Do Not Despise What Jesus Has Cleansed

Text: Acts 11:1-18 Speaker: Festival: Passages: Acts 11:1-18

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Acts 11:1-18

Peter Reports to the Church (Listen)

11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers1 who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party2 criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Footnotes

[1] 11:1 Or brothers and sisters
[2] 11:2 Or Jerusalem, those of the circumcision

(ESV)

 

The first missionary to Tibet wrote about his struggle to find someone to help him learn the language. No one would teach him. Finally he found a man who agreed to teach him the language. The missionary went to his first lesson and the man places a piece of meat in front of him. The missionary looks at it and is a little worried. He decides it is better if he doesn’t eat it. He politely says no thanks to the Tibetan man.  The Tibetan man says nothing but takes the meat and puts it away. The next day the missionary comes again for his lesson and once again the Tibetan offers him the same piece of meat. This time the missionary definitely doesn’t want it and immediately says no. Each day the Tibetan offers the missionary the same piece of meat for five days, until the meat is really rotten. On the fifth day the missionary decides he had better eat it, and takes the meat and eats it.

The Tibetan man says, “now you have learned your first lesson. Whenever someone offers you food take and eat it with thanks.”

Food can be a tricky thing, you don’t want to offend anyone but there are also certain things you really don’t want to eat, like a piece of rotten meat that is five days old.

 

Peter reminds us in our text today that we should not despise, that is look down upon anything that God has called clean. This is especially so because we will see how God has gone to great lengths to make these things pure and clean. And how ungrateful and sinful it is for us to call unclean anything that God has taken the time to sanctify.

 

This pertains first of all to food and drink and festivals and holy days. In other words here we have the reason why we don’t have to worship on Saturday and we can eat Bacon and Lobster.

Peter of course had a very good reason why he should not eat all those animals on that sheet. He was taught from little on that it was contrary to the will of God that any Israelite should eat such things. You remember that Daniel along with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, even when threatened with death, would not eat the unclean meat of Babylon. The Lord showed His approval of that decision by blessing those four.

This list of things to eat and not eat however was never about the food. It was always about the people.

In Matthew 21:33 Jesus says that God “set a hedge around His people.” This is a picture that is used many times in the New Testament and in the Old. God set a hedge around His people to keep them safe and separate from all the nations around them.

That first year we were here we had a really big problem with the deer eating our strawberries because we didn’t have a fence around our garden. Just so God wanted a hedge around His people to keep them separate from the other people

Imagine if growing up in Wisconsin you never ate pizza. People would notice. People would ask you about it. It would at the same time make you different and also give you a chance to witness.

With the resurrection and ascension of Christ this distinction is now to be down away with. The word of God is not supposed to remain protected within Israel anymore, the people are not supposed to remain separate. The fence is removed. The Jews now are supposed to go out and mingle with and become a part of all the people around them.

And so God sends this vision to Peter to teach him this. But of course the important thing isn’t that now Peter can eat bacon and lobster. The important thing is the people, that now the Gentiles also receive salvation and forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. They are no longer to be kept separate.

Therefore what God has cleansed we do not despise. Therefore we eat whatever seems best to us, but more importantly we do not withhold the gospel of Jesus Christ from any person.

 

Unfortunately it is not just Peter who needs some convincing. Many in the church are not so quick to “give up the old ways.”

A couple weeks ago we saw that really amazing description of the church in Jerusalem and we asked the question, “how can we be like that church.” Wouldn’t it be great if we were that loving, that dedicate, that joyful, etc. Today we see a much different picture of the church in Jerusalem. One that is probably much more similar to our own church.

They are very reluctant and suspicious of “new things.” They are very quick to judge others before they really know what is going on. They think they know what is going on. But they don’t. They don’t know about the visions , but they quickly jump to judgment.

And yet they received the Holy Spirit and these gentiles also received the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost the speaking in tongues was given so that the apostles could speak about Christ in the languages of the people. But as the Gospel goes out into the world the same gift was then often given in order to prove to the apostles and the Jewish Christian that yes these gentiles were also part of the church. As Peter says they received the same gift.

Despite their sin the church at Jerusalem was the church of God. Despite their sin the Gentiles were now part of the church of God. Jesus had washed them too in his blood how could Peter or the Jewish Christians call them unclean.

We also despite our sin have been washed by Christ. How can any call us unclean, or say that we are not the church of God?

 

What do we confess every Sunday? I believe in one holy Christian church. Where is this Holy Church? Our church sure doesn’t look like it, yet we have the promise of God.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

A church is not a church because it looks holy on the outside. A church is holy because Christ says it is. And if he has washed our neighbor in His own blood and called him a saint and a son of God, who are we to despise that or look down on it? And if he has washed me in His own blood and called me, whom am I or anyone else to contradict that. The promises  of God remains sure and certain, what God has called holy we cannot disdain.

1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

Amen