Main Point: The resurrected Jesus is doing good works through his people.
We are back today in the book of Acts and, Lord willing, we will work our way through the book of Acts over the next several months. Specifically, we are in Acts 9 and the transition from Saul back to Peter. We shifted away from Peter in chapter 6 with the calling of the seven to serve with the apostles. As Acts 6 continues, the focus moves to Stephen. There is an increase of persecution and preaching. After Stephen is killed in chapter 7 the church is scattered. Philip is the focus of Acts 8 and Philip preaches to Simon the Magician and the Ethiopian eunuch. Chapter 9 opens with the conversion of the persecutor who had two names: Saul among the Jewish people and Paul among the Greek people. Saul is born again and begins preaching the gospel. The Jews hunt Saul to kill him but when he finds out about their plans he escapes. The escape of Saul from Jerusalem to Tarsus brings us back around to Peter about 2/3rds through Acts 9.
Ultimately, it looks like Luke (who wrote the Book of Acts) is tracing Peter’s whereabouts so that we are ready for the hugely important conversion of Cornelius in chapter 10. Acts 10 and the conversion of Cornelius helps us understand why we do not follow all the law the way the Jewish people did.
But, before we get to chapter 10 we need to look at good works in Acts 9. We need to understand that Jesus is working through his church; every Christian is gifted to work. So, we don’t work in order to get saved; we work because we are saved. Ephesians 2:10 says, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” You don’t work to get saved; God works in you and then you work. It is our union with Christ which empowers our work for Christ (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-8). Jesus is alive and well and working through his church.
Let’s consider the good works of Acts 9:32-43. We see the saints healing, helping, and raising. Let’s get to work! (Read 9:32-43).
I. Do good works by healing (32-35)
What are we all called to do?
- We all have the call to build one another up
We’re going to talk through the details and even consider if we should seek to revive the dead. But before we do that, it is important to nail down a proper understanding of the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to do good works. The fundamental spiritual gift given to every Christian is a saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord. It is by the Spirit that we say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3). The gift of the Spirit given to every Christian is the gift of personal allegiance to Jesus Christ. We have been bought with a great price. Jesus is our Lord.
Bigger still, our individual union with Christ is the source of our union as the church. The church, the body of Christ, is filled with different gifts. We all have the manifestation of the Spirit and that gift is for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). So, we have our shared confession of Jesus as Lord and we have different gifts (1 Cor 12:27-31). Brothers, are we all going to do exactly what Peter did? No, we have different gifts. Sisters, will you all do exactly what Tabitha did? No, you have different gifts. We will all be working but we will not all work the same way. We will all devote ourselves to good works that put the same glorious God on display. But these good works will look different. Our union with Christ and our diverse gifts are blessings for the body. We all have the call, 1 Corinthians 14:26, to build one another Let’s get to work! Look at Peter’s work
- The healing of Aeneas
Look back at Acts 9:31. The church is no longer experiencing a high level of persecution. There is peace and the members are building one another up. They fear the Lord, they are comforted by the Holy Spirit, and the church is multiplying. The increase of peace and the multiplying of churches means Peter is on the move. Where is Peter going? Verse 32, Peter is going here and there throughout the area surrounding Jerusalem.
In verse 32 we come across a city new to us. The city is Lydda and Lydda is about 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Lydda is about 10 miles from Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa is the port city that Jonah ran to when he was running away from God. As the gospel spreads and churches are formed, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8. Holy Spirit empowered witnesses are going out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Now, what do we find in Lydda? There are saints in Lydda and saint is another word for Christian. We are saints, set apart for God’s use, made holy through Jesus Christ, and gifted with the Holy Spirit. Connecting verses 31 and 32, the church is made up of saints.
Among the saints in Lydda is a paralyzed man named Aeneas who has been bed ridden for 8 years. Look at what happens in verse 34, “Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose.” First, I need you to notice who does the healing. Does Peter heal Aeneas or does Jesus? Jesus, who is alive and well is doing the healing. Jesus works his works through us! Second, there is a pattern developing in the Bible connecting the work of Jesus, the work of Peter, and the work of Paul. Jesus healed a paralyzed man in Luke 5 and another in John 5, Peter heals a paralyzed man in Acts 3 and another in Acts 9, then Saul heals a paralyzed man in Acts 14. The disciples imitate their teacher.
Looking at resurrections, Jesus raised the widow’s son in Luke 7 and Jairus’s daughter in Luke 8. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in Acts 9 and Paul raised Eutychus in Acts 20. The point being made here and that needs to be fleshed out in your life is that Jesus works through his people. If you belong to Jesus, you have work to do and power to do the work.
