The following sermon was preached on the Lord’s Day March 26, 2023.
The Plundering of Satan’s Kingdom at Lydda & Sharon (sermon manuscript)
The place itself is located on the coast inland from Joppa. In ancient times Lydda was a town on the plain of Sharon, called “pasturelands” in 1 Chronicles 5:16. The kings were said to keep their herds there (1 Chronicles 27:29). From near this place was the Shunnamite likely taken captive (Song of Songs 2:1). Later in time the place called Lydda was the very place that Richard I of England called “Richard the Lionheart” visited during the Crusades (Crusade #3) and built a church there in honor of Saint George. Thus, the place itself was one of significance, yet to many obscure.
It is often the case that many presuppose that because the account is short and the place is obscure to the reader that it is not significant. Besides this, if the ministry is not to a certain group of people (I.e. the Gentiles) that it is not an important work; let alone if it is to a small number or even one individual! But there are people in obscure places who are targets of Satan who are kept from physical and spiritual good and God has sent his ministers there!
Patrick Schreiner writes,
“A cosmic and apocalyptic battle unfolds on the pages of Acts. To domesticate it does violence to a plain reading of the text”(Mission of the Triune God, p.39)
The four verses of our text are largely neglected in preaching and commenting, reflecting a disbelief in their importance and that of the mission of God on earth that is aimed at plundering the kingdom of Satan wherever he has taken hold. The fact that there were saints in Lydda (v.32) God’s Son would defend them together, and individually (v.33–34) and gather others to them (v.35).
The account here at Lydda teaches several lessons: (1) the sweeping work; (2) the specified example; and (3) the substantial nature —of plundering Satan’s kingdom.
The Sweeping Work of Plundering Satan’s Kingdom
The Lord is working to plunder Satan’s kingdom in other places and through other ministries other than that of Saul’s ministry and places God is sending him.
“Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9,32)
We have been engrossed in the ministry of Saul to this point, but to remind us that God is working far more expansively and diversely that supposed, not merely in moving from one ministry to another, we are shown that he is clearly working at the same time through various ministries to the people that they are themselves called (”here and there among them all”). This is vital in respect to Saul’s inclination to run toward the Jews instead of the Gentiles. Saul informing Luke of these things has recorded for us here what he likely learned as a lesson, that God is working far more expansively and diversely to plunder Satan’s kingdom than we may imagine. We are then not called to save the world, but to do our duty given by God’s grace in the place where we are called, trusting that God is doing the same work throughout his whole world that he has claimed through Christ.
The Specific Example of Plundering Satan’s Kingdom
Likely informed by Saul, Luke gives a specific example of the plundering of Satan’s kingdom at Lydda near Sharon.
“There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.” (Acts 9,33–34)
Aeneas means “praiseworthy” and a praiseworthy account we have here. He is described essentially as “paralyzed” (paralyomai) which occurs in five contexts in the New Testament (Luke 5:18, 24; Acts 8:7; 9:33; Heb 12:12). The first two examples are of the Paralytic lowered through the roof. The second is in Acts 8:7 which reads,
“For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.” (Acts 8,7)
And besides our reference here in 9:33, it is finally translated as “weak” in Hebrews 12:12 as follows,
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12,12–13)
The man in our text is weak, disabled, and specifically paralyzed. He cannot move apart from a miracle. Peter does not say here, come to me and be healed. Nor does he say to do something and be healed. He distinctly states “Jesus Christ is healing you.” And on the basis of what he observes of the work of God, he commands him to rise and make up his bed (v.34). When we make our bed, we do so because we don’t plan to get in it for a while. A paralytic at this time would roll his bed up here instead of make it. But he would only do so because he wouldn’t need to be laying in it at all or for a while. Two things stood up against this man beyond his physical ailment: (1) the lack of duty (for he could perform nothing outside of his condition); (2) the despondency of success (for he could hope to succeed at nothing outside of his bed). On the basis of what Peter observed the Lord doing, he commands this man to arise to his duties and do so with hope of success—both things which are challenges to those able to walk, make their beds, and act today.
