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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original tounless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
One question every believer can ask him/her self is, “What can I do to help my church, my community, or the people around me?” And, if you think the answer is, “nothing,” or what you have in you to bring to the table of gifts doesn’t amount to much, the Bible tells us something different.
God has placed inside each of us special skills, gifts, and abilities, and each one is important, even if it’s just sewing clothes. Not only are they important, but their main purpose is not to just benefit us individually, but our gifts are a source of ministry, a way to serve those around us. When we are talking about “faithful disciples,” we are talking about people who put into use and practical application the things God has instilled in them and teachings of Jesus Christ, whom they follow, to outflow into the lives of others.
This is most evident in the things they do, with the ultimate end results being to help build up the church and edifying one another, which in turn brings glory to His name. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God… let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ…”
Such was the faith of people like Dorcas. Her work testified of the Christ in her. The impact of her love and compassion for her fellow man was felt in the things she did for others. Therefore, in today’s lesson, we will examine her faith in action along with other noted disciples, and the apostle Peter as well.
Faithful Disciple #1 – Dorcas, a woman of good works
Acts 9:36 “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.”
The story of “Tabitha,” or “Dorcas,” which speaks of the same person, (The first name given is her Aramaic name, and the second, her Greek name. Both versions carry the same meaning of the word “gazelle.”) is a story of a woman who is first described as being a “disciple.” A disciple is a student or learner of a particular teacher or set of teachings one chooses to follow. And as such, this one seeks to live out these teachings in his/her life.
Used only here in its feminine form, the “disciple” Tabitha was a devoted woman whose life expressed the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, whom she had committed herself to following Him completely in faith.
It was her faith on the inside that moved her to become a person of action that was more others-centered than self-centered. People were on her mind and in her heart and she worked with the gifts and resources she had to help whoever she could. So much so, that she is described as being “full of good works and almsdeeds.” She was giving and charitable and had a big heart towards those in need.
Recently, I published an article titled, The One Another Concept. In it I wrote:
“Serving people is reaching into their world where their need is pleading for help. Sometimes that need is physical for things such as food or warmth, but at other times it’s a hug or a buddy saying, “I’m with you through this.” All of it is driven by concern about what someone else is going through. It’s not sitting in the seat of judgment over circumstance but it’s viewing them with the same compassionate eyes that caused Jesus to care about people the way He did.
This kind of compassion toward others causes movement. One can’t see the struggle and not want to help with the need. It’s recognizing, Lord, I may not be able to help everybody in everything, but for this need, I can stretch out my hand, my heart, and my time to care about another soul.” (Word For Life Says)
And, this precisely describes Dorcas and the faith she lived out in her local church and community in an effort to love, serve, and have compassion on people by “doing good” to them the way Jesus did (compare Acts 10:38).
Acts 9:37 “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.”
Jesus once taught, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work,” (John 9:4). While we are on this side of glory, we are given time and opportunity to use what God has given us to do our part for His Kingdom. While we are alive and have breath in our bodies we have a chance to do “works” that can be beneficial in not only helping others but through that, also sharing the gospel story.
Today is the day of influence. Today is the day to effect change. Today is the day to touch lives in a blessed and positive way in the name of Jesus Christ. Today is the day we are given. Tomorrow is not promised to any one of us.
With that in mind, there will come a time for all work to stop. The things we want to do for others can only be done while we are alive in the moment of today. When it is our time to pass off the scene, works stop and opportunities cease.
One day, that’s what happened with Dorcas. This all appears to be a sudden turn of events in her life and the community where so many people seemed to rely on this dear woman. Yet, and still, she was not excluded from the harsh reality of the truth: one day we will all die, that is unless Jesus comes back first, but that’s a whole other lesson.
We are told, “she was sick, and died.” Whatever her illness was, it was too much for her, and she was overcome by it and lost her life in the process.
“Whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.” What occurred next was normal, and then again, not so normal according to the custom of the day. Washing the body was a thing they would do in order to prepare the body for a proper burial. This is something unaccustomed to most of us today as we don’t have direct dealings with this part of the process.
