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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 24 - Acts 10:15 - No Difference Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The words here are very expressive—"What God hath cleansed," or hallowed, that "do not thou defile," or "make unholy"; that is, "treat as unclean." If God makes clean, who are we to dispute this? Shall we raise a wall that God has thrown down?

There was then a distinction between clean and unclean—indicated by the calling of Abraham, but more explicitly by the Levitical rites and laws; yet appointed from the beginning, for we read of it in the time of Noah; a distinction applicable (1) to men; (2) to food; (3) to dwellings; (4) to land; (5) to animals. All this was to remind men of the distinction between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent—the church and the world.

This distinction was a divine one; made by God for special ends. It was not man's doing at all; nor did it come by chance, nor by reason of the superiority of one nation physically and intellectually. It was constituted (1.) By God's will; His purpose drew the line, and marked off the Jew from the Gentile. (2.) His word; His revelation raised the wall, and pointed it out. (3.) Sacrifices. All the Mosaic rites were not only intimations that a separation had been made, but they were parts of the dividing wall.

This distinction was meant as God's standing testimony to certain things; a testimony not of a day, but which lasted some sixteen centuries in Israel, and some four thousand years in all; which was in force when Christ came, and which He observed; though sometimes going beyond it in dealing with Gentiles, such as the centurion, or the woman of Tyre.

This distinction declared such truths as the following (1.) That all creature hood is not necessarily on the same simple level; and that creatures, though all the work of God, may enjoy different measures of His favor. (2.) That these differences are the result of God's sovereignty, and not the fruit of man's will, or the creature's own merit or demerit. (3.) That there is such a thing as consecration to God (a being specially set apart), enjoyed by men, or nations, or places, or things—this outer consecration being the symbol of inner holiness. Such was the testimony kept up by God, in and through Israel. Holiness to the Lord, was inscribed upon them and their land. They were a people brought nigh to God, while others were afar off. So is it with the church still, in contrast with the world.

But at Christ's death there was a change. The distinction had served its purpose. If continued longer, it would defeat its object (as it was beginning to do in the case of the Pharisees), and give prominence to the mere outward privilege. God interposed, and threw down the middle wall of partition; not rejecting the Jew, yet accepting the Gentile; not obliterating national distinctions, but making these no longer of any importance, and attaching to them no spiritual or religious privilege. Without lowering the Jew, he lifted up the Gentile; not making the Jew unclean, but the Gentile clean; so that from that time there should be (so far as access to God was concerned) "neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free." It was respecting this that the revelation was made to Peter in the vision or trance. He was taught that the Gentile was now made as clean as the Jew; that God had done it, and that even he, though the apostle of the circumcision, must at once accept the verdict, "What God hath cleansed, that do not defile." Let us, then, learn from this the divine lessons

I. The one broad level of humanity, in the sight of God, for blessing. There are various levels in other respects, various ranks and differences; national, personal, intellectual, educational; rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, savage and civilized; but here, in connection with spiritual blessing—acceptance, favor, and the like, all these disappear. God' has made of one blood all nations of the earth. He is no respecter of persons; nay, many that are last shall be first.

II. The rebuke here given to national pride. The Jew despised the Samaritan, and the Samaritan the Jew; both despising the Gentile. There was the pride of birth, the pride of descent, the pride of race. Here was God's rebuke to all such pride. "What God hath cleansed that defile not." Let us beware of national pride; boasting of ourselves, our national prowess, our national genius, our national arts, or our national progress. Who maketh us to differ?

III. The rebuke given to spiritual pride. This spiritual pride is twofold—the personal and the ecclesiastical. In the former, it comes from the idea of being better, or holier, or sounder in faith, or more advanced in doctrine than others; and the superciliousness thus arising shews itself in words and deeds in many ways; and is most offensive both to God and man. In the latter, it comes from the idea of belonging to a superior church, a purer or more apostolic church; and the pride of churchmanship is the greatest and most offensive of all. It is quite as imperious and haughty as Judaism in its worst age. The pride of rank or family is nothing to it. It stoops not, but only to revile or hate. It acknowledges no man to be clean but the members of its own sect.

IV. The open door for all. There is no restriction now. God's free love goes out unconditionally,—without restriction or qualification,—to the lost. No one need ask the question, Am I at liberty to go to God as I am? The door stands wide open. The entrance is free. The invitation is to all. God's message is to "every creature" in the everlasting gospel. The righteousness of God is unto all. There is no hindrance now, and no exception. "Ho every one," is God's voice of sincere and earnest pity to the sons of men. Come, taste my love; enjoy my pardon; become my sons and daughters!