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Bible Commentaries
Acts 5

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. The Deception And Deaths Of Ananias and Sapphira: 5:1-10

II. The Effects And Aftermath: 5:11-16

III. The Second Wave Of Persecution: 5:17-42


'The story of the deceit and death of this married couple is important for several reasons. It illustrates the honesty of Luke as a historian; he did not suppress this sordid episode...Several commentators have suggested a parallel between Ananias and Achan--the Achan who stole money and clothing after the destruction of Jericho..F.F. Bruce sees a further analogy: "The story of Ananias is to the book of Acts what the story of Achan is to the book of Joshua. In both narratives an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God."' (Stott pp. 108-109) (See Jos_7:1 ff)

This chapter also contrasts sincere faith (Barnabas-4:36-37); and those who want the reputation for such but aren't willing to pay the price. McGarvey notes, 'Unfortunately for our race, every excellence in human character has its counterfeits, and the praise lavished on men of real benevolence prompts others at times to play the hypocrite..' (p. 82)

And then again, this chapter clearly reveals God's attitude towards hypocrites in the Church. Barclay notes, 'This is one of the stories which demonstrate the almost stubborn honesty of the Bible. It is a story which might well have been left out (had the Bible been written by uninspired men-MD) because it shows that even in the Early Church there were very imperfect Christians.' (p. 42)

We also should note that Satan has already tried to destroy the Church from without, and will try again (5:17). Here he tries to destroy it from within.


Verse 1

Act_5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

'BUT'-In contrast to the true generosity manifested in the previous verses (4:32-37). Carefully note that no information is missing between these two chapters.

'A CERTAIN MAN'-a real person. This chapter isn't a parable or an allegory.

'ANANIAS'-a very common name among the Jews, meaning 'God is gracious'.

'WITH'-Indicating that she wasn't an innocent bystander in the whole matter. (5:9 'agreed together').

'SAPPHIRA'-meaning 'beautiful' or 'jewel'.

'SOLD A POSSESSION'-as others had done (4:34-37).

Verse 2

Act_5:2 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.

'KEPT BACK PART OF THE PRICE'-The phrase "kept back" means to "appropriate wrongfully" (Vincent p. 466). 'Sometimes carries the idea of "surreptitiously" or "clandestinely".' (Reese p. 202) 'used in the bad sense of appropriating for one's own benefit, purloining.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 141). (See Tit_2:10 ; Jos_7:1 )

'HIS WIFE ALSO BEING PRIVY TO IT'-'with her full knowledge and consent' (Wey). 'with his wife's full knowledge' (NASV).

'BROUGHT A CERTAIN PART'-only a portion of the sale price.

'LAID IT AT THE APOSTLES' FEET'-as others had done (4:35).

Verse 3

Act_5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

'BUT PETER SAID, ANANIAS'-Possibly Ananias brought the money by himself. For Sapphira doesn't enter the picture until three hours later (5:7).


Points to Note:

Stott notes, 'As Peter plainly said later, their property was their own both before and after the sale (4)..So they were under no obligation to sell their piece of land or, having sold it, to give away any--let alone all--of the proceeds. That is not the whole story, however. There is something else, something half-hidden.' (p. 109)

Be impressed that the complaint is not that they didn't contribute the full price of the land. Peter didn't accuse them of being "frugal". Rather he accuses Ananias of lying, of being deceitful. The gave a portion of the sale price, UNDER THE IMPRESSION that they had given all. Stott notes, 'they wanted the credit and the prestige for sacrificial generosity, without the inconvenience of it. So, in order to gain a reputation to which they had no right, they told a brazen lie. Their motive in giving was not to relieve the poor, but to fatten their own ego.' (pp. 109-110)

Thus they were infected with two sins: The love of money ( 1Ti_6:10 ); and a love for the praise of men ( Mat_6:1-4 ).

'WHY'-'how is it' (TCNT). 'the force of the Greek seems to emphasize the fact that Ananias had it in his power to have prevented such a result.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 141)

Points to Note:

Satan didn't overpower Ananias; Ananias had let him in ( Eph_4:27 ; Jam_4:7 ; 1Pe_5:8-9 ). Notice that Satan works on your heart/mind. He seeks to influence you to believe, think or dwell on wrong ideas ( 1Jn_2:15-16 ). McGarvey notes, 'The existence and agency of the temper are distinctly recognized, yet it is not Satan, but Ananias, who is rebuked (so much for the excuse that the devil made me do it-MD)..The justice of this is manifest from the fact that Satan had no power over his heart without his cooperation.' (pp. 83-84)

Ananias and his wife had fooled themselves in thinking that they could have the respect shown to such men as Barnabas, for a "cheaper price". They also deceived themselves into thinking that they would get away with it.

'LIE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT'-Seeing that the apostles were Holy Spirit inspired men ( Eph_3:3-5 ); to try to deceive them was in reality, trying to deceive the Holy Spirit Himself. By inspiration, Peter was told that Ananias was being deceitful.