But, laying her body in an upper chamber was not normal. In that culture, and particularly, of that time, the entire burial process would have been done as soon as possible, without delay. Remember when they took Jesus off the cross, Joseph of Arimathea immediately took Him, wrapped him, and placed His body in the tomb (see Matthew 27:57-60). It was all a very quick process.
So, why the delay? Some speculate thinking there may not have been enough time. But, the better answer may come in the next verse.
Faithful Disciple #2 – The Joppa Disciples, people of action
Acts 9:38 “And 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.”
In the verses prior to our lesson text, something amazing in the nearby town of “Lydda” occurred. While the apostle Peter was visiting the region, he came to the area of Lydda where the saints dwelt. Arriving there, he became aware of a certain man by the name of Aeneas who was sick of the palsy and bed bound for eight years. In the name of Jesus Christ, Peter proclaimed wholeness and healing over the man, and immediately he was made better (read Acts 9:32-35). That miracle not only inspired others to turn to the Lord, but good news like this apparently traveled hard and fast, reaching places like Joppa, which was approximately only 10-12 miles away.
This is probably how these Joppa disciples found out that Peter was not far from them and their situation of dealing with the death of their dearly departed sister in Christ, Dorcas. I have to believe this is all due to the providence of God at work to have Peter in the area healing people at this exact moment when they needed him the most.
Many believe it was their hope that Peter would be able to do something wonderful and miraculous here too that prevented them from immediately burying her according to custom. Therefore, these faithful Joppa disciples went to work and became a people of action. They could have shrugged it off and declared she will be missed. They could have said, “Well, that’s life,” and accepted what was. But, it appears their faith wouldn’t let them settle for that option, especially when there may be an opportunity for a different outcome so close by. They had hope for something more. They had to at least try, not only for Dorcas’s sake but for those in the community who probably have come to rely on this dear woman for help and support. So, “they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.”
The urgency of their mission and Peter’s answering their request may be found in the condition of Dorcas. If their call wasn’t answered immediately for his coming, they would have no choice but to go forth with the burial process due to decay and stench.
Once, where we were living, I walked over to my closet and noticed a smell that seemed out of the ordinary. Days went by and the smell increased until it really started to permeate a certain area of the room. But the problem was, we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. By this time, we knew something had died, but where. Eventually, putting my nose to our wall and tracing the smell, we found out that a squirrel had somehow became wedged in our wall and died there. There was no hope for the little guy.
The faith of the disciples drove them to move as quickly as possible and urged Peter to do the same before all hope was gone.
Faithful Disciple #3 – Peter, willing to be used by God and people
Acts 9:39 “Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.”
We are not told what time of the day it is. If Peter had a chance to rest and get a good meal in from the works and healing he already was doing in the area. But, it didn’t seem to matter. Willingly, and without hesitation, “Peter arose and went with them.” Immediately, he allowed himself to be moved from where he was and what he was doing to see to the needs of other people.
In the same article I referred to earlier, I also wrote:
“When we are thinking along the lines of ministering to people, it will only happen when we consider one another. It only happens when we step out of self for a moment, take our eyes off us, and see what another may be going through, and taking the time to step into their world for a minute to edify, serve, or help that one to bear something they need help with at the moment.” (The One Another Concept/Word For Life Says)
They needed Peter right at that moment. Mimicking Jesus, He allowed himself to be spent and called into service for others regardless of what his current needs were (ex. John 4:31-34).
Arriving on the scene, he could see the sorrow expressed at the passing of this dear sister. Unlike on some occasions where professional mourners are used, it appears those touched by her life, were gathered together in genuine lamentations with hearts filled with true sadness. There, in the upper chamber where she had lain, “the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made.”
Weeping and showing or speaking of one’s works are not at all unusual at any funeral. The sorrow felt in this community over this loss was real, particularly for those who may have received aid and services due to her acts of kindness and good works, such as the widows present in that room.
It is only natural, at the passing of a loved one, to want to show or tell of how that individual has touched one’s life. Think along the lines of a eulogy. Although they spoke no words, the widow’s showing of the garments was almost like a visual eulogy that praised the works Dorcas did “while she was with them.”
