This chapter always brings up the idea that God has “freed” the Jews – and everyone else – from having to obey the dietary restrictions in the Law. I have posted a separate topical study about clean and unclean foods and whether that is what THIS chapter of Scripture is teaching. I do not believe it is.
Furthermore, I do not agree that the Scriptures teach that the death of Jesus and His resurrection has “freed” us from obeying God or His commandments. Scripture makes it clear that as believers, we are to continue to obey God and His commandments (Jer 31:33, Eze 36:25-27, Joh 14:15, Rom 3:31, and many other places in the New Testament).
But His death and resurrection has freed us from earning our salvation by obedience to the Law (Gal 2:16). Praise God! The death and resurrection of Jesus has freed us from the penalty disobedience to the Law earns for us, which is death (Rom 2:12-13, 3:21-26). This is an important distinction, because a belief that Jesus has “freed” us from obedience to God’s will as expressed in the Law (Mat 7:21-23, Rom 2:17-20, 1 Joh 3:4) has opened the door of acceptance in the Church for all manner of unrighteous behavior which is condemned in the Law.
So Peter then tells the household of Cornelius in this chapter in Acts, that the Lord showed him (using the vision of the great sheet) that He had cleansed all men (i.e., the Gentiles, Act 10:28), and that Peter was no longer to consider any man unclean for a Jew to associate with. The vision did not mean that all animals were now fit to eat, but that all men were now clean in God’s sight.
The Jews were forbidden to associate with Gentiles in Torah, because Gentiles were pagan idolaters, and God did not want His people learning idolatry. But now, God was extending salvation to the Gentiles. A saved Gentile is not a pagan idolater. 🙂 We know this is the correct interpretation of the vision, because while Peter was preaching, even before he got to the altar call, the Holy Spirit fell on all the Gentiles present, and Peter knew it because they started speaking in tongues, as Peter and the rest of the disciples had on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
This incident took place 3-1/2 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and was an important incident in the fulfillment of prophecy in Dan 9:20-27. The Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles, and salvation coming to the Gentiles, finishes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the 70th week of Daniel:
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Dan 9:27
The “He” referred to is Christ Jesus. For one week of prophetic time, which is seven years of historic time, He shall confirm a covenant with many. The covenant He confirms is the covenant God has made with man through the nation of Israel at the giving of the Law on Mt Sinai – the covenant that says, the men of this ONE nation will take YHVH for their God, and God will take the men of this ONE nation who obey Him for His people.
Do we see in the making of the covenant at Sinai, the beginning of the undoing of the destruction which was wrought upon the earth at the Tower of Babel rebellion, when EVERY nation rebelled from having God be God over them? We have already seen that the new birth and the giving of the Spirit is to remake our hearts so that we can now obey the righteousness which the Law describes (which is to obey God’s will) from a pure heart, not from compulsion or fear of punishment.
At the beginning of the seven years of this prophecy, Jesus was baptized, and received His anointing as Messiah (Mat 3). 3-1/2 years later, He was crucified and raised from the dead. He was cut off, but not for Himself (Dan 9:26). In the middle of the week, He brought an end to sacrifice and offering, since with the shedding of His blood, animal sacrifices which do not take away sin are no longer required (Heb 10:11-14). At the midpoint of the week, He confirmed the covenant with just the Jews, as we have been reading in Acts. But at the end of the week, after 3-1/2 more years, He extended the covenant to the Gentiles also, by sending Peter to Cornelius, and the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles also.
Now Jesus has confirmed a covenant with many! Now He has become a light to the Gentiles also! Now through Abraham, ALL the families on earth have been blessed! Now, the covenant applies, not just to ONE nation, but to ALL nations. Now ALL nations can take YHVH for their God, and God will take the men of ALL nations who obey Him for His people. 🙂