“What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Acts 10:15
I have heard the common expression many times how reading the Bible is like peeling an onion. Maybe you have too. Have you ever peeled an onion layer by layer? Each layer can be thin or thick, white or another color, soft or hard. This is pretty much how the Bible can be too. The more you read it and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you, the more you find. Take the book of Acts, for instance.
I’ve read Acts several times, but I happened again across one particular verse that God pointed out to me. It’s in Acts 10 where the Roman centurion, Cornelius, was visited by an angel of the Lord who told him to send for Peter because Peter would have a message for him. At the same time, the Lord gave Peter a vision in which he was told to eat what was considered back then unclean animals (side note: this is when God took away the dietary restrictions that had been strictly enforced by the Jewish leaders so then bacon became okay, hooray!).
But Peter told the Lord that he had never eaten anything common or unclean. He had always been a good Jewish boy and followed the rules. How could God ask him to eat anything common or unclean? Here’s how God responded in Acts 10:15:
“And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This was done three times.”
This confused Peter for quite a while. What could God have been talking about? It must have been something really important because it was repeated three times. It wasn’t until Cornelius’s servants and a soldier had found Peter and escorted him back to Cornelius that Peter finally understood what God was trying to say.
God Knows No Partiality
Though Cornelius was a God-fearing man, he had a big problem. He was a Gentile. All of his family and friends, who had filled Cornelius’s house waiting for Peter, were Gentiles too. According to Jewish tradition, Jews were not to have anything to do with them. It was considered extremely taboo to go into a Gentile’s house because they were considered to be profane. You might say that racism toward Gentiles was running rampant. But upon seeing Cornelius and his family respecting God, and remembering what the Lord had spoken to him the day before, Peter, a strict follower of Jewish standards and traditions, suddenly understood what God was trying to tell him. That it was time for a new cultural shift.
The Lord was declaring that it was now okay to visit and eat with Gentiles because “God shows no partiality” (v. 34). God’s love is for everyone and not just the Jewish people, for which I am incredibly thankful. And so Peter not only went inside Cornelius’s house, he also shared the good news of Jesus Christ with them and baptized them (v. 36-43).
To top it all off, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to Peter, Jews and Gentiles alike, and they all spoke in tongues magnifying God. Peter’s friends were amazed that the Holy Spirit would provide the same gift of worship to Gentiles that they had (v. 44-48) until they finally understood the word of the Lord too.
In today’s world, and even in our own churches, it can be so hard to keep an open mind and an open heart. An outstretched hand instead of cynicism. Open ears instead of self-centeredness. It can be hard to remember that God literally loves everyone. And why shouldn’t He? He made us all, right? And if the hands of the Lord are perfect and righteous, and we are to reflect Jesus at every possible moment, then we should heed and bury in our hearts what He told Peter.
We are Not Common, We are Set Apart
None of us is merely common. Through the shed blood of His son, Jesus Christ, we have been cleansed. The gift of salvation is available to all who ask for it. After receiving it, we become a part of God’s holy family, which means we are also holy. We are special, “set apart.” We are set apart from the evils of this world for God’s eternal purpose and plan. If we are cleansed and holy, how could we ever be considered common anymore?
What if someone doesn’t know Jesus? They’re not cleansed, so what do we do? The answer is no, they’re not cleansed– yet! If you know someone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, consider it to be a golden opportunity to be like Peter. Here’s why.
After the Lord had told Peter that no one is common, he heard Cornelius’s men approaching. The Holy Spirit told him,
“Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise, therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.” (emphasis mine) Acts 10:20
So the question is who is seeking you? Is there someone who God may have sent to you? Who can you reach out to, without doubting, so that they may be cleansed by the Lord? They don’t have to be anything like you or have a similar background as you. They don’t have to be Jewish, Gentile, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, black, white, brown, yellow, or purple polka-dotted with pink stripes. God’s love is for everyone. That’s what the cross was about. It’s not beyond Him to send someone to you seeking answers like Cornelius did. And it’s certainly not uncommon for someone looking to stop being so common. We all yearn to be loved and special. Only God can fulfill that.
So keep your eyes and ears open. You never know who God is going to send to you looking for encouragement. And when He does, doubt nothing. Instead, share the good news of the cross and of Jesus’s love. Help them understand that they can be cleansed of sin through faith in Him. Tell them they are anything but common for they have been bought with a price.
What about you? Do you think you’re common? Do you think you’re nothing special? Don’t believe this lie from Satan. You are indeed very special! And very loved.
“For You formed by inward parts. You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:13-14