Acts 10:12

Chandelier and paintings in the rotunda area of capitol builing. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thursday, 8 September 2022

In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. Acts 10:12

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse referred to the “object like a great sheet [sail]” descending to Peter from heaven to the earth. That now continues with, “In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth.”

The translation is not acceptable. It is stated without exception, saying, “all the quadrupeds of the earth.” It is a new word, tetrapous, that signifies “four” and “foot.” It will be seen here, in Acts 11:6, and then in Romans 1:23. Every four-footed animal that is to be found on earth was included in this display. That is followed by, “wild beasts.”

This word, thérion, is not included in some manuscripts, but it is found in Peter’s description of the account in Acts 11:6. It is possible a scribe either missed it in this verse, or it was purposefully inserted to reconcile the two accounts. Either way, the word comes from the word théra, signifying a trap used for hunting. Thus, this is a generic word for any wild animal. Next noted are “creeping things.”

The Greek word is herpeton. It also is a new word, and it signifies any crawling animal, reptiles, and especially a serpent. It is comparable to the Hebrew word remes first found in Genesis 1:24. The Greek word is the etymological root of our modern word herpes which is a disease that creeps. Finally, it says, “and birds of the air.”

Rather, the Greek reads, “and the birds of the heaven.” There is no qualifier saying, “clean birds.” Rather, it can be assumed that all birds of the heavens are included in the scene before him.

Though getting a bit ahead of the narrative, what is being seen is a picture of the cleansing of the Gentiles through Christ’s work. The sail is the means by which the message goes forth, signifying movement on the seas, even to the furthest parts of the world.

The sail being made of linen provides its own picture of purity. All that are noted upon it are cleansed by the blood of Christ, apart from deeds of the law, and are deemed as acceptable to God because of Him.

The sail having four corners signifies that the gospel will go forth to every part of the earth, the four corners representing the entire earth. And the animals, regardless of the kind, are included in the scope of the transmission of the gospels.

Under the law of Moses, animals were specifically divided into clean and unclean. The two main records of this are found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. To fully understand the typology, please refer to the appropriate Superior Word sermons on these passages.

Israel was set apart under the law and was permitted to eat only certain foods derived from a select list of animals. Gentiles have no restrictions on them concerning dietary laws. This goes all the way back to Genesis 9 –

“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” Genesis 9:2, 3

The law was introduced as a tool for Israel, and Israel alone, to conduct its affairs. The Gentiles were never placed under that law, and no dietary restrictions, apart from drinking blood (Genesis 9:4), were placed upon the people of the world. With the law fulfilled by Christ, it was set aside. The Gentiles who ate unclean animals are no longer considered unclean. This will be made explicit in the coming verses.

The descending of this object from heaven to the earth was to signify to Peter that a mystery was being revealed. That mystery is then explained by Paul –

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Ephesians 3:1-7

Despite Paul being the one through whom the mystery of the church is conveyed to the Gentiles, it is the same mystery that is first revealed to Peter, and which will be confirmed by Peter in Acts 10. Once again, as has been seen several times in Acts, the same working of God, meaning the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is given by both Peter and Paul. The focus of the ministry for that gospel (meaning Peter’s toward the Jews and Paul’s toward the Gentiles) is the only difference. It is one gospel to all people.

Life application: The Chinese people have a saying, “If it moves on the earth, if it is found in the oceans, or if it flies in the sky, we will eat it.” This is a truth found throughout the Gentile world to some degree or another. No dietary restrictions exist except those that are self-imposed or that may be imposed by a particular nation or by some false religion.

For example, Islam and Hinduism restrict the eating of certain foods. Also, there are things that are just culturally not considered acceptable. Various bugs have always been eaten in parts of Asia, and even the Levitical law allowed for the consumption of locusts.

However, until recently, it was considered socially unacceptable in the western world to eat bugs. It was not prohibited, but it was something looked down on as boorish and objectionable. With the modern green movement, bugs are in, and beef is out. This is not a dietary law. Rather, it is just an attempt to manipulate the populace for a perverse agenda.

Despite this, the vision that Peter is seeing is exactly what is found in the Gentile world. The old saying, “You are what you eat,” is on full display here. Gentiles eat snakes, bugs, and lobsters (to their delight by the way), while Jews do not. And so, what is being seen is more than just the acceptance of Gentiles into the plan of God, but the acceptance of what they eat as well. The two are not to be disassociated from one another.

And yet, heretical cults and false teachers will use Acts 10 to say that the typology only points to the cleansing of Gentiles, but not the cleansing of foods. This is incorrect and it is dispelled both in the coming account of Acts 10, throughout the Pauline epistles, and the book of Hebrews as well. Don’t be fooled by perverse people with an agenda to push you under the constraints of the Law of Moses! Pass the whale blubber and bacon, and enjoy the freedom God has given you in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord God, how precious it is to know that by faith alone in Jesus and in His fulfillment of the law we are pleasing to You. He lived out the law, He shed His blood, dying in fulfillment of it, and He rose again, setting aside its ordinances so that we are justified not through our deeds, but through His. In Him, reconciliation and forgiveness of sins have come! Now, we have a blessed and eternal hope. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord, O God. Amen.