Swords to Plowshares

Promoting a faith-based love for all creation.

Why in Acts 10 did God tell Peter, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat”?

And a voice came to him saying, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!” (Acts 10:13)

The context of this passage is Peter going onto the roof to pray and becoming hungry and falling into a deep trance. While in the trance, Peter has a vision of a sheet full of animals descending from the sky. The animals on the sheet are ones that were considered unclean according to Jewish law. Then Peter hears the voice telling him to kill and eat the animals, but Peter refuses on account of him seeing the animals as unclean.

The purpose of the vision is to show Peter that God doesn’t see any person as unclean and that salvation is not only for Jews but also for Gentiles (Romans 3:29). The meaning of the vision became clear to Peter when he went and visited Cornelius, who is a Gentile, given that Jews were forbidden to eat with Gentiles because they were seen as “unclean”. Peter explains the vision within the text when he says to Cornelius and his household, “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” (Acts 10:28).

The reason the vision makes sense and was significant is because Peter saw it as unclean to kill and eat the animals in the vision. Notice he did not kill the animals but instead preached that Jesus died for everyone, including for the Gentiles. He understood the purpose of the vision, that it had nothing to do with food and everything to do with people. This is why God did not show any sign of displeasure in Peter’s refusal to kill and eat. Peter passed God’s test, understood the vision, and fulfilled the inspired calling which had enormous significance for salvation of Gentiles. Even on that visit to the home of Cornelius, all who heard Peter’s words received the holy spirit (Acts 10:44-46).

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