Acts 9:40-41 “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. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.”
Peter’s response was to “put them all forth.” When Jesus was being ridiculed at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, he too put people outside the atmosphere was He was about to perform this great miracle (see Matthew 9:25; Mark 5:40; Luke 8:54). Peter wasn’t being ridiculed like Jesus was, but with everything that was going on around him, he followed the footsteps of Jesus and eliminated all unnecessary distractions around him so that he could focus on heaven’s purpose in him being there.
After that, he “kneeled down, and prayed.” We don’t know how long he prayed or the exact words he used, but he went to God on behalf of these people and on behalf of this woman who lost her battle with sickness. He must’ve petitioned heaven to help him do what he had never done before: raise one back to life. Oh, he had healed people before and even witnessed Jesus on several occasion call life to come back to where death has moved in but, he, himself, had never performed such a feat. This would not be done in his own strength. He needed the power and the Spirit of God to work through him and in this situation. Therefore, he prayed.
The very next thing he did was, “turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise.” By the authority endowed to him from on high, he took command over death and spoke life. Calling her by her Aramaic name, he commanded her to arise.
The response was immediate. “She opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” Extraordinary results for extraordinary faith! The impossible becomes possible when faith is yielded in total surrender and dependence upon God alone. As the previously dead woman awakens, he grabs her by the hand and lifts her up and presents her “alive.”
We can only assume that when those faithful disciples of Joppa went to find Peter, this was the result they were hoping for. Can we imagine how the joy must have spread? Can we imagine the air of wonder that had to have taken over that place and that city?
Acts 9:42 “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.”
A wondrous miracle was done. The dead was raised back to life right here in their own hometown of Joppa and word got out quickly and “many believed in the Lord.” Faithful disciples are representatives of the Christ they follow and when they operate in their faith in the truest of form, it creates change and impact wherever they go. It may not always be raising the dead or healing the sick, but when one is so filled up with Jesus and that faiths overflows to touch the lives around in, it convinces people about the God we serve; it touches hearts to believe in Him.
Faithful disciples can make faithful disciples when what the Lord put in us is expressed through service. Because Peter was willing to leave Lydda and travel to Joppa; and, because Peter was willing to be used by God and man, a great miracle not only took over Dorcas, but it’s power stretched beyond the borders of that upper chamber to the ordinary men, women, and children of Joppa and souls got saved – the greatest miracle of all.
Acts 9:43 “And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.”
Deciding to stay on a bit in Joppa, possibly to help with the new growth of the church there, Peter makes the choice to stay with a man by the name of “Simon” who was a “tanner” by trade. This is somewhat out of character of most Jewish people of the day because tanners dealt with dead bodies of animals in making hides and the like which would normally be considered as an unclean occupation, therefore making those who come into contact with them unclean as well under the Mosaic Law.
Perhaps this too is the providence of God in preparing Peter for his next leg of ministry as he will be used to reach out to people he would not normally consider candidates for the kingdom of God: the Gentiles (Acts 10).
In these three examples, we see a faithful disciple as working (Dorcas), as people of action in their seeking and going (the Joppa Disciples), and willing to be used by God and man, eventually bringing forth a miracle that makes an impact for the kingdom of God (Peter).
One thing they all had in common is they are people who were willing to think outside the box of themselves and be moved into service for the benefit of other people. All of them allowed their faith to be used to do something in the world around them and we should, too.
Standard Print PDF: Faithful Disciples Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: Faithful Disciples Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: Faithful Disciples Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: Faithful Disciples Memory Verse
Below are Activities/Resources/Links to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Dorcas is Raised from the Dead” (The ideas are numerous here for this lesson. Have an introduction to the lesson using needle and thread [click for explanation], picture slideshow or a sewing project are all great ways to really bring about this lesson. Enjoy!)
“Dorcas Sunday School Lesson, Activities, and Ideas” (Foam and plastic needle craft. Enjoy!)
“Peter and Dorcas” (With fun activities and crafts ideas. Enjoy!)