And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
In Hindu dominated India, a person is born into a caste system, and those born into the lowest caste are known as the “Untouchables.” When an Untouchable parent gives birth to an Untouchable child, they are condemned from their first breath as unclean. Yet, what is God saying about who is unclean?
John Calvin writes: “Hence Augustine, having treated of the elect, and taught that their salvation reposes in the faithful custody of God so that none perishes, continues: The rest of mortal men who are not of this number, but rather taken out of the common mass and made vessels of wrath, are born for the use of the elect.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.107, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, William MacDonald, comments: “Finding a crowd assembled inside the house, Peter explained that as a Jew he would not ordinarily have come into a Gentile house like this one, but that God had revealed to him that he should no longer think of the Gentiles as being untouchables.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1613, emphasis mine)
So the intent is not merely to convey that only Gentile believers are no longer untouchable, but also that no Gentile at all is untouchable, since God, for His part, desires that all Gentiles become saved.
John Calvin comments: “‘Any man.’ He made the purpose of the vision clearer by transferring to people what was said about food. No one is unclean, he said in effect; but we must not understand this of every individual, for unbelievers are polluted with impurity of conscience and pollute otherwise pure things when they touch them. Paul also says that their children remain unclean until they are cleansed by faith (1 Corinthians 7:14). Finally, if faith alone purges and purifies people’s hearts, unbelief makes them unclean. But in this passage Peter was simply comparing Jews with Gentiles. Because the dividing wall has been pulled down, and the covenant of life and salvation belongs to both alike, we are not to regard as outsiders those who share God’s adoption.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.179, emphasis mine)
Calvin cites 1st Corinthians 7:14, which states: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”
Unbelievers are indeed “polluted with impurity,” but again, here is how God describes the lost:
Acts 7:24-31: “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Fallen man is certainly polluted, but God nonetheless calls them His children, and passionately desires to save them, as demonstrated in Jesus’ parable of the 99 and the 1, and ultimately in Calvary itself.
Evidence that Peter had believers in mind, when he said “any man” at Acts 10:28, is that at Acts 10:35, he addresses “the man who fears Him and does what is right.” However, the purpose of the vision was not merely to get Peter to accept Gentile Christians, such as Cornelius, but also to show Peter that God is about to reach out to a lost, unbelieving, pagan Gentile world, and furthermore, to cite 1st Corinthians 7:14 as evidence that only believers are clean and holy, doesn’t make sense, given the fact that Paul was referring to the unbelieving husband or wife being sanctified, holy and clean, by virtue of the believing spouse.