Summary: As we SUBMIT to God we can watch Him CHANGE the world around us.
Have you ever had a nickname? When I was growing up I had several nicknames: Child – Troy-Boy, Junior High – Wally; High School - Wal-man. On our mission trip last week Sarah Smith called me Roberto Budweiser, but that's another story. I’m sure at some point in my life somebody called me “Dorcas.” But usually when someone calls someone else “Dorcas” it’s not meant as a compliment.
As we continue through our expositional series in the book of Acts today, we're going to meet someone who was called Dorcas. But hopefully after the message you can see that the name Dorcas is actually a great compliment. If you’re anything like the Dorcas of the Bible, then you’re something like I want to be. In fact, we even have a ladies small group that meets on Sunday mornings called the Dorcas class. Now the name “Dorcas” actually means gazelle.
Now before we talk about Dorcas this morning, I want us to consider several of the early church heroes that Luke has introduced us to so far. And really each and every one of them were unlikely heroes, they were improbable church leaders - probably not those we would choose to lead.
Five Unlikely Heroes of the Early Church
Several things about Peter: Powerful preacher. It was the day of Pentecost, that huge Jewish festival where so many Jews make the annual spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. It was there that God enabled Peter to preach that message where 3,000 souls were saved. But he was also an amazing miracle worker. You remember the account of the crippled man begging for money by the temple gate who was miraculously healed? The guy was so excited that he was jumping around, leaping, praising God. But not everybody was happy. In fact Peter and John were in jail for a while because of that. But then they’re given an opportunity to speak, and I love what their accusers said about them. Look at this:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 They were fisherman. They hadn’t gone to the university of Jerusalem, they went to the university of Jesus.
John was Peter’s ministry partner. And talk about nicknames, he and his brother had great nickname. They were known as “sons of thunder” because they had all kinds of great zeal for the cause of Christ.
One day they were turned down, kicked out of a Samaritan town and they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy this town. We’re the sons of Thunder! Jesus pulled them aside and said, boys, we don’t do things like that. They were incredibly zealous.
Well, John went on to partner in ministry with Peter and to write five of the NT books. And in the book of Revelation he wrote when he was in his 80’s, or even 90’s. One thing I love about John is that he was still in ministry, going strong even as an old man up into his 90’s. I hope by God's grace I can do that. Here's another unlikely hero Luke has introduced to us...
His name was Saul first. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes wish that I had a more exciting story about how I came to Christ. Sometimes you hear people’s testimonies and the amazing way God saved them from some decadent lifestyle. Paul had a great conversion story. He's ravaging the church, pursuing their total annihilation and Jesus unilaterally sweeps in and turns his life around. He goes from being the single greatest opponent of Jesus to the single greatest proponent. What a testimony. He was a the most aggressive missionary of the first century. He was a prolific writer of Scripture writing 1/3 of the NT, and that doesn’t include Hebrews which many people (including myself) think he wrote.
So we've got Peter, John, Paul next is...
4. RINGO - STEPHEN
Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was chosen for a very simple task in the church. He was called to distribute food to Hellenistic widows. You might think, “well, how qualified do you have to be to pass out food?”
Here’s some of the qualifications he possessed. Acts 6. And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8 All these things to hand out food? As time went on, Stephen’s giftedness became very obvious. Preaching, performing miracles. He was getting a little too popular for some of the religious and political leaders of that day. They brought up false charges against him and when he was brought before the Sanhedrin he preached a gospel that rocked their world, they were cut right to the heart. He exposed them for what they were, exposed their hypocrisy and their rebellion. In their anger and jealousy they picked up stones. And they put him to death. Stephen, who looked after widows was a great hero in the early church. A Man of great wisdom; stood up to the Sanhedrin; Christianity’s first martyr.