Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



The Meaning Behind Miracles

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Acts 9:32–43

God uses different individuals and situations to reach people with the gospel. The means, however, always remains the same—it is God working through His humble and faithful servants to witness to others, sharing the biblical message of salvation in Christ.


The world today offers all kinds of substitutes for God’s work and God’s plan. The local bar becomes a substitute for the genuine fellowship experienced in the church family; meditation and positive thinking attempt to replace the peace of God found only through faith in Christ; the world’s answer to guilt is not the love of God through Christ, but through self-love—people are told to just accept themselves the way they are.


Even the church at large today offers shallow substitutes. Feel-good, self-help, positive-reinforcement messages are substituted for the preaching of the Bible. God-centered worship is replaced with man-centered needs and opinions. Business models have replaced biblical models for shepherding the church. Church leaders quote business principles more than they quote the apostles.


The book of Acts demonstrates very vividly that God’s work in and through the church is just that—God’s work, not ours. The book of Acts isn’t really the Acts of the Apostles, but the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and the early church.


In the closing verses of Acts 9, the apostle Peter reappears. He has been absent for several chapters, but he has an important role in the early church during this transition period. He is on stage, so to speak, for the next few chapters.


In chapter 5 we were told that many signs and wonders were being done through the apostles to prove their authenticity during this unique period of time. The rapid growth and expansion of the early church was due to the apostolic preaching of the gospel, but in these early days, the miracles performed by the apostles were used by God to validate their message.


Now let me pause long enough in our Wisdom Journey through the book of Acts to say once again that many people are still confused about this today. We need to understand that the miracles we see in the early church are associated with the apostles and their work. These signs and wonders had the important but temporary purpose of proving the apostles were messengers from God. Likewise, the miracles of Jesus were performed to prove He was the Son of God (Acts 2:22)—they validated His claims.


With the establishment of the church and the beginning of a new era, or dispensation, in God’s plan, it was necessary for the apostles to be authenticated as God’s true servants, bearing His message of salvation in Christ. This is what the miraculous works did, and this was crucial in this period before the divinely inspired Scriptures were completed.


Hebrews chapter 2 says this in verses 3 and 4:


It [the message of salvation] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard . . . by signs and wonders and various miracles.


Note that this is described in the past tense—the miracles were performed by those who literally heard the teaching of the Lord. Now that the Bible, the Word of God, is complete, the proof of a true messenger is not a miracle, but that person’s faithful adherence to the Word of God.


And by the way, to any healer or miracle worker who claims today to have the power of an apostle, I say, let’s just meet at the funeral home, and I will watch you raise the dead. Let’s stop holding “miracle meetings” where you “heal” high blood pressure and cast out the demon of arthritis. Let’s get down to the apostolic validation and watch you empty out a few coffins, like the apostles did.


The apostle Paul did not tell Pastor Timothy to perform a miracle but to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).


Now back to this transitional period of time, when signs and wonders were used by God to verify this brand-new gospel message in this brand-new church age. Here in Acts 9, we have two cases brought before Peter. And both of these cases involve what we might call “lost causes” that only God’s power could redeem.


We read in verse 32 that Peter came down to “the saints who lived in Lydda.” Lydda was a village northwest of Jerusalem. While in this village, Peter encounters a man who is described in verse 33 as “bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed.” We know nothing more about this man. In fact, we do not even know if he is a believer.


We are simply told that Peter says to this man, “Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” The Bible records, “Immediately he rose” (verse 34). Rising and then making up his bed was the evidence of this divine healing.


The impact of this miracle is given in verse 35: “All the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” So, Peter’s preaching about the Lord is accompanied by this miracle, and the entire village believes the gospel of Christ.


In verse 36 the scene shifts to Joppa, the Mediterranean seaport ten miles west of Lydda. You might remember a runaway prophet named Jonah who came here centuries earlier thinking he could outrun God.


In Joppa lives a follower of Jesus named Tabitha. This is her Aramaic name. In Greek the name is Dorcas. She is described as a gracious and godly believer, “full of good works and acts of charity.” During the time Peter is in Lydda, Tabitha dies. 


Instead of burial soon after death, which was the usual practice, Tabitha’s body is laid in an upper room, while two men from the church go to find Peter (verses 37-38). Now understand that in the book of Acts, we have no record of an apostle raising someone from the dead. But that is clearly what the disciples in Joppa have in mind.


When Peter arrives, he is taken to this upper room, where he finds a group of widows weeping and displaying garments Tabitha had made for them. Verse 40 says, “Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed.” It is likely that Peter is praying to discern the Lord’s will in this situation. And he evidently finds some sort of guidance from the Lord, because he gets up and says, “Tabitha, arise,” which is nearly identical to the words Jesus said to the little girl He raised from the dead in Mark chapter 5.


Verse 40 continues, “[Tabitha] opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” Peter then presents the woman alive to “the saints and widows.”


Keep in mind that Peter does not raise everybody from the dead in this village, just Tabitha. The reason for raising Tabitha from the dead is not because people are sad to lose her. Beloved, Jesus is displaying His power through Peter. This is also a little taste of the coming kingdom of the Messiah, King Jesus.


The raising of Tabitha has the same result as the earlier healing of the paralyzed man had in Lydda: “It became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord” (verse 42).


By the way, the raising of Tabitha from the dead is the last recorded miracle to come from the hand of the apostle Peter. His role is about to turn in a new direction—one that has great significance to us even today. And it begins with this little note in verse 43 that Peter “stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.”


Because of their contact with dead animals, tanners—like Simon here—were ceremonially unclean. They were avoided by most Jewish people. Peter is being prepared for the next great advancement in God’s program—taking the gospel to the unclean Gentiles. It will not come through overwhelming people with miracles but through preaching the gospel to the nations.


And to this day, that is your calling and mine—to make disciples of the nations as we proclaim the inspired, inerrant Word of God in the name of King Jesus, our Messiah and Lord.

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.