How do we figure out what to do? It is in discipleship relationships and entering into various ministries of the church that we discover our gifts and begin learning how to use those gifts. Peter learned by being discipled and we are no different. We have differing gifts, but we are all meant to learn how to use those gifts through discipleship. So, the application here is to get involved and ask for help. We need help setting up and serving for our members’ meeting next Sunday morning. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper next week and it takes work to bake the bread and set up the cups. Vacation Bible School is coming June 15, and we need your help. There are teaching opportunities through Sunday school now and AWANA when school starts back. Our summer mission trip needs workers, and we need members to help us keep track of our missionaries’ needs. We have sick and struggling members who need your prayers. There’s work to do! Talk to an elder or a deacon and we’ll get you working.
Look at the results of Aeneas’s healing; we are after the same results. Look again at verse 35, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Turned to the Lord is salvation language. When Paul is writing about how the Thessalonians were saved he said, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). They were saved to serve!
Becoming a Christian involves turning from idols to God. A person turns from chasing after the world to chasing after God. Becoming a Christian means starting the fight against the destructive things the world wants in order to gain the good that God promises. And we need Christ for this fight. So, we turn to the Lord for direction and for strength. We pray. We fight. We grow in godliness. This is what the Spirit does in those who turn to the Lord. May God use your good works to show his goodness to your neighbors and may God use your preaching to turn your neighbors to the Lord. Do good works! Seek the good of others. Pray for healing!
II. Do good works by caring for the poor (36, 39)
Let’s start big and then get into the details
- We all have the call to help those in need
Titus 3:14 says, “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” Galatians 6:10 says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” 1 John 2:15 calls us away from loving the things of the world so that we can lovingly meet the needs of our brothers and sisters (3:16-17). James 1:27 defines pure and undefiled religion as visiting orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping oneself unstained by the world.
Jesus’ plan is to work through you. Jesus’ plan is to work through you by you meeting needs in his name. Your good deeds, your helping people in need, is a big deal advancing the kingdom and bringing healing. Keep helping! Let’s look now at
- The generosity of Tabitha
We’re in Acts 9:36, “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.” The translation of her name from Greek into English is unfortunate, but she was truly a lovely woman. Her name means gazelle and she had the one-two punch of good works and helping the poor. Here is a woman, a disciple, who Jesus is working through to bring good to her neighbors. Looking down in verse 39 we see that Tabitha was an accomplished seamstress and generous with her work. The widows were mourning her death and proving her abilities. Tabitha took care of people. What are your neighbors going to say about you when you die? Ladies, will your neighbors say “Who,”, will they say, “Good riddance”, or will they say, “What a loss”?
Now ladies, does this passage command you to leave here and learn how to sew? No. You are not commanded to sew any more than verse 34 commands you to make your bed. Though I do recommend sewing and making your bed! The point is that Tabitha was a faithful follower of Christ seeking to use her gifts and resources to do good to her neighbors. Ladies, Jesus wants to work through you, you are disciples of Christ, go and do good works. Go and meet needs. Let’s commit ourselves to helping like Tabitha.
Now let’s take up the resurrection in verses 37-43
III. Do good works: the resurrection (37-43)
- The resurrection/resuscitation of Tabitha
I use both words because I want to be clear that what happened to Tabitha was more than a resuscitation and less than the resurrection. This is more than a medical resuscitation using CPR and this is less than a resurrection unto a glorified body; Tabitha was raised but died again.
Let’s look, verse 37, “In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.” The normal practice was to bury the dead before sunset. Why did these Christians not follow the normal practice of almost immediate burial? I believe there is a desire for her resurrection.
Lydda and Joppa are close, about 10 miles apart. Apparently, the church heard about Peter being in Lydda and they heard of the miraculous healing of the paralyzed man. So, they sent for Peter and Peter goes with them to Joppa. They take Peter to the upper room and there the widows of the church are weeping. Tabitha is dead but her body is there.
Starting in verse 40 I want to show you how Peter the disciple is following the example of Jesus his teacher. Peter put them all outside, just as Jesus did when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Mt 9.25). Peter then knelt down and prayed because the power to heal came from Jesus; Peter’s power did not come from himself. Peter said, “Tabitha arise” just like Jesus said “Talitha arise” (Lk 8:54). After speaking to her, Jesus took Talitha by the hand and raised her (Mt 9:25). After speaking to her, Peter took Tabitha by the hand and raised her. Jesus called Talitha’s parents and gave her back to them. Peter called the saints and gave Tabitha back to them. Peter did the good work of raising the dead and this was a great good for the church.
