Approaching today’s reading, let us recall that the purpose of Luke’s historical account of the Acts of the Apostles was written for this fellow named Theophilus – to describe for him the way in which the message of the Gospel had spread all over the Roman world. Throughout the book of Acts, we see read various summary statements of the results of this preaching ministry – 3,000 saved, then growing to 5,000, and everywhere stating (as in verse 42 today) that many people believed in the Lord. To see something really cool, go to this link and watch the time-action way the Gospel spread to 364 places in the book of Acts.
Since the purpose of our series is a devotional one, I really wish to stay away from some of the controversial topics like tongues and healings, etc. But it is just about impossible today to write much without getting into it a bit. Though my views on the subject are very standard for the Evangelical Free Church and the portion of the broader evangelical movement that is resourced by schools such as I have attended in Philadelphia and Dallas, I have many Christian friends and even family members who disagree with me. There are TSF people who do not think as I do upon this topic.
I’ll be as brief as possible to say that I believe the signs and wonders such as are seen in this passage and in numbers of other Scriptures in Acts (particularly on the occasion of the Spirit’s first coming to a group of believers) are miracles unique in the experience of the early church era. At a time when the Scriptures were far from complete, God validated the message and the messenger with very unique signs and gifts – miraculous abilities and activities that gradually ceased to be the normative experience of believers and church communities. Something better took their place: the completion of God’s Word – the Bible. This is the final authority that, in the power of the Spirit, vindicates the message and messenger.
Do not hear me saying that miracles cannot and do not occur; but you may rightly understand me to say that they are not the normative experience that we should seek out, nor are they the evidence of gifts that I believe have also ceased, nor the evidence of a “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit – in my understanding of Scripture – happens at the moment of salvation and is not a gift to be sought afterward as a second blessing or second work of grace.
I also reject the interpretation that healing is in the atonement (quoting from Isaiah 53). I take that passage to say that the “stripes by which we are healed” refer specifically to the spiritual issue of sin, not physical well-being. We are fully healed spiritually and eternally by faith in Christ’s death, and we will be physically healed in our glorified bodies upon our exit from this world across the threshold of eternity. We are invited and obligated to pray for the healing and touch of God in the lives of people who are afflicted with the ailments that evidence the decay of our mortal flesh. And God may, and often does, honor these prayers with even incredible means of intervention. We should engage this resource more than we do!
Today’s passage tells the story first of a paralyzed person being healed after eight years of affliction, with the result that all who were nearby and aware of this miracle followed the Lord. And secondly, we see an actual miracle of a physical resurrection through the work of Peter – again with Luke noting that the outcome was not simply to help a person or bring someone back to life merely for their individual benefits, but that rather the act was one that God used uniquely to bring large numbers of followers to the faith. Geographically speaking, these towns are in the area to the northwest of Jerusalem, both near and along the Mediterranean coast.
Applicationally speaking – We should be faithful to pray for God to do great works through the power of His divine will in healing and restoring people to wellness in every way. The error of certain Pentecostal and Charismatic friends is to essentially assert that God is obligated to hear us and honor our requests, particularly if we arouse enough faith. But the error of the side where more of us (such as are in the EFCA) stand is to go ahead and pray out of some sense of obligation because we can’t deny we are told to do so, yet to honestly at our core doubt that God will consider doing something even miraculous. God is able, and He does heal.
Aeneas and Dorcas – Acts 9:32-43
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years.34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.