Scriptures

Acts 5

Introduction

“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet”. Acts 5:1-2

In the previous chapter, Luke spoke about Barnabas, or son of Encouragement, and even today people remember his name because of what he did to help those in need.

In this chapter, we’re introduced to another couple who will be remembered in history for all the wrong reasons. They are going to be remembered in history for lying to the Holy Spirit.

Note that the word, ‘now’, shouldn’t be used at the start of this chapter, it should be the word, ‘but’, because its used as a contrast to the previous chapter.

In other words, in contrast to those who were blessing others by selling their property to help those in need, Acts 4:33-37, Ananias and Sapphira wanted to gain a good reputation.

Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sold a piece of land but decided to only lay a portion of the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. We might wonder what was so wrong with this, they sold a piece of land and gave it to the apostles to help those in need?

The problem was one of greed, Joshua 6:17-19. And in Joshua 7:1 we find the same word used for Achan’s actions, which is also used to describe Ananias and Sapphira’s actions. In other words they ‘kept back’, something for themselves and in both instances the problems arose because of greed.

“Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:3-4

Peter didn’t mix his words, he told Ananias that it was Satan who had filled his heart and later we will see his wife’s heart too lie to the Holy Spirit. In other words because the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, pretending to give ‘all the money’ from the sale of the land to the apostles was the equivalent to lying to the Spirit.

It’s interesting that Peter asks him the question, ‘what made you think of doing such a thing?’ We may never know why he did this, maybe he was trying to test the credibility of the apostles’ speech.

After all they claimed to be speaking through the Spirit, and if the apostles failed to see through this trick their very words would come into question. Whatever the reason, I believe it was greed.

Remember that the amount of the gift was not the problem, as Peter said. In other words, the land was theirs to do with as they pleased but the problem started when he tried to deceive God as to the size of the gift. And it was a problem which was going to be fatal to Ananias and later to his wife Sapphira.

“When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.” Acts 5:5-6

Most people have lied at some point in their lives, even our Christian lives. And we can lie to our friends and family and we would be unaware of it but we cannot lie to God and expect to get away with it.

Lying to God comes in a number of different ways, when we lie to our fellow brothers or sisters in Christ, we are actually lying to God.

Ananias after hearing Peter’s words, fell down dead and this resulted in great fear coming upon all who heard about the incident. And so some young men wrapped Ananias’ body and took it out to be buried.

Ananias is dead and buried but his wife has got no idea what has happened to him and so she comes along three hours later and tells Peter the same lie.

“About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” Acts 5:7-11

Peter asked her if they had sold the land for the amount Ananias had laid at the apostles’ feet. When she said that the amount named was correct, Peter knew they had conspired to deceive or, as he said in verse 9, ‘how could she test the Spirit of the Lord,’ who is also described in this story as the Holy Spirit and God.

Peter gave her plenty of opportunity to confess hers sins to God and to him, that’s why he asked her why they had taken this action and told her the men who had buried her husband’s body would also bury her.

And so she too fell down at Peter’s feet, died and was carried out by the same young men to be buried beside her husband. Remember Peter is not a mind reader, he’s inspired by the Holy Spirit, 2 Chronicles 6:30-31.

This event sent a strong message through the church and an even stronger message to those in the surrounding areas. The message was fear, not only because of the two deaths, but also because of God’s ability to know the intents of the hearts of the conspiring couple.

Fear in the world’s eyes is always seen as a bad thing but the fear we find here, is a good fear, in fact on this occasion it did four things, it unites, divides, brings attention to Christ and it brings new believers.

The Apostles Heal Many

“The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Acts 5:12-14

God continued to work miracles through the inspired apostles and four things happened. It unites because the church continued to assemble on Solomon’s porch. It divides because although those outside of the church had been moved to fear, they did not dare to join the number of believers.

It brings attention because those outside the church held the Christians in high esteem and increasing numbers of those who believed on Jesus were added to the Lord. And finally it brings new believers.

The fear, signs, miracles and wonders were done to get people’s attention to the Word of God. In other words God doesn’t have to speak to us in various ways like He did before, He speaks to us through His word, Hebrews 1:1-2.

That’s why these things don’t happen today because we have the complete and final revelation from God in the form of His Word, Jude 3. We don’t live by sight, we live by faith, Hebrews 11:1.

After they performed the miracles, the apostles continued to preach about Jesus rising from the dead and look what happened. They got people’s attention and they are still getting people’s attention.

“As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 5:15-16

People were so impressed with the way God worked through the apostles that they brought their sick out into the streets. There was absolutely no misunderstanding about what was going on here in Jerusalem. Peter could see the people and stop to heal them as he passed by, or, at least, his shadow would fall on them.

Whether they were actually healed by the shadow of Peter passing over them, we cannot tell from the text. Please note, the apostles were not hoaxers, if they were, people would never have come.

But they did come and they even came from surrounding towns bringing those who were sick or possessed by an evil spirit. All were healed by the power of God working through the apostles.

Fear really is a good thing, in fact fearing God and keeping His commandments is all God wants from everyone, Ecclesiastes 12:13. We have to fear God and do His will now whilst we still have life in these bodies, Hebrews 10:26-27.

The Apostles Persecuted

“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail”. Acts 5:17-18

After the amazing and powerful events we learned about where Ananias and Saphira lied to God and a great fear came over the Lord’s church and those who were not yet Christians.

God added to their number and God through the apostles was getting people’s attention not just in Jerusalem but from afar. And so it should be no surprise that others are becoming jealous because of the attention the apostles were receiving.

The apostles had been warned before not to preach in Jesus Name but despite that earlier warning they continued preaching in the Name of Jesus. They are preaching the story of Jesus and His resurrection but this teaching was totally contrary to the teaching of the Sadducees because they didn’t believe in the resurrection.

However, when God has a plan and mission in mind, no one and nothing is going to keep God from doing His mission and the apostles being arrested and put in jail wasn’t going to stop His mission from going forward.

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.” Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people”. Acts 5:19-21

When Jesus commanded His apostles to go into all the world and preach the good news, Matthew 28:18-20, this also implies that He will help make sure His disciples could just that.

And when God saw that His apostles were in prison again, He sent a messenger to release the apostles and commanded them to go to the temple and preach the words which give eternal life.

In other words, God is more powerful than any earthly authority and when God says ‘go’ he means ‘go’ but He will also give us the means to go.

That’s why He sent an angel to the apostles to free them to preach in the temple. That’s why He sent Jonah a great fish to get him to Nineveh. That’s why He sent a great storm for Paul to get him to Rome.

In other words if God wants us to take the Gospel to others, He will give us the means to do that. The apostles have now played their God sent, get out of jail free card and are preaching in the temple. And at roughly the same time the high priest and his friends are coming together to discuss what to do with the apostles.

“When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin-the full assembly of the elders of Israel-and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Acts 5:19-23

Luke tells us that some officers went to get the apostles but discovered that they had gone, even though some guards were still there and the jail was still securely locked. And so they went back to those who had gathered and told them they had gone.

What was going through the minds of those gathered there? The apostles being miraculously freed from prison wasn’t because of some great feat of escapology.

They weren’t another bunch of deceivers who used illusions. They were apostles of Christ and God through the means of an angel set them free to continue the preaching of Christ and His resurrection.

My point is that despite of such a clear sign that God was with the apostles, the high priest and those allied with him wondered what would happen.

“On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Acts 5:24-28

It must have been a shock for the council to learn that the men they had charged not to preach in the name of Jesus were, even as they met, preaching in the temple. And here, we learn, that even jealous people need to know their limits. Even jealous people know what and what not to do when there’s a crowd around.

The captain and his officers brought them back without violence because they feared the common people, who sympathized with the apostles, would stone them.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Jesus was crucified, that these very people, along with a mob were very willing to have the blood of Jesus on their hands, Matthew 27:24-25.

The answer of Peter and the other apostles to the Sanhedrin carries profound implications for each generation of Christians.

“Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead-whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32

Clearly, no law was considered by the apostles to be above God’s law. After all, the limit of the Sadducees authority could be seen in the fact that they had crucified Jesus and God had raised him up from the grave.

Who has the greater authority? God or man? The apostles said God had now seated Jesus on the throne as Ruler and Saviour. The Lord had been empowered by his Father to give repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins to all of Israel.

The twelve apostles stood as witnesses of God’s working and the Holy Spirit confirmed the truthfulness of the events they related through the miracles He enabled them to perform.

It takes courage to stand up and obey God because when we stand up and put God first, people are going to get upset and angry with us.

“When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered”. Acts 5:33-37

Peter’s words accusing the council of murdering Jesus, enraged them to the point of them being prepared to murder the apostles as well. But as angry as they were, they couldn’t take such action without the support of the Pharisaic members of the court.

And remember the Pharisees were in the minority, but they commanded much more popular respect than the Sadducees did. There were two schools of thought for the Jews, the school of Hillel, he was the grandfather of Gamaliel and the school of Shammai but both were both Rabbis’.

Hillel would listen but the Shammai were more legalistic. Gamaliel was highly respected, he was a member of the Sanhedrin and as a Pharisee he believed in the idea of resurrection.

And so, when Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher from among the Pharisees, rose to speak and asked for the apostles to be put outside, his words were instantly paid attention to. Basically Gamaliel warned the council against the actions they were thinking about taking against the apostles.

And so he reminds them of two men, Theudas and Judas who both claimed to be someone special and led men in a rebellion. They had both been killed and those who followed them were scattered, and both rebellions came to nothing. But it seems for the moment at least, that these religious leaders are beginning to listen to wisdom.

“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:37-39

When God has a plan, God has a plan and we will know what His plan is sooner or later. If their actions were truly directed by God, the council could not stop them and they would be found in the un-envious position of opposing God Himself.

Here is a man that recognizes that if God has a mission and plan, nothing and no one could stop it from happening. After hearing Gamaliel’s advice the council decided to take it.

“His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Acts 5:40-41

After being flogged, the religious leaders let them go again with yet another warning not to preach in Jesus’ Name. They were flogged with leather whips, they received 39 lashes, there were 13 separate strands of leather straps, they usually had bone attached to cause more damage, this means they were lashed 3 times.

Notice their response after being flogged and told off, the response of the apostles after being beaten and coming so close to being killed is remarkable.

They rejoiced because they counted themselves worthy to suffer for Jesus’ Name’s sake. Those first believers turned to Christ with the full understanding that they were supporting an unpopular cause that could cost them everything.

Shortly after Pentecost some were jailed, many lost all their earthly goods, a few were slain, hundreds were ‘scattered abroad.’ They could have escaped all this by the simply denying their faith and turning back to the world. This they steadfastly refused to do, 2 Timothy 3:12 / 1 Peter 4:14-16 / James 1:2-4.

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42

The Gospel that we proclaim is as simple as we want it to be and when people here nothing but bad news all day long, give them some good news. This is what the apostles did, they told them that Jesus is the Christ and He came to die by crucifixion so that He could give us life to the full, even unto eternity.

God had a mission for the apostles and He has a mission for each and every one of us, 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. And that mission is to preach Christ crucified to those we find within our own personal lives.

Go To Acts 6

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:20

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