Verse 4

Act_5:4 While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God.

'WHILE IT REMAINED'-i.e. remained unsold. This verse virtually removes any excuse that Ananias could have offered in his defense. First of all, the property was his in the first place. 'When you had the land, was it not yours to keep' (Rieu)

'DID IT NOT REMAIN THINE OWN?'-'The passage proves that there was no obligation imposed upon the early Christians to sell all their property..Those who did sell, did it voluntarily; and it does not appear that selling goods and possessions was something expected to be done by all.' (Reese p. 203)

'AFTER IT WAS SOLD, WAS IT NOT IN THY POWER?'-'was not the money under your control' (Gspd). Which reveals that there was no undue pressure on Ananias to give the money. The Church wasn't twisting any arms. Great emotional appeals for money weren't being made. Every sermon they heard wasn't about giving.

Points to Note:

This verse reveals that the New Testament teaches the principle of private ownership. Communal living isn't more spiritual than other lifestyles.

Someone pointed out, that the one thing that communes overlook, and the reason why they fail, is that people overlook one key problem that infects all Utopian colonies, i.e. human selfishness.

Thus Ananias has no "excuse" for his actions. He can't blame the Church, for no pressure was exerted upon him. 'There was no compulsion as regards giving it away. The act was one of deliberate hypocrisy--an attempt to deceive God Himself.' (P.P. Comm. p. 157)

'THOU HAST CONCEIVED THIS THING IN THY HEART'-Just because temptations exist, or evil thoughts enter our mind, it doesn't mean that we are obligated to dwell on them or act them out. Notice, Satan will influence you when you allow an evil thought to remain in your heart and you start dwelling on it, and figuring out ways that you can engage in it without being caught. Unfortunately, some Christians spend too much of their mental time figuring out ways they can get really close to sin, without sinning.

'THOU HAST NOT LIED UNTO MEN'-that is, to men only. He had lied to the apostles, but even beyond that it was a lie directed at God.


Points to Note:

In comparing 5:3 with 5:4, we learn that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Being. For Peter identifies Him with God.

The actions of Ananias constituted a denial that the apostles were inspired, that the God who inspired them, knew all things.

McGarvey reminds us..'That they gave..is proof that they were not sinners above all men in respect of love of money, and yet their fate is held up as a warning to all generations' (p. 83)

Verse 5

Act_5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came upon all that heard it.

'FELL DOWN AND GAVE UP THE GHOST'-'fell down dead' (Wey); 'collapsed and died' (Phi); 'fell down and breathed his last' (NASB).

Points to Note:

Now some commentators claim that nothing miraculous happened here. Rather, Ananias, simply died of shock (realizing he had been found out), or from a heart-attack, because Peter was so severe in what he said. This interpretation we must deny: (a) Peter knew that God had struck him dead, for he told Sapphira what was going to happen to her (5:9-10). (b) 'the view that Ananias had died overcome by shame and grief..But no such explanation could account for the death of Sapphira which Peter foretells as about to follow without delay.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 142)

Others accuse Peter of being too harsh, and they claim that Peter handled this situation in a way that the Lord would never have handled with more "love". And that he put undue psychological pressure upon them. But such a view must be rejected for: (a) Peter was speaking the words of the Lord ( Heb_1:2 ; 1Co_14:37 ). (b) Jesus spoke very harsh things, especially to hypocrites ( Mat_23:1-39 ). (c) Such a view underestimates the true evil involved in sinning.

To understand why this sin was so swiftly punished: (a) It challenged the authority and inspiration of the Apostles-which was challengingly God's authority ( Mat_10:40 ). (b) The modern cry, 'there are so many hypocrites in the church', reveals why God strongly dealt with it. (c) Hypocrisy destroys fellowship. (d) People had entered the Church from unworthy motives--and such could only weaken the body of Christ. (e) It manifested unbelief in the knowledge and holiness of God--thinking that God either was ignorant, or He would just overlook it. (f) It was hypocrisy of the worse kind--the same type that had infested the Pharisees, i.e. doing religious things to be seen of men ( Mat_6:1-4 ; Mat_23:5 ).

McGarvey notes, '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...' (pp. 87-88)

We should also be impressed than many popular theories are dismantled by this event. This chapter contradicts: (a) The God of the N.T. would never punish. (b) Grace automatically covers all sins. (c) Once saved, always saved. (d) God always looks at Jesus when I sin, and hence doesn't see my sin. (e) God gives you credit every time you do something religious. (f) Situation ethics, or "the end justifies the means". (g) God isn't concerned with motive, just as long as we try. (h) God approves us good deeds done to support religious error.

Be impressed that Ananias wasn't a false teacher, he wasn't involved in adultery or fornication, he wasn't a member of some human denomination, he wasn't lax in attendance, and yet God still struck him dead. If this manifests God's feelings towards hypocrisy in the Church-then how does God feel about the above groups?

