Clean? “Who says so?” Consider the following paragraph:
“The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.” (Acts 10.9-17).
It is clear that some things were unclean to Peter. It is also clear that Peter knew what these unclean things were. It is also apparent that Peter had made it a lifelong practice to avoid consuming those things which God had identified as unclean. IN a vision, Peter was presented with the command to kill and eat those things which he had previously known to belong to the class of animals known as unclean. Whatever that distinction had been, it was no more. These animals that were previously unclean were now clean! Question: What/Who made these animals clean? What authority did this entity have who declared unclean things to be currently clean?
First, it needs to be stated that the personwho cleansed the animals so that they were okay for Peter to eat is the same person who made the animals unclean centuries earlier. This distinction, the clean and the unclean, was first mentioned in Scripture to Noah as he made preparations to survive the flood. It was later passed on to the Israelite nation in connection with regulations regarding the eating and the sacrificing of animals (the books of Leviticus and Numbers contain a complete list of these regulations). These restrictions were imposed on the Jews and the Jews only so far as the inspired record goes.
Next, what right did God have to declare unclean animals to be clean? The answer to this is simple; the same right that He had to impose the rules was the right He had to remove the rules! It is an old but true adage that says, “He who has the right to impose also has the right to dispose!” Such was the case with God; He imposed and He disposed. He had the right to declare what ever He pleased in the matter without regards to man’s wishes or tastes. Although we do not know the precise reasons why God made the choices He did, it is certain that he had the right to do so.
Unlike His decision to decree certain animals to be unclean, He also declared murder to be sinful. It is wrong any where and at any time for one human being to murder another. It is wrong every place and at any time because God said it is sinful. His declaration that murder, theft, adultery, and such like are sinful is connected to His character and His infinite goodness; these values have never and will never change; such deeds are inherently sinful. Certain animals became unclean upon God’s decree and merely because of that decree. Herein lies the distinction which I seek to make. Some things are universally and eternally sinful because they reflect God’s character. Other things He has the right to decree as lawful or unlawful merely because of His right as Sovereign Creator God!
1. What is the difference between laws concerning murder and laws concerning unclean animals?
2. Did God have the right to declare certain animals to be clean and others to be unclean? Why or why not?
3. Does God’s character ever change? Why did you answer the way you did? Have some things become sinful which were at one time not sinful? Have some things become lawful which were at other times unlawful? If you answered yes, how could this be?
4. Does absolute right and wrong exist? If yes, to what or whom is this distinction connected?
4. What indicators can be seen when a man trusts in himself more than he trusts in God? How does this condition compare to the Solomon’s condition as depicted in most of the book of Ecclesiastes?
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