Acts Chapter Five

 

Read Acts 5:1-11

 

v1.  “BUT A CERTAIN MAN NAMED ANANIAS, WITH SAPPHIRA HIS WIFE, SOLD A POSSESSION.”

 

            Even though thousands were being baptized, all were of one mind and of one accord, everything wasn’t perfect in Jerusalem was it?  Should we expect anything different today?  No!  Any time we gather a group of people together, even with a common purpose, even when we’re pretty compatible, even when we’re working at living as we should and maintaining our relationships as we should there will always be problems and situations to deal with.  People were selling lands, houses, and other possessions to support the destitute Christians in Jerusalem.  They were no doubt being held high in the eyes of men and this couple decided to gather some of that glory for themselves.  But they didn’t want to part with the full value of what they sold; they wanted to keep part for themselves.

 

v2.  “AND KEPT BACK part OF THE PRICE, HIS WIFE ALSO BEING PRIVY to it, AND BROUGHT A CERTAIN PART, AND LAID it, AT THE APOSTLES’ FEET.”

 

            Ananias took the lead in this deception but Sapphira knew about and was part of the conspiracy.

 

v3.  “BUT PETER SAID, ANANIAS, WHY HATH SATAN FILLED THINE HEART TO LIE TO THE HOLY GHOST, AND TO KEEP BACK part OF THE PRICE OF THE LAND?”

 

            We don’t know how many days have passed since the beginning of the church but it hasn’t been long and sin has crept in.  Peter says that Satan has put this notion to lie to the Holy Spirit into the heart of Ananias, do we know how he did that?  Did Ananias have the power to resist Satan? 

 

I Corinthians 10:1313There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

 

Yes, he did or he wouldn’t have been punished by God.  God will not punish us for something over which we have no control but he expects us to conduct ourselves appropriately concerning those things over which we do have control.  We have control over what we do, say, think, etc.  We have to work at it but self control and self discipline is major part of living the Christian life. 

The devil made me do it doesn’t work as an excuse.  But Satan has influenced Ananias just like Judas.

 

Luke 22:3  THEN ENTERED SATAN INTO JUDAS SURNAMED ISCARIOT, BEING OF THE NUMBER OF THE TWELVE.”

 

            Why was this a sin?  After all, they are making a contribution to the Lord’s work at Jerusalem.  They even sold a possession; they initiated an action that they didn’t have to do.  Why was it a sin?  It was a sin because of the deception.  The commandments of the old law don’t apply to us today directly but God doesn’t change does he?  God’s attitude toward someone that would make a vow to him and break it or lie to him is the same today and 3000 years ago as man counts time.  Let’s observe our schoolmaster.

 

Deuteronomy 23:21-23  WHEN THOU SHALT VOW A VOW UNTO THE LORD THY GOD, THOU SHALT NOT SLACK TO PAY IT: FOR THE LORD THY GOD WILL SURELY REQUIRE IT OF THEE; AND IT WOULD BE SIN IN THEE.  BUT IF THOU SHALT FORBEAR TO VOW, IT SHALL BE NO SIN IN THEE.  THAT WHICH IS GONE OUT OF THY LIPS THOU SHALT KEEP AND PERFORM; even A FREEWILL OFFERING, ACCORDING AS THOU HAST VOWED UNTO THE LORD THY GOD, WHICH THOU HAST PROMISED WITH THY MOUTH.”

 

v4.  “WHILES IT REMAINED, WAS IT NOT THINE OWN?  AND AFTER IT WAS SOLD, WAS IT NOT IN THINE OWN POWER?  WHY HAST THOU CONCEIVED THIS THING IN THINE HEART?  THOU HAST NOT LIED UNTO MEN, BUT UNTO GOD.”

 

            Wasn’t this possession under the control of Ananias and his wife Sapphira?  After it was sold wasn’t the proceeds under their control as well?  Why did they do this?

 

v5.  “AND ANANIAS HEARING THESE WORDS FELL DOWN, AND GAVE UP THE GHOST: AND GREAT FEAR CAME ON ALL THEM THAT HEARD THESE THINGS.”

