[Peter] became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” “No, Lord! ” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.”Acts 10:10-14
This story of Peter’s vision is typically used as a way of teaching that God was declaring all foods “clean” or acceptable to eat. However, looking more closely at the context and outcome, we can learn some aspects of vigilance in our walk with God.
Firstly, it is impressive to see how Peter had maintained his ritual purity throughout his life. He claims to have strictly followed the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 without fail. In his day and age, there were many opportunities to eat the wrong foods, even if by accident. There were meats that may have been acceptable for Jews to eat sold in the marketplace, but they may have been “contaminated” by previously being offered to other gods before being sold. This was a serious issue that Paul deals with in his epistle (1 Cor. 8). Many Jews were challenged to make sure they always knew where their food came from. This has been the basis of many kosher designations even to this day. Peter demonstrates that he was always vigilant to ensure he never violated the commands of God.
Secondly, Peter understood that this vision presented to him was not about foods that are acceptable or not acceptable to God, but about how God was opening a door to all people for the message of the kingdom to be propagated.
Peter himself states this is the meaning of the vision as he shares with Cornelius and his companions:
While talking with him, he went in and found a large gathering of people. Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner, but God has shown me [through the vision] that I must not call any person impure or unclean. “That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. … Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, “but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.Acts 10:27-29, 34-35
Peter took the real meaning of the vision to mean that God was breaking down the barriers between men of different nations, and that the door of faith in Messiah would be opened to all who were willing to come. This was even confirmed to be the correct interpretation as the foreign men were visibly affected by receiving the Spirit of God (10:44-45).
You see, vigilance in our walk comes in many forms, whether our own personal commitment to holiness, or our obedience to the things that God may reveal to us. Peter exemplifies for us a measure of personal vigilance that we can learn from and follow in our own lives. When we receive instruction from God, whether through his word or through personal insight, we must be faithful in keeping it at all cost and without hesitation.