Acts 10:15 (NKJV): “And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’”
In Acts 10:9-16, we see Peter enter into a trance and receive a sort of vision from God. Peter, who was a Jew and raised up in Jewish tradition, never ate anything that was considered “common” or “unclean,” (only certain “clean” foods can be eaten, foods that are kosher) according to the Torah. In the preceding verses, we read:
“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. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 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. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
It is in response to Peter that God says verse 15, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times before the vision ended.
1) Christ puts the law into effect
While it can be seen that God is addressing food in this passage, we also know that Jewish tradition carried with it much more than just a mindset of “not eating certain things.” In many ways, the food represents all of the Jewish traditions based out of the Law (Torah). Yet, we see that God is telling Peter that there are no longer any “common” or “unclean” foods that he can’t eat. What does this mean?
We have to look at this in the context of Jesus and His sacrifice. God is not eradicating the law, rather, He is the fulfillment of the law. It is written, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 ESV). Christ is the fulfillment of the law, which, according to the definitions provided by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, fulfillment means: “to put into effect,” “to meet the requirements of,” or “the act or process of delivering a product (such as a publication) to a customer.” From Strong’s Lexicon, we see the Greek translation, “to make full, to complete; to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally.”
There are two definitions I find particularly interesting. The first is “to put into effect,” implying that the said effect was not being achieved previously--in the sense of it not achieving the desired outcome. With this definition in mind, and looking at Christ’s usage of “fulfillment” in regards to the law, we can ascertain that Jesus puts the law into effect. We see this effect made evident through Christ because He is God; any attempt at fulfilling the law without God is creating a null effect, due to our inability to be perfectly good--we miss the mark, and create an outcome that does not produce holiness, which, at the root, is what the law is meant to point to because it is God's own standard. God's perfection is what upholds His own perfect standard.
However, we all fall short of God’s perfect standard--the law--and thus, when we try to attain our own goodness without Him, the law is made of no effect except to bring us death, “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death… Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good…” (Romans 7:10; 7:12-13 NKJV).
Paul continues, explaining why the law does this to us, writing, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:22-23 NKJV). Our flesh is what wars against the will of God and His law. Paul knows the risen Jesus, of whom gave him a new heart to live for Him; yet we also know that Paul would still go on to sin in his mortal lifetime. This duality of laws within us--once saved in Christ--provides a context for the opposite: without God's grace, one abides only under the rule of the flesh, which inevitably breaks God’s law. So what does this have to do with the passage from Acts?
2) The focus must be on God first
This is important and pertinent to the passage from Acts because it demonstrates that the focus must be on God first, and not the law or our own goodness. As we know, we all are not perfect. We all have sinned and will continue to have the influence of the flesh within us until we die. This means we require grace in order to be saved, not works. Because the law does not bring life, but produces death because of our flesh, looking to ourselves as the answer will not work. And this is what God is saying: that He is perfect and that by laying down His life He has provided the grace we need to be saved. Our salvation is not achieved based on what we eat or what we do, but on the payment made solely by Him. It is the Blood of Jesus that brings life, and it’s because it was poured out to cover the law so that we could go free. It is written, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11 NIV). Thus, we can look at Christ’s sacrifice as the activator of the law, because it is through Him that we bear fruit--no longer the fruit of death, but the fruit of the Spirit, which is life--and put into effect the holiness that is in the law.
3) A free gift for the brokenhearted
The second definition I find interesting is “the act or process of delivering a product (such as a publication) to a customer.” The sacrifice of Jesus is a gift, and we have done nothing to deserve it (it’s also funny how Christ is called “the Word,” and the definition of fulfillment talks about a publication given...). We are told by Jesus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15 NIV). God has delivered to us a package that contains within it eternal life; a gift that, when received, is not bound by any conditions of time that we can understand. Christ says all that is needed to receive this gift is to believe in Him. As the writers of the TV series The Chosen beautifully articulated, the beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-11 provide a roadmap to find Jesus. It is written, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NIV). God can, and is wanting to, work with someone who says, “Lord, I need You.”
4) The mission field is everywhere you go
And it is in the act of following Jesus and receiving His grace that we are continually led to share His love. As we have established, the grace provided by Jesus is a gift. By sharing the Gospel, we give others the opportunity to receive God’s beautiful and powerful gift of life. We are asked by the Lord to ‘deliver His product’ (so to speak) to all potential customers, i.e. the world, and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). With the passage from Acts still in mind, and knowing that God has covered all things by His grace, there is no longer any space in our lives that is outside His great commission. In all that we do, God wants to be involved.
Every aspect of our lives has been purchased by the Blood of Jesus. When we live in Christ, there is no part of our life that is “common” or “unclean,” but instead, is a place that God wants to meet us and lead us in--and when He does, we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). No matter what our situation in life may be, God has provided us the way to receive His gift of eternal life at all times. Can you and I have the faith to believe that the Living God wants to be constantly involved in our lives? This means there can be no secular in God’s Kingdom, and as citizens of heaven, our call is to have God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Christ’s gift of salvation is eternal: always having been present. Because God is always with us, that means God is ever available to bring about His will on the earth through us. Therefore, the day-to-day life we live is our mission field. Every moment that we live and breathe can be used for the kingdom. God has cleansed every part of our lives, meaning there is nothing too small or too great that God doesn't want to reveal His grace through.
Whether it be in the workplace, or in the mountains, or in the streets, or in the slums, or in the mansions, or in the clubs, or in the bars, or in the churches, or in the mosques, or in the skyscrapers, or in the farmhouses, or in the deserts, or in the seas, or in the prisons, or in the fields, or in the skies, or in the earth, or in the tents, or in the temples, God’s love cannot be escaped. “If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8 NIV). Jesus has made Himself as an offering for each of us and wants nothing more than to bring His life into every aspect of ours. And it’s when Christ resurrects within us that all parts of our life will start to change. As we continually set more of our life down at Jesus’s feet, He will continually make every moment of life an outpouring of His love.
The Holy Spirit, who dwells in every believer, will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Wherever Christ goes, let us go there too. Will God not lead us in the way He wants us to go? The direction God wants us to walk is toward Himself, and Jesus is the way. When Christ is at the center of our focus, then all other things in our lives will fall into place. Honor God and love Him first, and the effect of God will reverberate throughout your life, and thus give life to every other thing.