Acts 5 commentary

Acts 5 commentary DEFAULT

Bible Commentaries

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Acts

Verse 1

But a certain man - In the previous chapter the historian had given an account of the eminent liberality and sincerity of the mass of early Christians, in being willing to give up their property to provide for the poor, and had mentioned the case of Barnabas as worthy of special attention. In this chapter he proceeds to mention a case, quite as striking, of insincerity, and hypocrisy, and of the just judgment of God on those who were guilty of it. The case is a remarkable instance of the nature of “hypocrisy,” and goes to illustrate the art and cunning of the enemy of souls in attempting to corrupt the church, and to pervert the religion of the gospel. Hypocrisy consists in an attempt to “imitate” the people of God, or to assume the “appearance” of religion, in whatever form it may be manifested. In this case religion had been manifested by great self-denial and benevolence. The hypocrisy of Ananias consisted in “attempting” to imitate this in appearance, and to impose in this way on the early Christians and on God.

With Sapphira his wife - With her concurrence or consent. It was a matter of “agreement” between them, Acts 5:2, Acts 5:9.

Sold a possession - The word used here κτῆμα ktēma does not indicate whether this was “land” or some other property. In Acts 5:3, however, we learn that it was “land” that was sold; and the word here translated “possession” is translated in the Syriac, Arabic, and the Latin Vulgate as “land.” The pretence for which this was sold was doubtless to have the appearance of religion. That it was “sold” could be easily known by the Christian society, but it might not be so easily known for “how much” it was sold. Hence, the attempt to impose on the apostles. It is clear that they were not under obligation to sell their property. But, “having” sold it for the purposes of religion, it became their duty, if they professed to devote the avails of it to God, to do it entirely, and without any reservation.

Verse 2

And kept back - The word used here means properly “to separate, to part:” and then it means to “separate surreptitiously or clandestinely for our own use” a part of public property, as taxes, etc. It is used but three times in the New Testament, Acts 5:3, and in Titus 2:10, where it is rendered “purloining.” Here it means that they “secretly” kept back a part, while “professedly” devoting all to God.

His wife also being privy to it - His wife “knowing it,” and evidently concurring in it.

And laid it at the apostles’ feet - This was evidently an act professedly of devoting all to God. Compare Acts 4:37; also Acts 5:8-9. That this was his “profession,” or “pretence,” is further implied in the fact that Peter charges him with having “lied” unto God, Acts 5:3-4.

Verse 3

But Peter said ... - Peter could have known this only by “revelation.” It was the manifest design of Ananias to deceive; nor was there any way of detecting him but by its being revealed to him by the Spirit of God. As it was an instance of enormous wickedness, and as it was very important to detect and punish the crime, it was made known to Peter directly by God.

Why hath Satan - Great deeds of wickedness in the Scripture are traced to the influence of Satan. Compare Luke 23:3; John 13:27. Especially is Satan called the “father of lies,” John 8:44-45. Compare Genesis 3:1-5. As this was an act of “falsehood,” or an attempt to deceive, it is with great propriety traced to the influence of Satan. The sin of Ananias consisted in his “yielding” to the temptation. Nowhere in the Bible are people supposed to be free from guilt from the mere fact that they have been “tempted” to commit it. God requires them to “resist” temptation; and if they “yield” to it, they must be punished.

Filled thine heart - A man’s “heart” or “mind” is “full” of a thing when he is “intent on it”; when he is strongly “impelled to it”; or when he is fully occupied with it. The expression here means that he was “strongly impelled” or “excited” by Satan to this crime.

To lie to - To attempt to deceive. The deception which he meant to practice was to keep back a “part” of the price, while he “pretended” to bring the whole of it; thus “tempting” God, and supposing that he could not detect the fraud.

The Holy Ghost - τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον to pneuma to hagion. The main inquiry here is, whether the apostle Peter intended to designate in this place the “third person” of the Trinity; or whether he meant to speak of God “as God,” without any reference to the distinction of persons; or whether he referred to the “divine influence” which inspired the apostles, without reference to the special offices which are commonly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Or, in other words, is there a “distinction” here recognized between the Father and the Holy Spirit? That there “is,” will be apparent from the following considerations:

(1) If no such distinction is “intended,” it is remarkable that Peter did not use the usual and customary “name” of God. It does not appear why he guarded it so carefully as to denote that this offence was committed against the “Holy Spirit,” and “the Spirit of the Lord,” Acts 5:9.

(2) The name used here is the one employed in the Scriptures to designate the third person of the Trinity, as implying a distinction from the Father. See Matthew 3:16; Matthew 1:18, Matthew 1:20; Matthew 3:11; Matthew 12:32; Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:8; Mark 3:29; Mark 12:36; Luke 12:10; John 14:26; John 7:39; John 20:22; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:32, etc.

(3) Peter intended, doubtless, to designate an offence as committed particularly against the person, or influence, by which he and the other apostles were inspired. Ananias supposed that he could escape detection, and the offence was one, therefore, against the Inspirer of the apostles. Yet that was the Holy Spirit as “distinct from the Father.” See John 14:16-17, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-11; John 20:22. Compare Acts 5:32. The offence, therefore, being against him who was “sent” by the Father, and who was appointed to a particular work, clearly supposes that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father.

(4) A further incidental proof of this may be found in the fact that the sin here committed was one of special magnitude - so great as to be deemed worthy of the immediate and signal vengeance of God. Yet the sin against the Holy Spirit is uniformly represented to be of this description. Compare Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29. As these sins evidently coincide in enormity, it is clear that the same class of sins is referred to in both places; or, in other words, the sin of Ananias was against the third person of the Trinity. Two remarks may be made here:

(1) The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son; or, in other words, there is a distinction of some kind in the divine nature that may be designated by the word “person.” This is clear from the fact that sin is said to have been committed against him - a sin which it was supposed could not be detected. “Sin” cannot be committed against an “attribute” of God, or an “influence” from God. We cannot “lie unto” an attribute, or against wisdom, or power, or goodness; nor can we “lie unto” an “influence,” merely, of the Most High. Sin is committed against a “Being,” not against an “attribute”; and as a sin is here charged on Ananias against “the Holy Spirit,” it follows that the Holy Spirit has a “personal” existence, or that there is such a distinction in the divine essence that it may be proper to “specify” a sin as committed especially against him. In the same way sin may be represented as committed especially against the “Father” when his “name” is blasphemed; when his “dominion” is denied; when his mercy in sending his Son is called in question. Sin may be represented as committed against “the Son” when his atonement is denied; his divinity assailed; his character derided, or his invitations slighted. And thus sin may be represented as committed against “the Holy Spirit” when his office of renewing the heart, or sanctifying the soul, is called in question, or when “his” work is ascribed to some malign or other influence. See Mark 3:22-30. And as sin against the Son proves that he is in some sense distinct from the Father, so does sin against the Holy Spirit prove that in some sense he is distinct from the Father and the Son.

(2) The Holy Spirit is divine. This is proved, because he is represented here as being able to search the heart, and to detect insincerity and hypocrisy. Compare Jeremiah 17:10; 1Ch 28:9; 1 Corinthians 2:10, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God”; Revelation 2:23. And he is expressly “called” God. See the notes on Acts 5:4.

Verse 4

Whiles it remained - As long as it remained unsold. This place proves that there was no “obligation” imposed on the disciples to sell their property. They who did it, did it voluntarily; and it does not appear that it was done by all, or expected to be done by all.

And after it was sold ... - Even after the property was sold, and Ananias had the money, still there was no obligation on him to devote it in this way. He had the disposal of it still. The apostle mentions this to show him that his offence was especially aggravated. He was not “compelled” to sell his property - he had not even the poor pretence that he was “obliged” to dispose of it, and was “tempted” to withhold it for his own use. It was “all” his, and might have been retained if he had chosen.

Thou hast not lied unto men - Unto people “only,” or, it is not your “main” and “chief” offence that you have attempted to deceive people. It is true that Ananias “had” attempted to deceive the apostles, and it is true, also, that this was a crime; but still, the principal magnitude of the offence was that he had attempted to deceive “God.” So small was his crime as committed against “men” that it was lost sight of by the apostles, and the great, crowning sin of attempting to deceive “God” was brought fully into view. Thus, David also saw his sin as committed against “God” to be so enormous that he lost sight of it as an offence to man, and said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight,” Psalms 51:4.

But unto God - It has been “particularly” and “eminently” against God. This is true, because:

  1. He had professedly “devoted” it to God. The act, therefore, had express and direct reference to him.

(2)It was an attempt to deceive him. It implied the belief of Ananias that God would not detect the crime, or see the motives of the heart.

(3)It is the prerogative of God to judge of sincerity and hypocrisy; and this was a case, therefore, which came under his special notice. Compare Psalms 139:1-4. The word “God” here is evidently used in its plain and obvious sense as denoting the “supreme divinity,” and the use of the word here shows that the Holy Spirit is “divine.” The whole passage demonstrates, therefore, one of the important doctrines of the Christian religion, that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet is divine.

Verse 5

And Ananias, hearing these words ... - Seeing that his guilt was known, and being charged with the enormous crime of attempting to deceive God. He had not expected to be thus exposed; and it is clear that the exposure and the charge came upon him unexpectedly and terribly, like a bolt of thunder.

Fell down - Greek: Having fallen down.

