Lesson 22: Peter's Tour of Encouragement
Welcome to Lesson #22. O.K. back in the saddle again. Getting ready for a little ride with Peter, down through Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea. Saul had departed for Tarsas, the city of his boyhood. The churches of Judea, Galilee and Samaria had rest according to Acts 9:31. It would appear THAT after 4 or 5 years of persecution the Jews were letting down their defenses. OR should I say offenses? And the disciples were edified. Edify means to benefit spiritually. Churches are mentioned in Galilee for the first time. That's the district where Jesus' hometown of Nazareth was located. Galilee is marked on your worksheet, it lies between Samaria and Damascus in the lake region. Small congregations were located in almost every small town. Peter and the other apostles undoubtedly at that time were spending a good bit of their time on the road: visiting, edifying, teaching, preaching and encouraging the disciples. Luke, after a short departure from is main thought, after giving us a glimpse of the labors of Stephen, Philip and Saul now returns his narrative to the labors of Peter. And in doing so we get a glimpse at the local scene in a few of those small churches. V.32-35 let's read: "And it, came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he come down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aene'ea, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aene'ea, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and turned to the Lord." So, Peter on one of those tours of encouragement came to Lydda. That's located about 25 miles west of Jerusalem, city #8, on your worksheet. It is between Azotus and Caesarea and like Azotus it is NOT a seaport Town. I call your attention to the word saints again.. Saints dwelt at Lydda. Thus, just plain disciples, loving disciples, baptized believers; that's all. We don't know how those saints came to be at Lydda. Perhaps they were some of those Jerusalem disciples who scattered upon the death of Stephen. Or, could this be some of Philip's converts on his way from Azotus to Caesarea after leaving the eunuch? We don't know who taught them. The church was growing in all quarters. Here's one more example. Peter healed Aene'ea, a man that had been bedfast for eight years. Aene'ea suffered from palsy, or paralysis. Notice in v.34 it says: "he arose immediately' in keeping with all Bible examples of miraculous healing. Whether he was already a disciple or saint, it is not absolutely clear. But I assume, if he wasn't before, he WAS before Peter left Lydda. This brought a great harvest of souls in and around Lydda. It established Peter was approved of God without doubt. That's the purpose of all miracles. Sharon was the name of the plain between the mountains and the ocean where Lydda was located. It was not the name of a town. I would assume the thing Peter did at Lydda must have been typical of the work he and the other apostles were doing in all the regions or quarters as it is termed in v.32. A close look at v.32 will convince you Peter was going from congregation to congregation or assembly to assembly teaching and nurturing the saints. And, just as Peter was doing at Lydda; so were the other apostles in other places. This is a mini-glimpse of Aeneas and Lydda, but it's all we know. Peter was called away from Lydda for a funeral. Let's read v.36-43, "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and aim deeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was night to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she say Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed hi the Lord. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner." Joppa is on the sea coast, possibly 10 or 12 miles from Lydda. City #9 on your worksheet! So, get it posted. V.36 identifies Tabitha as a disciple and a women. Thus, it must be concluded there were no distinction made between male and female disciples. Both were disciples. No mention is made of Tabitha's husband and since she seems to be allied most closely with other widows; I am constrained to think she possibly was a widow also. Undoubtedly, she had been of great service to those about her, and especially the poor. It is not clear, what all is included in, "this woman was fill! of good works and almsdeeds which she did." Obviously, it included the coats and garments mentioned in v.39 but it most likely included much more also. This reminds us, widows ..in our day can be of great service. You are perhaps already thinking of some of the widows and widowers you know. Some of the humblest persons in our old world. And persons with a great capacity for work and service to others in many cases. We owe it to them to serve them also. We'll be in their place in the next generation. V.37 gives, what I would assume to be, a typical treatment of a corpse as they did it in those days. An "upper chamber" simply means an upstairs room. They did not dispose of the body so quickly as was the case with Ananias and Saphira. This may be accounted for by the extremes of the circumstances. Why did they send for Peter? Did they expect Peter to raise Dorcas from the dead? Some might think so. I am not prone to that view. It was not their custom to bring their brothers and sisters back from death. Even those who did great service. What about Stephen? It seems natural to me that since they loved and respected this lady so much, naturally they wanted to honor her and impress her example upon others, as one of those rare opportunities to bring hope and encouragement to all. They felt they could better do this by having a Godly, outspoken man like Peter in their midst. I get the impression funerals, as they knew them, were less ceremonious if indeed any ceremony was performed at all in those days. "Devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him." It is one of the saddest things we must do upon this old planet, to forfeit our parents, our mate, our friends and our kind brethren. But, we must be educated to the reality of this life. Life upon this planet is temporary, fleeting and uncertain. Death helps us to keep our values in proper perspective. This is the only positive view of death. Death is NOT negative for a Christian. The atheist has nothing but a negative hope. The name Tabitha or Dorcas means a gazelle. The gazelle of Judea was a very beautiful antelope, celebrated for it's beauty. It was slender and graceful; figuratively used to describe a type of female loveliness. But not only did Tabitha have a beautiful name; she was a beautiful Christian woman. She was the model of ideal of feminine beauty or perfection. Not in the Hollywood sense! But5 in the sense described by this same apostle Peter at a later time in 1 Pet. 3:1-4. Dorcas did not preach publicly or usurp authority over men. But she ministered. She ministered to the sick, cared for the poor