‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’
Acts 11 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, 6 and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ 10 This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. 11 And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
In today’s text, Peter heard a voice from heaven say: ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This was not to give a blessing to do whatever we want. Jesus sacrifice on the cross was to cleanse sinners from sin; that anyone who believes could be redeemed. The cross though, did not cleanse or redeem what is sinful. It is often said that we are to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Too often we have trouble separating the two. We look at those who are enslaved to sin and we judge them as unholy rather than as those who Christ died to cleanse and redeem. We would not or at least should not look with judgement at those who are sick and dying of a disease. Neither should we judge those who are dying in sin. Just as we say we hate cancer, so should we hate sin for the way it ruins and ravages lives.
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus says: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” We should not judge the sin of others, but having removed the judgement from our perspective, we should help them to see clearly. In the next verse of Matthew 7 Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” We should not call unholy what God has cleansed, but neither should we call what is unholy clean. In Isaiah 5:20 God says: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! For those who choose to remain in sin, we should not judge, but neither should we embrace their sin. John 3:16-17 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Jesus came to save, to cleanse and redeem whoever believes. That’s how we should see others, as those who Jesus died to redeem. In verses 18-25 Jesus continues saying: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Those who choose to continue in sin, loving darkness rather than light are judged, not by people, but by their own choice. Rather than judging others, in Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” we should be light that they might see clearly.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, may I never call unholy what You have cleansed. But may I also never call what is unholy clean. May I not judge those who You died to redeem from sin. Like You, may I truly love the sinner but hate sin. May I live not in judgment, but rather as a light so that others may clearly see the love that You displayed on the cross. Amen.