Study 9 HAVE ANOTHER LOOK AT DORCAS!
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 8 -11)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 9:36-43
In this study we shall notice that in the story of Dorcas there are four pictures of the ministry of the Church to those who are dead - not physically dead but dead in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Dorcas died physically and she was raised from the dead; there is no doubt about that. But in her experience of death and resurrection, in the physical realm, we have some valuable lessons about God’s power, in the spiritual realm, to raise the dead souls of men and women.
1. We must remind ourselves of the real, deep need of those around us who are not Christians
It is important that we are convinced about the fact that all who are not Christians are in desperate spiritual need. This may include our loved ones, friends and neighbours, many of whom are good living, decent, honest and upright, and perhaps religious. On the other hand, some are immoral and have very low standards of living - but what is their real spiritual condition, whether moral or immoral? The answer is that they are dead, just as Dorcas was dead (verse 37). This is what the Bible teaches; this is what God says about everyone who is outside of Christ (Colossians 2:13). Apart from Christ we are dead and need to be born again (John 3:7); and we need to be raised to new life (Romans 6:4). When the Prodigal Son was away from his father, in the far country, he was ‘dead’; that is to say, he was out of fellowship, cut off from his father by his own wilfulness and by his going away from home into the far country. When he came back, however, the father rejoiced and said, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again” (Luke 15:24). The boy had never been physically dead but his condition in the far country is a picture of those who are spiritually dead, out of fellowship with God. See what the Lord Jesus said in John 5:40, and compare 1 John 5:11-12.
2. We must remind ourselves of the concern we should feel because of the deep need of those who are not Christians
What should be our attitude towards those who are spiritually dead? We should ask ourselves, What happens when a loved one, a friend or a neighbour is desperately ill and in danger of dying? We are filled with a deep concern and if, like Dorcas, they die, we are sad because we have ‘lost’ them. When Dorcas died there was deep concern on the part of all the Christians who knew her; and that is exactly how we should feel towards those around us who are not believers. The Church of God should feel a deep concern for the millions who are spiritually dead, who are without God and without hope in the world, and in the world to come (Ephesians 2:12). Do you feel any concern? How does it show itself? Firstly we shall be moved emotionally (as the loved ones of Dorcas were - verse 39); secondly we shall be moved practically - we shall go into action, as the friends did when they sent for Peter (verse 38). Have you any tears because some of those who are near and dear to you are lost (Luke 19:10)? - facing death and judgment (Hebrews 9:27)?
3. We must remind ourselves what to do when seeking the restoration of dead souls
Notice from this passage that we should do something practical about seeking the salvation of others. It is not enough to think about it; it is certainly important to pray about it; but where it is at all possible, action is required. The method we use should be the outcome of the love and sympathy of the whole church. Winning a soul is never the work of one person; there are many links in the chain, many people who are used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This means that not one of us can ever be proud and say, ‘I won that soul!’ Here in this story our attention is focused on Peter. How did he act? The answer is given to us in verses 40-41:
- 1. He “sent them all out”. Here was the recognition that only God could raise Dorcas. There must be concentration and freedom from distraction. God must do the work, otherwise nothing would be done.
- 2. He “got down on his knees and prayed”. Here is humility and reverence. Peter on earth was kneeling before God in heaven and asking Him to perform a miracle. Others outside the door doubtless were praying as well (Matthew 18:19).
- 3. ”Turning towards the dead woman, he said…” It is not enough just to pray; it is important to ”say” (Mark 11:23-25).
- 4. ”He took her by the hand”. Here is an indication of loving sympathy and practical help; what scope there is for ministering to others by showing love and kindness to them!
- 5. He “presented her… alive”. What a scene this was! What rejoicing at Joppa when Peter opened the door and “called the believers and the widows”, and Dorcas walked out of the room with a radiant face and a healthy body!
How much our hearts should burn with a longing to see others come to Christ!
4. We must remind ourselves of the blessing which always follows our obedience and God’s gracious working
Look at verse 42. The raising to life of Dorcas made headline news in next morning’s issue of the Joppa Journal! Whenever a Dorcas is raised to life there are others who are challenged by the Lord and brought to see His power and grace. Indeed, when we lead one soul to Christ we never know what widespread blessing may result from the salvation of that one person.