starting from the beginning, peter told them the whole story: “i was in the city of joppa praying, and in a trance i saw a vision. i saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where i was. i looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. then i heard a voice telling me, ‘get up, peter. kill and eat.’
i replied, ‘surely not, Lord! nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
the voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ [acts 11:4-9]
do not call anything impure that God has made clean
“is it for animals that God is concerned?” on a cursory reading of this, i often think only of the dining consequences of peter’s dream (and in fact this does represent an important shift in eating practice for God’s people) but it is not primarily for animals that God is concerned—it is for gentile men and women. we who were outside of God’s chosen people—we who were dirty—have been given a way to be washed clean!
if you are a believer in Christ, do you struggle to believe that you have been washed clean? to believers the word says, “you are already clean because of the word i have spoken to you” (john 15:3) and “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (romans 8:1-2)
if we have believed in Christ as Lord and Savior, we have already been made clean. not just our past sins, but our every present and future sin has already been atoned for. this is why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence! it is not confidence in what we have done, but confidence in the completed work of Christ.
some of you may say, “if my future sins have already been forgiven, then why do i need to continue to repent?” on the contrary—assurance of forgiveness sets us free to repent. what use is it to withhold repentance from a God who has already forgiven us? is it not before the unforgiving that we struggle to confess? is it not before those who hold a grudge that we fear admitting our wrongdoing?
“there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 john 4:18) the punishment for the sins of every believer has already been dealt out to Christ. what, then, holds us back from confessing to our God? perhaps many things, but in this passage we see one thing: unbelief that Jesus’ blood is sufficient to cleanse us and present us pure to our heavenly Father.
Lord, help us believe that we have been made clean by the blood of your Son, if indeed we have been saved. forgive us for thinking our good deeds contribute anything to the cleanliness Jesus purchased on the cross for us; we believe—help us in our unbelief!
~ stephen hall