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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Acts 9:32-43 by Robert Dean
This section of Acts shifts focus to Peter and his preparation to present salvation to the Gentiles. See how and where God leads Peter into Gentile territory armed with his apostolic credentials. In whose name does Peter use these credentials? Look at parallel passages where Jesus heals and why the Jews should have understood these miracles as signs revealing Jesus as Messiah. How does healing in the Old Testament become another link connecting the signs the Jews refused to see? How does Peter’s vision in chapter 10 reveal a new direction from Law to grace in an entirely new focus that reaches out to Gentiles who want to know God?
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 46 secs

God Prepares Peter to Go to the Gentiles. Acts 9:32-43

 

The last part of Acts chapter nine is a transition from Saul and his salvation to Peter in preparation for the salvation of the Gentiles and the inclusion of the Gentiles within the body of Christ. This is the focal point of the next two chapters where Peter will take the gospel to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. And this is the official inclusion of the Gentiles within the body of Christ. At the end of chapter eleven there is a focus on Paul and Barnabas and then there is a shift back in chapter twelve to Peter. In chapter thirteen there is a shift back to Paul.

As we go through the basic message of Acts it is that God through the Holy Spirit is expanding the church from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. He is not doing it apart from human involvement. The sovereignty of God never works apart from human volition and human responsibility; God the one who is bringing about the growth. God is the one who is empowering the apostles and disciples, just as He does today. It is not up to us to make the gospel effective to people; we can only go as far as our understanding of the truth is. But we can be honest, we can present the gospel as the apostle does many times, we can relate our own personal testimony of how we came to understand truth and the gospel; but ultimately it is up to God the Holy Spirit. Because the issue is not intellect, about how well we can argue the gospel. These things should be there because Scripture says we should do the best we can do, but ultimately we have to realise it is not up to us. The issue isn't a logical issue or an evidential issue, the issue is a spiritual issue.

People exercise negative volition and reject the gospel, suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but even the most hardened person hostile to the gospel may in their heart of hearts at the core of their soul be positive to the gospel, like the apostle Paul. It may be you or I or some other person who is the one God uses in explaining the gospel to create that event that is similar to the Damascus road experience of the apostle Paul and that it is at that instant that God the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind of that individual to the truth of the gospel. We never know, we can't prejudge or predetermine or guess about a person's spiritual condition just because they are negative today. It doesn't mean that they are truly negative and will be negative always.

In Acts chapters one through seven the focal point was in Jerusalem. That ended with the death of Stephen. Chapter eight focuses on the expansion, taking the gospel to Judea and Samaria. Chapter nine shifts gears to focus on the salvation of Saul of Tarsus which lays the ground work for the last stage that will come, starting in chapter thirteen, the gospel expanding to the uttermost part of the earth.

Now in 9:32 there is a shift back to Peter. Peter is the primary focal point among the apostles from chapters one through six. Chapter seven focuses on Stephen, chapter eight focuses on Philip, chapter nine on  Paul in the first part, and now we are back to Peter in 9:32-43. Then in chapters ten and eleven in a couple of places we see a brief mention of what is going on with Paul, and then there is almost a complete shift in chapter thirteen to Paul, and we don't hear about Peter anymore except briefly in chapter fifteen. Then it is Paul through the rest of the book. This shows how there is a transition from a Jewish focus gospel ministry at the beginning to a Gentile focused ministry at the end. From Peter to Paul there is a transition. Paul does not invent Christianity, though that is something that liberal professors teach in history classes and comparative religion classes. This is a typical attack and assault from liberals. They look at everything in the Bible from a naturalistic viewpoint, so they basically discount whatever is said in the Bible. To them it is really a propaganda document, it is not historical. So you don't believe that, you just believe tradition and Paul was the one who really organised Christianity and so he invented it, forget about Jesus and everybody else. But that is just totally absurd. There is no evidence for that; it is just another way they seek to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.                

As we get into the last part of chapter nine the focus is on three cities: Lydda, 25 miles to the north of Jerusalem, Joppa which is 10-11 miles to the north-west of Lydda, and then as we go into chapter ten the focus will shift up towards Caesarea which is where Cornelius the Gentile centurion is living. Caesarea is primarily a Gentile city though there are some Jews there. There is not much said in the Old Testament about Lydda or Lod. It is mentioned in Joshua and one or two other places but nothing of significance. It really doesn't take on any sort of significance until after the Babylonian exile. Then it becomes a centre of rebellion during the Hasmonean period against the Antiochan empire (Antiochus Epiphanes), and then it begins to take on more and more significance. By the time of the New Testament Lydda is a major commercial centre.

