New rules for a new kingdom
What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. – Vs 15
Have you ever had your world rocked, your paradigm shifted, your status quo shaken to its core? Well, the disciples did. Ever since Jesus had arrived on the scene, He had made it a habit of turning their religious world on its ear. He pursued a crown instead of a cross. He came to serve, not be served. He came to defeat sin and death, not the Roman occupiers. Chapter ten in the book of Acts gives us a perfect picture of how God was going to continue this process of turning the world of His early followers on its ear.
The early converts to Christianity were primarily Jews. For generations they had relied on the centuries-old habits and traditions of their forefathers. They viewed themselves as God’s chosen people. They were the seed of Abraham. They were the apple of God’s eye. So when these God-fearing Jews came to faith in Jesus Christ, Himself a good Jew, they brought along with them all the baggage of their Jewish belief system. And old habits die hard.
In chapter ten we get a glimpse into God’s ongoing re-education plan for the apostles. And it starts with Peter and a Roman centurion. As He did in chapter nine, God continues His habit of using all kinds of people to accomplish His will and reveal His power. This time He uses a God-fearing Roman commander. This guy had two strikes against him: First, he was a Gentile, and therefore looked down on by the Jews. Secondly, he was a Roman soldier, which made him an object of hatred and derision. Now this man helped his cause by being generous to the Jews and a lover of their God, but he would still have been looked down on by the average Jew. Including Peter.
So in a dream, God gives this Roman commander instructions to send for Peter. He responds by sending three of his (Gentile) servants to seek out Peter. Meanwhile Peter has his own dream. And this would have been one disturbing dream for a Jew. It involved visions of all kinds of unclean, unholy creatures and instructions from God to sacrifice them and then eat them! This wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare. And Peter responds like any God-fearing Jew would: “By no means, Lord!”
Get up and go!
Peter was appalled. But God was persistent. He repeated His command for Peter to “Get up, kill, and eat!” and then adds, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Vs 15). This whole scenario takes place three times, leaving Peter perplexed and confused. But before he has time to gather his thoughts, the three servants of Cornelius appear at the gate. What timing!
God tells Peter to “get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings” (Vs 20). Why? Because He had sent them. Now it all began fitting together for Peter. He was beginning to understand.
Three times in the span of 10 verses, Luke uses the same word. Two times it comes from the mouth of God. The third time, it involves the response of Peter. That phrase in the Greek is anistemi and it means to “get up” or “stand up.” In verse 13, God commands Peter to “get up (anistemi), kill and eat!” Then in verse 20, God commands Peter again, using the same word “get up (anistemi), go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings.” Finally, Lue uses the word a third time when he says in verse 23 that Peter “got up ” (anistemi) and went away with them.”
A paradigm shift
This had to have been hard for Peter. The dream was bad enough. Now he was having to drop all his preconditioned beliefs and long-held views on religion and embrace God’s plans for life in His kingdom. You can sense Peter’s internal struggle what he says upon arrival at Cornelius’ home.
“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreignor or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” – Vs 28
Everything in Peter screamed that he should not be here. He was breaking long-established rules. He was violating iron-clad laws determining religious life and conduct. Yet God was commanding him to do so.
So what does Peter do? He shares the good news of Jesus Christ with those he had been trained to despise. He offered the gift of life to those he had grown up wishing God would strike dead. He preached the name of Jesus to Gentiles, just as God had commanded him to do. And the result? “The Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Vs 43). Salvation came to a Gentile’s home because Peter was willing to “get up,” to rise above the earth-bound rules of relgion and embrace the life-transformational principles of the kingdom of God.
Now it’s your turn
So what religious rules could God be asking you to let go of? Is He telling you to get up and go? Is He commanding you to walk away from your comfortable embrace of the status quo and wrap your arms around His life-changing rules of engagement in His kingdom? His is a new kingdom with new rules, new standards, new expectations and a new power to deliver true life change. But first we have to let go of the old, get up, and go!
Father, help me let go of my old expectations, my old way of understanding things, of seeing things, of doing things. Show me Your way. Help me embrace life in the kingdom on Your terms, instead of mine. Thank you for sending Your Son and introducing a “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20) through Him. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men