Gave up the ghost - This is an unhappy translation. The original means simply “he expired,” or “he died.” Compare the notes on Matthew 27:50. This remarkable fact may be accounted for in this way:

  1. It is evidently to be regarded as a “judgment” of God for the sin of Ananias and his wife. It was not the act of Peter, but of God, and was clearly designed to show his abhorrence of this sin. See remarks on Acts 5:11.

(2)Though it was the act of God, yet it does not follow that it was not in connection with the usual laws by which he governs people, or that he did not make use of natural means to do it. The sin was one of great aggravation. It was suddenly and unexpectedly detected. The fast that it was known, and the solemn charge that he had “lied unto God,” struck him with horror. His conscience would reprove him for the enormity of his crime, and overwhelm him at the memory of his wickedness. These circumstances may be sufficient to account for this remarkable event. It has occurred in other cases that the consciousness of crime, or the fact of being suddenly detected, has given such a shock to the frame that it has never recovered from it. The effect “commonly” is that the memory of guilt preys secretly and silently upon the frame, until, worn out with the lack of rest and peace, it sinks exhausted into the grave. But there have not been missing instances where the shock has been so great as to destroy the vital powers at once, and plunge the wretched man, like Ananias, into eternity. It is not at all improbable that the shock in the case of Ananias was so great as at once to take his life.

Great fear came ... - Such a striking and awful judgment on insincerity and hypocrisy was suited to excite awful emotions among the people. Sudden death always does it; but sudden death in immediate connection with crime is suited much more deeply to affect the mind.

Verse 6

And the young men - The youth of the congregation; very probably young men who were in attendance as “servants,” or those whose business it was to attend on the congregation, and perform various offices when Christians celebrated their worship (Mosheim). The word used here sometimes denotes a “servant.” It is used also, Acts 5:10, to denote “soldiers,” as they were commonly enlisted of the vigorous and young. The fact that they took up Ananias voluntarily implies that they were accustomed to perform offices of servitude to the congregation.

Wound him up - It was the usual custom with the Jews to wind the body in many folds of linen before it was buried; commonly also with spices, to preserve it from putrefaction. See the notes on John 11:44. It may be asked “why” he was so soon buried; and especially why he was hurried away without giving information to his wife. In reply to this, it may be remarked:

1. That it does not appear from the narrative that it was “known” that Sapphira was privy to the transaction, or was near at hand, or even that he had a wife. Ananias came “himself” and offered the money, and the judgment fell at once on him.

2. It was customary among the ancient Persians to bury the body almost immediately after death (Jahn); and it seems probable that the Jews, when the body was not embalmed, imitated the custom. It would also appear that this was an ancient custom among the Jews. See Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9; Genesis 35:29; Gen 48:7; 1 Kings 13:30. Different nations differ in their customs in burying the dead; and there is no impropriety in committing a body soon after death to the tomb.

3. There might have been some danger of an excitement and tumult in regard to this scene if the corpse had not soon been removed; and as no valuable purpose could be answered by delaying the burial, the body was decently committed to the dust.

Verse 7

And it was about the space ... - As Sapphira had been no less guilty than her husband, so it was ordered in the providence of God that the same judgment should tome upon both.

Verse 8

For so much - That is, for the sum which Ananias had presented. This was true, that this sum had been received for it; but it was also true that a larger sum had been received. It is as really a falsehood to deceive in this manner, as it would have been to have affirmed that they received much “more” than they actually did for the land. Falsehood consists in making an erroneous representation of a thing in any way for the purpose of deceiving. And “this” species is much more common than an open and bold lie, affirming what is in no sense true.

Verse 9

Agreed together - Conspired, or laid a plan. From this it seems that Sapphira was as guilty as her husband,

To tempt - To try; to endeavor to impose on, or to deceive; that is, to act as if the Spirit of the Lord could not detect the crime. They did this by trying to see whether the Spirit of God could detect hypocrisy.

At the door - Are near at hand. They had not yet returned. The dead were buried without the walls of cities; and the space of three hours, it seems, had elapsed before they returned from the burial.

Shall carry thee out - This passage shows that it was by divine interposition or judgment that their lives were taken. The judgment was in immediate connection with the crime, and was designed as an expression of the divine displeasure.

If it be asked here “why” Ananias and Sapphira were punished in this severe and awful manner, an answer may be found in the following considerations:

(1) This was an atrocious crime - a deep and dreadful act of iniquity. It was committed knowingly, and without excuse, Acts 5:4. It was important that sudden and exemplary punishment should follow it, because the society of Christians was just then organized, and it was designed that it should be a “pure” society, and should be regarded as a body of holy men. Much depended on making an “impression” on the people that sin could not be allowed in this new community, but would be detected and punished.

(2) God has often, in a most solemn manner, shown his abhorrence of hypocrisy and insincerity. By awful declarations and fearful judgments he has declared his displeasure at it. In a particular manner, no small part of the preaching of the Saviour was employed in detecting the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and denouncing heavy judgments on them. See Matthew 23:0 throughout for the most sublime and awful denunciation of hypocrisy anywhere to be found. Compare Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Timothy 4:2; Job 8:13; Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 20:5; Job 36:13; Matthew 7:5; Luke 11:44. In the very beginning of the Christian church it was important, by a decided and awful act, to impress upon the church and the world the danger and guilt of hypocrisy. Well did the Saviour know that it would be one of the most insidious and deadly foes to the purity of the church; and at its very “threshold,” therefore, he set up this solemn warning to guard it, and laid the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira in the path of every hypocrite that would enter the church. If they enter and are destroyed, they cannot plead that they were not fully warned. If they practice iniquity “in” the church, they cannot plead ignorance of the fact that God intends to detect and punish them.

(3) The apostles were just then establishing their authority. They claimed to be under the influence of inspiration. To establish that, it was necessary to show that they could know the views and motives of those who became connected with the church. If easily imposed on, it would go far to destroy their authority and their claim to infallibility. If they showed that they could detect hypocrisy, even where most artfully concealed, it would establish the divine authority of their message. At the “commencement” of their work, therefore, they gave this decisive and most awful proof that they were under the guidance of an infallible Teacher.

(4) This case does not stand alone in the New Testament. It is clear from other instances that the apostles had the power of punishing sinners, and that a violation of the commands of Christ was attended by sudden and fearful judgments. See 1 Corinthians 11:30, and the case of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:8-11.

(5) Neither does this event stand alone in the history of the world. Acts of judgment sometimes occur as sudden and decided, in the providence of God, as in this case. The profane man, the drunkard, the profligate offender is sometimes suddenly stricken down, as in this instance. Cases have not been uncommon where the blasphemer has been smitten in death with the curse on his lips; and God often thus comes forth in judgment to slay the wicked, and to show that there is a God that reigns in the earth. This narrative cannot be objected to as improbable until “all” such cases are disposed of, nor can this infliction be regarded as unjust until all the instances where people die by remorse of conscience, or by the direct judgment of heaven, are “proved” to be unjust also.

In view of this narrative, we may remark:

(1) That God searches the heart, and knows the purposes of the soul. Compare Psalms 139:0.

(2) God judges the “motives” of people. It is not so much the “external” act, as it is the views and feelings by which it is prompted, that determines the character of the act.

(3) God will bring forth sin which man may not be able to detect, or which may elude human justice. The day is coming when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and God will reward every man according as his works shall be.

(4) Fraud and hypocrisy will be detected. They are often detected in this life. The providence of God often lays them open to human view, and overwhelms the soul in shame at the guilt which was long concealed. But if not in this life, yet the day is coming when they will be disclosed, and the sinner shall stand “revealed” to an assembled universe.

(5) We have here an illustration of the power of conscience. If “such” was its overwhelming effect “here,” what will it be when all the crimes of the life shall be disclosed in the day of judgment, and when the soul shall sink to the woes of hell? Through “eternity” the conscience will do its office; and these terrible inflictions will go on from age to age, forever and ever, in the dark World of hell.

(6) We see here the guilt of attempting to impose on God in regard to “property.” There is no subject in which people are more liable to hypocrisy; none in which they are more apt to keep back a “part.” Christians professedly devote all that they have to God. They profess to believe that he has a “right” to the silver and the gold, and the cattle on a thousand hills, Psalms 1:1-6. 10. Their “property,” as well as their bodies and their spirits, they have devoted to him, and they profess to desire to employ it as “he” shall direct and please. And yet, is it not clear that the sin of Ananias has not ceased in the church? How many professing Christians there are who give “nothing” really to God; who contribute nothing for the poor and needy; who devote nothing, or next to nothing, to any purposes of benevolence; who would employ “million” for their own gratification, and their families, “but not a cent for tribute” to God. The case of Ananias is, to all such, a case of most fearful warning. And on no point should Christians more faithfully examine themselves than in regard to the professed devotion of their “property” to God. If God punished this sin in the beginning of the Christian church, he will do it still in its progress; and in nothing have professed Christians more to fear his wrath than on this very subject.

(7) Sinners should fear and tremble before God. He holds their breath in his hands. He can cut them down in an instant. The bold blasphemer, the unjust man, the liar, the scoffer, he can destroy in a moment, and sink them in all the woes of hell. Nor have they any security that he will not do it. The profane man has no evidence that he will live to finish the curse which he has begun; nor the drunkard that he will again become sober; nor the seducer that God will not arrest him in his act of wickedness and send him down to hell! The sinner walks over the grave, and over hell! In an instant he may die, and be summoned to the judgment-seat of God! How awful it is to sin in a world like this; and how fearful the doom which “must” soon overtake the ungodly!

