The Book of Acts (Chapter 9:32-43) (Part 18)
When the Lord Jesus was about to ascend to His Father in heaven and gave His disciples the Great Commission he also said to the disciples; “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be made well” (Mark 16:17-18). When the Apostle Paul sent his letter to the believers in Thessalonica; “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).
By the power of the Spirit of God
When writing to the Romans Paul said; “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, and by the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. In this way, I have aspired to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:18-20). The author of the book of Hebrews also wrote; “This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, and was affirmed by God through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).
With signs following
The early Church moved in the power of the Holy Spirit and He confirmed the preaching of the Word of God with signs following. The emphasis was always on the preaching of the gospel not the signs, the miracles and the wonders. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the gifts of the Holy Spirit died out with the apostles. The supernatural power of God always operated and was always intended to operate especially where the gospel is being preached or where the gospel had never been preached before. On the Day of Pentecost it was not the miraculous signs that won the people over but the faithful preaching of the gospel in a common language that the hearers all understood. The gift of tongues grabbed their attention as did the tongues of fire resting on the believers that day but that was not what got people saved and sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter was travelling as the apostolic ministry is a mobile ministry. Apostles not only preach the gospel but establish churches, ordain elders and through them the Holy Spirit imparts His gifts. Apostles are God’s Generals. Having said this they are also the targets of persecution more than anyone else. As Paul wrote; “I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:23)
Apostles and Prophets?
There are many today claiming to be apostles and prophets of one sort or another and many of them make great boasts, have a string of prophecies as long as your arm and say they have visions and dreams, but are they prepared to be “stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword; to go about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated being men of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground?” As it has been said; “If you cannot stand the heat then get out of the kitchen!” This is part of the apostolic ministry. If you are not called to this ministry then do not attempt it. And so we find the Apostle Peter travelling in the countryside.
(Vs.32) “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.”
There were saints at Lydda which was located about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Now the term “saints” was a common term used for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not according to the definition of the Roman Catholic Church which is a heretical religious institution. A Sunday school teacher once asked his class the question; “What is a saint?” There were several responses but none really defined what a saint was. Then one little boy put his hand up and said; “teacher a saint is one through whom the light shines.” The teacher was impressed and asked him how he arrived at the answer. He said that when he looked at the stained glass windows in the church with pictures of the apostles engraved in the glass windows he saw the sunlight shining through the glass illuminating the figures. The Lord Jesus Christ was about to reproduce His miracle working power and light through the Apostle Peter.
(Vs.33-35) “There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralysed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.”
Now we do not know what caused this man’s paralysis. It may have been as a result of some serious sin or just an accident or a sickness that had disabled him. We are not told what caused his disability. We are not told whether he even asked for or expected anything to happen. He was just sitting there paralysed. We are not even told if he had faith to be healed. By this time Peter had been walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and had the discernment and faith from the Holy Spirit to command this man to get up in the name of Jesus and said to him directly; “Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.”
Now if you are going to command someone in Jesus name to get up out of their wheelchair you had better have faith to believe it will happen. Peter had this kind of faith, a gift not limited only to apostles. Peter knew what he had in the Lord Jesus and knew by revelation and firsthand experience that God had placed all power and authority in that name. Peter knew the authority he had from the Lord Jesus personally and used it. Notice he was very specific to say that it was Jesus that did the healing and not Peter himself. The apostles never had healing meetings or went around advertising healing crusades of one sort or another like we see today.
Also notice what else Peter said to Aeneas; “get up and make your bed.” Aeneas heard what Peter had said but he also had his part to play in the healing. He had to get up. Peter did not assist him this time. Aeneas had to act on his faith. Well he jumped to his feet for we read that; “Immediately he got up.” He did not waste any time. As he exercised his faith the healing already made available to him went to work and he walked! Furthermore, he had to then make his bed. As he used the bed in future it would always remind him that once he was confined to that bed and unable to walk.
