In my senior year of seminary I preached in a small Orthodox Presbyterian Church in western Pennsylvania. My hostess was an elderly lady, to all appearances frail and helpless. But when she prayed at the breakfast table, and when I learned of what she was doing quietly to serve that church, I became convinced that she was one of the reasons that church survived. When I think of the service to the church that Dorcas rendered (Acts 9) I think of this lady.
Fill your life with the Spirit’s work. Obedient concern for others marks the lives of God’s people. The window of peace enjoyed by the church gave opportunity for the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed. Following the death of Dorcas, when Peter arrived, her works of service were displayed by the widows, probably showing what they were wearing. The concern for the needy, displayed earlier in Jerusalem, is evident among these believers, as it needs to be in the church today. Her life may not have been as dramatic as some of the gifts in Jerusalem, but it was full of ordinary deeds of service, doing to God’s people what the Lord counts as done to him. Calvin comments on the service Dorcas renders: “This is the chiefest praise, this is the beginning of holy life, this is the root of all virtues, to have learned of the Son of God the way to live, and the true life. The fruits of good works proceed afterward from faith. . . . The commendation of liberality is great, because, as the Holy Ghost doth witness, it containeth in itself the sum of a godly and perfect life.” (at Acts 9:26).
The fruit of the Spirit, evident in Lydda and Joppa, must characterize your life. We share the concern of the believers in Joppa in showing concern for those in need and reflecting the compassion of Jesus. The healing of Aeneas grows out the Lord’s pleasure in replacing a life of helpless futility with the health to serve. He is healed specifically in the name of Jesus.
Discontinuities include the specific way of healing, which reflects and connects with the miracles of Jesus. Luke is making the point that this is what Jesus is continuing to do. While God can, and often does, answer prayer in wonderful ways, don’t forget that he is also glorified in giving the grace to suffer, for some, for longer than Aeneas did. What God does expect of you is a life that glorifies his name, a life that displays the fruit of the Spirit.
The live-giving Spirit gives you the victory over death. The ascended Lord continues to work in his church. Jesus is present in the healing of Dorcas. Grieving believer summon Peter. Not only their sorrow, but also the conviction that the gates of hell will not prevail against against the church, brings the assurance that the Lord will act in this situation. This raising of the dead parallels Jesus’ miracle in Luke 8:49-56. He ejects the mourners. Even the command parallels that of Mark 5:41. The Lord, who is life-giving Spirit, raises Dorcas from the dead.
The Spirit brings new life to many. Ezekiel 37:13-14 gives the resurrection of the dead as a sign of God’s saving presence with his people. The miracles are visible forms of the Word, which the Spirit is using to bring life to many. Bthe church was growing, v. 31. Many in Sharon, which included Gentiles, heard the Word, v. 35. Many responded in faith at the raising of Dorcas, v. 42. The stage is being set for the conversion of Cornelius, Acts 10. Peter even moves into the house of a tanner, whose work made him ceremonially unclean. “Though we are not apostles, we too are charged as Jesus’ witnesses to point others away from ourselves (and their own resources) to Jesus, who alone saves (4:12). As we do, we will see people turned to the Lord, the direction of their lives reversed 180 degrees, from indifference and rebellion to faith, hope, and love toward Jesus the Messiah.” “If Christ can raise up the paralyzed and reverse death itself, we must see that his mercy is strong and wide enough to transform people from every occupation, clan, and nation.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Let’s Study Acts, pp. 120-122).
Drop a pebble in a pond and watch the ripples spread. God’s Word is spreading, changing people, and giving life. Luke is recoding this so that the those Spirit induced waves wash over your life as well. How is your life different because of his work?