Last time when considering Acts 10, we saw that this chapter represented a turning point in Luke’s narrative of the story of the early church. The whole story is repeated in Acts 11, because Peter will go back to Jerusalem to give an explanation of what has happened. We see here that the gospel is going beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Judea (i.e. the territory of Judaism), and beyond the boundaries of Samaria (the territory of half cast Jews), to the ends of the earth, to the territories of the gentiles.
At that time I alluded to one of the key issues addressed here, but did not take time to explain the transition from the Old Testament food laws (cf. Leviticus 11 ; Deuteronomy 14) to the New Testament abolishment of these laws.
The key character in our story is Peter, to whom Jesus had given the keys of the kingdom (Acts 16:19). Peter is indeed the first apostle to the gentiles. We have already seen that he had opened the kingdom to Jews on the day of Pentecost, and then to the Samaritans, and now to the gentiles. The transition happens here in this chapter. Peter, who is at this time in Joppa (10:6) receives a vision from the Lord, whilst praying at the 6th hour – 12 o’clock noon. In this vision he is called to eat all sorts of animals, which according to the law would have been forbidden. Hence his reply in 10:14 - “By no means Lord… I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean”. However, the LORD insists a second time, and note what He says to Peter, “What God has made clean do not call common.“ [v.15]
So, at the first level of understanding, God is saying something to Peter about changed rules of eating. He is saying 3 times [v.16] i.e. insistently, “Peter, don’t question me, eat!” The question arises, is God going against His own Word in the OT? Or is there something more that we need to understand? In order to determine this, we first need to look at some other passages in the Scriptures.
The clearest instruction on this matter comes from the mouth of our Lord Jesus in Mark 7:1- 23, where He is confronting the Pharisees on the subject of what is truly “unclean” and “clean”. The Pharisees were complaining that the disciples were eating with unwashed hands, another matter unthinkable for Jews – but clearly, this is not something that Jesus was too concerned about. He is far more concerned about another matter. He shows them that the expression of true faith is not primarily a matter of handwashing or not cooking a meal on the Sabbath, or of eating and drinking only specific things. Jesus was more concerned about the matters of the heart. By the heart the Bible means, the seat of our mind, will and emotions. Then He makes this very important announcement in Mark 7:15, “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather it is what comes out of a man, i.e. from the inside. He explains in v.19 that this means. The heart, the inner disposition, the will is the source of that which makes a person unclean. Then to reinforce this again, Jesus says to His disciples, “Are you without understanding….so dull? Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean? For it doesn’t go into His heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.”
Now notice what else is said in v.19. Jesus declared all foods clean! That means that you can eat pork, crayfish, crocodile steaks and even broccoli and Brussel sprouts with thanksgiving. That means that you can go into a foreign culture, and eat Mopani worms and other foods such as Peter had to do when he went to these gentiles, and eat that which was set before him, with thanksgiving, and without asking many questions!
Does that mean that Jesus has set aside the dietary laws of the OT? Yes it does! In fact there are many things that God sets aside under the new covenant because they are not essential to the gospel. The main thing that He sets aside under the new covenant (and this was prophesied in the OT) is the way in which God’s people were redeemed and cleansed from their guilty consciences. In the OT He accepted the sacrifices of bulls and sheep as sacrifices for sin offerings. In the NT that is not valid. Only by looking to Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1: 29) are we redeemed.
In the same way, He sets aside circumcision. The symbol of belonging to the New Covenant people is not circumcision, but baptism, by which Jesus means believers’ baptism i.e. the baptism of those that have themselves actively believed, and not infant baptism.
Furthermore, we do not observe Passover, nor any of the Jewish feasts, do we? What feasts then do we observe? Those that have to do with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ – the gospel of Christ.
Here is a challenge : Is your Christmas , Easter , Ascension day , Pentecost focus gospel centred ? Otherwise you’re back to the way of the Pharisees who put more focus on outward displays than the heart.
A word of clarification: The emphasis of the O.T. is not, as some would believe, on outward ceremonies. The O.T. like the N.T. primarily focuses on God-centered thinking and behaviour. The 10 commandments, the moral law of God, have to do with God-centered living. However the sinfulness and deviousness of the human heart turns everything into second hand religion, focussing on religious observance rather than on the heart of true worship. The default of the sinful human heart is to divorce worship from God , so that we worship created things rather than the Creator who is forever to be praised and blessed (Romans 1:25) . The truth is that at the end of the law is Jesus.
