- Published: Thursday, 03 May 2018 19:39
- Written by Timothy Chapman
Acts 10 is often used as proof that Christians don't have to follow God's dietary law. Starting in verse 9 and ending in verse 16, we read that Peter got hungry while he was praying on the roof. During this time, Peter had a vision about a large cloth coming down from heaven with various kinds of creatures on it. Jesus spoke to Peter in this vision three times saying "get up, Peter; kill and eat." Peter objects and says that he has never eaten anything impure or unclean to which Jesus responds "do not call anything impure that God has made clean [NIV]." It's here at Acts 10:16 that Christians stop reading and say "there: God has made all foods clean, so we can eat what we want" and will make it seem like the debate is settled once and for all. But this is an example of a passage being taken out of context to say what it does not say.
If we start at the beginning of the chapter and read through verse 8, we find out that an angel of God told a man named Cornelius to call for Peter and he did just that. This is important because of the things that transpire after verse 16 (such as the men Cornelius sent to bring Peter back with them arriving at Peter's house). To summarize what has happened so far: Cornelius calls for Peter in accordance with God's command, then Peter got hungry while praying on the roof and God gave him a vision while the men sent by Cornelius were on their way. After the vision is over, the men Cornelius sent to bring Peter back arrive.
The Bible records that Peter was confused about the vision. And it's no wonder why he would be confused, for God himself had it written down that the creatures on that sheet were not to be eaten; they are not counted as food according to God's Law, which Peter and all of the other Apostles were obeying to the letter! This shoots down the claim that "God has made all foods clean" because what the one making the claim is calling "food" is called no such thing in the Bible. All foods are clean because God only classified what is already clean as food. Anyways, since we see in verse 17 that Peter was confused about the meaning of the vision, then we should not be so arrogant as to become 100% certain that the vision is Jesus officially rescinding the dietary laws.
The meaning of Peter's vision is not made clear until you start reading verse 27. Then in verse 28, Peter states "You are well aware that it is against our [custom] for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. [NIV]" The NIV and some other translations put the word "law" where I have put "custom" in square brackets. Those translations are wrong. The word translated as "law" is the word used to note a rule that originates from man, as opposed to originating from God. This is why I used "custom" instead of "law." So Peter states that it's against the Jewish custom to associate with or visit a gentile. And he also says "but God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. [Acts 10:28; NIV]" This is where we are finally told the meaning of Peter's vision.
Continuing on from verse 28, it becomes even more clear that the purpose of Peter's vision was not about food at all, but about accepting Gentiles into the Body of Messiah. The unclean animals that God presented to Peter was a metaphor for Gentiles who had come into the faith. And Peter realizes in verses 34 and 35 that God accepts people from all nations into the Body without showing partiality to anyone. This is the true meaning of Peter's vision. But since Christianity is so far removed from its Jewish roots, almost all Christians think that Peter's vision is an allowance to eat what God has not called "food" in his Law.
Read the entire chapter of Acts 10 for yourself, and see for yourself that Peter's vision is about God accepting both Jew and Gentile into the Body of Messiah without showing partiality to anyone. Do not stop at verse 16; keep reading past it! Then ask yourself: "what else are we being taught incorrectly?" I encourage every Christian reading this article to read the Bible for themselves in order to know the Word of God instead of relying on man to tell you what the Bible says.