Online Bible Commentary
Not so, Lord!
Acts 10:9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. (NKJV)
The time was about A.D. 40. The apostle Peter had traveled from his home of Jerusalem northwest through Judea, ministering as he went. First he evangelized in Lydda, healing the paralyzed Aeneas. Next he was summoned to Joppa, a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea, where the Lord used him to bring the disciple Dorcas back to life.
Through these two miracles many more believers were added to the new movement called “The Way”, which was later called Christianity. Now, Peter is still in Joppa, having stayed many days to evangelize and disciple.
Meanwhile, Cornelius, a seeker, living about thirty miles up the coast in Caesarea has caught the attention of the Lord. The Lord has chosen Cornelius and his household to become the first Gentile believers. He instructs Cornelius to send his men to Joppa to bring Peter to minister to him in Caesarea.
As Cornelius’ men “drew near” Joppa, Peter was praying on the rooftop of the home of Simon, the tanner, where he was staying (v. 9a). The roofs were flat and it was a very common occurrence to go up there to pray. It was noon and Peter was “very hungry” but lunch had not yet been prepared (vv. 9b-10a).
At this time, Peter “fell into a trance” (v. 10b). During his trance Peter was given a vision from God. He “saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat" (vv. 11-13).
Now Peter, as a Jew, knew that, according to Jewish food laws, he could not eat these “unclean” animals. He expressed his objection to God, not a wise act for anyone. The voice responded "What God has cleansed you must not call common", or unclean (v. 14).
Hard headed Peter twice more objected and each time God drove home His point with the same response. Finally, after the third response the sheet “was taken up into heaven again” (v. 15).
God was trying to prepare Peter for his next assignment, which was to take the gospel to the Gentiles, starting with Cornelius. He used his hunger to open Peter’s mind to new things. No longer were the Jewish food laws to be obeyed and no longer was salvation just for the Jews.
This new movement, “The Way”, was not a new sect of the Jewish faith, as it had started out to be, but was now a religion of its own. The Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah.
Just as God was trying to prepare Peter for these changes, He also tries to prepare us for changes in our own lives. Like Peter, we may not realize this at first. In fact, we may object vehemently, like Peter, to these changes.
Peter had been a Jew all his life. He had never eaten of these foods, in obedience to his God. To be commanded by God to change now must have seemed incomprehensible.
God brings about change, sometimes painful change, in our lives in order to refine us into an instrument that He can use for his future purposes. Ours is to obey, in faith, following His lead. While we may see through a glass dimly at this time, one day all will be revealed. So, unlike Peter, when faced with change from God let us not say “Not so, Lord!”