"What God has Cleansed"
"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" Acts 10.15. This is the NIV translation of those remarkable words that were said to Peter as he saw the vision at Joppa. They were 'shattering' words, breaking down all the old manmade barriers that kept people apart. These words were to affect human society in a fundamental way. The idea that some people by reason of birth and circumstances were inferior and 'unholy' had always been cherished by a favoured few who considered themselves superior to the rest of mankind. The kind of spiritual aristocracy that had arisen in Judaism after the Babylonian exile was not part of their heritage from the Patriarchs and Moses. That feeling of superiority was witnessed in Egypt at the time of Joseph (Genesis 43.22). When the Jews harboured such feelings over the Gentiles it did nothing for their spiritual growth but rather had the opposite effect and caused them to stumble. They had to learn that Jew and Gentile were in need of spiritual cleansing from sin and that as sons of Adam they were all 'unclean' in God's sight. That feeling continues to affect Christians, world religions and many social and political situations. The problem remains within the Christian church; each group, however large or small has the belief that they are the only ones in step with God. A proud mother watching her son on a military parade ground had a similar feeling.
Equality of the races was a hard lesson for Peter to learn though it was through him that the principle was first made known. In Gal. 2.14 (NIV) Paul wrote "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel". Much has been written about that word, that in the Greek is 'aletheia', but truth cleanses for the purpose of uniting brethren in Christ. Truth, genuine truth, (not just interpretations by sects) has an effect on Christian behaviour which makes those truly enlightened more loving and gentle, more forgiving and patient, like the Divine Author of truth. Truth has the power to cleanse so that healing can take place.
The first recognition of a difference between what is holy and unholy, clean and unclean is found in the record of Noah entering the ark with the animals (Genesis 7.2). Perhaps we should ponder the Genesis record of the entry of sin into the world and the dispute between Cain and Abel. Sin has always been looked upon as something unclean, unholy that needs cleansing. So the Apostle in 1 John 1.7 writes that we are cleansed from sin through the blood of Jesus.
In the Psalms we meet forceful analogies of impurity and uncleanness with that of sin and unholiness. In his remarkable contrition after exposure of the sin against Uriah, recorded in Psalm 51, David asks "Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin". The removal of sin and the application of forgiveness require the right attitude on the part of the sinner. We catch a glimpse of this at the end of Genesis when Joseph's brothers tell him that Jacob requested forgiveness for his brothers for what they had done to Joseph. Cleansing takes place when both parties are ready to offer and accept forgiveness. Jesus, like His Father, set an example of readiness to forgive. If we would want to be like them we must live with an attitude of forgiveness irrespective of those who have offended. Some say they can't forgive until the offending party has repented but our Father in Heaven is clearly more ready to forgive our sins that we are to confess them. Before we were born and committed any sin, God had planned and provided for a means of cleansing from sin for every sinner. The spirit of forgiveness has always been part of His nature as shown by Moses and Jeremiah when they speak of God's compassion.
The dreadful condition of people with leprosy in the first century was used as a picture of sin. This was apparently a reasonable analogy but it emphasised the terrible stigma surrounding the disease. Jesus would have been aware of the effect of this upon those who so suffered and reached out to touch them making it clear that the legal barriers had gone forever. Jesus declared to the Pharisees that all foods were clean (Mark 7. 19) but it took some time after Pentecost for the principle to be accepted. James, the Lord's brother and leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, began to see the light at the council meeting recorded in Acts 15 after Peter had spoken of cleansing the heart by faith. In his letter much later he wrote of drawing near to God and the need to cleanse the heart. Maybe he remembered the words of Jesus (Luke 11. 41) when He said "But give for alms those things which are within and behold everything is clean for you."
Barclay writes that there are four words closely associated with katharos which means cleansing ; alethinos which means real, genuine, the opposite of fake; amiges which means pure, unmixed, unalloyed; akratos ‑ as with a pure liquid; akeratos which describes gold hair that has never been shorn or an unmown meadow or a chaste virgin. "Blessed are those whose motives are absolutely unmixed, whose minds are utterly sincere, who are completely and totally single minded." Such, Jesus said "shall see God".
Fruitfulness develops after pruning (AV purge, John 15.3) which occurs as we really take in the Word of God. Paul expresses a similar idea in Ephesians 5. 26 when writing about Christian husbands and wives. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word".
Acceptance of Christ as Saviour takes but a short time compared with the long process of 'sanctification' or cleansing in preparation to see the Father 'face to face'. "There is a way for man to rise to the sublime abode;
"An offering and a sacrifice, a Holy Spirit's energies,
An advocate with God".