Verse 12

And by the hands ... - By the apostles. This verse should be read in connection with the 15th, to which it belongs.

Signs and wonders - Miracles. See the notes on Acts 2:43.

With one accord - With one “mind,” or intention. See the notes on Acts 1:14.

In Solomon’s porch - See the Matthew 21:12 note; John 10:23 note. They were doubtless there for the purpose of worship. It does not mean that they were there constantly, but at the regular periods of worship. Probably they had two designs in this; one was, to join in the public worship of God in the usual manner with the people, for they did not design to leave the temple service; the other, that they might have opportunity to preach to the people assembled there. In the presence of the great multitudes who came up to worship, they had an opportunity of making known the doctrines of Jesus, and of confirming them by miracles, the reality of which could not be denied, and which could not be resisted, as proofs that Jesus was the Messiah.

Verse 13

And of the rest - Different interpretations have been given of this expression. Lightfoot supposes that by “the rest” are meant the remainder of the 120 disciples of whom Ananias had been one; and that they feared to put themselves on an equality with the apostles. But this interpretation seems to be far-fetched. Kuinoel supposes that by “the rest” are meant those who had not already joined with the apostles, whether Christians or Jews, and that they were deterred by the fate of Ananias. Pricaeus, Morus, Rosenmueller, Schleusner, and others, suppose that by “the rest” are meant the “rich” men, or the people of authority and influence among the Jews, of whom Ananias was one, and that they were deterred from it by the fate of Ananias. This is by far the most probable opinion, because:

  1. There is an evident contrast between them and the people; “the rest,” that is, the others of the rich and great, feared to join with them; but “the people,” the common people, magnified them.

(2)The fate of Ananias was suited to have this effect on the rich and great.

  1. Similar instances had occurred before, that the great, though they believed on Jesus, were afraid to come forth publicly and profess him before people. See John 12:42-43; John 5:44.

(4)The phrase “the rest” denotes sometimes what is more excellent, or which is superior in value or importance to something else. See Luke 12:26.

Join himself - Become united to, or associated with. The rich and the great then, as now, stood aloof from them, and were deterred by fear or shame from professing attachment to the Lord Jesus.

But the people - The mass of the people; the body of the nation.

Magnified them - Honored them; regarded them with reverence and fear.

Verse 14

And believers - This is the name by which Christians were designated, because one of the main things that distinguished them was that they “believed” that Jesus was the Christ. It is also an incidental proof that none should join themselves to the church who are not “believers”; that is, who do not profess to be Christians in heart and in life.

Were the more added - The effect of all these things was to increase the number of converts. Their persecutions, their preaching, and the judgment of God, “all” tended to impress the minds of the people, and to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ. Compare Acts 4:4. Though the judgment of God had the effect of deterring hypocrites from entering the church - though it produced awe and caution, yet still the number of true converts was increased. An effort to keep the church pure by wholesome discipline, and by cutting off unworthy members, however rich or honored, so far from weakening its true strength, has a tendency greatly to increase its numbers as well as its purity. People will not seek to enter a corrupt church, or regard it as worth any effort to be connected with a society that does not endeavor to be pure.

Multitudes - Compare Acts 4:4.

Verse 15

Insomuch - So that. This should be connected with Acts 5:12. Many miracles were performed by the apostles, “insomuch, etc.”

They brought forth - The people, or the friends of the sick, brought them forth.

Beds - κλινῶν klinōn. This word denotes usually the “soft” and “valuable” beds on which the rich commonly lay. And it means that the rich, as well as the poor, were laid in the path of Peter and the other apostles.

Couches - κραββάτων krabatōn. The coarse and hard couches on which the poor used to lie, Mark 2:4, Mark 2:9,Mark 2:11-12; Mark 6:55; John 5:8-12; Acts 9:33.

The shadow of Peter - That is, they were laid in the path so that the shadow of Peter, as he walked, might pass over them. Perhaps the sun was near setting, and the lengthened shadow of Peter might be thrown afar across the way. They were not able to approach him on account of the crowd, and they “imagined” that if they could “anyhow” come under his influence they might be healed. The sacred writer does not say, however, that any “were” healed in this way, nor that they were commanded to do this. He simply states the “impression” which was on the minds of the people that it “might be.” Whether they were healed by this, it is left for us merely to conjecture. An instance somewhat similar is recorded in Acts 19:12, where it is expressly said, however, that the sick were healed by contact with “handkerchiefs” and “aprons” that were brought from the body of Paul. Compare also Matthew 9:21-22, where the woman said respecting Jesus “If I may but touch his garment I shall be whole.”

Might overshadow - That his shadow might pass over them. Though there is no certain evidence that any were healed in this way, yet it shows the full belief of the people that Peter had the power of working miracles. “Peter” was supposed by them to be eminently endowed with this power, because it was by him that the lame man in the temple had been healed Acts 3:4-6, and because he had been most prominent in his addresses to the people. The persons who are specified in this verse were those who dwelt at Jerusalem.

Verse 16

There came also ... - Attracted by the fame of Peter’s miracles, as the people formerly had been by the miracles of the Lord Jesus.

Vexed - Troubled, afflicted, or tormented.

Unclean spirits - Possessed with devils; called “unclean” because they prompted to sin and impurity of life. See the notes on Matthew 4:23-24.

And they were healed - Of these persons it is expressly affirmed that they were healed. Of those who were so laid as that the shadow of Peter might pass over them, there is no such direct affirmation.

Verse 17

Then the high priest - Probably “Caiaphas.” Compare John 11:49. It seems from this place that he belonged to the sect of the Sadducees. It is certain that he had signalized himself by opposition to the Lord Jesus and to his cause constantly.

Rose up - This expression is sometimes “redundant,” and at others it means simply to “begin” to do a thing, or to resolve to do it. Compare Luke 15:18.

And all they that were with him - That is, all they that coincided with him in doctrine or opinion; or, in other words, that portion of the Sanhedrin that was composed of “Sadducees.” There was a strong party of Sadducees in the Sanhedrin; and perhaps at this time it was so strong a majority as to be able to control its decisions. Compare Acts 23:6.

Which is the sect - The word translated “sect” here is that from which we have derived our word “heresy.” It means simply “sect” or “party,” and is not used in a bad sense as implying reproach, or even error. The idea which “we” attach to it of error, and of denying fundamental doctrines in religion, is one that does not occur in the New Testament.

Sadducees - See the notes on Matthew 3:7. The main doctrine of this sect was the denial of the resurrection of the dead. The reason why “they” were particularly opposed to the apostles rather than the Pharisees was that the apostles dwelt much on the “resurrection of the Lord Jesus,” which, if true, completely overthrew their doctrine. All the converts, therefore, that were made to Christianity, tended to diminish their numbers and influence, and also to establish the belief of the “Pharisees” in the doctrine of the resurrection. So long, therefore, as the effect of the labors of the apostles was to establish one of the main doctrines of the “Pharisees,” and to confute the “Sadducees,” so long we may suppose that the “Pharisees” would either favor them or be silent; and so long the “Sadducees” would be opposed to them, and enraged against them. One sect will often see with composure the progress of another that it really hates, if it will humble a rival. Even opposition to the gospel will sometimes be silent provided the spread of religion will tend to humble and mortify those against whom we may be opposed.

Were filled with indignation - Greek: “zeal.” The word denotes any kind of “fervor” or “warmth,” and may be applied to any warm or violent affection of the mind, either “envy, wrath, zeal,” or “love,” Acts 13:45; John 2:17; Romans 10:2; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 11:2. Here it probably “includes envy” and “wrath.” They were “envious” at the success of the apostles - at the number of converts that were made to a doctrine that they hated, and they were envious that the “Pharisees” were deriving such an accession of strength to their doctrine of the resurrection; and they were “indignant” that the apostles regarded so little their authority, and disobeyed the solemn injunction of the Sanhedrin. Compare Acts 4:18-21.

Verse 18

The common prison - The public prison; or the prison for the keeping of common and notorious offenders.

Verse 19

But the angel of the Lord - This does not denote any “particular” angel, but simply an angel. The “article” is not used in the original. The word “angel” denotes properly a “messenger,” and particularly it is applied to the pure spirits that are sent to this world on errands of mercy. See the notes on Matthew 1:20. The case here was evidently “a miracle.” An angel was employed for this special purpose, and the design might have been:

  1. To reprove the Jewish rulers, and to convince them of their guilt in resisting the gospel of God;
  2. To convince the apostles more firmly of the protection and approbation of God;
  3. To encourage them more and more in their work, and in the faithful discharge of their high duty; and,
  4. To give the people a new and impressive proof of the truth of the message which they bore. That they were “imprisoned” would be known to the people. That they were made as secure as possible was also known. When, therefore, the next morning, before they could have been tried or acquitted, they were found again in the temple, delivering the same message still, it was a new and striking proof that they were sent by God.

Verse 20

In the temple - In a public and conspicuous place. In this way there would be a most striking exhibition of their boldness; a proof that “God” had delivered them, and a manifestation of their purpose to obey God rather than man.

All the words - All the doctrines. Compare John 6:68, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

Of this life - Pertaining to life, to the eternal life which they taught through the resurrection of Jesus. The word “life” is used sometimes to express “the whole of religion,” as opposed to the spiritual “death” of sin. See John 1:4; John 3:36. Their deliverance from prison was not that they might be idle, and escape to a place of safety. Again they were to engage in the toils and perils which they had just before encountered. God delivers us from dangers sometimes that we may plunge “into” new dangers; he preserves us from one form of calamity that we may be tried in some new furnace of affliction; he calls us to encounter trials simply “because” he demands it, and as an expression of gratitude to him for his gracious interposition.

Verse 21

Early in the morning - Greek: at the break of day. Compare Luke 24:1; John 8:2.

Called the council together - The Sanhedrin, or the Great Council of the nation. This was clearly for the purpose of “trying” the apostles for disregarding their commandments.

And all the senate - Greek: “eldership.” Probably these were not a part of the Sanhedrin, but were people of age and experience, who in Acts 4:8; Acts 25:15, are called “elders of the Jews,” and who were present for the sake of counsel Canal advice in a case of emergency.

Verse 23

Found we shut - It had not been broken open; and there was therefore clear proof that they had been delivered by the interposition of God. Nor could they have been released by the guard, for they were keeping watch, as if unconscious that anything had happened, and the officers had the only means of entering the prison.

Verse 24

The captain of the temple - See the notes on Acts 4:1.

Doubted of them - They were in “perplexity” about these things. The word rendered “doubted” denotes “that state of anxiety which arises when a person has lost his way, or when he does not know what to do to escape from a difficulty.” See Luke 9:7.

Whereunto this would grow - What this “would be”; or, what would be the result or end of these events. For:

  1. Their authority was disregarded.
  2. God had opposed them by a miracle.

(3)The doctrines of the apostles were gaining ground.

(4)Their efforts to resist them had been in vain. They need “not” have doubted; but sinners are not disposed to be convinced of the truth of religion.

Verse 26

Without violence - Not by force; not by “binding” them. Compare Matthew 27:2. The command of the Sanhedrin was sufficient to secure their presence, as they did not intend to refuse to answer for any alleged violation of the laws. Besides, their going before the council would give them another noble opportunity to bear witness to the truth of the gospel. Christians, when charged with a violation of the laws of the land, should not refuse to answer, Acts 25:11, “If I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die.” It is a part of our religion to yield obedience to all the just laws of the land, and to evince respect for all that are in authority, Romans 13:1-7.

For they feared the people - The people were favorable to the apostles. If violence had been attempted, or they had been taken in a cruel and forcible manner, the consequence would have been tumults and bloodshed. In this way, also, the apostles showed that they were not disposed to excite tumult. Opposition by them would have excited commotion; and though “they” would have been rescued, yet they resolved to show that they were not obstinate, contumacious, or rebellious, but were disposed, as far as it could be done with a clear conscience, to yield obedience to the laws of the land,

Verse 28

Straitly command you - Did we not command you with a “threat?” Acts 4:17-18, Acts 4:21.

In this name - In the name of Jesus.

Ye have filled Jerusalem - This, though not so desired, was an honorable tribute to the zeal and fidelity of the apostles. When Chastens are arraigned or persecuted, it is well if the only charge which their enemies can bring against them is that they have been distinguished for zeal and success in propagating their religion. See 1 Peter 4:16, “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glory God on this behalf”; also Acts 5:13-15.

Intend to bring this man’s blood upon us - To bring “one’s blood” upon another is a phrase signifying to hold or to prove him guilty of murdering the innocent. The expression here charges them with desiring to prove that they had put Jesus to death when he was innocent; to convince “the people” of this, and thus to enrage them against the Sanhedrin; and also to prove that they were guilty, and were exposed to the divine vengeance for having put the Messiah to death. Compare Acts 2:23, Acts 2:36; Acts 3:15; Acts 7:52. That the apostles “did” intend to charge them with being guilty of murder is clear; but it is observable that on “this occasion” they had said no thing of this, and it is further observable that they did not charge it on them “except in their presence.” See the places just referred to. They took no pains to spread this among the people, “except as the people were accessory to the crime of the rulers,” Acts 2:23, Acts 2:36. Their consciences were not at ease, and the remembrance of the death of Jesus would occur to them at once at the sight of the apostles.

Verse 29

We ought to obey ... - See the notes on Acts 4:19.

Verse 30

Raised up Jesus - This refers to his resurrection.