'we have now seen that, if the devil's first tactic was to destroy the church by force from without, his second was to destroy it by falsehood from within. He has not given up the attempt, whether by the hypocrisy of those who profess but do not practise, or by the stubbornness of those who sin but do not repent. The church must preserve its vigilance.' (Stott p. 112)

'GREAT FEAR CAME UPON ALL THAT HEARD'-This is further clarified in 5:11,13.

Verse 6

Act_5:6 And the young men arose and wrapped him round, and they carried him out and buried him.

'WRAPPED HIM ROUND'-'Poor men simply had their own garments wrapped tightly about their bodies as a preparation for burial. Among the richer classes..the body would be wound in many layers of linen before it was buried; the layers being interspersed with dry spices..' (Reese p. 205)

'CARRIED HIM OUT AND BURIED HIM'-'Burial in such a climate necessarily followed quickly after death, and such legal formalities as medical certification were not required.' (Bruce p. 114) 'The scene was too awe-inspiring for lamentation, for needless funeral ceremonies. As when Nadab and Abihu fell dead at the door of the tabernacle, with strange fire in their censers, there was no weeping or delay ( Lev_10:1-7 )'. (McGarvey p. 85)

Verse 7

Act_5:7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

'WHEN HIS WIFE, NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS DONE, CAME IN'-How she remained ignorant of her husband's death for three hours, we are not informed.

'CAME IN'-Prepared to act out her part in the hypocrisy.

Verse 8

Act_5:8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much. And she said, Yea, for so much.

'TELL ME WHETHER YE SOLD THE LAND FOR SO MUCH'-Notice how God is merciful. God gives Sapphira a chance to repent. 'The moment Peter's question struck her conscience, she would have an inner struggle with herself whether to repent and tell the truth, or whether to attempt to lie and bluff her way through.' (Reese p. 206)

Point to Note:

Notice how Peter or the other Christians can't repent for this woman. This woman only received one chance to repent. In addition, be impressed with how much they lost for the little bit of money they had saved in lying. When we chose some sin to be engaged in, we have just put a value on our souls, that is way below their true value ( Mat_16:26 ).

'YEA, FOR SO MUCH'-This lie came of her own free will.

Verse 9

Act_5:9 But Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to try the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out.

'TRY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD?'-'put the Spirit of the Lord to the test' (Wey). 3985. peirazo pi-rad'-zo; from 3984; to test (objectively), i.e. endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: -assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt(-er), try.

-'To put it to the proof whether the Holy Spirit, ruling in the apostles, could be deceived' (Vincent p. 468) 'thus daringly to put the Holy Ghost on trial, whether or not he is able to discern the thoughts of your evil hearts.' (P.P. Comm. p. 158) 'to see if they could get by without being challenged by the Spirit.' (Reese p. 207)

Point to Note:

If this couple had been asked, 'Can God be fooled', they probably would have said no. For they were believers. But they, like some today, do things without really thinking about what they are doing. Every time we act hypocritically, we are "trying God", i.e. we are daring Him to act.

'BEHOLD, THE FEET OF THEM THAT HAVE BURIED THY HUSBAND ARE AT THE DOOR'-possibly just returning from finishing the task of burying her husband.

Verse 10

Act_5:10 And she fell down immediately at his feet, and gave up the ghost: and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband.

'AND FOUND HER DEAD'-'Can we imagine how awe-stricken they must have been as they buried Ananias?..And then can we imagine what they must have felt when they returned...only to find another body?' (Reese pp. 207-208)

Verse 11

Act_5:11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.

'GREAT FEAR CAME UPON THE WHOLE CHURCH'-This event impressed the Christians with the authority the apostles possessed. Many realized, that God knew their "secrets" also. 'Men's conduct is likely to be much more wholesome when they realize the God of the universe sees and hears and knows all that goes on, even their thoughts and motives..' (Reese p. 208) 'The whole Church was awe-struck' (Wey). It was already somewhat dangerous to be a Christian (in view of the threats made by the Sadducees), but now it was dangerous to take one's faith lightly. Bruce notes, 'The fear which fell upon the whole community suggests that many a member of it had reason to tremble and say to himself, "There, but for the grace of God, go I".' (p. 115)

'CHURCH'-The first time this word is found in Acts. The Church that Jesus promised to built has been established ( Mat_16:18 ).

'ALL THAT HEARD THESE THINGS'-Those in the community.

Verse 12

Act_5:12 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.

'BY THE HANDS OF THE APOSTLES'-Again, let it be noted that such infers that only the Apostles had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

'AMONG THE PEOPLE'-Further discussed in 5:15-16. Note that the miracles were public, and many of the people being healed were non-Christians.

'ALL WITH ONE ACCORD IN SOLOMON'S PORCH'-This would be one of the places in Jerusalem were 5000 plus people could assemble and worship. 'we must stop to note that even after all the difficulty from outside the church and within the church, the church is still one.' (Reese p. 209) Meeting in the Temple area, also gave the apostles a chance to preach to those not yet converted.

