Tom: In this our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we’re in the [Book of Acts:9:36], and we encourage our listeners if they’re at home to follow along. If they’re in their cars, just wait till they get home. That will probably be all right.So v. 36: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did, and it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.”Now, Dave, Dorcas is pointed out here for goods works and almsdeeds, which is—that’s a wonderful thing. You know, some people say that we’re against works, good works. We certainly are for salvation, but once a person’s been saved—because there’s no works that’ll save a person—once they’ve been saved, then we’ve been “saved unto good works,” and that’s Ephesians:2:10.
Dave: Exactly. In fact, Paul writes in his epistles, “Be careful to do good works.” The Book of Hebrews 13 talks about doing good works: “Forget not to entertain strangers, and so forth.” Of course we believe in good works. We do our good works as a result of our salvation in gratitude to the One who saved us, not in order to get saved. I find this verse 36 rather interesting. Well, the whole Bible is fascinating. It’s an amazing book. We have some names there—Joppa. These are not fairy tales. This is not fiction like the Bhagavad Gita, or the Ramayana Mahabharata, you name them. These are real people…
Tom: The Book of Mormon.
Dave: Right, the Book of Mormon…wow! Talk about fiction. These are real people, real places, real events. So this is something that happened at a town called Joppa. Look up in history. Archaeologists, do your thing. There was a place called Joppa at this time in history. “There was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas.” I find that interesting, as well. Why did he give us these two names? One wasn’t a nickname. Supposing he’d said there was a disciple named Dorcas. Well, you might look that up in history. Archaeologists say, “I don’t find a woman named Dorcas, but I find evidence of someone named Tabitha. They couldn’t have been the same.” Or someone who would say, “Well, I know—I’ve verified from history there was someone named Tabitha, but it couldn’t have been Dorcas.” So he’s covering them both. I find that interesting. And that she was full of good works. Wow!
Tom: This was written by Luke, right?
Tom: He was a historian par excellence. Not only did he have the Holy Spirit, I’m not trying—I’m not denying that, but he is touted by modern historians as just a crack historian.
Dave: Let me quickly turn and give you an example. In the Gospel of Luke 3, it starts out: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,” and so forth. Why all these names and places and titles? It’s very precise. He’s talking about Caesar. He’s talking about tetrarch and governor and priest. He gives you the names, he gives you the places where they held these offices, and he gives you the date: “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” And this is not Augustus, but Tiberius who succeeded Augustus. So he is, as you said, very precise. If we go back to chapter two, this is Luke writing: “It came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” He’s giving you plenty of information. You can verify this.Tom, one of the amazing things about that, or the interesting things about that, is this tells us how Jesus got to be born in Bethlehem. And Micah:5:2, “thou bethelehem,” you know, tells us that Bethlehem would be the place where the Messiah would be born. But Joseph and Mary did not live in Bethlehem. How did they happen to get over there? Because Augustus Caesar sent out a decree to tax the whole world, and to be taxed you had to go back to your town of origin where your ancestry was, where the records were, and so forth.Anyway, Tom, I’m getting a little far afield here, but…
Tom: It’s important, Dave. That’s what the Bible is. It is God’s Word, and it has to be absolutely perfect in every detail or it couldn’t be God’s Word.
Tom: Or God is less than God, which would make him a false god.
Dave: If it’s not historically accurate, 100 percent, or geographically, or whatever it talks about, then how can I believe what it says about my redemption and about the Messiah?So she is full of good works—well, this is her whole life, almsdeeds, which she did. Now, you would think that someone like that God would surely protect them. He wouldn’t let them get sick and die, but it came to pass in those days she was sick and died! They wash her, they lay her in an upper chamber, and v. 38: “…forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.” Well, they don’t have confidence in their ability or the answer to their prayers, although God said, you know, that all disciples—we should all pray and trust God. But Peter was an apostle, and he was someone very special, because there was a time, as we read of it earlier in the Book of Acts, when they laid the sick out in the streets in Jerusalem so that Peter’s shadow would cross over them as he walked by, and they were healed. This was a special time for special miracles that the church has not seen ever since.So Peter is not far away—“Peter, get over here! This dear woman that has been so kind to us and we love her so much, she died. Quick, come on over here and see what you can do.”
Tom: Verse 39: “Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.”
Dave: Tom, when I grew up as a boy—and I don’t know whether they do it anymore—but they had a women’s sewing group, and they called themselves by the name of Dorcas, because she sewed these things. And they still carry on in the name of Dorcas in remembrance of her, and so, wow! she must have been very busy. She was helping widows; I find that interesting, because when Paul writes to Timothy and so forth (he’s talking about the order of the church), he says, “The church ought to take care of widows who are widows indeed. But if they have a family, it’s the family’s obligation to do that.”Today, of course, we rely upon the government, and it’s not quite as the Bible presents it. On the other hand, if the government is going to help you out, I wouldn’t refuse that help either.
Tom: Mm-hmm. “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise: And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter she sat up.” Now, Dave, some—and we’ve seen this in contemporary Christianity—they would make a methodology of that. They would go about it exactly the way Peter did, because we need to be exacting here, and if we’re going to have this happen, it’s got to be done Biblically and we’ve got to do it exactly the way Peter did it. That’s…you know, how did Peter do it? Do we know? Did the Lord speak to him and say, “Peter, this is what I want you to do”? Did he do this of his own initiative? I don’t think so. I think this is all Spirit-led, Spirit-enabled, trusting the Spirit in this particular situation, in this circumstance.
Dave: He certainly wouldn’t say “Tabitha, arise” unless he knew that God would honor that command.Now, unfortunately today, Tom, we have all kinds of churches that specialize in healing and so forth, and I have sat in the congregation, and I have seen people come forth for healing. I have heard the pastor command them in the name of Jesus to be healed and nothing happened, and I have thought, “What would it mean to a teenager to grow up in that church, hear command after command, week after week, month after month, in the name of Jesus that is not honored by God? Wouldn’t that destroy your faith?”So I have prayed for the sick and seen them healed instantly on occasion, laid my hands upon them, seen them healed; but I have prayed many times and it hasn’t happened. Peter knew what was going to happen, and I have found at times that God gave me the faith and I knew it would happen. But that’s not something that God has promised. Christians don’t live any longer than anyone else. There are people who teach that they should, but everyone who has taught that is either dead or dying. But we must be very careful that we don’t demand of God what He is not going to give us, but we are to pray in faith. “The prayer of faith will heal the sick.” Well, what does the prayer of faith mean? That means that I absolutely know—God has showed me that that person will be raised. That’s faith. Faith is not just trying to claim that it’s going to happen when I do not know, and the Bible does not promise that every sick person is going to be healed; otherwise, Christians would never die.