Monday: Peter and the Law

(1 Pet. 2:9)

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest apostles. Among the first selected, Peter was present at many of the major events in the ministry of Jesus. It was he who, at Caesarea Philippi, made the declaration that Jesus was the Messiah; and Peter followed his Savior to the house of Caiaphas on the night that Jesus was arrested and tried. And on the morning when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples by the sea, it was Peter who received specific instructions regarding the ministry of Christ. When the first group of believers gathered on the day of Pentecost, Peter was the chief spokesperson. Certainly, if the law had been changed in any way, Peter would have known.

Image © Standard Publishing from

Image © Standard Publishing from

What does Acts 10:9-14 tell us about Peter’s adherence to the Jewish law after Jesus’ ascension? If Peter thought this way about laws concerning food, what can we imagine his view was on the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments?

Peter received his vision several years after the ascension of Jesus. As a result of the disciples’ preaching, thousands of Jews had already accepted Jesus as the Messiah. There is nothing in the biblical record to suggest that the content of the Christian message included instructions to reject the law. In a powerful way, the incident in Acts 10 demonstrates that the earliest Christians fully identified with their Jewish roots.

Compare 1 Peter 2:9 with Exodus 19:6. What is the context of Exodus 19:6?

When Peter referred to his audience as a royal priesthood, a holy nation (NKJV), they would have recalled instantly the story of the giving of the law at Sinai. As the heirs of Israel, they were expected to abide by the terms of the covenant made explicit in the law of God. So, immediately after reminding the people of their status, Peter urges them to live lives of righteousness (1 Pet. 2:11-12). He also warns his audience to be wary of false teachers promoting a law-free gospel (2 Pet. 2:21, 2 Pet 3:2).

Remember how badly Peter messed up; and yet, look at the grace extended to him. How can we learn (1) to extend that kind of grace to others and (2) to accept grace for ourselves when we mess up?



Monday: Peter and the Law — 18 Comments

  1. When Peter had that vision, the rest of the verses went on to say that God spoke to him and told him that what God cleansed do not call it unclean. Can you explain this.

    • Carefully read the whole chapter then focus on verses 28 and 29. In 28 Peter wrote "...But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean". There is only one intellectually honest way of interpreting the above quoted part of the verse.
      Where in the new testament did God explicitly show to Peter that he is 'not to call any man common or unclean'? If you do not know where, then you will need to search the New Testament for that event. Well, you will not fid it.
      Then why would Peter reach that conclusion? Read chapter 10 again. On the surface, it seems that God shows Peter that he is not to differentiate between food types. And that is where the report of the vision ends.
      So, on the surface you may reach the erroneous conclusion that God was talking to Peter about food since it was about lunch time. And the report of the vision event is interrupted by the report of the arrival of the men from the centurion Cornelius. Nothing is reported about Peter's thinking about the vision while he is traveling with Corneliouse's men. A day later Peter is in Cornelious's home and he says to them; "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean".
      Is it not logical to conclude that Peters's decision to not to refer to some men as unclean was influenced by the unusual vision he had on the house rooftop he had earlier? Now, you may be puzzled why did Peter think to begin with that some men where unclean?. To answer that question you may need to study the Jewish culture of those days at the time of Jesus.

  2. Today's question actually looks at how God enlightened Peter that his Law and ways supercedes custom, culture and race. So if those who say the 7th Day Sabbath is the Jewish Sabbath, applied Acts 10 to the Sabbath question, there would be no question.

  3. Peter was being told not to consier the Gentiles as unclean as is completely understood by reading the following verses where the Centurion's men come to him asking him to go with them. This also was not allowed in jewish customs as Gentiles were unclean so to be in their company would make you unclean as well. It is not speaking of food at all.

  4. Peter as a real Jew could not understand why he was to eat what is unclean in the vision. This strongly shows how he followed the laws. God is telling him not to call anything unclean including the Gentiles whom he was to minister to, as stated in Acts 10:28-29. All who accept grace through our lord Jesus becomes the custodians of the law, royal priests to teach and ministers to the world.

    • The problem with Peter is as similar to people today. Many people read the bible and just interpret it at face value. For e.g. When the bible says "judge not". People want to do anything and would use this text as their marker why the should not be corrected.

  5. To me Peter is a very interesting person who I can relate to very well – bold yet fragile, strong yet weak. It seems to me that as I read through Acts that what stands out is the lack of argument over a change in the day of worship. I also notice how closely the disciples at Jerusalem were to the temple and its rituals.

