Summary: Sometimes God opens our hearts and minds to His will in increments.
Concentrated Conversions and Pushing the Envelope
1. It seems that Philip had planted several churches around Joppa, and Peter was traveling to them to strengthen them and teach them. He came to an area near modern Tel Aviv, where our story takes place. Lydda is now know as Lud and is 2 miles from the Ben Gurion Airport.
2. Today’s text prepares for the great change about to come later, the conversion of and acceptance of Gentile believers.
3. A young doctor got a call from a farmer. "Come quickly, my wife is seriously ill." Grabbing his little black bag, he hurried out to the farm.
The doctor said, "Quick, get me a screwdriver." The man ran downstairs and got a screwdriver and handed it to him through the door.
The man and his children heard the moans and groans of their mother continuing on the inside. In a minute the doctor was back at the door. "Quick, get me a pair of pliers." The father ran downstairs and got a pair of pliers. The doctor shut the door while the family continued to stand in the hallway wringing their hands.
In a minute the doctor was back at the door. "Quick, get me a hammer and a chisel." By this time the farmer had enough of it. "Just a minute, doctor. What is wrong with my wife?"
The doctor replied, "I don’t know. I can’t get my little black bag open." [Jimmy Chapman, Sermon Central]
4. This joke actually paints a picture of what God was doing to open the door to the gentiles; Peter and the early church leaders needed to have the little black bag opened for them, step by step.
Main Idea: Sometimes God opens our hearts and minds to His will in increments.
I. Two INCIDENTS Paved the Way for Massive Conversions
A. Two DIFFERENT Jewish Believers
1. Aeneas the HELLENISTIC Jew
a. Luke is slowly taking us closer to the conversion of GENTILES
b. We have seen Hellenistic Jews who actually identified with their gentil names, (like Anenas), an Ethiopian Jew, Samaritans; in addition, Saul was told he would go to minister to the gentiles
c. We know little about Aeneas -- paralyzed for 8 years
2. Tabitha translated to DORCAS
In either language, her name means "Gazelle"
a. She was probably more "Jewish" in her culture than Aeneas
b. Probably the church’s Patroness, "a woman who used wealth or influence to help an individual, an institution, or a cause."
c. Likely wealthy woman who helped others in the church, sewing/giving
d. throughout Acts, we note that women are in business, wealthy women finance much of the church’s expense, and, though not elders, teachers of men, or apostles, they played a prominent role in the church.
e. Luke first reveals this to us in the Gospels in Luke 8:1-3
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
f. thru doing seamstress work & opening her large home for church meetings, she blessed the church & forged close friendships.
3. Simon the TANNER – a sort of Jewish “scum class” person
B. Two Distinct HEALINGS
1. Aeneas healed through an INSTANCE (gift) of healing
• apparently, the Holy Spirit led Peter to do this
• healed of infirmity
2. Tabitha healed through answered PRAYER
a. in this instance, apparently Peter requested God heal her
b. the disciples washed but did not anoint her body
c. they sent for Peter who was 10 miles away
d. greater healing: resurrection from the dead
3. Notice WHO received the glory!
4. Does God HEAL today? When He so chooses!
C. Consequence: MASS conversions
1. "All" is hyperbole
2. But note a concentration of conversions in this area
3. This is a clear case where God is the Victor
4. Don’t you wish that it was always this way? Why isn’t it?
5. Was this common, even in the first century?
Sometimes God opens our hearts and minds to His will in increments.
II. In the Process of Ministry, the ENVELOPE Was Pushed
A. Great Commission should not replace SOLA Scriptura
B. But human NARROWNESS is a constant obstacle
1. Hudson Taylor (legalism & cultural assumptions)
2. Logical thinking trashed when applying Scriptures
C. Peter is being nudged toward the INCLUSION of the Gentiles