Barclay notes, 'The early Christians assembled in the place, where, of all places, everyone would see them. They had no idea of hiding their Christianity. They knew what had happened to the apostles and what might well at any moment happen to them; but they were determined to show all men whose they were and where they stood.' (p. 44)

Verse 13

Act_5:13 But of the rest durst no man join himself to them: howbeit the people magnified them;

'BUT THE REST'-i.e. non-Christians.

'DURST NO MAN JOIN HIMSELF TO THEM'-The "them" of this verse could be the apostles (for they possessed the miraculous powers). But in light of 5:12 "all with one accord", it appears that "them" refers to the church in general. We should note that people will continue to become Christians (5:14), hence this verse may be referring to a specific group of non-Christians, i.e. 'and none dared associate with them simply out of mere curiosity or idle purpose.' (Reese p. 210) Bruce notes, 'Of those who did not believe, however, none ventured to attach himself to the community; the fate of Ananias and Sapphira showed how perilous pretended or half-hearted adhesion might be.' (p. 118)

Point to Note:

God didn't feel that this was a negative consequence. Yes, this event did keep "some" from becoming Christians. And we forget, that "some" need to be kept from becoming Christians, i.e. those wanting to become Christians from unworthy motives. Half-hearted members only weaken a congregation, they dilute the influence of a congregation upon the community. Hence, 'some are frightened away, while others are drawn to faith..On the one hand an awestruck reserve....on the other great...successes.' (Stott p. 113)

'HOWBEIT THE PEOPLE MAGNIFIED THEM'-'Yet the people held them in high honor' (Wey); 'continued to hold them in high regard' (Wms) The respect came not only from the power the apostles manifested, but from the unity, unselfishness, faithfulness and love that they saw manifested by the Church (4:34; 2:42).

Point to Note:

Here is an ideal for any congregation to strive for. Even though we may not to be to convert everyone, let us act in such a way, that people who still disagree with our message, have a hard time not respecting our lifestyle and what we stand for.

Verse 14

Act_5:14 and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women;

'WERE THE MORE ADDED'-'Imperfect, signifying the continuous growth of the Church.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 146) 'were constantly added' (NASV)

'TO THE LORD'-Compare with 2:47. To be a member of the church was to be in a right relationship with the Lord. In addition, since the people of Act_2:41 were only "added" after being baptized, that verse infers that the "believers" in the above verse were also baptized.

'MULTITUDES BOTH OF MEN AND WOMEN'-'Although the judgement of God on Ananias and Sapphira had the effect of deterring hypocrites...yet still the number of true converts was increased. An effort to keep the church pure by wholesome discipline, rather than weakening the true strength of the congregation, has a tendency to increase its numbers and its consecration to the Lord.' (Reese p. 210)

Verse 15

Act_5:15 insomuch that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that, as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some one of them.

'INSOMUCH THAT'-Here we find the continued answer to the prayer of 4:30, and Luke is giving us detailed information concerning 5:12. 'to such an extent' (NASV)

'THEY EVEN CARRIED OUT THE SICK INTO THE STREETS'-'the verb tense in "carried" implies continuous action.' (Reese p. 211) The streets that the apostles were accustomed to using.

'BEDS AND COUCHES'-'beds and stretchers' (Rieu); 'mattresses and mats' (TCNT).

'AT THE LEAST HIS SHADOW MIGHT OVERSHADOW SOME ONE OF THEM-Some complain that this indicates that the people were superstitious. But Stott notes, 'I see no reason to condemn it as tantamount to belief in magic, any more than was the woman's faith that a touch of the hem of Jesus' garment would be enough to heal her. No, the people had been deeply impressed by the words and works of Peter...and believed that through close proximity to him they could be healed.' (p. 113)

Points to Note:

Here we learn something about the power of God and miracles. If one could heal, then they didn't have to touch the individual. Jesus often healed people at great distances, or simply with just a word ( Mat_8:13 ; Joh_4:52 ); or if they had touched him ( Mat_9:20 ). The same was true for the Apostles ( Act_19:12 ).

And people were healed (5:16).

Verse 16

Act_5:16 And there also came together the multitudes from the cities round about Jerusalem, bring sick folk, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

'CITIES ROUND ABOUT JERUSALEM'-Such as Hebron, Bethlehem, Emmaus, Jericho, Lydda, and Joppa. What we are probably also seeing here is the beginning of congregations outside of Jerusalem. As people were converted and then went back home ( Act_9:32 ; Act_9:36 ).

'SICK FOLK, AND THEM..'-Carefully note how the inspired writers distinguished between a physical illness and demon-possession. Contrary to the claims of some, the Apostles didn't assume that every disease was caused by a demon ( Mat_4:24 ).

'EVERY ONE'-Again, if a person could really heal, then they healed "every one" that was in need of healing.

As we close this section, McGarvey notes: '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 of 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?...It is quite evident that the difference depends on the very different way in which such scandalous conduct is now treated...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...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; but those who are in earnest about the desire to save their souls and to do good, seek just such a church as their spiritual home..' (pp. 89-90)


Verse 17

Act_5:17 But the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy,

'ROSE UP'-i.e. began active opposition again. 'It is high time for him and friends...to be up and doing, if they wished to stop the spreading of the faith of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection.' (P.P. Comm. p. 159)

'ALL THEY THAT WERE WITH HIM'-We have been previously introduced to many of these individuals ( Act_4:6 ).

'THEY WERE FILLED WITH JEALOUSY'-Angry because the Apostles had paid so little attention to their injunction (4:20); but also envious of their rising popularity with the people. In addition, many Jews were becoming Christians (5:14), and this from the cream of the crop (6:7).

Verse 18

Act_5:18 and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in public ward.

'LAID HANDS'-We aren't told when or where they were arrested, but 5:26 may suggest that they had been arrested when the crowds weren't present.

'PUBLIC WARD'-'They were not merely put into custody, but they were roughly treated as common criminals and held in the same confinement as were robbers and murderers.' (Reese p. 214)

Verse 19

Act_5:19 But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said,

'OPENED THE PRISON DOORS'-'An angel, whose very existence was denied by the Sadducees who had arrested the apostles, is the one who did it!' (Reese p. 214) ( Act_23:8 ) Seeing that the guards were completely ignorant of this escape (5:22-23) we must conclude that this was similar to the situation recorded in Act_12:7-10 .

Point to Note:

Now certain critics have complained that this was a useless miracle, seeing that the Apostles were found and brought back. But one writer notes, 'But not only was the miracle a source of fresh strength and faith to the disciples...Moreover, the deliverance was another indication to the Sadducees, if they would have accepted it, that it was useless for them to attempt to stay the movement.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 149) This miracle proved, that indeed they were fighting against God (5:39).

Verse 20

Act_5:20 Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life.

'SPEAK IN THE TEMPLE TO THE PEOPLE'-not only boldly, but publicly.

'IN THE TEMPLE'-'If the authorities wish to arrest them again, they will have to do it publicly.' (Reese p. 215)

'ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LIFE'-Which infers: (a) The gospel message is the only message in which "life" can be found ( Rom_1:16 ). (b) Christianity isn't a burden-rather it is "life". (c) One cannot have eternal life without heeding the "words" spoken and written by the apostles ( Joh_6:68 ; 2Jn_1:9 ).

Verse 21

Act_5:21 And when they heard this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, 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-house to have them brought.

'THEY ENTERED INTO THE TEMPLE'-Prompt and immediate obedience. Carefully note that human wisdom would have said, 'Run for it, get out of town, what do you mean, go back to the temple, they will surely find us there!' Situation ethics and the "end justifies the means" would not have accepted the instruction from the angel.

'ABOUT DAYBREAK'-'During a great part of the year in Palestine, especially during the dry season, the heat becomes oppressive soon after sunrise. The morning sacrifice was offered at sunrise. Jesus taught early in the morning ( Joh_8:2 ). So it would not be surprising that a large crowd of people would be found listening to the apostles..this early in the morning...Once the news spread the apostles were teaching in the temple area, the crowd would soon swell in size.' (Reese p. 215)

'CALLED THE COUNCIL TOGETHER'-Being completely ignorant concerning what had been going on since day-break.

'HAVE THEM BROUGHT'-Everything is ready, the Sadducees are out in force, prepared to deal strongly with the apostles--and everything is ready accept there are no prisoners!

Verse 22

Act_5:22 But the officers that came found them not in the prison; and they returned, and told,

Verse 23

Act_5:23 saying, The prison-house we found shut in all safety, and the keepers standing at the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

'SHUT IN ALL SAFETY'-'securely locked up' (Gspd) 'Every precaution had been taken to prevent the apostles from escaping...There were no marks to indicate the door had been jimmied open...' (Reese pp. 216-217).

'KEEPERS STANDING AT THE DOORS'-'Graphic picture of the sentinels at the prison doors.' (Robertson p. 64) 'The officers report that they were still present, and keeping watch, as if unconscious that anything had happened. As far as the guards knew...the prisoners were still in the jail.' (Reese p. 217)

Point to Note:

Those who don't believe in the miraculous elements found in the Bible, argue that the "angel" of 5:19, is actually a zealous and or secret disciple who master-minds a jailbreak. That doesn't fit the text, especially 5:23. This was a supernatural release, in which the apostles were able to walk right out of the jail and past all the guards, without anyone seeing them.

Verse 24

Act_5:24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed concerning them whereunto this would grow.

'WHEREUNTO THIS WOULD GROW'-'what would come of this' (NASV); 'were at a loss to know what had become of them' (Knox); 'wondering what would happen next' (Wey). They were completely at a loss concerning what they should do. They had threatened the apostles, imprisoned them, but they were still gaining many converts. Thus far all their efforts had been for naught. They couldn't see any end in sight.

McGarvey notes, 'instead of thinking, What will God do with us if we continue to fight against these manifestations of his power? The wonder is that they did not immediately disperse, and try to conceal the fact that they had come together at all.' (p. 92)

Verse 25

Act_5:25 And there came one and told them, Behold, the men whom ye put in the prison are in the temple standing and teaching the people.

'CAME ONE AND TOLD THEM'-Probably one who had just come from the temple area.

'STANDING THE TEACHING THE PEOPLE'-'implying a calm, fearless attitude of the men.' (P.P. Comm. p. 160) Doing exactly what they had already been imprisoned twice for doing.

Verse 26

Act_5:26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them, but without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

'BUT WITHOUT VIOLENCE'-Does this imply that the first arrest (5:18) had involved some "rough" treatment?

'FOR THEY FEARED THE PEOPLE, LEST THEY SHOULD BE STONED'-Bruce notes, 'No force was used, but no resistance was offered. Had the apostles been minded to resist, they could have relied upon the support of the crowd that was listening to them and the temple officials would have been faced with an awkward situation.' (p. 121)

Point to Note:

This reveals how popular the apostles had become, even with crowds of non-Christians. The people were eager to listen to what they had to say. In addition, you would also be upset if the men who could heal your friend, relative, etc...were being detained!


Verse 27

Act_5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them,

Verse 28

Act_5:28 saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.

'WE STRICTLY CHARGED YOU'- Act_4:18 . Carefully note the "weakness" of this accusation. There is and has been no argument from Scripture presented by the Sanhedrin. The Apostles have presented an abundance of Scripture and evidence (miracles performed in the "name" of Jesus), why they should preach in His name.

'FILLED JERUSALEM WITH YOUR TEACHING'-Indicating the zeal of the Apostles.

'INTEND TO BRING THIS MAN'S BLOOD UPON US'-'which at the time (they seem to have forgotten) they had urged the people to call down on themselves and their children ( Mat_27:25 'His blood be on us and on our children!') (Stott p. 116)

Point to Note:

Here we find a common "complaint" found among those who oppose the truth. When the false teachings of those who stand against God are brought to their logical end (i.e. no God means no absolute truth, therefore atheists and or liberals are contradicting themselves when they condemn "fundamentalists and extremists"); immediately the critic of God "complains" when he is forced to confront the logical end of his own views.

Verse 29

Act_5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.

'AND THE APOSTLES'-A united front is presented.

'WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN'-This isn't a "pat" answer. For the "evidence" was overwhelming that God wanted them to continue preaching in the name of Jesus.

Point to Note:

Here we find when Christians must disobey the laws of the land ( Rom_13:1 ff; 1Pe_2:13 ff). Notice how the Apostles don't mince words and neither do they hide behind a mountain of legal technicalities. They were disobeying the command of the Sanhedrin. They had understood the command, but they would not comply with it, for in so doing, they would violate the revealed will of God.

Verse 30

Act_5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree.

'GOD OF OUR FATHERS'-The apostles were serving the True God, the God Who revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

'WHO YE SLEW'-Hence it was only right for the apostles to bring the "blood" of Jesus upon the heads of these men. 'answers the second charge against the apostles by saying, "It's the truth! You did kill Jesus.' (Reese p. 220)


Verse 31

Act_5:31 Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.

'PRINCE AND A SAVIOUR'-(3:15; Isa_9:6 'Prince of Peace'.)

'GIVE REPENTANCE TO ISRAEL, AND REMISSION OF SINS'-Jesus didn't force anyone to repent, rather, through His death, He enabled the repentant man or woman to be forgiven. For without the death of Jesus, the most sincere repentance would be vain. Again, note that remission of sins is placed after repentance. And if it follows repentance, then it also follows baptism ( Act_2:38 ).

'For their part in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, Israel and her rulers deserved to be stricken and punished, but instead they had been given opportunity by God to repent.' (Reese p. 221)

Instead of being so concerning about their "public image", they should have been thankful that they were still alive and that a door for repentance was available. Carefully note that the above expression, 'give repentance to Israel', implies that all in Israel can repent, if they so chose. None of these rulers, not even Annas or Caiaphas, have been predestined for destruction.

Verse 32

Act_5:32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

'SO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT'-Who was giving His witness in the form of miracles taking place and the inspired teaching coming through the apostles ( Heb_2:3-4 ).

'WHOM GOD HATH GIVEN TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM'-This last statement closes the door on any rebuttal that the Sanhedrin could offer in reference to the fact that the Apostles were not obeying God. Simply, the argument is, 'We are obeying God rather than men. The proof-the miracles that the Holy Spirit has been working through us.' Carefully note that this isn't a general promise to all believers. For everyone that obeyed God in the First Century, wasn't able to work miracles ( Act_8:16 ; 1Co_12:29 ). And the clear inference being, the Sanhedrin wasn't obeying God!

