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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

10. DORCAS - a kind Christian

"Dorcas… was always doing good and helping the poor" (Acts 9:36).

Luke is conscious of marginalised people in Luke-Acts. He makes us aware of the Lord's ministry to woman, and their ministry in his service (see Lk.7:34; 10:38-42). In a man's world, he opens his Gospel with a searchlight on Mary and Elizabeth (Lk.1-2). Mary, the mother of Jesus, calls herself 'the Lord's servant' (Lk.1:38).

Consider the person
Dorcas (which means 'Gazelle'; Tabitha in Aramaic) is only mentioned in Acts 9:36-43. She may have been a wealthy woman or, at least, one with connections with the wealthy. Some scholars suggest she was a convert of Philip the evangelist, who may have pioneered a church in Joppa. (That Philip undertook a far-reaching evangelistic tour is indicated by Acts 8:40.) Dorcas was known for her good works and kindness to the poor.

Study the Scriptures
God reveals a concern for orphans and widows in the Old Testament (see Psas.68:5; 146:9). In the Mosaic law God instructed his people to care for them (e.g., Dt.24:19-22; 26:12). The New Testament church sought to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (Jam.1:27; 1 Tim.5:3). Dorcas is an example of how the New Testament church applied the Scriptures in a positive, practical way. Married or not, she qualifies to be a woman of noble character (see Prov.31:10-31).

Ask questions

1. Acts teaches us that Christ continues his ministry by the power of his Spirit through his church, which is his body. How can we be the hands of the Lord?

2. Dorcas was Christ-like (compare Acts 9:38 with 10:38). She demonstrates her faith by her works (Jam.2:14-18).

3. Sometimes evangelical Christians are criticised for being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use. Is this true? Can we be afraid of 'good works'? (Consider Eph.2:8-10; Rev.19:8).

4. Although we are not saved by works, it is obvious that God expects his people to reflect his kindness (Mt.5:44-48). God recognises good deeds, and will judge Christian works. He knows the motive behind the things we do (Rom.2:6-11).

Apply some thoughts

1. More and more churches are developing social awareness, opening centres for care and counselling. What ministry could you and your church bring to your community?

2. What caring professions should Christians consider as a career or vocation?

3. Which Christian organisations are devoted to caring? How can we support them?

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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