1 The apostles and the brothers and sisters who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Peter began to explain to them step by step: 5 “I was in the town of Joppa praying, and I saw, in a trance, an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came to me. 6 When I looked closely and considered it, I saw the four-footed animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky. 7 I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 “ ‘No, Lord! ’ I said. ‘For nothing impure or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a voice answered from heaven a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call impure.’ 10 “Now this happened three times, and everything was drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them with no doubts at all. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we went into the man’s house. 13 He reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa, and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. 14 He will speak a message to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. 16 I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?” 18 When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.” 19 Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord. 25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. 27 In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. 30 They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul. — Acts 11
What God Has Called Clean
by Brad Cleveland
West Franklin Campus
When we read the Bible, we so often like to see ourselves as the heroes in the story. We know there is only one hero of the Bible, Jesus Christ, but we can’t help but to see ourselves as the Davids and the Abrahams of the Bible (only the good stuff, though). We love to look in the Bible and see that we, too, would have been worth of a couple of lines of Holy Writ. It is our natural tendency to see ourselves as the hero, not the villain. After you read Acts 11, to whom did you relate more?
We find that the news of God’s work in Caesarea had gone before Peter, who was immediately questioned about it upon his return to Jerusalem. He was met with an accusation: he was spending time and sharing meals with those who are uncircumcised. Remember that meal sharing was an intimate gesture in that culture, and to do so with opposing parties (politically or religiously) was seriously frowned upon. These people were unclean, and Peter had no business being with them.
But Peter explained to them that God had given him a vision. In this vision Peter thought He was talking about food, but God was talking about people. “What God has called clean, you must not call common.” So Peter preached the gospel to these uncircumcised, ‘unclean’ Gentiles ,who were now cleansed by the blood of Christ because of their belief. The same Holy Spirit that fell on the disciples in the beginning of Acts had now fallen upon these Gentiles. After hearing this, the believers praised God for what He had done.
But we can be honest, right? How would you feel about someone who was doing things that were culturally unacceptable and explained it because they claimed to have seen a vision from God? How often do you allow cultural norms to dictate your spiritual experience? My hunch is that we fall more in line with the accusers of Peter than with Peter. But just like his accusers in the story, we don’t have to stay that way.
When Peter brought the evidence of God granting repentance to the people they thought were unclean, they had a couple options for responding. They could have just not believed Peter. They could have thought he had ulterior motives with these Gentiles and was compromising the gospel. I feel like I am far too quick to do that to my brothers and sisters who operate outside my cultural norms. But they responded with belief, realizing that God can grant repentance to whomever He wishes. God can still do the same if we risk our own cultural norms (perhaps even our reputations). If God wishes to give them the same gift He gave us, who are we that we should stand in God’s way
- In which camp do you find yourself more often: following cultural norms and judging those who break them, or breaking cultural norms in order to see God do something?
- What is something you could do, or who is someone you could spend time with, that would open the door for God to use you in a special way?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.