On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew near to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:…
The incident of the conversion of Cornelius is suggestive of some important truths, but of one in particular, viz. the perfectness of the Divine impartiality. We look first, however, at -
I. THE PART OF THE PHYSICAL IN THE APPREHENSION OF THE SPIRITUAL. Peter went up to pray (ver. 9); but he was very hungry and desired bodily refreshment (ver. 10). This state of body was probably favorable to his "falling into a trance" (ver. 11); however that may be, it evidently had something to do with the character of the vision which he beheld. The contents of the great sheet, the invitation to "kill and eat," answered very closely to his physical cravings. In truth, our spiritual apprehensions depend in no small degree on our bodily condition. We may safely conclude that:
1. Fasting, as such, has a very small place, if it have any at all, in the Christian dispensation. (It had only the very smallest in the Law, though Pharisaic accretions had made it a prominent feature of Jewish piety in our Lord's time.)
2. Abstinence rather than indulgence is favorable to spiritual apprehension.
3. Bodily health is the best condition for religious service.
II. THE ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS OF OUR PHYSICAL DISTINCTIONS IN THE SIGHT OF THE SUPREME. Peter did not at first perceive the full significance of the vision, in which he was bidden to partake of anything before him: he "doubted what this vision should mean" (ver. 17). But the coincidence of the vision with the coming of the messengers of Cornelius, and the statement of the centurion himself, removed all difficulty and doubt, and he used the noble words recorded (vers. 34, 35). Not that he meant to say that God was indifferent to the consideration whether men believed what was true or what was false; that is a gross perversion of his language, which the apostle would have resented with the greatest indignation. He meant that God regarded with equal acceptance all who held and loved the truth, whether they were sons of Abraham or whether they stood quite outside the sacred circle. The lesson for us is that most valuable one, viz. that no physical distinctions of any kind affect our position in the sight of God. "The accident of birth" has no bearing on our place in his kingdom. Neither age, nor sex, nor class, nor race has anything whatever to do with the estimate he forms of us or with the sphere he will assign us. This absolute indifference on God's part to distinctions of which we make so much, applies:
1. To the remission of sins now; that depends wholly on our spiritual relation to Jesus Christ (ver. 43).
2. To his judgment of us after death; that also will be decided by our attitude towards him (ver. 42).
3. To his communication of special gifts (vers. 44, 45). This impartiality should be copied by us and, particularly, made applicable to the standing we give to men in the visible Church (vers. 47, 48).
III. OUR COMMON RELATION TO GOD THE SOURCE OF HUMAN SACREDNESS, "What God hath cleansed, call not thou common" (ver. 15). Probably or possibly it may have been intended by this vision to confirm and illustrate the words of our Lord when he "made all things pure" (new rendering). But, however this may be, the words certainly denote that we are not to consider common or profane those whom God has redeemed from profanity. And who are these? Not only
(1) those of our race who have been actually redeemed and renewed - those who are "washed and cleansed and sanctified by the renewing of the Holy Ghost;" but also - and this is the main thought -
(2) all the children of men in virtue of their common relation to the Divine Father and Savior. As those who are "all his offspring," and who are all free to become his sons and daughters by spiritual resemblance; as those for whom the Son of God shed his blood and to whom he sends his message of love and life, - all are worthy of our "honor" (1 Peter 2:17); none are to be "lightly esteemed." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: