31 Things calmed down after that and the Church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the Church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.
This verse does not belong to the proceeding passage, but is a concluding remark associated with the preceding passage. When we review Acts 9:20-30, we are informed about Saul of Tarsus’ earliest attempts at ministry. Specifically, we are told that his message was met with much skepticism, which was totally understandable, given Saul’s previous zeal in persecuting the Church.
Luke records that Saul proved that Jesus was the Christ. But we know from other New Testament sources that he did not do this immediately. This came only after another experience, not recorded here, but recorded in Galatians 1:15-17: “But God set me apart from the time I was born. He showed me His grace by appointing me. He was pleased to show His Son in my life. He wanted me to preach about Jesus among those who aren’t Jews. When God appointed me, I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went at once into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” So, Saul came back to Damascus from Arabia, confident, knowledgeable, eager, able in the Scriptures, increased all the more in strength, confounding the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
Despite Saul’s tremendous dedication, skilled and knowledgeable arguments and sincere effort, the Jews remain locked in stubborn and obstinate unbelief. Their rejection is so complete that they plotted Saul’s demise. His friends have to take him at night and let him down over a wall (Acts 9:23-25).
In Acts 9:27-30, we are told that Saul came to Jerusalem, still determined to show the world how much he could do for Christ. But the disciples, at first, would have nothing to do with him. But a man named Barnabas befriended Saul and spoke up for him. From Galatians we learn that his stay in Jerusalem was only 15 days. But in that time Saul went into the synagogues and began to argue and dispute, again to prove that Jesus was the Christ. It had the same effect as in Damascus: They sought to kill him. Thus, he was sent back to Tarsus. And in bringing this portion of the story to conclusion, Luke writes that the Church enjoyed a time of peace as soon as they got rid of Saul.
As we correlate this with other scriptures, we can understand what is really happening here. Here is a young Christian, in all the eager zeal of the flesh—trying to do what he thinks God wants done—ruining the whole affair, causing people endless trouble and actually operating as a roadblock to the progress of the Gospel in that place.
There are many Christians like that. A lot of us have never learned the essential lesson of the Christian life—to take upon us the yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:29b). This is what Saul had to learn.
*We must understand that we are actually a hindrance to what God is trying to do—despite our zeal and sincerity—until we learn the essential lesson that God Himself is our strength. Christ's life in us is all that it takes.
Saul was sent home to Tarsus. Home is often the hardest place on earth to learn any-thing. For a period of from 7 to 10 years (it is difficult to know for sure) nothing is heard of Saul. He is home, learning the essential lesson that God does not need his background, nor his effort.
*The life of an eager, zealous Christian, trying to serve God in the flesh, is not a Christian life at all. It is false Christianity and it turns people away from Christ.
32-35 Peter went off on a mission to visit all the Churches. In the course of his travels he arrived in Lydda and met with the believers there. He came across a man—his name was Aeneas—who had been in bed eight years paralyzed. Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” And he did it—jumped right out of bed. Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking around and woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them.
Now, Luke turns his attention back to Peter, and the miracles Christ did through him. The first miracle took place in Lydda, about 25 miles west of Jerusalem. Peter encounters a paralyzed man named Aeneas. Aeneas had been confined to his bed for the last 8 years, but Peter invoked the name of Jesus and brought healing to Aeneas.
We don’t know much about Aeneas. It can’t even be confirmed by the scripture that he was a believer in Jesus Christ. All that we know for certain is that when Peter saw him, he was led by the Holy Spirit to do something about his situation.
*As we consider the condition of our people, there ought to be a prompting in us by the Holy Spirit to do something about our condition. As we see children making poor choices for themselves, embracing hoodlum and gangster behavior, the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do something. Our kids are crippled; our posterity is handicapped; our progeny is bedridden; our children are in need of healing, and the Holy Spirit is speaking to disciples to do something about their situation.
