By Caleb Faires
A white sheet, heavy with livestock and lowered from the heavens, is a surprising way to communicate equality. But this vision from God came to Peter as an alarming and powerful announcement of freedom. Like the ceremonially unclean animals in the sheet, we also are unclean in our sin, except that God, being rich in mercy, credits to us His righteousness and makes us clean.
All men come to salvation by grace, and grace alone, Jew and Gentile alike.
Although God shows no partiality, we are always at risk of judging by false standards (Acts 10:34). God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He calls us to set aside our inclinations toward human partiality.
Our inclination to partiality is rooted in a selfish narrowness of perspective and a great underestimation of God’s grace. Like Peter, we find the ordinary needs of human frailty intruding on our prayers. Like Peter, when God gives us instruction and direction, we are often, at first, perplexed. I wish I could say that, like Peter, I am quick to respond in obedience, but that is often not the case. Instead, I like to understand what I’m doing before I do it. I want answers and clarity before I walk forward in faith. I want to manage God’s grace.
But God’s grace is mysterious, and it intrudes upon our lives in the most unexpected ways. Here in Acts we see a striking example of God’s unexpected and intrusive grace.
First, we see that God is working at all times, everywhere. As Peter goes about his day, God has already sent an angelic vision to a devout centurion named Cornelius, who would summon Peter to bring the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:3-9), so that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Is. 52:10).
Second, God often provides what we need to know one step at a time (Acts 10:16-17, 29). Peter’s calling is not a step-by-step instruction. God calls Peter to walk in faith, by the Spirit, rather than by sight.
Third, God has already prepared the way. Notice that when Peter arrives at the house of Cornelius, he’s not sure what to do. When Cornelius says, “We are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33), Peter did not have a prepared talk. But God prepared Peter long beforehand with the words to say. Peter’s job was simply to bear witness of Christ, to preach the gospel (Acts 10:33, Matt. 28:19).
Fourth, God’s work is His doing, not ours. God has graciously invited us into the joy of participating in what He is doing, but the work is ultimately His. Indeed, we read that “while Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). Peter had not even finished his brief sermon, and God was already working. The Gentiles were not won over by Peter’s persuasiveness or eloquence, but by the Word of God and the work of His Spirit.
What a glorious reminder this is. Because God is at work, because His grace is surprising and sufficient, because His Spirit is active and enlivening, we can, like Peter, enter into the work of the Kingdom with great joy and confidence. We need not be hindered by uncertainty, nor worried about what we will say (Matt. 10:19). God is always at work, and we have the great joy and privilege of proclaiming His salvation to a world in need, “preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36).
Written By Caleb Faires