a trance.
Peter saw the Heavens open up, and a great sheet with all kinds of animals let down to earth. And Peter heard a voice saying “Rise, Peter, Kill and Eat”.
Peter says “Not So, Lord”, meaning “may it not be”, I have “never” eaten anything which is unclean or common/unholy. This poses and interesting question. If, as some believe, Yeshua(Real name of Jesus) had taught the Disciples that all things are Clean, and everything can be eaten, why is Peter rejecting this “commandment” from heaven? So, it is safe to say, that Yeshua would have never taught any disciple to break God’s Food Laws.
Then the voice replies Peter saying, “What God has cleansed, do not call common/unholy”. This happens 3 times and the sheet was taken up back to Heaven. In this vision, did God revoke his food Laws and say God has cleansed all food, and not to call or segregate foods as clean and common/unholy or unclean? It is very clear. But, let us read on before jumping to any conclusions.
It says that Peter was unsure of what the vision meant. Why? it was so clear. God had told him to eat all things. But, Peter was not so sure what all of this meant. God had commanded not to eat unclean animals before, and now suddenly, He is asking Peter not to call Unclean animals Unclean! While all of these thoughts were in Peter’s mind, the men from Cornelius had reached the gate of the house where Peter stayed.
While the people asked for Peter, He was still thinking what the Vision meant, when the Holy Spirit spoke to him saying “3 men are looking for you, Arise, Go with them, without doubting anything, I have sent them”. Is this vision somehow connected with the arrival of the 3 men from Cornelius’ house? Let us read on.
Peter goes downstairs and declares that he is Peter and asks for what reason they are looking for him. They tell him that Cornelius, a Centurion, a God fearing just man, who is known by even the Jews with good report, saw an Angel asking him to send for Peter, to hear what he has to say.
Peter asked them to stay with them in Joppa, and left Joppa the next day with some of the other believers. The next day, they entered Ceasarea, and Cornelius was waiting for Peter in his house, and he had invited his friends and relatives as well.
As Peter was entering the house, Cornelius rushed to him, fell down, and worshiped him. But Peter “took him” up saying “Stand up, I am also just a man”. And then Peter entered the house to see many who had gathered.
Peter talks to the assembly, and says “You know, that it is unlawful for a Jew to keep company with, or visit foreigners”. Let’s stop here for a minute and study what Peter really meant, before we proceed. First of all, we should see that it was a known fact by all, that Jews did not keep company with foreigners. Otherwise, Peter would not start his speech by saying “You know”. We see this separation throughout the bible(John 4:9) So much so, that Jews did not even talk with non-Jews (John 4:27). They tried to even refrain from stepping into buildings that foreigners were in(John 18:28). Had God Almighty, instituted such a Law? God has always advised Israel not to go after the nations, and their ways, but never to not keep company with them or talk to them. in Deut 4:6-8, God even advised Israel to keep His Laws so Gentiles will see the good things of God and obey God. This law, of division between Jew and Gentile, like many other laws, were forced on Israel by their teachers and rulers, such as the Pharisees. (More about them in a future study). So, in short, It was a custom, or man made law, that no Jew could visit or keep company with a Gentile.
Now we finally get some solid answers to the questions we asked in Acts 10:15,16. Peter goes on to say, “but God has showed me that I should not call any man “common/unholy” or “unclean”. That is why I came promptly to you, as soon as I was asked to come”. It is very clear, by reading this admission, that Peter understood his vision the moment the 3 men asked him to come with them to Ceasarea. He understood that “God had showed” him the vision concerning not calling any man “Common/Unholy” and “Unclean”. Putting no difference between a person who knows God, and a person who is searching for God. Remember, ultimately, all are children of Noah, a child of God.
Peter goes onto ask why they asked him to come.
Cornelius explains what happened to him and tells Peter that they are present, to learn what God has commanded them to do.
Then Peter says that he “understands” that God does not respect any particular individual or nation, and that He has accepted all who “fear Him” and “does what is righteous”, in all nations.
Then Peter goes onto witness about Yeshua and preaches the Gospel to the people.
Then something fantastic happen. While Peter talks to the people, the Holy Spirit falls on the people. And some of the believers who were of the “Circumcision party”, who had come with Peter, were astonished. (We will check who “the Circumcision party” was, shortly). The Gentiles spoke in tongues, and magnified God. Then, Peter asked “Can anyone forbid these people who have received the Holy Spirit to get baptized? And Peter commanded them to get baptized in the name of the Lord. And he stayed with them for sometime.
The apostles and believers in Judea had heard that the gentiles received the Word of God.
When Peter came to Jerusalem, “those from the Circumcision” opposed Peter. Notice, that it was not the “Apostles” and “all the believers” who opposed him. It was only those of “the Circumcision”. Some think that “the Circumcision” is, all Jews. Not so. (Gal 2:12,13 showcases how Peter was scared of the Circumcision, and how the “other Jews”, who were not of “the Circumcision Party/Group” also followed him). They believed, as per the name which is used to call them, that you needed to be circumcised to be saved.
What was the accusation brought forward against Peter? That Peter went to “men who are not Circumcised” and ate with them.
To this, Peter replied by conveying the whole story which happened to him, not starting with the 3 men who came to Joppa, but starting with the vision he saw. He tells them the vision, and how as he was having the vision, the 3 men were looking for him at the house, and how 6 believers, present with him, went with him to Caesarea. How Cornelius had seen an Angel, and how the Holy Spirit fell, while he spoke.
Peter also says that he remembered what Yeshua said “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. He told everyone, that God had given the Holy Spirit to the gentiles who believed in Yeshua, and asked them, who was he to withstand God. When “the Circumcision party/group” heard this, they kept quiet and glorified God, saying that God had granted repentance unto the gentiles as well.
So, in conclusion, as we have seen throughout this reading, the Vision was connected to the Gentiles and not regarding them as unholy or unclean. It could not have been about the food. If it was so, “The Circumcision Party” who accused Peter of eating with gentiles, would have ripped him to shreds for breaking “God’s Food Laws”. The key to understanding this misunderstood part of the Word, is Acts 10:28, where Peter said “God has showed me that I should not call ANY MAN “common” or “unclean”.