 

            God’s response to this sin was immediate, direct and final wasn’t it?  Just as He manifested himself in the earthquake when the church prayed, He has manifested himself in this first record we have of sin in the church.  Did it make an impression on the church?

 

v6.  “AND THE YOUNG MEN AROSE, WOUND HIM UP, AND CARRIED him OUT, AND BURIED him.”

 

            This seems to us to be pretty harsh doesn’t it?  Sort of like getting rid of a piece of garbage, something that is extremely offensive.  The young men, those most able, apparently just get up, wrap him up, perhaps in the clothing he was wearing, take him out and bury him. 

It was the Jewish custom to bury someone the same day when they died, coffins and caskets weren’t used and they didn’t keep the remains around to cause health problems.  We aren’t told directly, but the circumstances described in the verses that follow indicate that they didn’t even notify his wife, they just took care of the immediate problem.

 

v7.  “AND IT WAS ABOUT THE SPACE OF THREE HOURS AFTER, WHEN HIS WIFE, NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS DONE, CAME IN.”

 

            About three hours later Sapphira comes in.  Her husband has lied to God, been struck dead, and been buried in this span of time.  She doesn’t even know what happened.

 

v8.  “AND PETER ANSWERED UNTO HER, TELL ME WHETHER YE SOLD THE LAND FOR SO MUCH? AND SHE SAID, YEA, FOR SO MUCH.”

 

            She had opportunity to change her story didn’t she?  But she chose not to do so and continued the lie that Ananias had told.

 

v9.  “THEN PETER SAID UNTO HER, HOW IS IT THAT YE HAVE AGREED TO TEMPT THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD?  BEHOLD, THE FEET OF THEM WHICH HAVE BURIED THY HUSBAND are AT THE DOOR, AND SHALL CARRY THEE OUT.”

 

            Should they have known that it was a sin to tempt God or the Holy Spirit?  Yes, they should have, why?

 

Matthew 4:7  JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, IT IS WRITTEN AGAIN, THOU SHALT NOT TEMPT THE LORD THY GOD.”

 

            Written where?

 

Deuteronomy 6:16  YE SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD, AS YE TEMPTED him IN MASSAH.”

 

            Then Peter tells her that her husband is dead, has been buried, and she will be carried out the same way.

 

v10.  “THEN FELL SHE DOWN STRAIGHTWAY AT HIS FEET, AND YIELDED UP THE GHOST: AND THE YOUNG MEN CAME IN, AND FOUND HER DEAD, AND, CARRYING her FORTH, BURIED her BY HER HUSBAND.”

 

            She comes to the same end as her husband and for the same reason.

 

v11.  “AND GREAT FEAR CAME UPON ALL THE CHURCH, AND UPON AS MANY AS HEARD THESE THINGS.”

 

            Great fear came upon the whole church, and not only the church but as many as heard about this occurrence.

 

Read Acts 5:12-16

 

v12.  “AND BY THE HANDS OF THE APOSTLES WERE MANY SIGNS AND WONDERS WROUGHT AMONG THE PEOPLE; (AND THEY WERE ALL WITH ONE ACCORD IN SOLOMON’S PORCH.”

 

            The death of Ananias and Sapphira was followed by many signs and wonders, the power of the apostles is made known to as many in this region as would want to know.  This was done to confirm their relationship with God, confirm their authority just as it had been with Jesus when he was preaching, just as it was with Paul later:

 

Romans 15:19  THROUGH MIGHTY SIGNS AND WONDERS, BY THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD; SO THAT FROM JERUSALEM, AND ROUND ABOUT UNTO ILLYRICUM, I HAVE FULLY PREACHED THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.”

 

            These miracles and mighty wonders became known as the “signs of an apostle” and the seal of their authority as Paul told the Corinthian brethren:

 

II Corinthians 12:12  TRULY THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTLE WERE WROUGHT AMONG YOU IN ALL PATIENCE, IN SIGNS, AND WONDERS, AND MIGHTY DEEDS.”

 

v13.  “AND OF THE REST DURST NO MAN JOIN HIMSELF TO THEM: BUT THE PEOPLE MAGNIFIED THEM.”

 

            It would seem that a situation has been created here where the people are just a little afraid of the apostles.  Two people have lied to God and fallen dead at Peter’s feet, signs and wonders only before done by or at the direction of Jesus are now done routinely.  No man attempted or desired to join themselves with them directly but at the same time men magnified or esteemed them.

            Another reason that people might have been afraid to join themselves directly is that they’re doing exactly what the Sanhedrin has just told them they must not do.  Fear of reprisal in this instance is genuine isn’t it?  When Jesus healed the blind man:

 

John 9:22  “THESE words SPAKE HIS PARENTS, BECAUSE THEY FEARED THE JEWS: FOR THE JEWS HAD AGREED ALREADY, THAT IF ANY MAN DID CONFESS THAT HE WAS CHRIST, HE SHOULD BE PUT OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE.”

 

John 19:38  “AND AFTER THIS JOSEPH OF ARIMATHAEA, BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS, BUT SECRETLY FOR FEAR OF THE JEWS, BESOUGHT PILATE THAT HE MIGHT TAKE AWAY THE BODY OF JESUS: AND PILATE GAVE him LEAVE…….”

 

v14.  “AND BELIEVERS WERE THE MORE ADDED TO THE LORD, MULTITUDES BOTH OF MEN AND WOMEN.)

 

            In the past chapter or two we were talking about thousands, now we talking about multitudes, both of men and women.  Who were being added?  Believers, is that all they had to do?  If it was; it would be inconsistent with the rest of the New Testament wouldn’t it?  Where there any babies baptized or added?  No just believers, believers who lived an active belief and did the commandments of God.

 

v15.  “INSOMUCH THAT THEY BROUGHT FORTH THE SICK INTO THE STREETS, AND LAID them ON BEDS AND COUCHES, THAT AT THE LEAST THE SHADOW OF PETER PASSING BY MIGHT OVERSHADOW SOME OF THEM.”

 

            Jesus was crucified, resurrected and returned to his Father but his work continues, just as planned.  People used to crowd around him to try to be healed, like the woman with the issue of blood:

 

Matthew 9:21  FOR SHE SAID WITHIN HERSELF, IF I MAY BUT TOUCH HIS GARMENT, I SHALL BE WHOLE.”

 

Matthew 14:36  AND BESOUGHT HIM THAT THEY MIGHT ONLY TOUCH THE HEM OF HIS GARMENT: AND AS MANY AS TOUCHED WERE MADE PERFECTLY WHOLE.”

 

            And this isn’t just restricted to the temple is it?  The places needed to place the people being brought for healing have been filled and now they even have to place their beds and couches in the streets.  God is being glorified and not just by those in the city.

 

v16.  “THERE CAME ALSO A MULTITUDE out OF THE CITIES ROUND ABOUT UNTO JERUSALEM, BRINGING SICK FOLKS, AND THEM WHICH WERE VEXED WITH UNCLEAN SPIRITS: AND THEY WERE HEALED EVERY ONE.”

 

            Multitudes, sick, lame, those with unclean spirits; all were healed just like when Christ was with them.  There were no failures, they were healed, every one.  Just as Jesus prophesied:

 

Mark 16:17-18  “AND THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW THEM THAT BELIEVE; IN MY NAME SHALL THEY CAST OUT DEVILS; THEY SHALL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES; THEY SHALL TAKE UP SERPENTS; AND IF THEY DRINK ANY DEADLY THING, IT SHALL NOT HURT THEM; THEY SHALL LAY HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY SHALL RECOVER.”

 

John 14:12  VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, HE THAT BELIEVETH ON ME, THE WORKS THAT I DO SHALL HE DO ALSO; AND GREATER works THAN THESE SHALL HE DO; BECAUSE I GO UNTO MY FATHER.”

 

Read Acts 5:17-28

 

v17.  “THEN THE HIGH PRIEST ROSE UP, AND ALL THEY THAT WERE WITH HIM (WHICH IS THE SECT OF THE SADDUCEES,) AND WERE FILLED WITH INDIGNATION.”

