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And Many Believed in the Lord

March 10, 2024

And Many Believed in the Lord

Passage: Acts 9:31-43
Service Type:

Many Believed in the Lord

Rodney Gehman – March 10, 2024 – Acts 9:31-43


[ 001 ] If you’re a guest with us today, we’re going through the book of Acts verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and I would love for you all to have a copy of scripture in your hands this morning. That way you can follow along in your own Bible.

But here’s my question for us all as we jump into this today: What would you want other people in the neighborhood or surrounding cities to say about this local church when we come up in conversation? You run into someone at the library in Kalona, or you’re wearing your River City t-shirt here in town and someone says, hey is that where you go to church? They say, you know, people are talking and here’s what I’ve heard about your church: What would you want them to say next?

That the music is great? That the programs are good? That we have a lot of things for kids? That we aren’t legalistic? That it feels like family? That the word of God is preached in a way that we can all understand? All of the above? How would you want them to describe River City Church?

If you have your Bibles open, look at Acts 9:31 [002 ] – [31] So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.


What if that was how people talked about River City? Where they said, “Those people have a deep reverence for Jesus in the way they sing about him, the way they speak about him, the way they act. You can just tell when they open their mouths that they have a humility, a grace about them – that the Holy Spirit is at work in them – encouraging them, strengthening them, growing them. They apologize, they forgive, they pray – man, let me tell you – you want those people praying for you. They pray big prayers with big faith, and they speak boldly when they talk about Jesus. And the craziest part, is that even in the roughest circumstances, when anyone else would give up and despair, they are people who live with a deep settledness, a wholeness, a peace about them.


That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? That would be amazing if that was said about River City. But look again at that verse – [ 003 ] it’s not talking about one single isolated local church. It’s talking about the entire region of modern day Israel! This would be like us talking about the church of Eastern Iowa – North, Central, and South regions. It’s not just about what happens in one particular building on a Sunday morning – it’s referring to ALL the people of God who live in those regions. In other words, this reverence for God, the encouragement of the Spirit, and the deep settledness even in the middle of persecution is increasingly true of every person in those regions who calls themselves a follower of Jesus!


[ 004 ] This is such a rich verse to start off with today, because it reminds us straight out of the gate that the church isn’t a building. “The church” refers to the people of God who have trusted Christ for salvation. And here in Acts 9, that body of people is now growing all across Judea, Galilee, and Samaria; it is being built up and strengthened, like you would reinforce a wall. As more and more people are added to the church, it grows stronger and stronger as they live in reverence for Jesus and the encouragement of the Spirit.


They are still under persecution, but they don’t fear the sword, they don’t fear death, they don’t fear pain – they can cope with whatever circumstances come their way because the Holy Spirit that fills them all encourages them, comforts them, helps them persevere, unites them, convicts them of sin, and occasionally even moves in power in a visible way.


That’s the setting for the two miracles we’re going to look at today as the apostle Peter is preaching the good news of Jesus outside of Jerusalem. [ 005 ] And both of these miracles will follow the same format –


  1. They follow the example of Jesus

  2. They are performed by the power of Jesus

  3. They are signs of the salvation of Jesus

  4. And the outcome is the glory of Jesus


So we’ll talk about each miracle, see how it fits that format, and then wrap up after that. So here we go, Miracle #1:


[32] As Peter was traveling from place to place, he also came down to the saints who lived in Lydda. There has been an intense persecution against the Christians happening that has scattered believers out of Jerusalem into a lot of other regions, which is exactly what Jesus said would happen back in Acts 1:8 – you will be my witness, starting in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and finally all across the rest of the world. The mission is working! To this point, as we saw in 8:1, the 12 apostles have been hanging out in Jerusalem. So, as Peter is getting out and about here in chapter 9, either there is a break in the persecution, or Peter decides he needs to get out and check up on how the new believers are doing even at the risk of imprisonment.


[33] There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. [34] Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed," and immediately he got up.


[ 006-1 ] So let’s look at our format here for this miracle:

  • This miracle follows the example of Jesus.