There are two major events at the end of chapter nine. The first, vv. 32-25, is the healing of Aeneas. This is the only time he is mentioned and is all we know about him. Then Peter is asked to come to Joppa on the coast where he heals a woman who is identified as a disciple by the name of Tabitha (translated Dorcas). She is a strong believer involved in a lot of works, charitable deeds. She dies, Peter will come and she will be restored to life—a resuscitation. As a result of that and probably because of what happened at Lydda which is not too far away we see that there are numerous people who are saved. Acts 9:35 NASB "And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." This would not refer to the Gentiles, it would only refer to the Jewish communities. When Tabitha is raised from the dead [42] "It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord." So there is this tremendous expansion of the church among the Jewish community in Lydda and at Joppa. 

The question we should ask: Why does the Holy Spirit include this material? 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASN "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." There Paul is saying that there were specific signs that were the credentials of an apostles. They are the calling card for an apostle so that you could identify who an apostle was. The phrase "signs and wonders" refers to the miraculous. The Old Testament presented a picture of what the Messiah would look like. He would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, be crucified, be raised from the dead on the third day, would perform many miracles—give sight top the blind, restore the lame. If we take all of those different prophecies and bundle them together it painted a picture of what the Messiah would look like so that when He showed up people could identify Him and there would not be a mistake. There were always those who were coming along claiming to be the Messiah, even at the time of Jesus, and there were those who came later. So these miracles were credentials; they identified the Messiah. And now when we come to these miracles it is very clear, for example in v. 34, Peter says to Aeneas, "Jesus Christ [Messiah] heals you; get up and make your bed." And as a result, "Immediately he got up." Peter doesn't take credit for it. This has a purpose and a function in the ministry of Peter.       

Acts 9:32  NASB "Now as Peter was traveling through all {those regions,} he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda." Peter is travelling in an evangelistic journey where he is visiting from one town to another and is proclaiming the gospel. He came to Lydda. The term "saints" is a term that refers to every believer, not just those who have reached a certain level of spiritual maturity or positional power within the institutional church. It simply means the sanctified ones. We are all sanctified at the instant of salvation; we are set apart to the service of God. So Peter comes to the Christians who lived in Lydda. At this time there is a large number of Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah in Lydda. 

Acts 9:33 NASB "There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed." Aeneas would have been a popular name at the time. [34] "Peter said to him, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.'" Notice it doesn't say anything about Aeneas's faith. Aeneas isn't looking to be healed; he is not expecting to be healed; he is not anticipating any kind of healing, he is simply living his day-to-day existence in his bed and Peter shows up. We cam assume that Peter comes at the prompting of God the Holy Spirit in order to perform this particular miracle. And we should ask the question: Why the miracle? It is to establish his credentials but it is also more than that because at this stage it would also call attention to him and to his message. The same thing took place during the ministry of Jesus Christ. "Immediately he got up." God had instantly healed him and restored all of his muscular ability. He didn't have to learn to walk again.  

The result: Acts 9:35 NASB "And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." The word "turned" is the verb epistrepho [e)pistrefw] which is a synonym for repent, but it simply focuses on the fact that they are turning to the Lord. They are looking to the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of their salvation. This is not an unusual type of event. There are four passages that parallel this event in Luke.

Luke 5:17 NASB "One day He was teaching; and there were {some} Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting {there,} who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and {from} Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was {present} for Him to perform healing. [18] And {some} men {were} carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. [19] But not finding any {way} to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle {of the crowd,} in front of Jesus." Jesus was inside, so they couldn't get to Him because the house was filled with people. When Jesus looks up He can see their faith. They haven't said a thing but it is obvious that they believe Jesus can heal the man and they are going to do what ever it takes to get the paralysed man in front of Jesus so He can heal him.

