Peter in Lydda: A man healed Part 1 of 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

March 25, 2014
Acts of the Apostles

32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.

My study of this short little lesson has convinced me that it is a wonderful passage and rich with meaning. I thank God for giving me the time to study and learn more about Him. I pray that He will bless me with the ability to rightly divide his Word.

With Paul home in Tarsus, the narrative focuses once more on Peter. He last appeared in connection with the Samaritan mission (8:14-25). Now he is participating in the greater Judean mission by evangelizing the coastal communities. Finally, he would witness to a Gentile, a key incident in establishing the mission “to the ends of the earth” (10:1-11:18). This small section about Peter’s witness to the coastal towns consists of two miracle stories: the healing of Aeneas (vv. 32-35) and the raising of Dorcas (vv. 36-43; Lesson III.D.2).

This passage can be viewed as a picture album featuring the ministry of Peter as a traveling preacher. As we ponder the pictures, there are three things impressed upon the mind, which we may deal with in ascending order; first, the communion of the saints; secondly, the operations of the Spirit; and thirdly, the victories of the Lord. The three things are found in the verses before us.

32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

Peter is described as passing throughout all quarters, which suggests a wide-ranging preaching tour. He stopped in Lydda to visit the saints there{2]. Christians are saints, or holy people; not only the eminent ones, like Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but every sincere professor of faith in Jesus Christ. We are not told just how there came to be Christians in Lydda. Perhaps it was the product of Philip’s ministry, since he would have passed through Lydda on his journey northward from Azotus to Caesarea (8:40{1]).

As mentioned in the introduction, there are three things that this passage impresses on the mind. We shall begin to analyze these beginning with the lowest level, that which is the simplest and most apparent; let us see what this passage reveals about the communion of saints; then moving to the next level, we will see what it reveals concerning the operations of the Spirit; and finally, we will look at the highest level to see what it reveals about the victories of the Lord.

First, what is there here concerning the communion of the saints? A careful reading of the story brings to light the influence of a man who is not named—the person from whom they learned about Jesus. We are likely to ask a simple and natural question, “Where did the saints at Lydda come from?” Let’s return to Chapter 8 and the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. The last verse reads, “But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” As we noted in the beginning paragraph, Lydda would have been one of the cities where Philip preached. He had preached in Samaria and a church had been formed. He had preached to the Ethiopian eunuch and had won him for Christ. He had been borne by the Spirit to Azotus, and then started preaching through the cities. It is probable that his preaching in Lydda had been the means of gathering together a number of those who believed in Christ. This is why I believe the saints in Lydda were the result of Philip’s preaching.

Peter now passed over the same ground, and entered into the result of Philip’s ministry. Wherever Peter went, he benefitted from the ministry of another. A ministry such as that which Peter exercised in Samaria would have been completely out of place had it not been for the preparatory work of Philip. If Philip was not the one who had originally evangelized the region, then the Christians who were living there may have been converted at Pentecost, or perhaps they were faithful believers who had been scattered far and wide by the great persecution. But there is no doubt that Philip the evangelist had ministered there.

The communion of saints always expresses itself in service. Wherever the apostle urges the saints to be true to the communion (spiritual union) or fellowship (association), the expression of communion must be in service of some kind. The church does not express its communion when it gathers together in assembly. The church expresses its communion, when in all types and kinds of manifold ministry it unites and ministers in helpfulness and love.

33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

At Lydda, presumably in the Christian community{3], Peter found a paralytic by the name of Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years. Luke does not say whether this man was a Christian, but the use of certain man to describe him means that he probably was not. In fact, Luke tells us very little about him. How old was he? Did he believe in Jesus Christ? Was he Jew or Gentile? These are things we would like to know.

In this verse, we can observe the operation of the Spirit. First of all there is evidence of the Spirit’s operation in the guidance of the apostle as he went throughout all quarters; to the saints at Lydda, to Joppa by the invitation of two men who represented the assembly who was in trouble because Dorcas was dead; then tarrying in the house of Simon the tanner. Nothing is stated about the activity of the Spirit. This man is traveling throughout all quarters, no longer because of persecution, for the church at this time had peace. Persecution will attack it again, soon enough. The apostles tarried in Jerusalem until they were driven out by persecution; but the period of persecution had passed for the moment. The Spirit was guiding this man throughout all quarters.

The working of the Spirit is manifested in the exercise of gifts; the gift of miracles, the healing of Aeneas; the raising of Dorcas. The gift of miracles is not the only gift to be found here, because as we study the story of Dorcas, we will discover that she was blessed to have the gift of “helps,” which is simply the gift of providing relief. When Dorcas was using her deft fingers to make garments, she was doing it in the power of that gift which the Holy Spirit had bestowed on her; just as surely as Peter raised Dorcas, and healed Aeneas, as the result of gifts bestowed by the Spirit.

Let us take the gifts He gives us, and use them, and not wish that we had some more spectacular gift, which He has wisely withheld from us. This is the age of the Spirit. We are to act, not in imitation of the methods of the apostolic age, but in obedience to the present work and power of the Holy Spirit.

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