How Worldviews Shift – Part 2

            Peter’s worldview shift was comprised of three events. The first was his vision, the second the visitors who confirmed his vision and last the outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles as Peter shared the gospel. As previously noted, even though Jesus instructed all of the apostles to preach the gospel to everyone everywhere, their worldview filter basically said, ‘the Jews everywhere.’ The Jews in general did not mingle with Gentiles, particularly in spiritual/religious matters, as they considered them unclean. Thus, Peter who was a religious and cultural Jew, stilled followed the Mosaic dietary laws, as reflected in his response to Jesus in his vision, and kept himself separate from Gentiles.  

9 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. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 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. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. 17 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 (NKJV)

Applying the common process of Revelation, Interpretation and Application, we will look at what happened to Peter. The revelation was the vision he saw while in a trance. It was repeated three times for emphasis. Peter was adamant that as an observant Jew he had never eaten any of the unclean animals on the sheet. The Lord said that he was not to call common or unclean what He had cleansed. Peter then tried to puzzle out the interpretation.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” Acts 10:19–20 (NKJV)

Here we have a vision with an event repeated three times and as Peter begins to think about it three men arrive at the door, not a coincidence, particularly given that they were three unclean Gentiles. The Spirit told Peter they were there and he was to go with them. When they shared their story and told Peter of the angel visiting Cornelius, he invited them in as guests and they spent the night (Acts 10:20-23). Peter now had the interpretation and application of his vision. He was to fellowship with these Gentiles and to go and meet with Cornelius and company. Peter described it this way.

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. Acts 10:28 (NKJV)

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34–35 (NKJV)

            As we reflect on these events it is obvious that Peter went through a worldview shift. His interpretive lens changed and he now saw the Gentiles as potential recipients of the gospel. He understood that his vision was about fellowship with Gentiles not forbidden food.  

            Could things have turned out differently? Potentially if Peter had not made the shift that he had. Granted, it was a pretty dramatic series of events that created this shift but Peter had seen many things that shifted his worldview while walking with Jesus. This was the latest and a crucial one in the spread of the gospel. These shifts often take time to consolidate, as is evident in later events in Galatians 2:11-17 where Paul publicly rebuked Peter for breaking fellowship with Gentile believers. Yet over time Peter became consistent in his faith as we read of no further issues and we find Peter defending Gentile inclusion at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:6-11.

In my next post we will look change our focus and look at the process of personally shifting our worldview.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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