Do not call anything impure that God has made clean

I’m currently reading through the book of Acts in the Bible, and in chapter 10 the apostle Peter has a famous vision in which God tells him to eat animals which are impure for a Jew to eat. When Peter refuses, God tells him three times

“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Acts 10:15, NIV

The meaning in its context is clear. Acts is the story of God’s word spreading throughout the world, and the inclusion of Samaritans (half-Jews) and Gentiles (non-Jews) in God’s kingdom. Peter has this vision just before being asked to preach to a Gentile called Cornelius, and Peter says to him

“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”

Acts 10:28, NIV

The gospel is now open to the Gentiles, and it is no longer important to become a Jew to be right with God. This is indisputably the primary meaning of what God said, and I certainly don’t wish to detract from that.

However, as I was reading this a few days ago, another implication of this struck me for the first time. Those of us who are Christians are made clean by God, yet how often we fail to recognise this. How often we focus on our own impurity, our sin. Yet once God has made us clean, we are clean, and we are not to call ourselves (or other Christians) impure. We are still sinners, and it’s right to fight against sin, both in our own lives and the lives of other Christians, but let’s not lose focus on the cleanliness God has given to us in Christ. We should not be despondent about sin. Instead, we can rest confidently in the God who has made us clean.

Testified and exhorted

At the moment in my quiet times I’m looking through the book of Acts. Earlier this week I read Acts 2:40 which says

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

It’s the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has come upon the gathered believers in Jerusalem, and Peter has just preached a sermon to the Jews who were around him. Luke has recorded for us the sermon he preached, then at the end he writes this verse.

This is gospel preaching. This is what I aspire to. Not as a pulpit preacher, invaluable as they obviously are, but in my day-to-day life. I hope I will learn to follow the pattern Peter used when he was preaching to a group of people. He both testified to and exhorted the people.

If I’m not misunderstanding the passage, the words are not meant to say the same thing. They are complementary. Peter testified by his life, showing the people Christ by the way he lived. Every day Christ was visible in Peter. Peter also exhorted, urging and pleading with the people to be saved. It may not be as catchy as UCCF’s “living for Jesus, speaking for Jesus” tagline, but isn’t this exactly the same approach?

We cannot share the gospel by simply living it. We must preach it, whether while stood in a church or in a casual conversation, so people can understand their sin and their need to call out to Jesus for salvation. But neither can we share the gospel by preaching alone. The gospel’s power is to transform lives, and if our own lives are not transformed then what is the gospel we are presenting in our preaching? Neither will do alone; we must have both.