In Acts 10 we are given the story of Peter being given a vision by God of a sheet coming down from heaven with all sorts of unclean animals in it and then a voice from heaven saying to Peter, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” Of course he refuses because, being raised a good Jew, he says in v.14, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” But then the voice responds, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Often this passage is cited to defend the idea that Christians are no longer forbidden from eating whatever they like. We are no longer bound to the dietary laws of the Old Testament. However, while that is certainly true and there are plenty of passages in the New Testament from which we can make that argument (Mk 7:18-19; Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 8:4), this is not one of them. This is where the rule of interpretation that we should always interpret scripture in light of its immediate context is important to follow. If we keep reading we discover that God spoke to a Gentile named Cornelius and tells him to send men to Joppa to fetch Peter and bring him back so that he might more fully explain to Cornelius the gospel of Jesus Christ (vv.17ff.). Peter, having been raised as a devout Jew, would have had a difficult time entering into the house of a Gentile. This flaw will appear later when Paul has to rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy in Galatians 2:14. Thus, the vision is not so much about dietary laws as it is about racism and prejudice and the fact that regardless of ethnicity or political, economic or social class, when God redeems a person, that person becomes a full member in the covenant community of God. The gospel transcends cultural boundaries and brings people together of every tribe, nation, and tongue.
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