    • Back in John 5, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a festival, and visited a public bathing area where a large number of blind, lame and paralyzed people were lying. One man was there who was disabled for 38 years, and Jesus healed that man’s disability, telling him to pick up his mat and go. So Peter is simply doing what he saw Jesus do.

    • And he does it by even repeating Jesus’ words – Get up and take care of your bed.

    • Who cares about the bed!? Why was the mat a big deal to Jesus in John 5, and why does Peter care about Aeneas’ bed? Dude, I know you haven’t been able to walk for 8 years – can’t even sit up or get out of bed, but dude, fix your pillows and tuck in that sheet before you go running all over the place. Right? Who cares!? Let the man dance and run first – we’ll get to the bed later.

      • Luke doesn’t tell us anything here, but I think it’s the idea of identity. For the lame man Jesus healed, that mat was his home, his property, for 38 years. No doubt he protected it. It marked his territory. And since he couldn’t move very far off of it…it represented him. It was his identity.

      • Same with Aeneas’ bed. It was where he stayed for 8 years. Bedridden, didn’t get out of bed for much if anything. It became his identity.

      • I think in both cases, these men are asked to part ways with the past and step into the new. This mat doesn’t mark your territory anymore or identify you. This bed doesn’t mark your identity anymore. That’s not who you are anymore.

      • So the miracle follows the example of Jesus

  • [ 006-2 ] This miracle is performed by the power of Jesus.

    • This was one of the more striking sentences of the story for me: Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.” Back in Luke 9, Jesus gave Peter and the other apostles the authority to heal diseases, so Peter had this authority. He could have said something like a pastor does at a wedding, “by the power vested in me as an apostle of Jesus Christ, I declare you healed” or something like that… but Peter doesn’t draw any attention at all to himself. It’s all Jesus.

  • [ 006-3 ] This miracle is a sign of the salvation of Jesus.

    • This man was paralyzed for 8 years. Unable to help himself in any way whatsoever, unable to do anything about his own condition; unable to do anything that would contribute to or earn his healing. In the next story, you’ll see that the woman made robes and clothes for widows, but not this guy. Paralyzed and bedridden.

    • Peter walks in the room, and says Jesus Christ heals you, get up.

    • Two things here that point to salvation:

      • #1 – Romans 3:24 says that salvation, like Aeneas’ healing, is all grace. He didn’t earn it – he couldn’t have if he tried! It was all Jesus, all grace! Jonathan Edwards said “We contributed nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary.” Even the faith it takes to believe in Jesus is a gift from God.

      • #2 – Romans 3:22 says that salvation is received by faith. The miracle didn’t take effect until Aeneas acted on it. This paralyzed man, who probably 7.5 years ago gave up trying to move his legs, now has to act in obedience and trust that he has been healed.

        • In your Christian experience, you may not always feel like you’re saved. You may not always feel the presence of God, or the power of the Holy Spirit. You may not always feel like God is close or that he cares… Well, feelings are great, but they don’t get to drive the car.

        • For Christians, faith drives the car and obedience rides shotgun. Feelings get to come along, but they sit in the backseat. And no one likes a backseat driver. Can I get an amen?

  • [ 006-4 ] So the miracle follows the example of Jesus, it was done in the power of Jesus, it pointed to the salvation of Jesus, and the outcome is the glory of Jesus  [35] So all who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. They saw Aeneas up and walking around, no doubt Peter helped them see how this miracle pointed to Jesus, and they turned to the Lord.


[ 007-1 ] Let’s go straight into Miracle #2:


[36] In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. [37] About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. [38] Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, "Don't delay in coming with us."


Come immediately. Urgency. What’s the strange part about the urgency here? Why is this an urgent matter? She’s already dead. Should have been urgent a couple days ago.


Jewish custom would have required that a body be buried before sundown the day they die, or they keep the body for three days because they believed a person’s spirit stayed in the body for 3 days after death. So the fact that they took her upstairs means one of two things –

  1. Either they were keeping her for the customary 3 days so they could mourn properly and get a burial plot or whatever, OR

  2. They were going to play their shot in the dark. We’ve heard the Apostle Peter is close by… let’s see if he can come over here before her spirit leaves her body, and raise her back to life. I mean, why not? Maybe they thought, hey, when Jesus was here on earth, He raised the dead; so why would He not be able to raise the dead from His exalted throne in glory? Luke doesn’t give us much commentary on all of that, he just tells us what happened.


