The charge of “sin by command” could be brought against the Lord in Acts 10, when, confronted by a great sheet full of all kinds of unclean animals, Peter is commanded, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13b) Why would the LORD command Peter to do something Israelites were forbidden to do?
The complete vision Peter had is outlined in Acts 10:9-16.
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.
Peter is shown unclean animals in a great sheet and told to eat them three times. When he refuses, just as Ezekiel did, based on the fact that he had never done such a thing before, the Lord corrected him all three times with this word, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This declares the very thing we argued in Ezekiel regarding clean and unclean things. It was because God declared a thing unclean that it was unclean in the first place. If God changed the command and declared a thing clean, then that thing became clean, and it would be a lack of faith to continue to declare it unclean. This is the very thing God has done with unclean meats today, though that was not the point of His message to Peter, but rather that God was declaring certain Gentile men clean. That all meats are now clean is the message of I Timothy 4:4-5, however, written to us in the dispensation of grace.
4. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5. for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Therefore all meats are clean for us today, and let no one say that they are not!
We have covered our first three occurrences of seeming “sin by command.” We saw in the case of Hosea marrying a prostitute that this was not technically a sin, though she certainly was a sinner deserving of death, and this was at least unwise. Eating food defiled by human waste was a sin, but only because God had made the rules regarding clean and unclean meat, not because there was something inherently immoral about eating food thus defiled. God had made these rules, and if God said to break them, then what He said cannot be sin. In fact, to obey God’s commands can never be sinful. To disobey God, no matter how questionable His orders may seem, is, on the other hand, the ultimate sin of rebellion. Thus we must obey God no matter what.
We will go on to consider other examples that seem to be “sin by command” in our next article.