ACTS 10 PETER’S ENLIGHTENMENT

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has declared to be clean you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. (Acts10:9-16)

As most commentators recognize Peter’s vision was not really about food and what could be eaten, but about people and who could now be fitted for glory. The Gentiles were no longer to be regarded as common or unclean because God had declared them to be otherwise. But why should that be since according to the Torah, being the divine decrees for His chosen people, many of the practices of other nations were to be regarded as unclean, being opposed to God’s will for the people with whom He wished closely to associate? Well something radical had happened: Messiah had been sacrificed on the Cross, not just as an offering for sin but “to cancel out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to (the Gentiles); He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col2:14)

As a result, the likes of God -fearing Gentiles such as Cornelius and his household were now eligible to be members of the messianic community. This was a mystery, revealed more clearly through Paul (Eph3/Rom11), that even Peter was not clear about even though he and his immediate associates had been three years at Jesus’ side. Such men were not stupid: if Jesus had made these matters clear to them concerning God’s plans for the Gentile nations, such a vision would not have been needed. Jesus had merely hinted at such a possibility in certain parables whilst the Old Testament was yet more adamant that only Jews and the relatively few proselytes who converted to their faith could be “the children of the Kingdom”. Others could potentially be enlightened and forgiven in the name of Jesus if they repented and acknowledged Him as Lord and Saviour. But it was certainly not envisaged that they would  be filled with the Holy Spirit or obtain an eternal quality of life in preparation for future glory as Christ’s corporate partner through eternity. The Messiah was foretold to be “ a Light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people Israel (Lk2:32). Or as Paul later expressed it, siting and slightly subverting some Old Testament prophecy::

“Jesus Christ has become a Servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and also that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”

10 And again he says:

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”

11 And again:

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”

12 And again, Isaiah says:

“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” (Rom15:8-12)

 The Gentiles were expected to rejoice with God’s people not become His people (v10). As for Peter, he states more explicitly in the next chapter (11:17) that up to this point he had not grasped that the Gentiles could receive “the same spiritual gift” as the Jews when they came to believe in Christ, or in Paul’s language that they would “obtain an inheritance amongst those who are to be sanctified” (Acts20:32)

The newly enlightened apostle concluded:

“In truth I now perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts10:34-35)