Peter looked at Aeneas, considered his situation and brought healing to him from Jesus Christ. The healing didn’t come from Peter, but it came through Peter, from Jesus. He tells Aeneas, “Jesus Christ is healing you.” It reminds us that, if our sick children are going to get well, we have to shift their focus to where it belongs—on Jesus. Peter didn’t permit Aeneas to dwell too long on his problem; he shifted his focus on the One who could fix his problem.
*If we are to be the conduits of healing that Christ intended, then we must shift the focus away from just sympathy for the problem, and we must announce to a bedridden people, “If you fix your eyes on Jesus, He will heal you.” Our children won’t get better just because we continue to cry about how handicapped they are—we have to get our handicapped children to the place where they look to Jesus to fix their situation. We are the healing station, but we’re not the Healer; we are the messengers, but we’re not the Message. And shame on us when we make ourselves the focus rather than Jesus. Our responsibility is to gather the attention of a sick society and point them to the One who can make them well.
Peter told Aeneas that Jesus was healing him, and as a result, Aeneas was able to rise up and leave his handicap behind. Aeneas became a living testimony to the power of Christ to transform lives. Everywhere Aeneas went, people could see that a change had taken place. And because of Aeneas, the Bible says that many came to believe on Jesus. And that’s what we want to have happen.
36-37 Down the road a way in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, “Gazelle” in our language. She was well-known for doing good and helping out. During the time Peter was in the area she became sick and died. Her friends prepared her body for burial and put her in a cool room.
Death’s power to interrupt service is pictured for us in this account. The outstanding characteristic of this woman, Tabitha (Dorcas), was grace and ministering in selfless love. She helped others.
Her very name, both in Hebrew and Greek, means Gazelle. A gazelle is an animal characterized by grace and charm. Here was a woman exhibiting grace and charm in her life. Suddenly, unexpectedly, her service was brought to an end. She fell sick, the power of the enemy striking hard and viciously, and she was laid low and died.
38-40 Some of the disciples had heard that Peter was visiting in nearby Lydda and sent two men to ask if he would be so kind as to come over. Peter got right up and went with them. They took him into the room where Tabitha’s body was laid out. Her old friends, most of them widows, were in the room mourning. They showed Peter pieces of clothing the Gazelle had made while she was with them. Peter put the widows all out of the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he spoke directly to the body: “Tabitha, get up.”
40-41 She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He took her hand and helped her up. Then he called in the believers and widows and presented her to them alive.
42-43 When this became known all over Joppa, many put their trust in the Master. Peter stayed on a long time in Joppa as a guest of Simon the Tanner.
As a result of what Peter did in Lydda, word spread to other places, including Joppa, where Tabitha was. Tabitha had a greater need than Aeneas had. Aeneas had been sick, but Tabitha had died. But even though she had died, her loved ones had not lost their hope. They reasoned, “If Peter could heal a bedridden man in the name of this Jesus, then perhaps he can invoke His name now and do something about Dorcas’ situation.” So, they sent for Peter, and Peter came and prayed for Tabitha and invoked the name of Jesus. And all of a sudden, life was restored into Tabitha’s dead body. She opened her eyes and she sat up; she took Peter’s hand and he presented her to the others.
It reminds us that we can never lose hope because no situation is too far out of reach for Jesus. But it also reminds us that we can never sit still and say, “I’ve done enough.” When God uses us in one situation, it opens doors for us to be used in other situations. We can never stop because needs never stop.
One person is sick with substance abuse; another is caught up in family strife; another is filled with frustration; another is trapped in the web of financial hardship; another is trying to rise above the hurts of their childhood; another is coping with the hurt of rejection after having done the best that they could; another is dealing with the ravages of time; another is dealing with the maladies of youth; another is dealing with the life-long ramifications of one error in judgment; another is bearing the burden of somebody else’s expectations. Because all these things are real, we cannot stop!
*One door of opportunity leads to another. As Jesus blesses us to be participants in one act of healing, He is also equipping us to deal with greater challenges that lay before us. We must not shrink away from that challenge, but we must embrace it with confidence that the same Power that has brought us thus far will carry us a little farther.