 

            Other translations read they were filled with jealousy.  Now why wouldn’t they be?  They’re supposed to be the religious elite in this city and in this country.  They have had things their own way for over 400 years without any interference from God since the prophet Malachi.  But now, here have come a Nazarene carpenter and his ignorant Galilean fishermen with their miracles, their teachings about the Messiah and completely turned Jerusalem upside down.  Everybody’s talking about it, multitudes are being converted to this sect, they’re preaching the resurrection of the dead and they just can’t ignore the problem any more.

 

v18.  “ AND LAID THEIR HANDS ON THE APOSTLES, AND PUT THEM IN THE COMMON PRISON.”

 

            Busted again, and not put just in the temple holding tank this time but in the common prison, the public prison where criminals are put.

 

v19.  “BUT THE ANGEL OF THE LORD BY NIGHT OPENED THE PRISON DOORS, AND BROUGHT THEM FORTH, AND SAID.”

 

            God intervened, sent his messenger, opened the prison doors, comforted them and got them out.  There are other instances of something like this happening in this book isn’t there:

 

Acts 12:7  “AND, BEHOLD, THE ANGEL OF THE LORD CAME UPON him, AND A LIGHT SHINED IN THE PRISON: AND HE SMOTE PETER ON THE SIDE, AND RAISED HIM UP, SAYING, ARISE UP QUICKLY, AND HIS CHAINS FELL OFF FROM his HANDS.”

 

            In this case the angel has some instruction from God.

 

v20.  “GO, STAND AND SPEAK IN THE TEMPLE TO THE PEOPLE ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LIFE.”

 

            They were given some pretty direct instructions weren’t they?  Go, stand and speak in the temple, just like they had been day after day up until now.  And what were they to speak?  All the words of this life, how do we identify what that is? 

 

John 6:68  THEN SIMON PETER ANSWERED HIM, LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?  THOU HAST THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.”

 

John 17:3  AND THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL, THAT THEY MIGHT KNOW THEE THE ONLY TRUE GOD, AND JESUS CHRIST, WHOM THOU HAST SENT.”

 

I John 5:11  AND THIS IS THE RECORD, THAT GOD HATH GIVEN TO US ETERNAL LIFE, AND THIS LIFE IS IN HIS SON.”

 

            So what are the words of life?  Life, eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Therefore, the words of life are the words of Jesus Christ, whom they had been forbidden to teach.

 

v21.  “AND WHEN THEY HEARD that, THEY ENTERED INTO THE TEMPLE EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND TAUGHT.  BUT THE HIGH PRIEST CAME, AND THEY THAT WERE WITH HIM, AND CALLED THE COUNCIL TOGETHER, AND ALL THE SENATE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND SENT TO THE PRISON TO HAVE THEM BROUGHT.”

 

            The apostles didn’t wait did they, they went early in the morning and started teaching; another translation says they went at daybreak.  In the meantime the high priest is getting ready to have another trial isn’t he?  When it becomes time to do the day’s business; he calls the Sanhedrin together again, all the influential people are there, the Sadducees and the Senate.  This is the first time, I believe, that we’ve had this particular group mentioned.  We’re told here the Greek word translated Senate simply means “old men”, so this was a group of elderly men, elders, wise men perhaps, who were called upon at times to advise the council.  When all things are ready they send the guards down to the prison to bring the apostles to trial.

 

v22.  “BUT WHEN THE OFFICERS CAME, AND FOUND THEM NOT IN THE PRISON, THEY RETURNED, AND TOLD,”

 

            They’re not there and the officers sent can only return and report.  All the preparations have been made to try them, and the officers are sent to get them out of the prison, and they’re not there.

 

v23.  “SAYING, THE PRISON TRULY FOUND WE SHUT WITH ALL SAFETY, AND THE KEEPERS STANDING WITHOUT BEFORE THE DOORS: BUT WHEN WE HAD OPENED, WE FOUND NO MAN WITHIN.”

 

            They’re not there, the doors were shut, the guards were on duty; everything is as it is supposed to be, all of the other prisoners are there, but the apostles are not there.

 

v24.  “NOW WHEN THE HIGH PRIEST AND THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEMPLE AND THE CHIEF PRIESTS HEARD THESE THINGS, THEY DOUBTED OF THEM WHEREUNTO THIS WOULD GROW.”

 

            This was the ruling council of this country, to the extent that Rome allowed.  They have come together to have a trial and their prisoners are not where they’re supposed to be, they’re confused and perplexed.  How did these people get out of the prison?  Where is this teaching of Jesus Christ going to lead us?  Then they get another report.

 

v25.  “THEN CAME ONE AND TOLD THEM, SAYING, BEHOLD, THE MEN WHOM YE PUT IN PRISON ARE STANDING IN THE TEMPLE, AND TEACHING THE PEOPLE.”

 

            These men that they put in prison are back in the temple, teaching.

 

v26.  “THEN WENT THE CAPTAIN WITH THE OFFICERS, AND BROUGHT THEM WITHOUT VIOLENCE: FOR THEY FEARED THE PEOPLE, LEST THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN STONED.”

 

            They’re arrested again.  This time they are very careful not to harm Peter, John or any of the others.  They fear the people and are even afraid that the people might stone them.  This reminds me of some of the scenes that we see from the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside today between the Jews and the Palestinians.  The Jewish rulers have been in this predicament before haven’t they?  When Jesus asked them about the baptism of John, was it of heaven or of men:

 

Matthew 21:26  BUT IF WE SHALL SAY, OF MEN; WE FEAR THE PEOPLE; FOR ALL HOLD JOHN AS A PROPHET.”

 

v27.  “AND WHEN THEY HAD BROUGHT THEM, THEY SET them BEFORE THE COUNCIL: AND THE HIGH PRIEST ASKED THEM.”

 

            They brought them to the council.  They’re going to have a trial after all; they just had to go to the temple to get the subjects for that trial.

 

v28.  “SAYING, DID NOT WE STRAITLY COMMAND YOU THAT YE SHOULD NOT TEACH IN THIS NAME?  AND, BEHOLD, YE HAVE FILLED JERUSALEM WITH YOUR DOCTRINE, AND INTEND TO BRING THIS MAN’S BLOOD UPON US.”

 

            They’re afraid; men who are afraid do desperate things.  They had commanded the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus.  But Jesus disciples have literally filled Jerusalem with their teaching and it’s even reaching out into the countryside.  The people are accepting Christ as their Saviour by the thousands and the council, among other things. is probably afraid that the people will demand restitution for their killing of Jesus. 

 

Read Acts 5:29-32

 

v29.  “THEN PETER AND THE other APOSTLES ANSWERED AND SAID, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.”

 

            What is Peter doing here, what principle of Jesus teaching is he exercising?

 

Matthew 6:33  BUT SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS; AND ALL THESE THINGS SHALL BE ADDED UNTO YOU.”

 

            When there is conflict between the authority of God and the authority of men or man’s governments, God’s authority takes precedence over all others.  Peter, without any waffling, without evading anything, clearly, concisely and completely states the principle foundation of our surrender to God.  “WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.”

            We struggle with this principle, and others, of obedience to God today.  Does that mean that we are a failure as a child of God and doomed to destruction?  No our perfection comes from the intentions of our hearts, and the forgiveness of our sins, not from perfect performance.  That’s why the Israelite nation, even those who were considered by God to be examples unto us like David and others in Hebrews 11, the part of that letter we call the “hall of faith”, are given as examples to us even though they sinned and often fell far short of perfection in obeying God in all things and all ways.

 

Psalms 37:23-25  THE STEPS OF A good MAN ARE ORDERED BY THE LORD: AND HE DELIGHTEH IN HIS WAY.  THOUGHT HE FALL, HE SHALL NOT BE UTTERLY CAST DOWN: FOR THE LORD UPHOLDETH him with HIS HAND.  I HAVE BEEN YOUNG, AND now AM OLD; YET HAVE I NOT SEEN THE RIGHTEOUS FORSAKEN, NOR HIS SEED BEGGING BREAD.”

 

            But, as we should be as well, the apostles were determined and willing to go to whatever extent they needed to, to obey God just as they had done in our earlier study.

 

“BUT PETER AND JOHN ANSWERED AND SAID UNTO THEM, WHETHER IT BE RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD TO HEARKEN UNTO YOU MORE THAN UNTO GOD, JUDGE YE.  FOR WE CANNOT BUT SPEAK THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD.” Acts 4:19-20 

 

v30.  “THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS RAISED UP JESUS, WHOM YE SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE.”

 

            Peter goes right back to the thing that the Saducees hated the most, didn’t he?  God, as the proof that we will all be resurrected eventually, something that the Saducees just could not accept, raised Jesus from the dead.  Peter goes right back to this as one of the underlying foundation facts of the doctrine of Christ, just as he had in the first sermon as undeniable proof that He was from God.

 

Acts 2:23  HIM, BEING DELIVERED BY THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN:”

 

v31.  “HIM HATH GOD EXALTED WITH HIS RIGHT HAND to be A PRINCE AND A SAVIOUR, FOR TO GIVE REPENTANCE TO ISRAEL, AND FORGIVENSS OF SINS.”

 

            This is the Messiah, the one that God had promised, that God had predetermined to be Saviour of the Israelite nation and a prince of the heavenly kingdom.  Peter has taught this lesson before and will continue to teach it as long as he lives.

 

“THEREFORE LET ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL KNOW ASSUREDLY, THAT GOD HATH MADE THAT SAME JESUS, WHOM YE HAVE CRUCIFIED BOTH LORD AND CHRIST.” Acts 2:36 

 

This message is confirmed by the inspiration of God through others as well.

 

Philippians 2:9  WHEREFORE GOD ALSO HATH HIGHLY EXALTED HIM, AND GIVE HIM A NAME WICH IS ABOVE EVERY NAME.”

 

Hebrews 12:2  LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF our FAITH; WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS, DESPISING THE SHAME, AND IS SET DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.”

 

v32.  “AND WE ARE HIS WITNESSES OF THESE THINGS; AND so is ALSO THE HOLY GHOST, WHOM GOD HATH GIVEN TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM”

 

            Three of the things that the apostles were teaching were (1) the death of Jesus by crucifixion, (2) His resurrection from the dead and (3) his ascension to the right hand of God.  What was the power behind their contention that these things indeed happened and were totally undeniable?  They were eye witnesses, and that testimony was confirmed by the miracles and signs they have been given; just as Jesus had told the apostles they would be and as Peter has taught earlier:

 

“BUT YE SHALL RECEIVE POWER, AFTER THAT THE HOLY GHOST IS COME UPON YOU: AND YE SHALL BE WITNESSES UNTO ME BOTH IN JERUSALEM, AND IN ALL JUDAEA, AND IN SAMARIA, AND UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF EARTH.” Acts 1:8 

 

Acts 2:32  THIS JESUS HATH GOD RAISED UP, WHERE OF WE ALL ARE WITNESSES.”

 

And not only were these men witnesses but God was a witness through them by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

John 15:26-27  “BUT WHEN THE COMFORTER IS COME, WHOM I WILL SEND UNTO YOU FROM THE FATHER, even THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, WHICH PROCEEDETH FROM THE FATHER, HE SHALL TESTIFY OF ME: AND YE ALSO SHALL BEAR WITNESS, BECAUSE YE HAVE BEEN WITH ME FROM THE BEGINNING.”

 

Read Acts 5:33-42

 

v33.  “WHEN THEY HEARD that, THEY WERE CUT to the heart, AND TOOK COUNSEL TO SLAY THEM.”

 

            What was the reaction of the Sanhedrin?  They were infuriated.  Their authority is being challenged.  After all, they determined was to be taught in the name of religion didn’t they?  They hadn’t accepted Jesus, with a few rare exceptions among them won’t and wouldn’t.  Their anger is so strong and irrational that a little later, at the death of Stephen, we’ll be told that their reaction was on of unrestrained anger:

 

“WHEN THEY HEARD THESE THINGS, THEY WERE CUT TO THE HEART, AND THEY GNASHED ON HIM WITH their TEETH.” Acts 7:54 

 

But there is still at least one wise man among them who hasn’t surrendered to their passion and temper and he rises to speak.

