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New Testament Types in Acts: Part 13

Dec 09, 2006

Toward the end of Acts 9, we are given an interlude in the life and ministry of Saul/Paul. Luke turns his attention upon Peter to show us some of the miracles that he did in those days. These miracles give us still another type of the two works of Christ. In fact, they form an extension of the Old Testament type in Jonah once again.

In Acts 9:34 Peter's name is mentioned for the 23rd time in the book of Acts. The number 23 has to do with death and life, and so we find him raising Aeneas from his sick bed and then raising Tabitha, or Dorcas, from the dead. Tabitha is Aramaic and Dorcas is Greek for a gazelle or antelope.

These examples provide us with the types of the first work of Christ, or the first part of Jonah's ministry, where he became a type of Christ in the heart of the earth.

Raising Tabitha from the dead was a type of the resurrection yet to come, even as Jesus' resurrection proves that we ourselves will be raised. More than that, in this passage Peter's name is mentioned another three times, bringing the total in the story to 26, which means "the gospel of Christ." (See Biblical Mathematics, Keys to Scripture Numerics, by Ed F. Vallowe.)

Thus, what starts out in death, moves to resurrection, and then on to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. This was manifested in the life of Jonah, the "dove," who was in turn a type of the two doves in Leviticus 14.

Jonah's first role was to flee to Tarshish from the port of Joppa (Jonah 1:3). And so Peter, too, raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa (Acts 9:36). The main difference is that while Jonah had to leave Joppa to go out into the sea in order to portray the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter simply portrayed it in Joppa.

Then Peter was led to stay with Simon the Tanner (Acts 9:43) for a season. The fact that he was a tanner (of hides) fits into the symbolism of the story, because it connects his profession in Joppa with Dorcas, the "antelope." No doubt Simon had tanned many hides of dead antelopes. But Dorcas was one "antelope" that would be raised from the dead.

Peter's given name was also Simon, so Simon was staying with Simon. Simon means "hearing," and this indicates a double witness in hearing the voice of God. This sets up the next great type in Acts 10, the story of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and how he was instrumental in portraying the type of the second work of Christ--preaching the gospel to all nations (as the number 26 indicates).

In this story we find Peter a bit reluctant to go to a Roman centurion, even as Jonah was reluctant to go to Nineveh. In fact, both Peter and Jonah were taken by surprise when the Holy Spirit manifested in non-Israelites. Jonah, of course, was downright unhappy about it, but Peter seems to have been pleasantly surprised and certainly learned a valuable lesson about the impartial God, the God of the whole earth (Isaiah 54:5).

Cornelius had evidently already been a convert to God through Old Testament revelation (Acts 10:1, 2). We do not know if he had yet met Philip who had either moved there recently or was still on his way there. But Cornelius was praying in Caesarea at the ninth hour of the day (10:3) when an angel appeared to him.

Recall from Acts 3:1 that the ninth hour was called "the hour of prayer," because it was the time of the evening sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem. Likewise, if you will recall, the evening sacrifice was a type of the second work of Christ, even as the morning sacrifice was a type of the first work of Christ. So Cornelius' revelation is identified with the second work of Christ--preaching the gospel to all nations.

The angel told Cornelius to dispatch men to Joppa and look for a man named Simon, called Peter, who was staying with a tanner that was also named Simon (10:5, 6). This was a very specific revelation and therefore quite unusual. If God had been training these servants, He probably would have told them to go to Joppa and await further revelation. Normally, God leads a step at a time in order to teach us to live by the moment. But in this case, the men apparently did not have the ability to hear God's voice for themselves, and so they had to get all of their instructions at the start of their journey.

It took a day for them to travel to Joppa. The next day, just before they found Simon Tanner's house, Peter went up to the roof of the house to pray at noon, the sixth hour (10:9). There he had his well-known vision of the "great sheet" being lowered to the earth, containing many unclean animals. We read in verses 13-15,

" (13) And a voice came to him, 'Arise, Peter, kill and eat!' (14) But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' (15) And again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy'."

Verse 17 says that "Peter was greatly perplexed" about this. In other words, he did not understand its meaning. Was this to be taken literally? Was God telling him that unclean food was now cleansed and could be eaten? Apparently, Peter had not understood Jesus to teach such a thing, for he was still perplexed. He did NOT say, "Ah, yes, now I remember what Jesus said!"

Just then the men arrived at the gate, asking for Peter. At the same time, the Spirit told Peter that three men were looking for him, and that he should go downstairs, meet with them, and go with them without misgivings (10:19-21). So the next day, Peter accompanied them to Caesarea. By this time, Peter understood the meaning of his vision, for he told Cornelius and the others in verses 28 and 29,

(28) . . . You yourselves know how unlawful [temple laws, or traditions of men] it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (29) That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. And so I ask for what reason you have sent for me.

When Peter heard Cornelius' story about his angelic visit, he said in verses 34 and 35,

(34) . . . "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, (35) but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."

And so, while Peter was preaching the word to them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening (10:44-46). This apparently took Peter by surprise once again. It is one thing to not call them unclean, but God went further than that by baptizing them in the Holy Spirit--even without Peter laying hands upon them!

Then Peter baptized them with water as well (10:47, 48). We are not told the mode of baptism here, but we do know that there was an Old Testament precedent for baptizing non-Israelites. It is the story of Naaman, the Syrian, who was a leper healed when he was baptized seven times with water in accordance with the laws of lepers (Lev. 14:7). The law specifically states there that the ex-leper was to be "sprinkled seven times with water."

In Acts 10, Peter acted as the priest inspecting these "ex-lepers" whom God had healed and cleansed. No longer would these non-Israelites have to be identified as unclean (Lev. 13:45). Leprosy is a type of mortality (death). It was now revealed through Peter that non-Israelites were not to be treated as lepers. God was impartial, the savior of all men, the God of the whole earth.

This revelation should have been known to Jonah, but his nationalism blinded him. Now it was revealed to Peter, to Paul, and to us.

This is the thirteenth part of a series titled "New Testament Types in Acts." To view all parts, click the link below.

New Testament Types in Acts

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones