28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. (Acts 10:28–29, NKJV)
God separated Israel from the nations and codified that distinction in the law of Moses (Exo. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:1-11). That “middle wall of separation” was broken down in Christ (Eph. 2:14). God taught Peter the nations (Gentiles) were included in His redemptive plan by a dramatic vision. Clean and unclean animals were lowered in a sheet from heaven, and a voice told Peter, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-17). Peter drew the necessary conclusion not to call people “common or unclean.” That truth should permeate our thinking, words, and our treatment of others. Here are some lessons to ponder and apply. 1) The gospel is for all. Sin has defiled all of us (Rom. 3:23). Everyone needs sin’s stain cleansed by Christ (Rom. 1:16; Acts 22:16). Let us share the gospel so others may believe and turn to the Lord (Acts 11:21). 2) Prejudice has no place in the heart and life of Christians. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (skin color, ethnicity, gender, culture, caste, etc.) (1 Sam. 16:7). Grievous errors in judgment happen when based on appearance (Jno. 7:24; Prov. 18:13). 3) Obey God without objection (v. 29). When God has spoken, we listen and obey without resistance and complaint (1 Sam. 3:10). Christians must not murmur against the Lord’s will like Israel did in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). Peter’s example of learning and obeying God’s will continues to encourage us.
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). Saul will go from being faithless to being faithful, from a persecutor to a preacher, from an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Therefore, it is essential to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul: to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11). But in Damascus, three days later, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road. To follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?
1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:1–2, NKJV)
No doubt, many are drawn to others based on their physical features. Yet, we can fairly say that Jesus Christ was not particularly handsome. He had “no form or comeliness…no beauty that we should desire Him.” Unlike Saul, who was tall and handsome, God’s Anointed did not draw people to Himself because of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 10:23-24). Christ does not gather a following like Absalom, who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” with false humility and flattery (2 Sam. 15:5-6). It was David, a man after God’s own heart, who typified God’s suffering servant (1 Sam. 13:14; Psa. 89:3-4). God looks on the heart, not physical appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, what draws your attention to Christ and the gospel? Is it a large church building full of wealthy people? Maybe it is cathedrals or temples built by human hands. Maybe it is the social program of the church. Furthermore, what are Christians using to draw people to Christ? It must always be the gospel, not things that appeal to the pride of the flesh. The Father draws sinners to Christ and salvation by hearing and learning His word, and so must we (Jno. 6:44-45).
1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1–2, NKJV)
This is not an unqualified indictment and prohibition of all judgment. Jesus would later expose those who judged Him by appearance by urging them to use “righteous judgment” instead (John 7:24). On another occasion Jesus rebuked as hypocrites those who judged weather signs but would not discern that the Messiah was among them. He said, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, you do not judge what is right?” (Lk. 12:56-57). Today’s passage warns us not to be hypocritical in our judgments of others. Too easily we succumb to the temptation to condemn others while failing (refusing) to see similar (and other) sins in ourselves (Rom. 2:1-2, 21-24). “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). By first removing our “plank” (sin) we are able to empathetically and more precisely help our brother remove the speck (sin) from his life. By this we become better adept at avoiding harsh, hurtful, and harmful judgments of one who struggles with or have been overtaken by sin. Truth, wisdom, impartiality, mercy, and gentleness are among the qualities that enable us to judge righteously (Jas. 3:17-18; Gal. 6:1). And, surely these are the qualities by which we want to be judged (aren’t they)?
Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s. (2 Corinthians 10:7, NKJV)
Things are not always as they appear. Certainly, we must be careful of our appearance and the influence we leave on others (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 4:12). But, that is not the subject of this passage. This verse warns us not to make judgments based merely on outward appearances. When we do, we are liable to be mistaken, and even deceived (John 7:24). By doing so we have forgotten a fundamental trait of God that ought to inform our discernment: God looks at the heart instead of outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Here, some Christians were trying to undermine the apostolic authority of Paul. Using carnal tactics, they complained about the strength of his epistles versus his bodily presence (2 Corinthians 10:9-10). They suggested Paul was not fully an apostle (2 Corinthians 11:5-6; 12:11-12). They compared themselves with themselves and boasted in their faithfulness (2 Corinthians 10:12, 7). On the other hand, Paul would only boast in the Lord and the work he was given to accomplish (2 Corinthians 10:13-17). Let us be careful not to use outward appearances to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “not he who commends himself is approved; but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).