1 The apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had welcomed God’s message also. 2 When Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who stressed circumcision argued with him, 3 saying, “You visited uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
4 Peter began to explain to them in an orderly sequence, saying: 5 “I was in the town of Joppa praying, and I saw, in a visionary state, 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 Then I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat!’
8 “‘No, Lord!’ I said. ‘For nothing common 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 common.’
10 “Now this happened three times, and then 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 Then the Spirit told me to accompany them with no doubts at all. These six brothers 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 that you and all your household will be saved by.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”
18 When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, “So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
“Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”
Many of the best biblical stories center around food:
- Esau sold his birthright to Jacob over a fine pot of stew (Genesis 25:27-34).
- God provided quail and manna for his people to eat while they traveled through the desert (Exodus 16:11-16).
- King Belshazzar was holding a great feast when a hand began to write on a wall (Daniel 5:1).
- At every turn Jesus seemed to be feeding the multitudes or using meals as the context of his teaching (Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 14:12-24, John 6:1-14).
Food brings us together.
It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the most memorable stories in Acts involves Peter having a vision of a sheet full of food delivered to him to eat.
Some of the food was permitted and some was forbidden, so he reminded God he wasn’t supposed to eat some of the food as a faithful Jew. He’d never eaten it and he couldn’t eat it now (Acts 11:8).
God's reply provides one of the most important teaching moments in the New Testament. He said, “What God has made clean, you must not call common” (verse 9).
What we find in Acts 11 recounts Peter's experience in Acts 10.
In Acts 11, he defended his actions before other believers who questioned his choices and suggested he’d sold out and not remained faithful. The text isn’t so much about what Peter did as how people responded to what Peter did.
This snapshot of a moment in Peter's life so long ago happens time and time again even to this day. When we see the actions of other Christians, we’re challenged to ask, “What has God made clean?”
I grew up in rural Missouri where nearly everyone I knew was Baptist. I learned that other Christians from other denominations were sometimes suspicious because certain activities they considered appropriate didn’t meet the approval of my family or church.
Now, many years later, some of the things seem so trite and simple in the larger context of sharing Jesus in a non-Christian world.
What were some of those big issues—those huge tests of faithfulness? Two of them were attending movies and dancing. Another big test was going to the store on Sunday. I sometimes wonder what important tests of faithfulness for us today will seem trite in years to come.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re continually called to ask ourselves, “What has God made clean?” Times change. And our own understanding of our hang ups, narrow-mindedness, and prejudices sometime prevent us from seeing the world the way God sees it.
In the end, the deciding moment for Peter was when the Holy Spirit appeared in the lives of the Gentile believers. He saw that God was at work.
The next time we see someone doing something that gives us pause, let us look to see if the Holy Spirit is active in the life of that person. Perhaps we can follow the biblical examples and sit down to eat with people so that we may get to know them more fully.
When God’s at work, it’s always best to remember our key verse for today: “Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”
- Do you find that you see other Christians and question their faithfulness because of things they eat or drink? Because of where they go or what they do?
- How do you decide to accept one kind of behavior as opposed to another? What behavior looks Christian to you? What if your criteria are your own and not God's?
- How do you decide if you should sit down with someone for a meal when you feel that person doesn’t live according to Scripture as you understand it?