Nothing Is Common or Unclean
Cornelius sent two servants and a devout soldier off to Joppa to fetch Peter as the Lord had commanded him to do in his vision. Meanwhile, the Lord was speaking to Peter in a vision as well. Peter had gone up to the housetop to pray. While praying he became hungry and wanted something to eat. This was precisely the circumstance which the Lord brought to pass, for while Peter waited on his meal which was being prepared by the cooks inside the house, he fell into a trance. In this state, the Lord spoke to him in a vision in which Peter saw what appeared to be a great sheet being let down by each of its corners from heaven filled with all manner of animals, reptiles, and birds, which were apparently, according to Jewish dietary laws, unclean (Leviticus 11:2-47). Peter hears the command to “kill and eat,” to which he replies, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common of unclean.” He then receives the word, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happens three times, a number generally indicating fullness or completion in the Bible. The rest of the passage tells of the men sent by Cornelius arriving at the gate and asking for Peter. While they were at the gate, the Holy Spirit told Peter to go down and accompany the men without hesitation as the Lord had sent them. They spent the night there in Joppa and the next day left for Caesarea.
The vision which Peter saw certainly pertains to the annulment of the old Jewish dietary laws which were foreshadowed in the ministry of Jesus (Mark 7:1-9), but as we shall see tomorrow, the vision also spoke more importantly to the breaking down of the wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). God did indeed give such ceremonial laws to his ancient people the Israelites (later called Jews) so as to set them apart from the peoples which surrounded them, for they were to be a peculiar people. And so they were. In this manner, “the law was our guardian—until Christ came” (Galatians 3:24). The Law of God, even the moral law, was given in effect to set us up for failure, for the law “was added because of transgression” (Galatians 3:19), to show us how exceedingly wicked sin is (Romans 7:13). But now that justification through faith in Christ has been revealed to us, those ceremonial aspects of the law (circumcision, dietary, sacrifices) are no longer needed. The moral law remains, of course, since it reveals the very heart of God (for God is true, faithful, and just), but not as a means of salvation but as proof thereof. Peter would soon learn that being a peculiar people had nothing to do with ethnicity but everything to do with being saved by faith and walking in holiness with God, and that is truly peculiar (1 Peter 2:9 KJV).