Verse 33

Act_5:33 But they, when they heard this, were cut to the heart, and minded to slay them.

'CUT TO THE HEART'-'The verb, originally, to saw asunder. A strong figure for exasperation.' (Vincent p. 471)

-(7:54). "touched..on the raw" (NEB).

'MINDED TO SLAY THEM'-as they had slain Jesus. 'Here we have not the pricking of the heart, 2:37, which led to contrition and repentance, but the painful indignation and envy which found vent in seeking to rid themselves of the disciples as they had done to their Master.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 155) Things were getting really close to a "mob" mentality.

Point to Note:

Consider for a moment that it isn't enough to be "convicted" of your sins. You must also make the proper response when confronted. Will you lash out because your ego, feelings or "image" has been supposedly hurt? Or, will you own up to the real you?

Verse 34

Act_5:34 But there stood up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in honor of all the people, and commanded to put the men forth a little while.

'BUT THERE STOOD UP ONE IN THE COUNCIL'-'"Stood up" pictures Gamaliel as rising to speak in the council..Gamaliel is probably to be pictured as holding his position on the floor until the officers had removed the accused.' (Reese p. 223)

'A PHARISEE'-Even though the Pharisees were in the minority in the Sanhedrin, 'they commanded much more popular respect than the Sadducees did.' (Bruce p. 123)

'GAMALIEL'-(guh MAY lih el). He was probably the greatest leader among the Pharisees of his day. He had been a student of Hillel, and was now leader of that School. 'He himself had many illustrious disciples, among them Saul of Tarsus (22:3).' (Bruce p. 124)

'DOCTOR OF THE LAW'-3547. nomodidaskalos nom-od-id-as'-kal-os; from 3551 and 1320; an expounder of the (Jewish) law, i.e. a Rabbi: -doctor (teacher) of the law.

-He was the first rabbi ('my teacher') to be called "rabban" (lit., our teacher).

'HAD IN HONOR OF ALL THE PEOPLE'-'highly respected' (Mof). 'he was only one of seven men to receive the highest of honorary titles Jewish people gave their teachers.' (Reese p. 223) 'His prestige was such that in later days it could be said, "Since Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died there has been no more reverence for the Law, and purity and abstinence died out at the same time.' (Mishnah, Sota ix. 15) (Bruce p. 124)

Verse 35

Act_5:35 And he said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves as touching these men, what ye are about to do.

'TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES'-'be careful' (Wey); 'think well' (Knox); 'be cautious in deciding what to do with these men' (NEB) 'Let's give this thing a good thinking through before we act.' (Reese p. 224) 'He had a reputation for scholarship, wisdom and moderation...His behavior on this occasion was fully in keeping with his public image.' (Stott pp. 115-116)

Verse 36

Act_5:36 For before these days rose up Theudas, giving himself out 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 dispersed, and came to nought.

'FOR BEFORE THESE DAYS'-'Gamaliel's advice is somewhat akin to the old proverb about giving a man enough rope and he will hang himself. To show how regularly this happens, he gives first the example of Theudas, and then that of Judas the Galilean.' (Reese p. 224)

'ROSE UP'-i.e. incited a revolt.

'THEUDAS, GIVING HIMSELF OUT TO BE SOMEBODY'-Josephus mentions a revolutionary named Theudas (THOO duhs) but that particular man lived 10 or 15 years after Gamaliel gave this speech. In addition, of that man Josephus says that he "persuaded a great part of the people", hardly the Theudas mentioned by Gamaliel, who only had 400 followers. But the name Theudas, was common enough, and Josephus mentions no less than three insurrections as occurring shortly after the death of Herod the Great, that we can safely assume that another revolutionary named Theudas had existed.

Verse 37

Act_5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the enrolment, and drew away some of the people after him: he also perished; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered abroad.

'JUDAS OF GALILEE'-This particular man is mentioned by Josephus. 'He says the revolt took place under Quirinius (kwy REN ih us), at a time when an enrollment was being made.' (Reese p. 225) Josephus calls him a Gaulonite, i.e. from the country east of Galilee and he also calls him a Galilean.

'IN THE DAYS OF THE ENROLMENT'-i.e. a census, 'always an inflammatory event, a symbol of Roman rule by taxation.' (Stott p. 117) This particular enrolment is not the one mentioned in Luk_2:2 . Rather, this is a second census that took place in 6 A.D. at the time when Judea became a province under a Roman governor.

'DREW AWAY'-'Among his followers it was unlawful to pay tribute to Caesar in any form. And it was lawful to use any weapons in defense of freedom.' (Reese p. 225) 'The purpose of the census was to arrange taxation. Judas..took up the position that God was the King of Israel; to Him alone tribute was due; and that all other taxation was impious and to pay it was a blasphemy.' (Barclay pp. 48-49)

At this point one writer notes:

'As we consider the characteristics of such men as Theudas and Judas, it is difficult to suppose that the age which produced them could have produced the Messiah of the Gospels..... Instead of giving Himself out to be somebody, Jesus is meek and lowly of heart; instead of stirring revolt in Galilee, a burning furnace of sedition, His blessing is upon the peace-makers; instead of seeking a kingly crown..He withdraws from those who would take Him by force, and make Him a king; instead of preaching revolt and licence in the name of liberty for merely selfish ends, He bade men render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. pp. 159-160)

Verse 38

Act_5:38 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 be overthrown:

Verse 39

Act_5:39 but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.

