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Acts 5

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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This chapter immediately takes us into the consequences of the conspiracy perpetrated by Ananias and Sapphira. We quickly learn the value of swift and sure discipline in the Lord’s church. The chapter records the continuing success of the preaching of the gospel, the relentless opposition of the Sanhedrin, and finally a plot to kill all of the apostles.

Verse 1

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

But a certain man: This is one of those places in the scriptures where the decision to divide the text for a new chapter is unfortunate. Some of the force of what occurs is lost. Luke has related a contrast between a good deed, in the case of Barnabas, and the dark side of human nature with the account of Ananias and Sapphira. By beginning the account with the conjunction "but, " it is obvious these two illustrations are meant to be contrasted.

named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife: The moral character of this husband and wife certainly does not come up to the standards indicated by their names. The first of these names means "Jehovah hath been gracious, " and "If Sapphira is Greek, it means sapphire; if Aramaic, it means beautiful. How tragic is the contrast between these lovely names and what befell those who wore them" (Coffman101). The words "with Sapphira his wife" indicate they are co-conspirators in the lie they attempt to perpetrate.

sold a possession: Ananias and his wife follow the lead of Barnabas in that they also sell"a possession, "which we soon learn is a piece of land.

Verse 2

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.

And kept back part of the price: It should be understood that Ananias has every right to keep as much of the "price" as he so desires. Peter states this point in verse 4. Their initial sin is in pretending to give more than they actually do, and, as usually is the case when sin takes its course in our lives, they have to further support their pretense with a lie.

It is interesting to note this is the first sin recorded against a member of the church. They were not willing to make the real sacrifice. They lied about their good deed. The sin was twofold: the love of the praise of men and the love of money. No doubt those noble souls who sold that which was theirs for the help of others were admired by those of the church. This was what Ananias and Sapphira wanted, but they were not willing to obtain it through unselfish effort (De Welt 73).

his wife also being privy to it: Sapphira is not innocent in this fraud: she is as guilty as Ananias.

and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet: Ananias brings "a certain part" of the money produced by the sale of the land and presents it to the apostles as if this amount were the total purchase price.

Verse 3

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?

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart: Peter, led by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knows of the hypocrisy of Ananias. Peter also recognizes that Satan is the father of all liars. From the beginning Satan lied to Eve; here he inspires this deception in Ananias. We must never forget Satan is the arch deceiver, the adversary who spends every second of every day in an endless pursuit of souls (Genesis 3:1-5; John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8).

We do know that Ananias permitted Satan to fill his heart; Ananias was held responsible for what he did, and therefore, he permitted Satan to prompt him to do the evil. There seems to be an inspiration of the devil as well as an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We may infer here that Satan is a real being acting upon and influencing men to do evil; that Ananias had the power to resist Satan’s influence, or he should not have been punished (Boles 78).

to lie to the Holy Ghost: What a truly grievous sin in the sight of God is man’s attempt to deceive the Holy Ghost. This narrative emphasizes the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in each Christian and the grave implications into which we enter when we try to deceive Him.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

and to keep back part of the price of the land: This is the sin of Ananias and Sapphira: they keep part of the money gained from the sale of the land but pretend to give the total price of the sale to aid the needy.

Verse 4

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.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power: There is no command to sell all or even a portion of their possessions. There was no command to give all or even a portion of the sale price to the church. Ananias simply uses this situation as an opportunity to gain man’s praise in a deceitful way.

why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart: Satan is the "father of liars," but the final choice to sin or not to sin lies within the power of the individual. The excuse, "the devil made me do it, "is no excuse; the free agency of man must be recognized. Satan has no power over us without our cooperation.

thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God: Again, the gravity of their sin is named. The overwhelming point of Peter’s accusation is not that they have lied to men, but they have lied to God.

Verse 5

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: When Peter exposes the hypocrisy of Ananias, Ananias drops dead. There is no hint that Peter struck Ananais dead or even that Peter is expecting such an event. It is obvious this is an act of divine judgment against Ananias that fully displays the severity of God. Coffman says:

Peter’s rebuke of Ananias was administered in the Holy Spirit; and there is not the slightest hint that Peter struck Ananias dead, or even that God had told Peter that such a thing would occur. Like the shaking of the house when they all prayed (4:31), this was something God did independently of any apostolic volition (104).

and great fear came on all them that heard these things: There is some discussion today as to whether God is actually responsible for the death of Ananias or perhaps this is some natural occurrence. This is ridiculous to even speculate upon. The problem is that men do not like the idea of dealing with a God who might slay them, much less punish them everlastingly. Man has lost his fear and respect of God. If we could speak to the people of Noah’s day (Genesis 7) or Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2) or Achan (Joshua 7:16-26) or a host of others who felt the severity of God, we would know whom to fear! The account just related should correct man’s shortsighted view of Almighty God. The death of Ananias certainly seems to have the desired effect upon these early disciples. In a very graphic way, they have seen the futility and consequences of trying to deceive God.

Verse 6

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

And the young men arose: The responsibility for burial of Ananias is assumed by the younger men of the congregation.

wound him up: Barnes describes the process of burial preparation."It was the usual custom with the Jews to wind the body up in many folds of linen before it was buried; commonly also with spices, to preserve it from putrefaction" (410).

and carried him out, and buried him: There is no fanfare in the burial of Ananias. He has received a divine judgment because of his sin, and he is afforded no special treatment in his burial. Apparently, Sapphira, the wife of Ananias, is not notified of the death of her husband.

Verse 7

And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

One can only imagine the tension that builds while the disciples wait for the appearance of Sapphira. If the apostles are shocked at the fate of Ananias, they now must be aware of the dreadful consequences that await his wife if she is party to this deceit.

It is also quite amazing to contemplate that she is kept unaware of her husband’s death. He has dropped dead in a public place and has been carried out to be buried. Three hours passed and yet Sapphira has not heard one word about the incident. This is a most extraordinary circumstance, yet we may assume these details are kept from Sapphira in order that she might be tested, and if guilty, exposed for her part in the scheme.

Verse 8

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much: By the time Sapphira arrives, it is likely the tension in the air could have been cut with a knife. Peter breaks the silence with the straightforward question, "Did you sell the land for so much?"

And she said, Yea, for so much: Without hesitation, Sapphira confirms her complicity in this attempt to lie unto God.

Verse 9

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together 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.

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord: Peter delivers essentially the same rebuke to Sapphira that he gave to her husband in verse 3. Peter uses three different expressions to describe the sin of Ananias and Sapphira:"lie to the Holy Ghost" (verse 3), "lied ... unto God" (verse 4), and "tempt the Spirit of the Lord" (verse 9).

If the guilty pair had been asked, beforehand, whether they thought they could deceive the Holy Spirit, no doubt they would have answered, no: for they must have known that such an attempt would be in vain. They dared to make the attempt because they had their minds on the apostles as men, and not as inspired men. The test thus unintentionally applied resulted in a triumphant vindication of the Spirit’s power as an indwelling guide, and the circumstances were such that no man could dare to repeat the experiment (McGarvey, Vol. I 87).

behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out: The footsteps of the young brethren, returning from the burial of Ananias, are heard at the door. They soon shall be the bearers of the body of Sapphira.

Verse 10

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.

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: Again it is necessary to state that even though Peter knows what is going to happen, he does not cause the death of Sapphire. Her death, like the death of Ananias, is brought about by the swift judgment of God.

and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband: The same young brethren who buried Ananias now carry out the body of Sapphira to be buried next to her husband.

Verse 11

And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

And great fear came upon all: To miss the lesson taught, as a result of the sin and punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, would be to fail to appreciate the example that God makes of these two who would "tempt the Spirit of the Lord." The church of the first century learns in a very graphic way:

1. God searches the hearts of men.

2. God judges the motives of men.

3. Fraud and hypocrisy will be detected.

4. God’s judgments are swift and severe.

the church: Here, for the first time in the original text of the book of Acts, the word ekklesia, from which we get the word "church," is used. Vine defines the word ekklesia as from ek, out of, and klesis, a calling (Vol. I 83). Literally the "church" is the "called out" (Matthew 16:18; Acts 7:38; Acts 8:3).