    During Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem the disciples there questioned him saying, “but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (Act 21:21 NKJV) which they prefaced with the statement, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law” (Act 21:20 NKJV).

    How can anyone possibly think that Peter, a Jew, being as fragile as he was, was entirely different from other Jews in that kind of environment?

  6. I would like us to explore the concept of being a "royal priesthood." Note that Peter applies the term to all believers - men and women alike.

    What does that mean in practical terms? What does God expect of His "royal priesthood" - that is, you and me, in the light of this lesson?

    • For starters, clothed in fine linen with a fair miter placed upon our brow. Obviously symbolic of transformation of mind and character.

      Peter doesn't specify gender, but implies that faith in Christ "converts" sinners into replicas of Jesus in how they live in this sinful world. Nothing literal about serving as priest since that was abolished on the cross. We must see the symbolic nature of this passage in defining the experience of the believer in any walk of life where God has placed us.

      • Peter refers to "a royal priesthood, a holy nation," echoing Exodus 19:6's reference to "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," not to their clothing, in this passage.

        The earthly priests were very human and faulty. Yet Christ covered them with His righteousness, which the fine linen of their robes and the high priest's turban (or mitre) represented.

        I don't know where you got your phrase, but it reminds me of the High Priest Joshua and the Angel of Zech 3:1-5. Whereas Satan points out that Zechariah has "filthy garments," the Lord rebukes him and puts clean clothes on him. Note that the clean clothes are given to Him. They are not His own. And that's just what He's willing to do for us when we submit ourselves to Him.

        While the Bible teaches clearly that we become more and more like Jesus as we "behold" Him in His love and holiness, I would never say that we become "replicas of Jesus." It seems to me that the closer we come to Jesus, the more we will sense the holiness of His character, and the more we will see that we shall never be "replicas of Jesus."

        I see that Hugh recognized the work description of the priests: They were to intercede for the people - praying for them and teaching them the Law of God. I like his phrase of being "light bearers to the world."

        God trusts us with the work of intercession for our family, friends and neighbors, and the work of demonstrating the holiness of God's Law by teaching and example. To do that, we must understand that the Law is a transcript of His character of love. Thus Christians should be the most loving and lovable people on this planet.

        • But Inge, without the "clothing" there is no possible fulfillment of this in anyone. You highlight well Zech 3 and we must elude also to Isa 4:1 as a warning to any who would keep their own garments, which are filthy at best. There is no "showing forth the praises of Him..." without priestly garments, as the psalmist states: "I will praise thee with an upright heart". The fair miter symbolizes the upright heart which Jesus alone can create in us. Only those who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb" can have the seal of God and fulfill Isaiah 60:1-3.

  7. Robert,
    May I support your comment and add; in the light of the lesson and in context of the verse and broader passage Peter is likely drawing on or partly paraphrasing Exodus 19:6, emphasizing our role as light bearers to the dark world, and revealing Christ (as priests would) in the law and all that the Lord hath said.

    Sounds like the message to the remnant people (Revelation 12:17).

    • Exactly what I was saying. Inge also understood the reference to Zech 3, where this mind and character of Christ is given to each believer. There is no other way as it is stated in Revelation 1:6 that "[Jesus] has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father". Peter understood this well and applies the phrase spoken to Israel to Christ's followers which will have it's final earthly fulfillment in the remnant people of God. This role continues through the 1000 years (Rev 20:4)and I believe beyond.

  8. I have a question. What does it mean,"Covered in Christ's righteousness"? I never have understood the meaning of "covered." Does it mean "have your back" or "covered up so no one can see?" Someone please explain.

  9. Larry, read Gen 3:7, 21, Zech 3, and Luke 15:11-24. The righteousness we need must come from Jesus. We cannot generate our own.

  10. The last two phrases of that thought prevoking hymn sums up. "Sitting at the feet of Jeaus" is the hymn I am refering to. "Give me Lord the mind of Jesus, make me holy as He is. May I prove I've been with Jesus who is all my righteousness." Yes we have to have clothing to cover our nakedness. Just the same we need the trasforming of our minds that only Christ can do. By living grace , we prove we have and are with Jesus. I know prove can be a 'works' word, not in this context. Our love relationship with Jesus compels us to prove our relationship with Him. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind , that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2.


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