Now the apostles and all the brethren in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. After Peter returned to Jerusalem there were critical issues to deal with: "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" In reply Peter fully explained: "I was in the city of Joppa praying; in a trance I saw a vision, something descending, like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came down to me. Looking at it closely I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'No, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesare'a. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brethren also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.".
Whenever a new version of the New Testament is produced there is discussion about the meaning of various passages. There has been a dispute about this text for almost as long as it has been written. These days the NIV says "the circumcised believers criticised him." The RSV refers to the "circumcision party". Another version has "those of the circumcision contended" while the Jerusalem Bible simply says "the Jews". If we are not careful these can give a wrong view. Why isn't it feasible that Peter initiated an open examination of his conduct with the believers in Jerusalem? We should not too quickly assume that this was a matter of one group against another. Later Paul in his letter to the Galatians was willing to run the risk of embarrassing himself by recounting his challenge to Peter, when Peter came to Antioch: "Stop play acting! If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews." Luke has told us of Peter's repeated disagreement with the Voice from heaven in his three dreams. He recounts Peter's openness with Cornelius about the fact that they were both breaking with tradition. Peter had to explain his actions to himself, as well as other Jewish believers. This is the issue here.
When Peter explained his coming to Cornelius he said he had come in response to what Jesus had recently been teaching him. When He rose from the dead, the Great High Priest ate with those He chose to be the witnesses of His resurrection. Jesus' action was the precedent for what Peter did and means no believer can ever be "common" or "unclean". Peter was accountable. The new way of relating to Gentiles had implications for all Jewish disciples. Later this became a fierce dispute. Before that happened Peter, with 6 Jewish witnesses, convinced them that "God has granted gentiles repentance unto life."