The "church," the "called out of God," was established on the day of Pentecost (2:47). The church of Christ became then an undeniable reality upon the earth. The prediction of Jesus, "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18), was fulfilled.

and upon as many as heard these things: The community in general, both believers and non-believers, were duly impressed by this demonstration of the power of God. We dare not miss the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira. McGarvey aptly sums up this account with the following quotation:

We must not drop this incident without observing its bearing in another direction. This piece of corruption was connected with the Lord’s treasury; and apart from the feature which was emphasized by Peter, it has a bearing on our modern church life. The lie told by Ananias consisted in representing his gift as being more liberal in proportion to his ability than it really was. Every time a member of the church at the present day makes exaggerated statements of the amount he is giving, or understates the amount of his wealth, in order to make out a degree of liberality beyond what is real, he is guilty of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira; and if all such were to drop dead in their tracks, there would be a thinning of the ranks in some places. All who are tempted to act thus should be faithfully notified that the same God who punished Ananias and Sapphira on the spot will not fail to punish, in his own time and place, all who imitate them (Vol. I 87-88).

Verse 12

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.

And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people: The testimony of the apostles is confirmed as being from God by the miracles that accompany their preaching. By the demonstration of "signs and wonders," the gospel is given divine impetus (see notes on 4:30).

The recurrence of the phrase, "by the apostles" or "by the hands of the apostles, "affords positive proof that the one hundred twenty disciples mentioned in the first chapter had no part in the baptism of the Holy Spirit which endowed the Twelve with the fantastic powers visible in the Book of Acts (Coffman 108).

(and they were all with one accord: Luke never misses an opportunity to emphasize the unity of the brotherhood of Christians (see notes on 1:14).

in Solomon’s porch: This "porch" is an appendix to the temple (see notes on 3:11).

Verse 13

And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

And of the rest: There is some discussion as to whom "the rest" might be. Some suggest they are the non-Christian population in general, but, as we see in the next verse, "multitudes" of the general population are being "added to the Lord." "The rest" refers to a definite portion of the population, specifically those who see the possibility of personal jeopardy if they fall into the same consequences that befell Ananias and Sapphria. The fate of Ananias has a pronounced effect on those who, perhaps, have the same hypocritical tendencies."The rest" is defined by Vincent as:"Unbelievers, deterred by the fate of Ananias from uniting themselves to the church under false pretences" (468).

durst no man join himself to them: Because of the example of Ananias, "no man" with like motives dared to "join himself" to the church.

but the people magnified them: The general population is greatly impressed by this example of discipline in the church. Vine says this word "magnified" means "to make great" (Vol. III 28). The Lord’s church is great in the sight of the ordinary people.

Usually, in our modern experience, a great sin exposed in the church, such as that of Ananias and Sapphira, brings the church into disrepute for a time, diminishes the respect for it entertained in the community, and renders all efforts to add to its numbers futile. Why was the effect in Jerusalem the reverse of this? This is a serious question for those who bear rule in the church. It is quite evident that the difference depends on the very different way in which such scandalous conduct is now treated. If the Jerusalem church had tolerated Ananias and Sapphira, by retaining them in their fellowship after their exposure, doubtless the "ways of Zion would have mourned," and sinners would not have been turned to the Lord. But the sudden punishment visited upon them by the Lord, and the abhorrence of the deed manifested by burying them without ceremony in the clothing in which they died, and while their bodies were scarcely cold, made the whole community feel that here was a people among whom sin could not be tolerated. It was a safe place for a man who needed holy companionship to help him in the effort to live a holy life–a place in which he might expect every false step to be promptly corrected, and through which he might confidently hope to make his pilgrimage to a better world. People who wish to make a compromise with sin, and who join a church merely because they are afraid to live without some appearance of religion, will always avoid such a church as their spiritual home. When shall the rigid discipline which God established in the beginning be seen on earth once more? Let the shepherds of the flock give an answer, as they remember that they must give account to God concerning the souls committed to their care (McGarvey, Vol.I 89-90).

The world will always "magnify" a church that stands uncompromisingly for truth and holy lives. It is "high time" for the church of today to take a stand for truth and to demand moral, virtuous lives from its members. While church leaders timidly stand by in indecision on discipline, the Lord’s church is being ravaged by adultery, fornication, unscriptural divorces, immodesty, covetousness, and a host of other sins that dilute and make ineffectual the lives of Christians. The church needs to realize the value of swift decisive discipline as well as the sometimes irreparable harm done by a lack of discipline. The problems that arise within the Lord’s church do not go away on their own: they must be dealt with. When the church ceases to be a proclaimer of truth, a fortress for morality, and an enforcer of discipline, it becomes a laughingstock.

Verse 14

And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women).

And believers were the more added to the Lord: Sincere "believers" are "added to the Lord" which is the same as "added to the church" (see notes on 2:47). The discipline invoked by the Apostle Peter may have intimidated some with hypocritical motives, but it inspires the pure of heart to become members of this righteous group. If the church is to be successful in the role of evangelism, it must maintain its integrity.

multitudes both of men and women): This is no small event; large numbers are influenced to obey the gospel.

Verse 15

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.

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches: This verse refers to verse 12 and is a continuation of the activities recorded there. Through the power vested in the apostles by the Holy Spirit, many are being healed.

that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them: Whether or not the "shadow of Peter passing" over the sick heals them would be mere conjecture on our part because the scriptures do not explain. The people seem to think such a miracle might happen, and it certainly is not an impossible concept. The woman in Matthew 9:21 thinks, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole."In Acts 19:12, it is expressly stated the sick are healed by the "handkerchiefs or aprons" that are brought from the Apostle Paul.

Verse 16

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.

There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: Just as the common people have flocked to Jesus for His healing, they now come to the Twelve for the benefits of their miraculous power. Doubtless many of these are converted to Christianity; thus, the spread of the gospel continues (see notes on "unclean spirits" in Acts 8:7).

and they were healed every one: No one is disappointed; "they were healed every one."This is quite a contrast to the would-be "faith healers" of today, where failure is common and the cure is questionable.

Verse 17

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,

Then the high priest rose up: As if they could sit still no longer, the enemies of Jesus once again rear their ugly heads to oppose the apostles.

and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees, ) and were filled with indignation: When Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin (4:20), they had promised to disobey the charge given them, not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. They continue to preach the gospel, giving emphasis to the resurrection of Jesus (4:33). This teaching always upset the Sadducees. "The Sadducees saw in Christ’s resurrection the refutation of their system; and therefore they violently seized the apostles, because their preaching that doctrine was fatal to their distinguishing tenets (Campbell 33).

Verse 18

And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

Peter and John again become prisoners for the cause of Christ, but this time they have company in this "common" jail; all twelve of the apostles are imprisoned.

When man has reached his extremity, then it is that there is afforded to God an opportunity. The extremity had been reached. An emergency had arisen. What would have happened to the cause if all twelve of the apostles had been tried and condemned? This was exactly the plan of the Sanhedrin, not to stop with two of them, but to silence all twelve once and for all (De Welt 78).

Verse 19

But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

But the angel of the Lord: The word "angel" is defined by Vine as "a messenger (form angello, to deliver a message) sent whether by God or by man or by Satan" (Vol. I 55). In this case, we have no problem in understanding this is a heavenly messenger from God; it is the "angel of the Lord." The scriptures explain that one of the functions of these heavenly messengers is to be "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). God, in this place, uses one of these "ministering spirits" to carry out His providence for the apostles. God is still in control of this world, and there is no reason not to assume that His will is still being accomplished by these "ministering spirits."

by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said: In the night one of God’s mighty angels throws open the prison doors, doors that are locked only to the power of men. This is not the last time we will encounter the"angel of the Lord"in the book of Acts (8:26; 12:7; 12:23).

Verse 20

Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

It is difficult to imagine the amazement of the Twelve as they are led out of the "common prison" into the night by this angel. The reason for this angelic rescue becomes apparent in the instruction of the angel. Go preach the "words of life."God is not about to allow this harassment and incarceration to hinder the progress of the gospel. All the opposition that Satan can muster will be frustrated in his attempts to prevent the preaching of" the words of life."

Verse 21

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.

And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught: The apostles waste no time in discharging the instructions of the angel. "As the sun breaks over the eastern horizon of the hills of Judea the apostles

entered the familiar portico of the temple to take up their message where it had been interrupted the day before (De Welt 79).

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: The "high priest" reassembles the Sanhedrin court to determine what is to be done with the prisoners. Luke uses the word "senate" to describe one group of those that gathered. The word "senate" (gerousia) means "a council of elders" (Vine, Vol. III 342).

and sent to the prison to have them brought: Men are dispatched to the prison to fetch the disciples who, unbeknown to this assembly of hostile Jews, are no longer prisoners. They are busily doing what they were commanded not to do, preaching the "words of life."

Verses 22-23

But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 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.

The officers of the court must have been surprised to find the doors of the prison locked and guarded; yet upon investigation the prisoners are absent. Often death is the penalty for the jailor if his prisoners escape. Being a jailor is an especially risky business if the charges happen to be Christians (Acts 16:27).

Verse 24

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.

Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests: See notes on chapter four verse 1.

heard these things: The leaders of the Sanhedrin receive the report that the apostles have been miraculously freed from the prison.

they doubted of them whereunto this would grow: Herein is an amazing thing. These Jews are not "perplexed" over the fact that the disciples have escaped, but, rather, their concern is what effect this latest victory for the apostles will have in aiding the rapid growth and popularity of the Lord’s church. These Jewish officials have had every opportunity to see the validity of the Christian faith in many different miracles, signs and wonders, yet they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the truth.

Verse 25

Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

It is bound to be obvious to the Jewish Sanhedrin that these disciples of the despised "Jesus of Nazareth" are not easily intimidated, neither are they going away. The threat of the Sanhedrin to "speak no more in the name of Jesus" (4:18) and the night in jail seem to have inspired the apostles to a new urgency in "teaching the people." This opposition ignited their zeal like pouring gasoline on a fire. Perhaps some opposition would be good for the church of today. Have we become complacent about the preaching of the gospel? Because we are rarely challenged regarding our faith today, have we forgotten our purpose? Could it be the devil has changed his tactics? Has he learned that he can love more folks into hell than he can drive there?

Verse 26

Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

These Jewish authorities have had prior dealings with these men before. Now they are sent again to "lay hands on the apostles" and bring them before the Sanhedrin. There is bound to be a new appreciation for the status of the apostles; at least it is obvious that popular opinion is on their side. The captain and his officers are the ones who must exercise caution lest they stir up the ire of the people and wind up being stoned themselves!

Verses 27-28

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 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.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name: Once again the apostles are brought before the council and the original charge is reiterated:"they commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (4:18)."This strict charge, on the part of the council, shows how much they dreaded the name of Jesus Christ" (Campbell 35).

and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine: What a great commentary on the tenacity and convictions of the apostles! They have "filled Jerusalem" with the gospel of Christ.

and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us: This is the second of two charges brought by the Sanhedrin. First, the apostles violated the command of the court not to preach, and now they are accused of blaming the Sanhedrin for the death of Jesus. What a hypocritical charge! The blood of Jesus is already upon them. This is the same court that condemned Jesus to die and then asked Pilate to agree to allow it. These are some of the same people who cried out "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). This venomous clamor for the blood of Jesus will haunt some of these men in eternity.

Verse 29

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: As is usually the case, Peter seems to be the spokesman for the disciples.

We ought to obey God rather than men: Without hesitation "Peter and the other apostles" plead guilty to the charges of the court. Their excuse, for a violation of the dictates of this "supreme court," is "we ought to obey God rather than men."

Here is a principle that should be remembered by all Christians: if the demands of civil government, society, tyrannical dictators, or whoever it might be, cause the compromise or violation of Christian commands and principles, these demands must be disregarded. God must be put first.

Here Peter, as in Acts 4:19 states the principle that should govern all Christians. When there is a conflict between the authority of God and men, we must obey God; God comes first; obedience to his authority takes precedence over all other authorities (Boles 89).

Verse 30

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus: Peter draws a sharp contrast between the actions of God and of men. Jesus, whom God "raised up," they killed on the cross. Peter never passes the opportunity to declare, for the benefit of the unbelieving Sadducees, the resurrection of Jesus.

whom ye slew: The guilt for the death of Jesus lies upon the shoulders of these Jews."It is certain, however, that Peter did not shrink from charging them with their guilt; nor was he at any pains to soften or mitigate the severe charge that they had murdered their own Messiah" (Barnes 413).

and hanged on a tree: To hang "on a tree" is to crucify. Vine defines "tree" as:" (xulon), wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood is used, with the rendering "tree, " ... (b) of the Cross, the tree being the stauros, the upright pale or stake to which Romans nailed those who were thus to be executed" (Vol. IV 153). (See 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24.)

Verse 31

Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour: Peter continues to describe what God has done for the "Messiah" whom they have rejected. Boles defines"A Prince, "as having authority and so must be obeyed; he has all authority in heaven and on earth; as a Savior to those only who accept him as their Lord" (89) (see notes on 3:15).

for to give repentance to Israel: One might be led to believe that "repentance" is something that one gets, but we have already learned "repentance" is something one does (see notes on 2:38). The concept thus presented is that the "goodness of God" would provide an opportunity for Israel to repent (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).

It is implied that repentance as well as remission of sins is a gift; but to give repentance cannot mean to bestow it without an exercise of our own will; for repentance itself is an act of our will. It is an act of the will to which we are led by sorrow for sin. God gives it then, not directly, but indirectly, by giving the motives which lead to it (McGarvey, Vol. I 95-96).

T. W. Brents in his classic book, The Gospel Plan of Salvation, makes the following observation:

God gives us bread, but we have to work and make it nevertheless. So God gives us repentance by placing motives before us to induce it; hence Paul asks: "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (197)?

and forgiveness of sins: Jesus has been resurrected from the grave and exalted to the "right hand of God" to be the Savior for those who will obey Him and receive the remission of sins (Matthew 7:21; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Hebrews 5:8-9).

Verse 32

And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

And we are his witnesses of these things: Peter declares himself and the rest of the apostles as "witnesses" of these things that happened to Jesus (see notes on 1:8-9).

and so is also the Holy Ghost: Additional credibility is added by Peter when he says the "Holy Ghost" is also a "witness" of these things. The insinuation is if our testimony about Jesus is wrong; is the witness of the Holy Spirit wrong also?

whom God hath given to them that obey him: This statement is not to be understood as limited only to the apostles, but it reestablishes the general principle that God’s Holy Spirit is "given to them that obey him" (see extensive notes on 2:38).

In both the Greek and the English languages this principle of giving the Holy Spirit to the obedient is affirmed. In the Greek the word edoken (hath given) is third person plural, indicative active, aorist tense (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon 116). "Aorist tense denotes an action that is given in the past but can be continued and repeated" (Webster 84).

In the English, "hath" is present perfect tense. John E. Warriner says: "The present perfect tense is used to express action (or help to make a statement about something) occurring at no definite time in the past. It is formed with have or has. ... The present perfect tense is also used to express action (or help to make a statement about something) occurring in the past and continuing into the present" (165).

Coffman makes the following comment:

In the history of holy truth, there has never been any such thing as God’s giving the Holy Spirit to men in order to make them obedient or to make them sons or to save them or to procure the remission of their sins or any such thing. On Pentecost, Peter commands believers to repent and be baptized with the promise that those who did so, receiving the remission of their sins subsequently to their obeying those commands, would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "Obey, " as used here, indicates "a lifelong obedience to God" is a continuing condition to be fulfilled by those desiring to enjoy the continuing gift of the Holy Spirit. See Galatians 4:6, where it is declared that the Holy Spirit is given to men, not to make them sons but as a consequence of their already being sons. The popular notion to the effect that God sends the Holy Spirit with the purpose of making men desire to serve God is totally wrong" (115).

Verse 33

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

When they heard that: The apostles relentlessly and without compromise or apology have borne down on the Jews with the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Peter declares the merciless death brought upon Jesus by the Jews, His burial and glorious resurrection. Peter also calls for the repentance of Israel. It must have been incredulous to the minds of these "holier than thou" Jews to be commanded to repent. Basically, Peter’s message is the same sermon he preached on the day of Pentecost in chapter two, but the results are vastly different.

they were cut to the heart: In chapter two the audience was "pricked in their hearts", here their hearts are "sawed asunder." "Only here and ch. vi1 54. The verb means, originally, to saw asunder. A strong figure for exasperation" (Vincent 471).

and took counsel to slay them: Members of this Jewish court are at their wits’ end. They are so frustrated by the apostles that they are entertaining murderous thoughts. This should have been deja vu for this venomous crowd; this is the same state they were in when they crucified Jesus.

Verse 34

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;

Then stood there up one in the council: One who is to have a calming influence on this exasperated council now takes the floor.

a Pharisee: The Pharisees are one of five major sects into which the Jewish people of New Testament times were divided.

In all probability the Pharisees originated in the period before the Maccabean war, in a reaction against the Hellenizing spirits which appeared among the Jews, and manifested itself in the readiness of a part of the people to adopt Greek customs. Those who regarded these hellenizing practices with abhorrence, and their spread with alarm, are incited to strict and open conformity to the Mosaic Law. They are driven yet more closely together as a party by the fierce persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, BC 175-163. Antiochus persecuted those faithful Israelites who would not abandon Judaism and accept the Greek faith. He attempted to destroy the Holy Scriptures, and commanded that whosoever was found with any Book of the Covenant, or consented to the Law, should be put to death, (1 Maccabees 1:56-57) (Reese 161).

In contrast to the Sadduccees, the Pharisees believe in a resurrection, angels, and the immortality of the soul. The term "Pharisaism" is often applied to the legalistic tenants of this group. As Reese says:

Pharisaism is the final and necessary result of that conception of religion which makes religion consist of conformity to the Law. They thought that God promised grace only to the doers of the Law. Religion became external. The disposition of the heart was less vital than the outward act, in their estimation. The interpretation of the Law and its application to the details of ordinary life accordingly became a matter of grave consequences (162).

Like Gamaliel, the Apostle Paul was at one time a Pharisee (23:6). Paul says that the Pharisees are "the most straitest sect" of the Jewish religion (26:5).

named Gamaliel: This man is well known as a teacher of the Law.

Gamaliel was perhaps the foremost teacher in the sect of the Pharisees. He was quite literally "Mr. Pharisee" to the Jews of his day."Dr. Lightfoot says, that this man was teacher of Paul, (Acts xxii, 3) the son of the Simon who took the Saviour in his arms, (Luke ii, ) and the grandson of the famous Hillel, and was known among the Jews by the title of Rabban Gamaliel the elder. This man is said to have died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem; and he died as he had lived, a Pharisee. There is not the least evidence that he was a friend of the Christian religion (Barnes 414).

a doctor of the law: "Doctor" indicates one who is a teacher of the Old Testament law. Such a celebrated instructor is Gamaliel that young men, including the young man Saul who become the Apostle Paul, came from all over the world to sit at his feet (22:3).

had in reputation among all the people: Because of his abilities and influence as a master teacher, Gamaliel enjoys a heroic status among the Jews. What he has to say would not go unheeded.

and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space: Gamaliel gives orders to have the apostles removed so he might speak to the council in private.

Verse 35

And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

Gamaliel now takes the opportunity to address the assembly and to offer a word of caution in how they should deal with the apostles. Here might be a good place to note that the teaching of the apostles concerning the resurrection is not a problem for Gamaliel because he is a Pharisee. It could be that Gamaliel even enjoys watching the Sadducees flinch every time the word resurrection is mentioned.

Verse 36

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.

For before these days rose up Theudas: There is much discussion among the scholars as to the identity of "Theudas." This was a common name among the Jews.

Of this man nothing more is known than is here recorded. Josephus (Antiq. b. xx. chap. v). mentions one Theudas, in the time of Fadus the procurator of Judea, in the reign of the emperor Claudius, (A.D.45 or 46, ) who persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with him, and follow him to the river Jordan. He told them he was a prophet, and that he would divide the river, and lead them over. Fadus, however, came suddenly upon them, and slew many of them. Theduas was taken alive, and conveyed to Jerusalem, and there beheaded. But this occurred at least ten or fifteen years after this discourse of Gamaliel. Many efforts have been made to reconcile Luke and Josephus, on the supposition that they refer to the same man. Lightfoot supposed that Josephus had made an error in chronology. But there is no reason to suppose that there is reference to the same event; and the fact that Josephus has not recorded the insurrection referred to by Gamaliel, does not militate at all against the account in the Acts (Barnes 414).

boasting himself to be somebody: Theudas claimed to be a prophet able to divide the waters of Jordan.

