Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms deeds 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.
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.
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.
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.
And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
The Bible gives us many examples of godly saints. Their lives are recorded to show us how we ought to live.
Dorcas, who was full of good works and alms deeds that she did, is one of these examples.
There is something striking about the example of Dorcas. She was one of the few in history who were miraculously raised from the dead. All miracles are signs that point to the great work of God in Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. As we consider the miracle of Dorcas’ resurrection, we must see the particular work of salvation to which this miracle points. And we must see the connection between this miracle and the godly example we find in Dorcas. This will encourage us to follow her godly example.
There are several things we learn about Dorcas.
First, she lived in Joppa. Joppa was a major seaport dating back to the time of the Philistines. In this city there was a Christian church. The first Christians probably came to Joppa at the time of the great persecution in Jerusalem instigated by Saul (Acts 8:1). It is quite possible that the evangelist Philip labored here for a while. To this church Dorcas belonged.
Secondly, we gather that Dorcas was a widow without children. This is suggested by the fact that she was closely associated with the widows of the congregation. At her death “all the widows stood by him [Peter] weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.” In addition to this, there is no mention of Dorcas’ family, not even at her death.
The most outstanding thing about Dorcas was her discipleship. “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple….”
A disciple is a follower of Jesus.
There are especially three things that characterize a disciple.
First, a disciple believes the teachings of Jesus, which are the sole content of the Bible.
Secondly, a disciple is one who clings to Jesus and His atoning death for all his salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” John 14:6). A true disciple clings to Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father.
Thirdly, a disciple is one who follows Jesus’ godly example. Jesus taught us how to live and serve God. He is the example of godliness. A disciple follows Jesus’ godly example and does so in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Discipleship is a gift of God’s grace. We are not disciples of Jesus naturally. To be a disciple requires a new birth that transforms us by God’s grace into the very image of God.
Dorcas was just such a disciple.
Her discipleship was evident especially from the fact that she was “full of good works and alms deeds which she did.”
Dorcas was full of good works. Dorcas busied her life doing good. This is an important mark of a disciple. One may acknowledge the truth of Jesus’ teachings from the Bible. He may make a beautiful confession of Jesus as his Savior. But if he is not full of good works, his confession is a fraud. He is no disciple of Jesus. Dorcas was full of good works.
Dorcas’ good works were primarily “alms deeds which she did.” Alms deeds are works of mercy performed for those in distress. Literally the word is “mercy deeds.” And these alms deeds consisted at least in part of making coats and garments for others. Of these good works of mercy Dorcas was full. Her whole life revolved around helping others in distress.
Dorcas is set before us here as an example of true discipleship.
When we think of examples of discipleship we might overlook Dorcas and focus our attention on great theologians, missionaries to foreign countries, or martyrs.
But then the Lord sets before us also a Dorcas. She probably had no great, outstanding abilities. But the abilities she had she used. She had the ability to work with her hands the things that are good. By grace she had a heart full of compassion for those in distress. And so she labored diligently to help the needy, away from the limelight in her little corner of the church in Joppa.
Here we see true greatness. The measure of greatness is not how many people you can influence or bring under your control. The measure of greatness is how much you minister to the needs of others. Jesus made this clear to His disciples in Matthew 20:25-28. Jesus Himself possesses this true greatness, in that He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28).
May we by God’s grace show this same greatness.
Dorcas was raised from the dead!
We do not know the exact circumstances of Dorcas’ death. All we know is that she was sick and died. Upon her death she was washed and laid in an upper chamber.
The saints of the church of Joppa sent for Peter, who at this time was in Lydda, only nine miles away. Their intention was probably not for Peter to raise Dorcas from the dead, but rather to bring comfort to the church at the loss of Dorcas.
Instead of preaching a funeral sermon and helping the church of Joppa bring Dorcas to the grave, Peter raised her from the dead. Being brought to the upper room, Peter dismissed the widows that mourned over Dorcas. He kneeled down and prayed. Then Peter addressed her by name and told her to arise. Opening her eyes she sat up and gave her hand to Peter, who lifted her up and presented her alive to the saints and widows of the church.
What an astounding miracle!
This miracle is a sign or picture of a better resurrection to come.
The tendency may be to focus our attention on the physical resurrection of Dorcas and wish the same for our own loved ones who die. But don’t forget that Dorcas’ resurrection was merely a return to this life, requiring her to die again.
Her miraculous resurrection is a sign that points us to a better resurrection to come. This better resurrection is the resurrection that will take place in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This resurrection is not a return to this life but an advancement. The Lord will raise His people to the life of heaven. He will give them a body adapted to live in the new, heavenly creation. He will bring them into the new creation to live forever with God in perfect joy. To that better resurrection the resurrection of Dorcas points.
We are taught by the miracle of Dorcas’ resurrection that all those who live as true disciples of Jesus Christ, as Dorcas did, will in the day of Christ be raised unto eternal life.
Let us understand that all will be raised in the day of Jesus Christ, but not all will be raised to eternal life. When the Lord returns, there will be a general resurrection. Jesus spoke of this inJohn 5:28, 29: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Notice that those who have done evil will be raised unto damnation. They will receive a body fit for hell. And they will be consigned to hell both body and soul for eternal torment for their sins.
Only those who have done good will be raised unto life. The good that Jesus mentions is the good that Dorcas did as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It is the good that comes from living by faith in Jesus Christ. It is the good that is motivated by gratitude to God for His free salvation in Jesus Christ. Those who have done that good will be raised in the day of the Lord unto eternal life.
This resurrection unto life is a reward for the good that His disciples have accomplished. Jesus makes this clear in Revelation 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” The resurrection unto damnation is the proper reward of those who have done evil. But the resurrection unto life is God’s reward for those who have done good.
Please understand that the resurrection of life is not a reward of merit but of grace. A reward of merit is a reward that is earned. Certainly the good deeds of Jesus’ disciples do not merit the glories of the resurrection unto life. This is a reward of grace, that is, of God’s undeserved favor. The resurrection unto life has been earned by Jesus Christ on the cross for all that the Father has given Him. It is given as a gracious reward to Jesus’ disciples for the good works they do in the power of their Master.
Dorcas’ resurrection was certainly significant for the church of Joppa. They no doubt rejoiced at receiving her back from the dead to continue the good works she had done before. But, more importantly, her resurrection became the occasion for many to believe in Jesus Christ. The fact of her resurrection was spread abroad, and through it the gospel was graphically proclaimed. There is resurrection and life for the disciples of Jesus Christ. And God used it to bring many to faith.
Here we find the significance of Dorcas’ resurrection for us.
Let the gospel proclaimed through her resurrection encourage us as disciples to be full of good works, so that we may receive the crown of life.
And to those who are in unbelief, let them repent and turn to Jesus Christ to be His disciples.