When Paul says in Hebrews that we are to strengthen our weak knees, he is saying the same to believers on the basis of Christ’s gospel work. This man “rose” on the basis of what Peter observed and thus commanded. God calls believers today to rise to duty and out of the despondency of success similarly now. The quote that is made in Hebrews comes from Isaiah 35:3 which is in context with the promise to see the glory and majesty of God followed by encouragement to the anxious in heart to “be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance…”
In other words, the example of praiseworthy Aeneas is that very thing—an example for us all to (negatively) not neglect our duties and (positively) arise out of despondency of success. This takes action on our part, but it is on the basis of the gospel of one who rose from the grave. What a noble example! It points to Jesus alone, as R.C. Sproul well states,
“Every Christian is in the process of sanctification. No two of us begin our Christian walk at the same point; each of us starts out carrying unique baggage. It may take ten years for one to get rid of something that another was rid of in the first three months. No two Christians grow at the same pace. We are to be a fellowship of patient people practicing a love that covers a multitude of sins, because we are altogether growing up into the fullness of Christ into conformity to the image of Christ. He has already saved us from our sins, but He is of sin the double cure. Not only does He remove our guilt and take it upon Himself, but He works with and in us to change us, to bring us from spiritual infancy to maturity, to wholeness. None of us are totally whole. We all have deficiencies in our character, in our obedience, in our physical bodies, and in every other way. We look forward to heaven when we will cross through the veil to the day of our glorification, when we will receive our final wholeness, where sin and all its effects will be removed from us forever. We will live forever free of the ravages of sin.A taste of that was given to the man who had been paralyzed. Every Christian has points of spiritual paralysis. We may be able to walk unaided. We may even be able to make our own beds. But there are certain things that grip us with fear and paralyze us from being all that God has created us to be, and that is the point at which we are not whole people. Yet Peter did not hang up a shingle and say, “Come to me and I will make you whole.” No, he said, “Jesus the Christ is making you whole.” Whatever condition you are in today, if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, He is making you whole so that you can make your bed and walk. ”(Acts – Expositional Commentary, p.145)
The Substantial Nature of Plundering Satan’s Kingdom
As a result of this miracle we see something about Saul’s conversion and our own. We have not left the subject of conversion. We are getting another facet of the glorious work of the gospel in one sinner’s life who changed the world. And we see this aspect in the last verse of our text:
“And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” (Acts 9,35)
This “turning to the Lord” is the picture here. Conversion involves regeneration (9:1–9); faith (9:10–19); repentance (9:20–31); but it has a depth to it that reveals something more. What happens at conversion is that Jesus Christ is plundering the kingdom of Satan in that place and upon those people on his earth by his authority!
The figure is stated clearly in 2 Corinthians 3,
“For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2Corinthians 3,11–18)
Conversion is a beautiful event, glorious, and what makes it so substantial and weighty is that Satan is losing one of his followers and these people are now being transformed (healed) from one degree of glory to another. This happens by taking off a double-veil, one that lies over the mind and one that lies over the heart. This veil is said to be destroyed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Isaiah 25 says,
“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”” (Isaiah 25,7–9)
The miracle performed upon Aeneas became the occasion of conversion for the residents of Lydda and Sharon (v.35). They “turned to the Lord” (Ibid). This meant the double-veil upon their mind and heart was removed. It was put there by the god of this world, but removed by the true God over this world.
Paul’s figure in 2 Corinthians 3 shows like Saul’s scales coming off his eyes, and being enabled to see again, these people were now made to behold Christ. In Exodus 34:34 the figure original to Paul’s thought described Moses entering the Tent of Meeting to worship the Lord with unveiled face. So every believer now is put into the Tent where they meet with God in Christ. He has made us part of his temple, and he is building, not merely building, but building in such a way that the gates of hell do not prevail. He is triumphing over Satan, and conquering him every time he rescues a people by conversion from the grasp of his kingdom. Thus, we see the weight or substantialness of conversion. He takes the veil off our minds through the doctrine of the gospel, and the veil off our hearts through the power of the Spirit (Owen), and thus we rise and walk, making up our beds that held us continually in dereliction of duty and despondency of success. We are now our Lord’s, and He is ours! (cf. Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3; 7:10).