 

v34.  “THEN STOOD THERE UP ONE IN THE COUNCIL, A PHARISEE, NAMED GAMALIEL, A DOCTOR OF THE LAW, HAD IN REPUTATION AMONG ALL THE PEOPLE, AND COMMANDED TO PUT THE APOSTLES FORTH A LITTLE SPACE;”

 

            Nothing they’re doing is working.  Nothing they’re doing is stopping this teaching; nothing is stopping these Galilean fishermen from turning Jerusalem upside down.  Some are getting the idea that they may be unstoppable and even why.  We’re introduced to Gamaliel, a wise man in many ways.  We’re told by scripture that He was a doctor of the law, the Law of Moses.  We’re told by secular history that he was a teacher, the leader of one of the major religious schools of that day and by scripture again that the apostle Paul was one of his students, as he testifies later:

 

“I AM VERILY A MAN which am A JEW, BORN IN TARSUS, a city OF CILICIA, YET BROUGHT UP IN THIS CITY AT THE FEET OF GAMALIEL, and TAUGHT ACCORDING TO THE PERFECT MANNER OF THE LAW OF THE FATHERS, AND WAS ZEALOUS TOWARD GOD, AS YE ALL ARE THIS DAY.” Acts 22:3 

 

            Gamaliel was also a member of the Sanhedrin, obviously influential and powerful.  He is a Pharisee, a leader in this council that was made up primarily of Saducees.  When he stands to speak, they put the apostles aside a little way so they can have a discussion session about their problem.

 

v35.  “AND SAID UNTO THEM, YE MEN OF ISRAEL, TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES WHAT YE INTEND TO DO AS TOUCHING THESE MEN.”

 

            He tells them that they need to be cautious, and careful about what they do to or about these men.  This council feared the people as we have seen demonstrated in several places during our most recent study.  But in this case there may be something else that they need to fear.  Others have risen up and have been failures because they were false teachers, false Messiah’s, imposters.

 

v36.  “FOR BEFORE THESE DAYS ROSE UP THEUDAS, BOASTING HIMSELF TO BE SOMEBODY; TO WHOM A NUMBER OF MEN, ABOUT FOUR HUNDRED, JOINED THEMSELVES; WHO WAS SLAIN; AND ALL, AS MANY AS OBEYED HIM, WERE SCATTERED, AND BROUGHT TO NOUGHT.”

 

            Judah or Israel of that day was a rebellious and contentious people, the same as they had been in the days of their judges and kings, much the same as they are today.  Some element of their population was in continually in rebellion, at war with their rulers or their neighbors.  This situation prevailed from the time of Moses until the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, it was this spirit of rebellion that brought the legions of Rome to destroy the city in AD 70. 

There had been various leaders, false prophets, false Messiah’s that had risen up to lead groups of men in opposition to Roman rule and been destroyed.  Secular history, according to Josephus, records at least three named Judas, four named Simon and in addition to the Theudas named here there was another of the same name at a different time.

 

v37.  “AFTER THIS MAN ROSE UP JUDAS OF GALILEE IN THE DAYS OF THE TAXING, AND DREW AWAY MUCH PEOPLE AFTER HIM: HE ALSO PERISHED; AND ALL, even AS MANY AS OBEYED HIM, WERE DISPERSED.”

 

            He gives them another specific example of one who rebelled “IN THE DAYS OF THE TAXING” or enrollment.  Josephus tells us that this man’s sons were executed and his followers slain or scattered.

 

v38.  “AND NOW I SAY UNTO YOU, REFRAIN FROM THESE MEN, AND LET THEM ALONE: FOR IF THIS COUNSEL OR THIS WORK BE OF MEN, IT WILL COME TO NOUGHT.”

 

            After presenting his examples, he now presents his argument or logic.  Leave these men alone, don’t disturb the people.  Don’t generate a conflict among ourselves; between the people of Jerusalem who followed the Jewish leaders and those that followed Christ.  If these men are like those others who cited rebellion, time would take care of the problem.  One of the other things for them to consider, not recorded here for us as part of his reasoning but true none the less.  Any conflict or unrest in the city would cause the Roman occupation forces to be increased and what freedom they had to be reduced.

