Study 7 DORCAS: FULL OF GOOD WORKS
(Scripture Portion: Acts 9: 36-42)
The story of Dorcas, which forms the subject of this study, has been an inspiration to thousands. It is packed full of valuable lessons, all of which are important and some of which need particular emphasis in these days. Dorcas lived in Joppa, a town situated on the shore of the Mediterranean, which at that time was the chief seaport of Palestine – compare Jonah 1:3 and Acts 10:5-8. There was a Christian church at Joppa, and it is possible that the believers met for worship in Dorcas’ home, which in those early days was the custom - look up Acts 12:12 and Romans 16:5.
1. Notice the significance of her name.
Verse 36 tells us that her name in Aramaic was Tabitha, but in Greek it was Dorcas, which means “antelope” or “gazelle” - a very graceful animal! One writer says that “her name stands in the Bible as the symbol of Naphtali (Genesis 49:21), the giver of goodly words; then as panting after the water brooks, seeking everything in God (Psalm 42:1); and as nimble of foot (2 Samuel 2:18); and so, leaping (Isaiah 35:6); expressive too of tender love (Proverbs 5:19); of beauty of form (Song of Solomon 2:9); and as fruitful through the voice of Jehovah (Psalm 29:9).” Ponder this! Our lives should be gazelle-like - graceful – look up Acts 4:33 and 11:23, and compare John 1:14.
2. Notice that Dorcas is spoken of as a disciple.
Look at verse 36 - “a disciple”. The name disciple was applied to the early followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and any concordance will show how frequently it is used in the gospels and the Book of Acts. But what is a disciple? A learner. A disciple of Jesus is one who sits at His feet and learns of Him - look up Luke 10:38-42 and Matthew 11:29. In the way which the word was used, a disciple meant a Christian, as we learn from Acts 11:26 and many other references. But today there are many Christians who are not in the true, practical sense of the word disciples. To be a real disciple means to accept the Lord’s authority, His lordship, His discipline and to do His will. You are a believer - but are you a disciple?
3. Notice that Dorcas devoted her life to doing good deeds.
Verse 36 tells us that she “was always doing good and helping the poor.” She was a doer, not just a talker! And in verse 39 we are told about the particular ministry which occupied so much of her time - “she made robes and other clothing …” A needle is a very small thing, and the ability to use it is fairly common today, but here is a ministry that is most acceptable to the Lord and that has brought much comfort and relief to His children. Take note that Dorcas was a lady who was full of good works and here is a most needful lesson. No one can ever be saved by works, as we learn from Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5; but the obligation of every saved person is to be like Dorcas, to do good works; look up Ephesians 2:10. Compare the following two faithful sayings: the first stresses that salvation is given to us apart from works, but the second emphasises that the result and evidence and the outflow of being saved is doing good works - look up 1 Timothy 1:15 and Titus 3:8. Read James 2:14-26, and especially notice the last verse. And ladies, the best adorning is mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. We all need to be Titus 2:14!
4. Notice the variety of ministries in operation in the work of the church.
When Dorcas died we read that:
- Some of the women folk ministered by washing her body and laying it in an upper room (verse 37).
- Two unnamed men ministered by going on an errand to Lydda to fetch Peter (verse 38).
- Peter came and exercised a special ministry of faith and prayer (verses 39-41).
- The widows also ministered (verse 39).
There is plenty of scope for willing workers in the church of God. Not all can do (1) …but all can be (2), God’s errand boys; and some of us can exercise more of (3) …and others can do (4). Look up 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 and Ephesians 4:11-12. God’s plan is not a “one man ministry”; it is an “all-at-it ministry” - a ministry in which every believer finds his allotted task and does it.
5. Then Peter prayed the prayer of faith, and Dorcas was raised from the dead.
His approach to this whole situation is most instructive; it provides us with a lesson on how to seek the restoration of dead souls, of those who are “dead in transgressions and sins” - look up Ephesians 2:1.
- Peter sent them all out of the room (verse 40). Only God could restore Dorcas, so Peter must be alone with Him.
- Peter got down on his knees and prayed (verse 40). Reverence, sincerity, earnestness - the prayer of faith (James 5:13-18).
- Peter spoke to Dorcas (verse 40). In seeking the restoration of souls we must testify (Job 22:29; Psalm 107:2).
- Peter helped Dorcas and showed sympathy (verse 41). How needful this is if we would nurture the new converts!
- Peter presented her alive (verse 41). What joy for Peter, for Dorcas and for the saints in Joppa! What joy for us when God blesses our ministry (Psalm 126:6)! What joy in Heaven over every dead soul raised to life - look up Luke 15:5; 8-10 and 23-24.
6. All that happened turned out for the glory of God in the extension of His kingdom.
Look at verse 42. Yes, many believed, so it was worth while for Dorcas to be ill, to die and to be raised again! The things which happened to her turned out for the furtherance of the gospel - look up Philippians 1:12.