Verse 42 gives us the results, “And it became known throughout all of Joppa and many believed in the Lord.” The physical resurrection of Tabitha led to spiritual resurrections when the people heard the voice of Jesus, believed, and were given eternal life. There is a physical resurrection and there is a spiritual resurrection (John 5:25). The hour of physical resurrection is coming; we live in the hour of spiritual resurrection. When the people saw the miracle and heard the gospel they came to life. They believed in Christ.
This is such a crucial phrase that we must define it every time we see it. What does it mean to believe in Christ? We defined turn to the Lord from verse 35 as turning from idols to serve the living God. This is a change of direction. While turning deals with the direction of your life, believing in the Lord deals with delight and dependence. Believing in the Lord is seeing that he is worth turning to; gaining him is worth leaving these things behind. Believing in the Lord is seeing the resurrected Jesus and seeking him as your greatest treasure. There is delight and there is dependence.
If you are not a Christian, imagine for a moment that there is a God and when you die, he will judge you according to his own perfect righteousness. What are you going to depend on, trust, or believe in? You can believe in yourself; you can believe you have done enough good works to not only offset the bad but also attain the level of the very righteousness of God. You can try to earn your salvation by your works. You can believe in you or you can believe in the Lord. To believe in the Lord is to trust that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to forgive you and give you the very righteousness of God. Believe in Jesus and put your trust in his good works!
Belief is dependence but dependence is not only for judgment day. Belief in the Lord is for every day. I have yet to master John 15:5 so I bring us back to it repeatedly. Jesus said, He is the vine and we are the branches, apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and he abides in us we will bear much fruit. It is depending on Jesus every day that leads us to a place of fruitfulness in God’s kingdom. Peter turned to the Lord, believed in the Lord, and was fruitful. May we follow Peter’s example in repentance and faith.
I have good news. You can be saved today. Repent to God, believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. That is good news! Let’s wrap up with some quick thoughts about raising the dead.
- Resurrections are incredibly rare
How many resurrections have you experienced? I’m not talking about resuscitations (which are miracles in themselves). I’m talking about dead for hours, washed up by Wiley’s funeral home, and then brought to life. Resurrections are rare. Think about the 4,000 years of history recorded in the Bible. How many resurrections are there? There are 9 resurrections in the Bible plus the saints that were raised at Jesus’ death. If we are generous and say 91 people were raised at Jesus’ death that would put the resurrection count at 100 in 4000 years. That’s incredibly rare. But
- Resurrections will be incredibly common
Revelation 20 and John 5 point to the resurrection of all people. Listen to Jesus in John 5:28, “an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” What happened to Tabitha will happen to all.
Think for a moment about what side you will end up on. When Christ raises your body and brings you into judgment will you enjoy the resurrection of life or suffer the resurrection of judgment? The good news is you’re not dead yet! Turn to the Lord, believe in the Lord, and by the Lord’s power do good works. Because of the redeeming power of Jesus, you can enjoy the resurrection of life. You can be saved. Repent of your sins and believe in Jesus. Come tell us and seek baptism. We want you to be with him.
Here’s our last question for this morning,
- Should we seek to revive the dead?
What do you do when your Dorcas dies? After reading these accounts, it is natural to ask the Lord for a resurrection. I think of the death of my wife or one of my children. I would ask for a miracle, but I hope they would be a little disappointed if I got it! Going through death to the Father is better than staying in this life no matter how good it is here.
Think of Jesus celebrating the good of his return to his Father through death and resurrection. The good of the Son being with the Father should even overrule the disciples’ grief (John 14:28). We need to think of the apostle Paul telling us that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Church, let us return to a biblical view of death. To remain in the flesh is necessary on the account of others but to depart and be with the Lord is far better. Here is our delight- to depart is far better. And here is our dependence- to remain and do good works is necessary. Let us trust the Lord and do good. Let us long for the good of being in the fullness of the presence of the Lord. Should we seek to revive the dead? Probably not, to depart and be with the Lord is far better.
Father, we ask that men and women would repent, believe, and seek baptism today. Jesus, thank you for redeeming us through your death, empowering us with your life, and unity us as the church. Holy Spirit, give gifts to your church. Empower us to work because we are saved. Correct us anytime we try to earn our salvation by our works. We pray especially for the women of Mambrino. We thank you for these disciples and ask that they would be full of good works and generosity.
God, show us your glory. Open our minds and strengthen our hearts to see your greatness and desire you above all else. It is you we long for; you are our desire. If it is your will that we remain, help us to work hard for the good of others. Use us to heal the sick, help the needy, and raise the dead. Use us to bring many sons and daughters to salvation. We pray these things longing for Jesus’ return. Amen.
All I Have is Christ