Luke 5:20 NASB "Seeing their faith, He said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven you.'" They haven't said anything about forgiveness; they haven't come to seek forgiveness; they haven't said anything about sin. They just have this paralysed man and they want him to be healed. But Jesus is going to use this to teach that if He can do something unprecedented in the physical realm then this will demonstrate that He can do what He claims to do in the spiritual realm.

This immediately angered and aggravated the Pharisees and the scribes, and now they are challenging Him because only God can forgive anyone of sins. Again we see that this is evidence of the deity of Christ, that Jesus believed He was God, because He believed that He had the ability to forgive sins. Luke 5:21 NASB "The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, 'Who is this {man} who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?'"

Luke 5:22 NASB "But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, 'Why are you reasoning in your hearts? [23] Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" Anybody can say, "Your sins are forgiven," because you don't see whether they are or not. But to say, "Get up and walk," and have somebody actually get up and walk; only God can do that. His reasoning is going to be: "If I can do what only God can do by healing this paralysed man so he can walk, then the conclusion is that I must also be able to do what only God can do and forgive sins." [24] "But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"—He said to the paralytic— 'I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.'" He uses a significant title here emphasising His humanity, but this is a title that comes from Daniel chapter seven. In Daniel seven the Son of Man is the one who is the Messiah, the one who is sent from God who will deliver Israel and defeat all of Israel's enemies. So He is making specific claims to be the Messiah and is indicating this by His credentials to heal the paralysed man and to declare his forgiveness. [25] "Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God." There is an immediate response.

What Peter is doing in the miracle with Aeneas is a reflection of what Jesus did in healing the paralysed man. The purpose is that in relating this miracle the Holy Spirit is showing that Peter is an apostle and it a representative of Jesus Christ with the authority of Jesus Christ.

In Luke chapter seven we see two more instances of healing. First the healing of a centurion's servant in the first ten verses and then the raising of the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. In the Scripture the term "resurrection"—anatasis [a)natasis]—is only used of Jesus' resurrection. The term used in all of the other passages is the term "raising from the dead." Raising somebody from the dead indicates clearly that the person was dead. Whereas other terms that have been used, like resuscitation, where you can resuscitate somebody who has drowned, doesn't mean that they have actually and totally died. But the point in Scripture is that they are dead and nobody is going to give them mouth-to-mouth and they start breathing again. So the term resuscitation is a little ambiguous. Here the Scripture is very clear: "raised from the dead."

Luke 7:11 NASB "Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. [12] Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. [13] When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep.'" This reminds us of what happened when Lazarus died. Four days after Lazarus died Jesus showed up and his first conversation was with Martha. John 11:21 NASB "Martha then said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died' … [25] Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'" He doesn't use any of these nebulous and ambiguous non-biblical terms that are popular in evangelicalism. He uses the terminology that is used throughout Scripture: "Do you believe this?" That was the issue. She believed Jesus.

Then Jesus looked on the mourners, and in that passage it says, "Jesus wept." He weeps not because He feels sorry for Lazarus or because He is personally grieving over the death of Lazarus, because Jesus knows that in about five minutes He is going to say, "Lazarus, come on out of there." And Lazarus is going to come out. He is weeping because He sees the impact of grief on the people, their sorrow, the fact that they are hurting and are going through all of this emotional trauma associated with grief and the loss of a loved one. And this is not normal, this is not what God intended; this is the result of sin. Jesus has compassion. God has compassion. That means he cares, He is concerned, and He takes notice of our limitations and emotional distress at the time of death.   

Luke 7:14 NASB "And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' [15] The dead man sat up and began to speak. And {Jesus} gave him back to his mother."

The next miracle that Peter performs in Acts chapter nine is to raise Tabitha or Dorcas from the dead. So in both on these miracles in Acts 9 we see Peter reflecting the kind of miracles performed by Jesus. So the response from the people: Luke 7:16 NASB "Fear gripped them all, and they {began} glorifying God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us!' and, 'God has visited His people!' [17] This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district." The word spread rapidly.

What was their response? They didn't say Messiah. They said: "This is a great prophet!" Because someone who performed these kinds of miracles did something that had been done previously and it was a sign of a great prophet. Parallel examples from the Old Testament: 1 Kings 17, the healing of the widow's son. 1 Kings 17:17 NASB "Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. [18] So she said to Elijah, 'What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!' [19] He said to her, 'Give me your son.' Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. [20] "He called to the LORD and said, 'O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?' [21] Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, 'O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child's life return to him.' [22] The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived."

