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Salvation for Every Nation – Part 1

25/02/2020

Salvation for Every Nation Part 1

Acts 9:31-42.

Luke now shifts his focus from Paul to Peter. Paul is now in Turkey, living for round 7 years among the people with whom he grew up, until Barnabas returns to bring him back to Damascus, and to commence his missionary journeys for which he is so well known. No doubt witnessing and preaching at home, for as we have already seen Paul preached everywhere he went, telling others what the Lord had done for him and the church is steadily growing as the Gospel is spread. Now there are Christians in Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Acts 9:31 Some of those Christians were living in the coastal area of Judea, around the towns of Lydda and Joppa. It is to this area that Peter is called by God to pastor these new churches, and it is there that Luke records two incidents that will be formative in Peter’s ongoing ministry.

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Salvation is for Every Nation

 

But why did Peter go to the coast…

1 Peter’s Presbyterian Care.  Acts 9:32

Peter now seems to have left James in charge of the church at Jerusalem, and is travelling around the churches, teaching and preaching. The area in which he travelled was pioneered with the gospel, probably Philip the Evangelist, after his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Acts 9:40 Peter is going ‘through all parts of the country.’ I wonder why?

  • Because these new churches were in a pagan environment? These new Christians had been Jews, (still were!) but their groups were meeting in a distinctly pagan environment, among people who sacrificed to false gods. Like all Christians, and especially new Christians, they would need ENCOURAGEMENT, and that is the role of the church, and I think, specifically the role of the elder. Local churches, isolated churches, pioneer churches, new churches, young believers, ageing saints – they all need encouragement in the Lord, and it is the role of the elder to provide that encouragement.
  • Because they needed instruction in HOLINESS.  Luke describes the believers in this region as ‘SAINTS.’  Nothing is in the Bible by accident, there’s a reason why he uses saints instead of ‘Christians’ or ‘believers.’  A saint is not some long dead Catholic leader who has been canonised by the Pope, and framed in some stained glass window.  Every Christian is a saint – the word is hagios, and it means ‘holy’ or ‘separate’ or ‘different.’  Why would these saints need instruction in holiness?  Because we all do!  There’s two aspects to our ‘sainthood’ :-
  • We are saints already!  We are saints already because we are in Christ, separated onto God by the work of the Holy Spirit at conversion, and in Christ, clothed in his righteousness, we stand before God, in his eyes, as holy, separate from sin  as Jesus!  Geoff Thomas comments, “Its not a question of whether Christians are meant to be holy – they ARE!  … We are set apart from the world, and identified as being in union and communion with with Jesus Christ, by virtue of what the Holy Spirit has already accomplished in our lives, regenerating us by a momentary monergistic (sovereign) act in which we have come to life from a condition of being spiritually dead.”  
  • We must become saints!  This is where every Christian needs help, including the new saints at Lydda.   Because we are no longer ‘in Adam’ but ‘in Christ’ – our ambitions are changed.  We no longer want to live for themselves, they no longer want to walk in the ways of the world, they want to live and walk in such a manner as to please Christ.  They will strive for that holiness, without which no-one will see the Lord.  To quote Thomas again, “Striving for holiness is a necessary consequence of being holy.”  These saints will need to learn to examine their lives, and to learn to walk worthy of the Lord, to be holy, as he is holy.  
  • Because Church discipline must be established and maintained?  Peter is an apostle and an elder of the church.  These new Christians will need to learn that there is authority in the church, it’s not a free-for-all.  There must be discipline, and the Elders at Jerusalem have the right to come and preach and teach in the local churches, to ensure conformity in doctrine and practice in all the churches.
  • For Peter’s own personal development?  Now while Peter has come to Lydda to encourage, to instruct and to regulate the church, God is doing something deep within his own life, – his own spiritual development is continuing, as we shall see in chapter 10.  In a way, this is a prelude to the events of that chapter.  Peter. you see has a bad attitude!  He doesn’t like Gentiles very much.  This attitude was inbred, for no righteous Jew liked Gentiles.  To them the Gentiles  were the ‘goyim’ – the ‘nations’ – it was a pejorative term and it was spat out with venom when it was spoken.  If a Gentile woman was in childbirth and in trouble, a plus Jewish midwife would be unable and unwilling to help, for to bring another filthy Gentile into the world would be a great sin. Gentiles were just scum.  And Peter still had this problem buried deep in his psyche.  He needed to learn otherwise, that Christ died for the sins of the whole world.  cf Acts 10:34

So there are plenty of reasons for Peter to leave Jerusalem and begin a peripatetic ministry around the churches in the coastal region.  It was while he was working in Lydda that he found his faith tested and proved.  1 Peter 5:1-4

 

2 Peter’s Pastoral Challenge

In this passage we see Peter being called upon to hep in difficult circumstances, and the challenge that will bring him.  