and needy, taught the young women as commanded in Titus 2:4. She may have purchased the materials for those garments from her own savings. She wove those articles with her own fingers. But death is no respecter of persons. Even Dorcas must die. When Peter arrived in v.39, it brought on a wave of weeping, at the sight of the body, and as they told of Dorcas' labors of love and their memories were refreshed. Peter must have been impressed and realized the restoring of Dorcas would confirm the word and greatly edify the disciples in and around Joppa. Having been in the presence of Jesus three times when a person was raised from the dead he decided to try. He did not call in an audience to try to impress. He "put them forth, kneeled down and prayed." He commanded the body to arise with a voice that could be heard by the dead and it was granted. V.40 says: "she opened her eyes...and sat up." Did you notice in v.42 this caused many to believe on the Lord? And that's toe reason for the miracle. Did the miracle really benefit Tabftha? I'm sure you will approach that thought with mixed emotions. But ONE DEATH is enough for any person. If you have ever stood by the bedside of a spouse or parent or friend as they came down to that last and final breath, I'm sure you will agree: one death is enough for any one person. It just postponed the heartbreak of her friends. Dorcas had to die again, just like Lazarus did. This miracle, like every miracle, was done to establish faith. To establish beyond doubt that Peter (and those endowed with the Holy Spirit) that they were approved of God. And it made THAT point perfectly clear. When the bible was written and that point was established for ever more, then miracles ceased. See I Cor. 13:10 and II Tim. 3:16-17. The disciples at Joppa asad Lydda did NOT have a New Testament for a very simple reason: the N.T. had not been written. Peter and the Holy Spirit wanted to give the saints at Joppa a glimpse of what the resurrection morning would be like. And the H.S. Wanted it written down for our benefit; that we might visualize that resurrection morning a little more realistically. Can you imagine the rejoicing when Peter opened that door and present4ed Dorcas alive? Look at v.41! One sentence. Presented in the same casual way mat all bible facts are presented. In v.43 it says: Peter, "tarried many days in Joppa." We have already learned that many days could mean anything from 10 days to 10 years, so, it is unwise to speculate on the duration of Peter's stay in Joppa. It was while Peter was staying at Joppa in the home of Simon, who was a leather maker, the incident in Acts 10 transpired. Luke skillfully sets the stage for us to follow Peter as he was called away to participate in other matters. As a side light to the case of Dorcas, I'm told the Greek word that Luke used here translated "she sat up" in v.40 is a medical term used only twice in the N.T. and it is used by Luke both times. So as I pointed out in our first lesson, this is one of the verses that lends support to the belief that Luke had some medical training. O.K. let's get along with Acts 10. Let's read down through the first question in v.4. Ready? "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band. A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He was in a vision evidently, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of god coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord?" O.T. the scene shifts from Peter in Joppa to a man named Cornelius in Caesarea, city # 5. This is the town where Philip headed after the eunuch was baptized. This is the sea port town from which Saul sailed when he departed for Tarsus, you will recall. This was the Roman capital of Palistine. As has been said before, all this territory was under Roman dominance. Roman troops were stationed at Caesarea. This man, Cornelius was a soldier, "a centurion of the band called the Italian band." Thus, he must have been an Italian, i.e. from the mainland where the city of Rome is located. That is on the northwestern corner of your map-worksheet. The word "centurion" described his military rank. He commanded one hundred men and would be the approximate equivalent of the rank of captain or Major today. As you might suspect, of course he was NOT a Jew. He was a Gentile. The word "Gentile" means non-Jew. That makes his case particularly interesting to us. Most of us are Gentiles. The Kingdom of God had been preached to Jews only, until this case. Cornelius was the first Gentile convert. The Jews were God's chosen people and had been for over 1500 years. There was a provision in the law of Moses that permitted proselytes; i.e. Gentiles to be circumcised and adopted into the Jewish religion. You will recall Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, appointed in Acts 6 was a proselyte of Antioch. However, it had been prophesied for centuries, by the Jewish prophets themselves; that in the last days (we call it the Christian age) all the families of the earth would be blessed. AH nations would flow into the kingdom of God. We have covered some of these prophecies before. Jesus said to a group of Pharisees in John 10:16 "other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." The Hoty Spirit by the mouth of Peter, said on itooteoart, 1be Promise was to as many as were afar off, i.e. everybody; lews and Gentiles. Thus, you might look at this Cornelias incident as a sort of SECOND Pentecost or a Gentile Pentecost if that makes sense. But if you get what happened here finnry in mind, it will help you immensely m understanding the rest of the N.T. For example, Paul said in Romans, 1:16 the gospel of Christ "is the power of God onto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also (he Greek." So, an understanding of Acts 10 is fundamental to understanding the rest of the N.T. in its proper perspective. O.K. fasten your seat belt, and we'll get back to Cornelius. Verse 2, Cornelius'reputation. Study that just a minute. Cornelius must have been an outstanding man. "Devout" means devoted. Cornelius was a devoted man. He feared God. He taught his house accordingly. He gave much alms, i.e. he assisted the poor and he prayed to God always. As I Said, Cornelius must have been a very outstanding man. Being a soldier, stationed in a foreign land, and a man of authority; he could have exploited the natives. The Jews in this case, if he had desired. Instead he was a considerate man who assisted the poor. What more can be said? Can you find a better man the Cornelius? Surely, if a person cold be saved on good morals, Cornelius could have been saved. But, as you must get the lesson here LOUD and CLEAR, one must be MORE than a good moral person to be saved. As good as Cornelius was, God sent Cornelius a divine message, so he could get right with God. That message in is v.4-5-6. But we'll save that for lesson #23. See you then!