Then in 2 Kings chapter four we see a similar event with the next great prophet which is Elisha. 2 Kings 4:17 NASB "The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her. [18] When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father to the reapers. [19] He said to his father, 'My head, my head.' And he said to his servant, 'Carry him to his mother.' [20] When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and {then} died… [30] The mother of the lad said, 'As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' And he arose and followed her." She won't let go until Elisha brings her son back.

2 Kings 4:31 NASB "Then Gehazi passed on before them and laid the staff on the lad's face, but there was no sound or response. So he returned to meet him and told him, 'The lad has not awakened.' [32] When Elisha came into the house, behold the lad was dead and laid on his bed. [33] So he entered and shut the door behind them both and prayed to the LORD. [34] And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. [35] Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes."

So these are the signs of a prophet. When Jesus shows up and is performing these miracles and the people say this must be a great prophet they are operating on that frame of reference from the Old Testament. And then when Peter shows up and starts performing these kinds of miracles he makes it very clear that he is not doing it in his own power, that it is Jesus who is doing it through him, this puts him in the tradition of the prophets in the Old Testament—with Elijah and Elisha. It establishes his credentials and his credibility.

Peter is called from there to Joppa. Acts 9:36 NASB "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." "Tabitha" means a deer or a gazelle. A little more is said about her. Aeneas is just one of the saints, a believer, but Dorcas has a significant ministry among the believers. She is identified by the feminine form of mathetes [maqhthj] which means that she is a disciple, a word that indicates that she is really pursuing her spiritual growth. She is ministering to the people in the area. She is helping those who are in need and people are depending upon her.  

Acts 9:37 NASB "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." This was standard procedure under Jewish custom and law. [38] "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.' [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. [40] 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. [41] And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. [42] It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. [43] And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner {named} Simon."

Notice how brilliantly the Holy Spirit reveals this. These are very quick episodes but they are significant in developing this transition to what is going to happen in the coming chapter. It moves Peter to Joppa. We see the credentials that God has established for Peter so that what happens in the next episode is consistent because Peter has now developed this tremendous reputation as being an apostle and performing the same kind of miracles as the Lord. And he shows up in Joppa and stays with a man named Simon a tanner.

In the next chapter Peter is going to have a vision. Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is going to have a vision and the two are counterparts of one another. Acts 10:10 NASB "But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; [11] and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, [12] and there were in it all {kinds of} four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. [13] A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!'" There are a couple of important points of application. 1. God authorises the killing of animals for food. 2. There is not to be a spiritual or theological basis for vegetarianism, i.e. it is not to be for a spiritual or theological reason. [14] "But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.'" He understood the point, that is didn't have anything to do with killing. It had to do with consuming that which had been forbidden under the Mosaic Law. [15] "Again a voice {came} to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no {longer} consider unholy.'" The point here is that God now declares all these food groups that had previously been designated unclean as being clean. This didn't have anything to do with health, it had to do with a spiritual teaching point in the Mosaic Law, and that has ended because of the end of the Mosaic Law.

Peter gets the point here. In preparation for this Peter is gradually learning that what is declared unclean by the Mosaic Law … Gentiles; no orthodox Jew at this time would ever go into the house of a Gentile. But there is something else going on here. They would not go into an unclean house, but what else rendered something unclean? Death does. And what is the problem with Simon? Simon the tanner is dealing with dead animals all the time. Simon is unclean. So there is foreshadowing here and there is the gradual recognition by Peter that unclean isn't an issue anymore. It begins with the fact that he is living in an unclean house with Simon the tanner.

When we think of Joppa we ought to think of God's grace to the Gentiles. Two key events happen at Joppa. The first happened with Jonah. God told Jonah to take the gospel to the Ninevites. Jonah said: "They are our enemy, Lord; I'm going to Spain." He got on a ship at Joppa to head west to Spain, and God sent a fish. The purpose of Jonah's ministry was to take the gospel to the Gentiles—the Ninevites. That whole story in the Old Testament is a story of God's grace to the Gentiles. In the New Testament it is when Peter is staying here at the home of Simon the tanner in Joppa. There at Joppa he is going to receive these messengers from Cornelius and God is going to tell him to follow them and to take the gospel to the Gentiles.