[39] Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.


Dorcas was obviously a very cherished and treasured member of the church family here in Joppa, someone who did a lot good, cared for people, and lived a very generous life.


[40] Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. [41] He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive.


  1. [ 007-2 ] This miracle follows the example of Jesus

    1. In Mark 5:41, Jesus has been called to a synagogue leader’s home for the same reason. His daughter had died, and the situation is almost a perfect mirror to what is happening here in Acts 9. When Jesus came to the house, he also met the commotion of weeping and wailing. Jesus also went to the room where the child was and asked everyone else to go outside.

    2. Secondly, when Jesus spoke to that little girl, Mark 5 says that he said “Talitha koun” which means, “little girl, I say to you, get up.” Peter says “Tabitha get up.”

    3. Those words “Get up” are the words of resurrection. Life returned to her body, He took her by the hand, and helped her up and then presented her alive to her family. So this miracle follows the example of Jesus, and…

  2. [ 007-3 ] This miracle is performed by the power of Jesus

    1. In this case, Peter doesn’t just walk up and say, Hey “get up” – he kneels down by the bed first, and prays. The Lord gave him the authority to heal the sick, but raising the dead is not an authority the Lord gave anyone…not even the apostles. So Peter knows he has nothing to do with this – this is all Jesus if it’s going to happen, and if Jesus did it before, he can do it now.

  3. [ 007-4 ] This miracle is a sign of the salvation of Jesus

    1. If you’ve been around River City for long enough, you’ll figure out that Ephesians is one of my most quoted books of the Bible, and I’m going there again right now, because this miracle is straight out of Ephesians 2. Just like Dorcas was physically dead, everyone of us was born spiritually dead. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive together with Christ!

    2. Just like Peter took Dorcas by the hand and helped her stand up, Ephesians 2 says you and I have been raised up with Jesus in his resurrection. We have been given a new life and a new identity in Christ.

    3. Just like coats and hats and robes were Dorcas’ workmanship, Ephesians 2 says you and I are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared ahead of time for us to do. This miracle is a sign that points to the salvation of Jesus…

  4. [ 007-5 ] And the outcome is the glory of Jesus  [42] This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Probably because, verse 43, [43] Peter stayed for some time in Joppa with Simon, a leather tanner. No doubt the healing of Aeneas and the raising of Dorcas attracted a lot of attention and during the “many days” that he stayed in Joppa, Peter took the opportunity to ground these new believers in the truth of the Word. As one commentator points out, “faith built on miracles alone is not substantial.” They need discipleship now, and Peter hangs around for a while to help them out.


The parallels in these miracles are not random. Peter’s ministry shows that Jesus is still at work. He is alive and well, seated at the right hand of God the Father – glorified and exalted. He is no longer doing the miracles by his own hand here on earth, he is now working through his apostles to do them. But Luke wants us to know for certain, with all the clarity we can have: Jesus is still at work in and through his church.


And lets bring it right up to today – is this still true? Is Jesus still at work? Or does Jesus have all the Christians he wants already, and he’s transformed us all about as much as he probably will, so we’re just riding this out until he returns? I don’t know any honest believer who would agree with that, and yet sometimes that’s the attitude I see in myself. Sometimes I live as if Jesus is done working in me – that I don’t need anymore internal transformation, he’s done working in me – I’m happy with where I’m at. A lot of days I can go about my business and not even give it a thought that Jesus himself is alive in me, still at work transforming my life even as he works through me to help others. So I want to live following his example, Because in John 14:12, Jesus said he’s going to continue his work in and through us:


[ 008 ] In John 14:12, Jesus said, “12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.


