Acts 10:13-15 Neither Common Nor Unclean

Posted by Matt Postiff November 21, 2009 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Bible Texts 
And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."

Acts 10:1-11:18 is a crucial passage in the history of the gospel as it expanded to the Gentiles. Peter's vision of the large sheet with all kinds of animals was central in this. God gave the vision teach him something. It seems obvious from 10:9-16 that Peter would have understood the vision to mean that animals he formerly considered unclean were now clean (God had declared them to be so) and he could eat them. As a Jewish man, he would have been very particular to observe the various food laws and it would have been repulsive to him to eat anything unclean (Lev. 11:1-47). This understanding of the vision certainly agrees with the teaching of Mark 7:19 where Jesus "purified all foods." Also, 1 Tim. 4:3-5 teaches that food is to be received with thanksgiving and prayer instead of being rejected by a legalistic kind of religion.

But in addition, Peter clearly testified that "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (10:28). The question then arises, what is the link between food and men? In the one case, the animals are not to be called common; in the other, men are not to be called common. The connection is brought out in 11:3, where Jewish believers contended with Peter that he had gone to be with Gentiles and eat with them. The uncleanness of the Gentiles related, at least in part, to the uncleanness of their diet. To keep company with Gentiles would be defiling in itself. But to eat with them would be even worse (see Gal. 2:12). By removing the dietary restriction, God makes clear that not only is the food acceptable, but to be with those who eat the food is as well. Thank God: the gospel went to the Gentiles despite the restriction of the Law and traditions that would have prevented it. MAP

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