Acts 9:42

ESV And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
NIV This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
NASB It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
CSB This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
NLT The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.
KJV And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

What does Acts 9:42 mean?

This is a seemingly innocuous verse with a heavy theological consideration behind it. Peter has just raised Tabitha from Joppa from the dead. Her resurrection gives authentication to Peter's message about Jesus. Many are saved.

The question that arises is, did God cause Tabitha to die so that Peter could raise her and people would be saved? This is a nuance of the so-called "problem of evil," which considers whether God ever causes suffering for the sake of a better good.

Certainly, God does redeem suffering. Our assurance is the perhaps overused but no less true Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Whatever a Jesus-follower experiences, no matter how horrible, can be used for good if we trust God.

But does God cause suffering so that He can use it for good, or does He just allow suffering to happen because of the free will of humanity? That depends on the situation. Certainly, God disciplines His own, which is unpleasant and may involve suffering (Hebrews 12:5–11). In other situations, He allows humans, or demons (Job 1:6, 12; 2:6; Ephesians 6:12), to cause suffering because we do have a measure of free will. This must be exercised as an expression of our nature as humans. This is the difference between the permissive will of God—that all things are under His control—and the efficacious will of God, by which He directly dictates what will happen. All things are under His sovereign will.

The story of Tabitha seems an innocuous setting for such a heavy debate. She is raised from the dead, her friends are happy, and God is glorified as people listen to Peter's message about Jesus. The situation is much different when the dead are not raised, or a wound is not healed, or a wrong is not righted in our lifetime. Romans 8:28 only brings comfort for those who "love God" and "are called according to his purpose." It also goes on to explain a large portion of what God's purpose is: that those who are His be "conformed to the image of His Son" (see Romans 8:29–30). If we trust God enough to value His perspective over our own, we will see the good. That doesn't mean we won't suffer. It does mean we can find comfort in the suffering and ultimately justice, peace, and full healing in eternity (see also 2 Corinthians 4:7–18; James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:3–9).
What is the Gospel?
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