I think there are two parts of this: 1) If you’re sitting here today and you believe in Jesus, meaning, you are actively trusting that Jesus has a) given you your right standing before God, b) his death on the cross took the wrath of God for your sin, and c) that when he rose to life, you came out with him a new creation and you are filled with his Spirit to do the good works he prepared in advance for you to do – if that’s you, you will do the works Jesus did as he works in you and through you. Maybe that hits you like, wait, does that include miracles? Miracles aren’t the only works Jesus did while he was here on earth, but they are certainly one of the markers that the kingdom of heaven is here.


[ 009 ] Jesus says “whoever believes in me will do the works I did.” It appears that Jesus intended for us all to trust him in this way by actively asking God to continue to do miracles that “confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, to bring help to those in need, to remove hindrances to ministry, and bring glory to God.” I want to live in the power of Jesus, not where I am not afraid to pray bold prayers, where I don’t shrink back when life gets difficult or uncomfortable or I’m confronted with evil. I want to speak the name of Jesus boldly wherever I go, pointing others to the salvation he offers.


[ 010 ] Jesus says we’ll do greater things than he did, because he is going to the Father. I don’t believe he meant we’ll do better miracles, like he fed 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and we’ll feed 10,000 with 2 loaves and ½ a fish; or he calmed a thunderstorm and we’ll stop hurricanes. His last few words there give us the clue… because I am going to the Father. Remember why he was going to the Father? So the Holy Spirit could come.


The good works that God prepared in advance for us to do is where we participate in the story of redemption, pointing people to the glorified and risen Christ so that like the people of Lydda, they turn to the Lord, or like the people of Joppa they believed in the Lord. It is sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that we have the privilege of doing as the Holy Spirit empowers us and emboldens us and makes that work effective.


Physical healing is always temporary. Aeneas and Dorcas both eventually died. Both his healing and her raising were examples of Peter doing the works that Jesus did (which Jesus said would happen), and yet Peter was able to be part of something even greater than Jesus did – He could preach the gospel to their cities and pray with them to receive the Holy Spirit – something that could only happen because Jesus went back to his Father.


Repentance and salvation is greater than physical healing because it produces the best and most permanent results - in salvation, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is ours; in salvation, we are guaranteed eternal healing – physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually; we are new creations – the old is gone; there is no more condemnation for sin; we’re adopted into the family of God as one of his own children who will receive an inheritance from him; in salvation, we instantly become citizens of the kingdom of heaven and our hope isn’t driven by local or global politics; in salvation, what God thinks about Jesus is what he thinks about us; in salvation our past is bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus and we are no longer under the wrath of God; in salvation we find that even the worst sins can be forgiven; in salvation, the promises made to Israel as the people of God all throughout scripture now apply to you as well; in salvation Jesus’ earthly mission to seek and save the lost is accomplished; in salvation, your righteousness isn’t based on how good a christian you’ve been or now many sweaters you made for the widows in Joppa – it is based on the perfect righteousness of Christ; in salvation, our spirits which were dead in sin are brought to life by the Spirit of Christ who gives life! … and Luke 15:10 says that heaven explodes with joy when a lost sinner repents and turns to Jesus.

So dear Christian – If your roots are there. If your roots go down deep into what exactly Jesus came to be and do in his living, dying, and rising, to seek and save the lost and daily transform us by his grace, then let's not be afraid to courageously, obediently, and faithfully pray with the kind of faith that believes Jesus is still at work in and through us today.


[ 012 ] So as we close in prayer today, I’ll give you a couple minutes to spend with the Lord before you rush off into the rest of your afternoon, and here’s what I’m going pray –


  1. Thank you for still working! I praise you Jesus that you are still at work. I praise you that you are not done transforming lives by your glorious grace.

  2. Confession: I confess that I don’t always go about my days as if you are alive in me. I don’t live as if you may want to speak or act through me. Forgive me Lord for trusting myself more than I trust you.

  3. All glory to king Jesus – Lord, continue to transform our lives for your glory. Not so that people talk about us, or our church, or our gifts, or even about how incredible our faith is – Lord transform our lives, give us courage and boldness and faith, so that people see what you’ve done in us, and turn to you.