 

v39.  “BUT IF IT BE OF GOD, YE CANNOT OVERTHROW IT; LEST HAPLY HE BE FOUND EVEN TO FIGHT AGAINST GOD.”

 

            Now he presents his most powerful argument.  If indeed Peter, John and the other apostles were doing the will of God; they cannot be overcome and God will prevail and they would be fighting against the God of heaven.  This fighting against God wasn’t an unusual situation for these people was it?  Throughout their history they rebelled against God; Stephen told them:

 

“YE STIFFNECKED AND UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART AND EARS, YE DO ALWAYS RESIST THE HOLY GHOST: AS YOUR FATHERS did, SO do YE.” Acts 7:51 

 

            We’re not told but Saul may very well have been present and what did Jesus tell him on the Damascus road?

 

“AND HE SAID, WHO ART THOU, LORD?  AND THE LORD SAID, I AM JESUS WHOM THOU PERSECUTEST: it is HARD FOR THEE TO KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS.” Acts 9:5 

 

v40.  “AND TO HIM THEY AGREED: AND WHEN THEY HAD CALLED THE APOSTLES, AND BEATEN them, THEY COMMANDED THAT THEY SHOULD NOT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF JESUS, AND LET THEM GO.”

 

            Gamaliel’s argument and something resembling reason prevails.  The council listened to him and decided to allow the apostles their freedom.  However, they don’t let them go totally unpunished this time.  Jesus prophesies have come true haven’t they?

 

Matthew 10:17  BUT BEWARE OF MEN: FOR THEY WILL DELIVER YOU UP TO THE COUNCILS, AND THEY WILL SCOURGE YOU IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES.”

 

Mark 13:9  BUT TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES: FOR THEY SHALL DELIVER YOU UP TO COUNCILS; AND IN THE SYNAGOGUES YE SHALL BE BEATEN: AND YE SHALL BE BROUGHT BEFORE RULERS AND KINGS FOR MY SAKE, FOR A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM.”

 

Read Acts 5:41-42

 

v41.  “AND THEY DEPARTED FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE COUNCIL, REJOICING THAT THEY WERE COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER SHAME FOR HIS NAME.”

 

            The ASV translated “HIS NAME” as “THE NAME”.  We’re told that they rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer shame.  This is strange behavior by man’s standards isn’t it?   But what does God say:

 

“AND NOT ONLY so, BUT WE GLORY IN TRIBULATION ALSO: KNOWING THAT TRIBULATION WORKETH PATIENCE.” Romans 5:3 

 

            You mean we’re supposed to find honor and joy in tribulation?  Paul did:

 

“THEREFORE I TAKE PLEASURE IN INFIRIMITIES, IN REPROACHES, IN NECESSITIES, IN PERSECUTIONS, IN DISTRESSES FOR CHRIST’S SAKE: FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN AM I STRONG.” II Corinthians 12:10 

 

            Why?

 

“FOR YE HAD COMPASSION OF ME IN MY BONDS, AND TOOK JOYFULLY THE SPOILING OF YOUR GOODS, KNOWING IN YOURSELVES THAT YE HAVE IN HEAVEN A BETTER AND AN ENDURING SUBSTANCE.” Hebrews 10:34 

 

            And James records these things this way:

 

James 1:2-4  MY BRETHREN, COUNT IT ALL JOY WHEN YE FALL INTO DIVERS TEMPTATIONS; KNOWING this, THAT THE TRYING OF YOUR FAITH WORKETH PATIENCE.  BUT LET PATIENCE HAVE her PERFECT WORK, THAT YE MAY BE PERFECT AND ENTIRE, WANTING NOTHING.”

 

v42.  “AND DAILY IN THE TEMPLE, AND IN EVERY HOUSE, THEY CEASED NOT TO TEACH AND PREACH JESUS CHRIST.”

 

            Did they obey to council?  No, they worked all the more at teaching and preaching this name that the Jewish leaders hated.  I wonder how many of us will lose our souls because of the lack of trial to perfect our patience?