  • The challenge at Lydda.  Acts 9:33  We don’t know how Peter was introduced to Aeneas, the narrative is short and scant in detail, – but we can safely assume he was a member of the local church.  What we do know is that he was afflicted with a paralytic condition that restricted his mobility, and he was confined to bed.  This was a long term condition, he’s suffered from it for eight years.  
  • Notice then:-
  • The One who heals.  Peter cannot heal this man.  He is not a ‘healing evangelist’ who boasts of his own prowess, or his spirituality, nor does he tell Aeneas to have more faith, or to step out in God or to ‘let go and let God’…. Instead he points him to Jesus, the Messiah, who heals the soul, and who often heals our bodies.  
  • The effectiveness of the healing.  On Peter’s words, Aeneas rises from his bed immediately.  He was completely healed, all the wasted muscles and sinews, weakened and atrophied by eight long years without use pull together, and grow strong and he rises from his bed.  Don’t underestimate the enormity of this work.  This was a powerful healing, and it was done without fanfare, without hysteria, it was the Lord Jesus, working a work of sovereign purpose for this man.  One commentator illustrated the effectiveness of the healing by reference to a sermon bu Charles Swindoll, who remarked on the fact that Aeneas not only rose, but he made his bed.  He complained that he had been ordering teenagers to rise and make their bed for years without success
  • The news of the healing.  News of the healing spread fast.  V35  The result of this wonderful healing was that people in the local town heard and believed and turned to Christ.  And, being in a Gentile area, wouldn’t there be Gentiles who want to believe in Jesus too?  And what would Peter do about that?
  • The challenge at Joppa.  V36.  Joppa was about 10 miles from Lydda, a busy sea port, and in Joppa was another little group of Christians, and among them was a woman called Tabitha (Aramaic).  The word means ‘Gazelle’ and that was likely a reference to her graciousness, for we learn that, This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.  But Luke was writing in Greek, and its unlikely that his intended audience would speak Aramaic, so he gives her the Greek name for a Gazelle, Dorcas.  But Dorcas had just died.  V37.  In fact she has been laid out and prepared for burial.  When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.  And Peter has just gained a local reputation as the man who brought a miracle to the live of Aenea at Lydda, and he’s just 10 miles away.   38
No delay.  I can’t imagine what Peter must have thought when he heard that he was expected to visit someone who has just died!  What was he supposed to do?  Most of us would simply express our condolences, and say we’ll attend the funeral…. But whatever he thought, Peter went, right away.  It’s part of the pastoral call, to be available when needed, to drop everything when needed to attend to the flock.  It’s the reason why minister are exempt fro jury service, along with thieves and MPs! 39.  There are times when a congregation needs encouragement – fast!  Especially when a valued, dependable, loving member of a local church has just died.  
No distraction. V39-40.  Dorcas was very greatly respected.  She sewed garments which she gave to the widows – the poor, so that they would have warmth.  She was a woman of faith – and that faith was expressed in some very practical ways.  Now she would be very greatly missed, would be mourned, and the widows were gathered around her lifeless form, and there would be weeping and great anguish, and Peter did what was the right thing to do – he asked them to leave!  Sometimes that’s very necessary.  It’s so easy to let other people’s circumstances distract you from communion with the Lord, or from doing His will.  Sometimes we just have to ask people to leave us alone, so we can have time alone with the Lord…
No doubt.  Peter prayed.  He knelt down and committed the situation to the Lord, and then he did a very strange thing indeed, – he spoke to a corpse!  and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.  What a step of faith that was!  Peter, at this stage has no doubt that Jesus is going to intervene in Tabitha’s situation.  See what he said, – in Aramaic this would be ’Tabitha Cumi’ – which is almost the same as the words that Jesus spoke to Jairus’s daughter,  Mark 5:42.  See the similarities in this!  But then this work at the bedside of Dorcas was not Peter’s work, it was the work of Christ.  
No death!  Dorcas is restored to life! Acts 9:40-41

Peter is growing, both in his understanding of his call and in his relationship with God.  In Lydda and Joppa his faith has grown, his ministry has been confirmed and validated by God, his heart flooded with joy in believing and he has grown in the assurance, that his faith in the risen Christ is not misplaced.  Jesus is Lord!

 

3 Peter’s Preparation Continues.

Finally, in preparation for what will happen in chapter ten, when a Gentile will be converted, and when God will directly challenge Peter about his judaistic prejudices, God once again will sweep sinners into the kingdom from around this predominantly Gentile area. V42 And one of them was a man called Simon, who was a tanner, and it was at the Tanner’s House that Peter lodged. And that’s remarkable. Jews considered Tanners to be unclean, and untouchable. Their houses were little more than slaughter-houses, with blood and gore and disgusting smells. They had to live and work more than 10 cubits from the nearest town. If a woman became engaged to a man and later discovered that he was in any way involved in tanning, she had the legal right to break off the engagement without any repercussions. Yet see Acts 9:43 In that simple phrase we see that God is changing Peter, working towards the understanding that God is no respecter of persons, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that Christ died for the ungodly, without racial or social restrictions. 1 Peter 2:21-25.

From → Acts, Bible Study

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