The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Acts 10:9-15 (ESV)

The word Common is the Greek word koinós; meaning, “Defiled… such as were common to other nations but were avoided by the Jews as polluted and unclean.”[1] The word Unclean is the Greek word akáthartos; meaning “Unclean by legal or ceremonial standards … ultimately to refer to all idolatrous worship and heathen impurity… Unfit to be admitted to the peculiar rights and privileges of the church and particularly to baptism (1 Cor. 7:14; Sept.: Is. 52:1; Amos 7:17)… Unclean by unnatural pollution (Eph. 5:5). Unclean as applied to the devils who are frequently called unclean spirits in the NT because, having lost their original purity, they become unclean themselves and through their solicitations have polluted mankind with all uncleanness and every abomination which the Lord hates (Mark 5:2, 8, 13. See also Matt. 10:1; 12:43; Mark 1:23, 26, 27; 3:11, 30; 6:7; 7:25; 9:25; Luke 4:33, 36; 6:18; 8:29; 9:42; 11:24; Acts 5:16; 8:7; Rev. 16:13).”[2]

The gentiles were considered unclean or polluted; they were seen the same way that the Nephilim were seen in Genesis 6 and, all through the battles of Israel. In Acts 10:15 God said, “…What God has made clean, do not call common.” In other words, God needed to correct Peter and teach him that not all the people in the nations were polluted to the point of being unredeemable. 

We have all being spiritually polluted because of the sin of Adam and Eve. However, in Genesis 6 what we see is the creation of monsters, physically and spiritually corrupted. The Bible tells in Genesis 6:5 “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (NIV) 

There is a difference between somebody who does evil things every now and them and somebody who is sold-out to evil ALL-THE-TIME. During the times of Noah, the whole human race was genetically corrupted, except Noah and his family. The apostles thought that only Israel was genetically pure. They considered the gentiles unredeemable even during their time; but that was not the case. God kept a remnant even amongst the nations, the non-Jewish people. 

Just like God has not forgotten Israel, he has not forgotten the nations either. Perhaps the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 contributed to the apostle’s confusion on this matter,

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (ESV)

Jesus called this woman a dog, there is no dancing around that, but the definition of dog here is very interesting; this is the Greek word kunárion; meaning, “A dog. A little dog, puppy (Matt. 15:26, 27; Mark 7:27, 28). The Lord, speaking as a Jew, applies the word kunárion to the heathen who might justly be so–called on account of their many impurities and abominations.”[3]

Notice how these word, impurity and corruption shows up consistently. The apostles missed the point here because Jesus ended up granting this woman a mighty miracle. She was, like all of us at one point, spiritually corrupt, but she was also a chosen woman. We must thank every day that we were chosen by God, that he did not let us be genetically corrupt and unredeemable, we must thank God that we are not monsters; but that we are a part of his creation and that from day one, he knew that all this corruption would take place and, from day one, he had a sensational plan of redemption for all his creation. Jesus tells us in John 15:16,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (NIV)

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

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