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: The insurrection of Theudas failed. The wisdom of Gamaliel is that Theudas failed because God did not bless his efforts. This logic as applied to the apostles is, if God is not for them, they also will fail.

Verse 37

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.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee: This Judas led what amounted to a tax revolt against the Roman government."Josephus has given an account of this man (Ant.XVII. 10.5). He says the revolt took place under Quirinius, at a time when an enrollment was being made" (Reese 184).

In the days of the taxing: The Romans required all the people under their control be "enrolled" (registered) to pay taxes. This enrollment is similar to the one that caused Mary and Joseph to be in the city of Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

and drew away much people after him: Like Theudas, Judas also gathered a following of several hundred people.

he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed: The end result was the same. The revolt of Judas was crushed. The same reasoning is applied by Gamaliel, God was not with Judas and his followers; therefore they failed.

Verses 38-39

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: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

The conclusion to the two examples presented by Gamaliel and the application to the apostles is:

1. Leave these men alone.

2. If they are working without the blessing of God, they will fail.

3. If they are working with God’s blessing, no amount of opposition will defeat them.

4. In our opposition to them; it could be possible, we are fighting against the will of Almighty God.

Verse 40

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.

And to him they agreed: The rest of the Jews agree with the reasoning of Gamaliel, and the murderous intentions of the Sanhedrin are postponed at least temporarily. Gamaliel may have been a wise man, but he certainly does not show it here. His decision is no decision. Let us wait and see what happens. It is amazing to analyze the events that have transpired and to see a "doctor of the Law" who cannot decide if God be for or against the apostles. The witnesses are all in: the healing of the lame man is common knowledge, the jailors who stood guard all night over an empty jail have given their testimony, the tomb of Jesus is empty, yet the "wise men" cannot decide whether God be for them or not!

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (Matthew 13:15).

and when they had called the apostles: The apostles are again brought before the court.

and beaten them: Though Gamaliel advises to "let them alone," this twice thwarted and now thoroughly frustrated court makes an attempt to save face by whipping the apostles. This beating is no small chastisement; it usually involves "forty stripes save one." This is a penalty Jesus had foretold would happen to the apostles:

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues (Matthew 10:17).

they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus: What a futile command. Surely this "august council" realizes by now that the tide of Christianity will not be turned by the issue of a toothless command. In reality, they should know by now that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

and let them go: For the second time, the Sanhedrin has failed; the apostles are released.

Verse 41

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

The purpose of a public beating is not only to inflict injury but also to bring shame. Are the apostles disgraced by the "shame" brought upon them? To the contrary, the apostles glory in the fact they are "counted worthy" to "suffer shame" for Jesus’ name.

Verse 42

And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

And daily in the temple: The apostles continue to preach right under the noses of the men who have just instructed them "not to speak in the name of Jesus." It is very probable they continue to use Solomon’s porch as a gathering place for the assembly of the saints.

and in every house: They take the gospel into the private homes of those who would have them. This type of evangelism is an example for us. They preach "every day" in "every place" that they can.

they ceased not to teach and preach: Teaching and preaching describe the work of the apostles. The word didaskonte is the original for "teaching" while euaggelizomenoi is the original for "preaching." The only distinction drawn between the words is found in the context and the message delivered. To teach is "to instruct, teach" while "to preach" carries the idea of "proclaim good news, preach the gospel, to evangelize" (Wigram-Green 171, 354). From this context, it can be drawn that the apostles preach the "good news" in the temple and give teaching (further instruction) in private houses.

Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is the reason for the zeal and determination in the hearts of these early disciples. He is their "Lord and Christ" (2:36). An observer of the events just discussed might ask how is it possible for these common men to receive a command from the highest court in the land, "do not speak in the name of Jesus Christ, " yet they are preaching this very prohibition literally before they leave the court house steps! Have these men no fear? The answer is yes, they have fears, but not of what men can do to them, rather what God can do to them.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

No order from a mere man will cause the apostles to cease preaching, both publicly and privately, the wonderful message of Jesus Christ for they have a divine commission to preach the "good news" to "all the world" (Mark 16:15).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 5". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-5.html. 1993-2022.
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