In the gospels when we see the Lord Jesus or the apostles healing the sick it always points to the deeper spiritual meaning that all of us a crippled spiritually by sin and by our own will and strength cannot walk in the way God wants us to walk. We will always be crippled by sin unless the Lord Jesus empowers us to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The bed was the thing that the man was confined to like our sin and the flesh that confines us to spiritual paralysis. Once we have been saved and empowered to walk in the Spirit we must never forget the fact that we were once confined and enslaved to the law of sin and death and powerless to save ourselves.
This healed man would always be reminded that he had walked not because of anything he had done or merited but because God had shown great mercy on him. His faith had made him whole just as faith in the Lord Jesus to save us brings spiritual healing from the paralysis of sin. Well the healing was the catalyst that brought about the salvation of the people in Lydda.
In the work of front line evangelism signs, miracles and wonders are the catalysts God uses to arrest people’s attention. The means of seeing people saved is the preaching of the gospel. The signs simply confirm the miracle working power of God to save the soul from the power of sin. God cannot trust too many men with this kind of power as pride is always lurking at the door of the heart and furthermore Satan is more than willing to reproduce counterfeit sigs, miracles and wonders by the power of the occult as he did through Jannes and Jambres the magicians who opposed Moses and Aaron in Egypt. The healing that came through Peter will be a conspicuous mark of the apostolic ministry in the Last Days but it will not be happening within the so called ‘hallowed walls’ of the institutionalised Church.
(Vs.36-38) “Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.” And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.” Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.”
We are told in the New Testament that there are “gifts of healings.” (1 Corinthians 12:9) In the Greek text the word “healings” is in the plural form and not the singular showing us that there are different healing gifts for different ailments within the body of the Messiah. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Healing is the children’s bread.” Healing is not just for unbelievers but is also available to believers in the local fellowship. At Joppa, located about a day’s journey from Jerusalem, there was a disciple who had become sick and had fallen asleep in Christ. She was a saved Christian who had passed away. She was a very special believer in the fellowship at Joppa and a sister who had contributed greatly to the welfare of her brothers and sisters in Christ. The fellowship knew that Peter was at Joppa not far away and sent two men to bring Peter back with them and so we read…
(Vs.39) “So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.”
As believers or disciples of the Lord Jesus we do not grieve as unbelievers do at the death of a fellow believer. Having said this in no way diminishes the sense of loss and bereavement which is normal. For a believer in Christ they know that they will see their loved one again when they also fall asleep in Christ. This is the hope we have a believers. For the believers at Joppa the death of Tabitha was a great loss to the fellowship there. There was a lot of weeping and commotion around Peter after he had arrived in Joppa. It saddened him but also did not facilitate the focus he needed in this situation. Tabitha was not just sick or even paralysed but physically dead. The last thing Peter wanted was the distraction and disruption that made it difficult to hear from the Lord Jesus about what needed to be done in this situation. He needed space!
(Vs.40-43) “But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.”
How did Peter minister in this situation? Well for starters the first thing he did was to send all of the people out of the room. He must have found them distracting to say the least. Then he knelt down as a sign to the Lord Jesus that he needed his help and power in this situation he faced. By kneeling Peter was showing his utter dependence on the Lord Jesus to do a deed of power on Tabitha. Peter knew that the Lord Jesus had the words of eternal life and drew that out from Him in prayer. Once Peter had prayed he acted on his faith and spoke to her. He spoke the desired results only after he had prayed and received the assurance from the Spirit of God that she would be raised to life. The blessed Holy Spirit gave Peter the faith to pray for her resurrection from physical death. After he had spoken out of the faith he had in his heart she opened her eyes and sat up! Peter then extended his hand and raised her up off of the bed. He then called in the other believers and presented her to them alive.
This miracle again was the catalyst the Holy Spirit used to bring many others to faith in Jesus for salvation. After that Peter stayed with them for many days. He did not realise it but the Lord Jesus had something in store for Peter that he would find very hard to accept. So far he had thought that his ministry was just to the children of Israel but now he was about to find out that the Lord Jesus loved Gentiles as well as Jews and wanted them to have the same gift of life and power that He had given the 120 Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost. This was to be a great learning curve for Peter where the Gentiles were concerned regarding the salvation that is in Jesus.