What does it mean when Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets … but to fulfil them?” Precisely this, that the law in itself was an incomplete (temporary) revelation , until the Son of God appeared, making everything clear , including the matter of eating and drinking. The same principle can be determined from 1 Corinthians 8
The second level of understanding of this passage has to do with Peter’s mission to the gentiles.There is obviously a connection between the eating of ‘unclean food ‘ and the association between Jews and ‘unclean gentiles‘. Remember, that Jews as a rule never ate with gentiles. Again, it must be stressed that this was not the OT teaching. The OT affirms time and again that all nations were in God’s purpose. There was a place for non- Jews to be integrated into the faith of Israel, as proven by Jesus’ own genealogy (Rahab and Ruth – the gentile women of Matt 1:5) . Rather, this had become an extra biblical habit among the Jews. It had become a form of apartheid or racism,… fallen- human- being- thinking, if you like. This is a lesson about racism. It's one thing to have nice little theories about the gospel and its relationship to Gentiles when you’re in Jerusalem. It is quite another thing to actually go to the house of a Gentile and eat his food. And that's what Peter is being asked to do, and that's why he's protesting so much.
The Gospel is for EVERYONE! There is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, because we are all one in Jesus Christ, and there is only one way of salvation: By grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone; and whoever that person is we're all one in Jesus Christ. That was a hard lesson for Peter and many modern Christians. Peter, though he had made some progress in his thinking along the way as we have seen was now instructed to break that habit by God’s command. And old habits die hard! Paul had to rebuke him later in Galatians 2:11ff, for going back on this command, because he acted hypocritically.
God, in Christ, had demolished the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. Jesus has declared racism over and done with. The gospel changes everything. You can read all about that in Ephesians 2:11-22. That too changed under the New covenant. Under the Old Covenant, Israel developed as a separate nation, but under the New Covenant, which was anticipated by the OT, the church would be comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue. Heaven will be the final reality, when all nations shall assemble before the throne to praise the Lord ( Rev 7:9ff) . So then the eating of “unclean food “ with “unclean people” points us to new realities of the kingdom. That is precisely what Peter declares in 10:28 when he confessed before Cornelius and the assembled gentiles : “” You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. THIS IS THE DEEP TRUTH BEHIND THIS PASSAGE !
At face value it may be about food, and by their abstinence from certain food Israel distinguished themselves from the other nations, but the distinction really led to so much more – namely racial pride and segregation. The whole thing had to be undone! The Jews, of whom Peter was one, had made several wrong conclusions about the food laws. One conclusion that they had drawn was that because they didn't eat pork, they were better than other people. We meet vegetarians like that, too. They believe that simply refraining from eating certain things made them superior.
In our day there is a renewed emphasis by number of people who have declared themselves to be vegetarians, and who think that by doing so they hold the moral high ground. Some maintain that the eating of meat is ethically wrong, because cruelty is done to animals. There are some Christians who suggest that the symptoms of the fall is man's domination over creation rather than his empathy with it. They would point out that prior to the fall, nothing is said about eating meat, and that man was created to be vegetarian. Be that as it may. We now live in a fallen world where anyone of us scarcely know what it means to eat in a balanced way, and we all die because of this. But the supreme theological fact is not that death is caused by incorrect eating or drinking . The wages of sin is death!
Isn’t it amazing how food has become such a dividing wall in society? Halaal, kosher, vegetarian, Banting and thousands of other diets. People become great evangelists and crusaders for food and drink! The statistics however remain brutal. One out of one dies, diet or no diet! All these emphases in their own right and without gospel focus are ultimately misplaced , for they do not focus on the gospel which truly gives life.
So, we should have no arguments with people who are vegetarians, if that's the choice that they make. But the imposition of that on the conscience of others, we do have problems with, because it imposes something on the conscience of Jesus. Jesus ate the Passover lamb, and one of the last things recorded of Jesus is that He ate fish with the disciples on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, in His resurrection body!
The biggest point concerning food and related matters is this, and Paul said it clearly : “The kingdom of God is not matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17). We should be passionate about that. Those are gospel matters, and the development of these in our lives are more important than food or drink. Amen !
 12th February 2017 : Acts 10 : “The Gospel To the Ends of the Earth “
 Context : Moses giving instruction to the people of God on the plains of Moab, just before they cross over the River Jordan and into the promised land. It had little to do with hygiene. It had to do with separating Israel from the Canaanites. It was separating Israel from the surrounding nations.
 Gal 3:28