Points to Note:

As we read these verses we should remember that they are an accurate record of what Gamaliel said. But what he said wasn't inspired of God. 'The Bible gives a different standard by which to measure truth--namely, how does a man and his doctrine compare with the inspired Word of God.' (Reese p. 226) ( Act_17:11 ; 1Ti_6:3 )

Erdman notes, 'This counsel was not perfect; it was not wholly courageous; it did not propose an effort to weigh evidence and to discover truth; but it was far from the mad intolerance which had swayed the Jewish court.' (p. 62)

We must remember that the miracles already had proven that the movement was of God. So had the O.T. Scriptures.

Bruce notes, 'There is much common sense in this position, for certain kinds of men--and movements--can safely be relied upon to hang themselves...but Gamaliel's policy of "Wait and see" is not always the right one to adopt in religious life. His pupil Saul of Tarsus was of a very different mind.' (p. 126)

Concerning false teachers and or sin in the congregation, the policy from God isn't "Wait and see" ( Mat_18:15-17 ; Rom_16:17 ; 1Co_5:1 ff) Reese notes, 'It would be foolish to allow one of the Eastern sects or cults to come into our congregational meetings and teach and make disciples over a period of time, while at the same time we defend our permissiveness by saying "If it is of men, it will come to nought!"' (p. 226)

There has been quite a bit of discussion concerning whether Gamaliel ever became a Christian or whether he was sympathetic to the Church at this time, i.e. possibly a secret disciple. But we must remember these points: (a) Later Judaism speaks of Gamaliel in glowing terms, something that wouldn't be done if he had converted to Christianity. (b) Gamaliel says "if" in 5:39, but the miracles should have proven to Gamaliel that the evidence was stronger than "if". In addition, the human examples that Gamaliel gives, seems to indicate that he thought this movement was of human origin.

Unfortunately, some have lived their lives on the principle, 'if I succeed at doing something, if it works, if I got away with it--then it must have been God's will.'

Many false religions have stood for a long time-i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, etc...And some have become very successful-i.e. the Witnesses and Mormons.

Verse 40

Act_5:40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles unto them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

'THEY BEAT THEM'-A common mode of punishment among the Jews. One was beaten 39 times ( 2Co_11:24 ). Carefully note that they agreed with Gamaliel's advice to a point. They would let the apostles live and go free, but at the same time 'The members of the Sanhedrin may have felt that their honor was at stake, and that, if the apostles departed untouched, they themselves would be regarded as having proceeded against innocent men.' (Reese p. 227) They were beaten to give the public the impression that the apostles had been guilty of some offence.

The beating was also probably carried out with incredible force, seeing that the apostles had twice defied the Sanhedrin, and in fact had embarrassed these religious leaders. The apostles would leave bleeding and torn.

Verse 41

Act_5:41 They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.

'REJOICING THAT THEY WERE COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER DISHONOR FOR THE NAME'-They did exactly what Jesus had told them to do when persecuted, i.e. rejoice ( Mat_5:10-12 ; Luk_6:22-23 ).

Points to Note:

Consider their perspective concerning suffering. Since Jesus suffered so much for us, it is a honor to suffer for Him. It demonstrated that God had confidence in them, seeing that He allowed them to suffer.

Hence, whatever suffering that you encounter for being a Christian is never to be viewed as proof that God doesn't love you, but rather is to be viewed as proof that God has confidence in you. God thought you could handle this ( 1Co_10:13 ) 'they were glad of the opportunity to prove that his confidence was not misplaced.' (McGarvey p. 101)

Hence whatever ridicule, embarrassment, mocking, etc..is heaped upon the Christian, should be viewed as a mark of honor. They considered it a honor to be dishonored. (See Php_1:29 ; Col_1:24 ). They were felt dignified by indignity!

Verse 42

Act_5:42 And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ.

'EVERY DAY'-This beating didn't take any "life" out of them.

'IN THE TEMPLE'-They continued to teach the exact same message (nothing was watered down) right under the noses of the Jewish rulers.

'AT HOME'-In their own homes or in the private homes of Christians and non-Christians.

'TEACH AND TO PREACH'-'In this day when scholars tend to distinguish between the "kerygma" and the "didache", the combination of these two terms (above in the English words "teach" and "preach"-MD) has an important part to play in opposing the attempt to "get behind the present Bible narratives to the original kerygma."' (Reese p. 229) The message that the apostles taught did not evolve!

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 5". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/acts-5.html. 1999-2014.
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