I find it interesting that in the space of two chapters in Acts, God has the story of Peter’s vision of the unclean animals repeated three times, twice in Acts 10 and then a third time in Acts 11. Peter received the vision of the unclean animals three times, one after the other, while God told him to kill and eat each time. Peter knew that God never contradicts himself, so he refused to partake of the animals each time it was repeated before him. In the Law God forbade the Jews to eat such animals. While Peter pondered the meaning of the vision, Jesus told him he had gentile visitors and to go with them. Peter went with his visitors, and, when he arrived at Cornelius’ home and heard about the vision Cornelius received from the Lord, Peter understood his own vision and told the story of his vision to Cornelius, his gentile host, telling him God had cleansed Cornelius and those who had gathered with him.
Now in Acts 11 Peter was challenged by those “of the circumcision party” for doing that which was unlawful, namely going into a gentile home and lodging with him (Acts 11:2-3). Two things are important to understand about this Scripture. First, it is not stated anywhere in the Bible that a Jew cannot keep company with a gentile. This was a doctrine or tradition of the elders of the Jewish faith. In other words it was not a command of God. Secondly, Peter was a Jew and he was circumcised, but the text says those of the circumcision party challenged him. This refers to the Pharisees who believed which can be seen in Acts 15 by comparing Acts 15:1 and Acts 15:5. What is meant is: any gentile, wishing to come to the Lord and have fellowship with the Jews, must become a Jew. This was the only way of salvation they understood. Indeed, it was a very logical assumption too, since the Jewish faith was the only religion, up to that time, ever begun by God himself. Most of what they believed had come from the mouth of God, but the elders added to God’s words, as the Scriptures testify.
Therefore, it is understandable why folks in Jerusalem questioned Peter, but it is also commendable that everyone’s heart within the believing community was ready to submit to the authority of God. To put it in terms we, as Christians, would understand today, it would be like folks saying God has mercy upon and blesses communities who are not Christian and accepts them. This is a difficult thing to trust in any generation. But, the point is, I believe, we need to let God be God. He is Lord—the only Authority—and we need to submit to him in every generation, thus, ceasing our rebellion we have practiced in Adam’s life, whose life we all share from birth.
May God quicken his word to our hearts, in order that we may see and recognize his Lordship over every facet of our lives and the world at large. Praise God!