Hanged on a tree - That is, on the “cross,” Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29. This is the amount of Peter’s defense. He begins with the great principle Acts 5:29, which they could not gainsay, that God ought to be obeyed rather than man. He then proceeds to state that they were convinced that God had raised up Jesus from the dead, and as they had such decisive evidence of that, and were commanded by the authority of the Lord Jesus to be “witnesses of that,” they were not “at liberty” to be silent. They were bound to obey God rather than the Sanhedrin, and to make known everywhere the fact that the Lord Jesus was risen. The remark that God had raised up Jesus whom they had “slain,” does not seem to have been made to irritate or to reproach them, but merely to “identify” him as the person that had been raised. It was also a confirmation of the truth and reality of the miracle. Of his “death” they had no doubt, for they had been at pains to certify it, John 19:31-34. It is certain, however, that Peter did not shrink from charging on them their guilt; nor was he at any pains to “soften” or “mitigate” the severe charge that they had murdered their own Messiah.

Verse 31

Him hath God exalted - See the notes on Acts 2:33.

To be a Prince - ἀρχηγὸν archēgon. See the notes on Acts 3:15. In that place he is called the “Prince of life.” Here it means that he is actually in the “exercise” of the office of a prince or a king, at the right hand of his Father. The title “Prince,” or “King,” was one which was well known as applied to the Messiah. It denotes that he has “dominion” and “power,” especially the power which is needful to give repentance and the pardon of sins.

A Saviour - See the notes on Matthew 1:21.

To give repentance - The word “repentance” here is equivalent to “reformation” and “a change of life.” The sentiment does not differ from what is said in Acts 3:26.

To Israel - This word properly denotes the “Jews”; but his office was not to be confined to the Jews. Other passages show that it would be also extended to the “Gentiles.” The reasons why the “Jews” are particularly specified here are, probably:

  1. Because the Messiah was long promised to the Jewish people, and his first work was there; and,
  2. Because Peter was addressing Jews, and was particularly desirous of leading “them” to repentance.

Forgiveness of sins - Pardon of sin; the act which can be performed by God only, Mark 2:7.

If it be asked in what sense the Lord Jesus “gives repentance,” or how his “exaltation” is connected with it, we may answer:

(1) His exaltation is evidence that his work was accepted, and that thus a foundation is laid by which repentance is available, and may be connected with pardon. Unless there was some way of “forgiveness,” sorrow for sin would be of no value, even if exercised. The relentings of a culprit condemned for murder will be of no avail unless the executive can “consistently” pardon him; nor would relentings in hell be of avail, for there is no promise of forgiveness. But Jesus Christ by his death has laid a foundation by which repentance “may be” accepted.

(2) He is entrusted with all power in heaven and earth with “reference” to this, to apply his work to people; or, in other words, to bring them to repentance. See John 17:2; Matthew 28:18.

(3) His exaltation is immediately connected with the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, by whose influence people are brought to repentance, John 16:7-11. The Spirit is represented as being “sent” by him as well as by the Father, John 15:26; John 16:7.

(4) Jesus has power in this state of exaltation over all things that can affect the mind. He sends his ministers; he directs the events of sickness or disappointment, of health or prosperity, that will influence the heart. There is no doubt that he can so recall the sins of the past life, and refresh the memory, as to overwhelm the soul in the consciousness of guilt. Thus also he can appeal to man by his “goodness,” and by a sense of his mercies; and especially he can so present a view of “his own” life and death as to affect the heart, and show the evil of the past life of the sinner. Knowing the heart, he knows all the avenues by which it can be approached, and in an instant he can overwhelm the soul with the remembrance of crime.

It was “proper” that the power of pardon should be lodged with the same being that has the power of producing repentance, because:

  1. The one appropriately follows the other.
  2. They are parts of the same great work - the work which the Saviour came to do; “to remove sin, with all its effects, from the human soul.” This power of “pardon” Jesus exercised when he was on the earth, and this he can now dispense in the heavens, Mark 2:9-11.

And from this we may learn:

(1) That Christ is “divine.” It is a dictate of natural religion that none can forgive sins against God but God himself. None can pardon but the Being who has been offended. And this is also the dictate of the Bible. The power of “pardoning” sin is one that God claims as “his” prerogative, and it is clear that it can pertain to no other. See Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9; Psalms 130:4. Yet Jesus Christ exercised this power when on earth; gave “evidence” that the exercise of that power was one that was acceptable to God by working a miracle, and removing the “consequences” of sin with which God had visited upon the sinner Matthew 9:6, and exercises it still in heaven. He must, therefore, be divine.

(2) The sinner is dependent on him for the exercise of repentance, and for forgiveness.

(3) The proud sinner must be humbled at his feet. He must be willing to come and receive eternal life at “his” hands. No step is more humiliating than this for proud and hardened people; and there is none which they are more reluctant to do. We always shrink from coming into the presence of one whom we have offended; we are extremely reluctant to confess a fault; but it “must be done,” or the soul must be lost for ever.

(4) Christ has power to pardon the greatest offender. He is exalted for this purpose; and he is suited to his work. Even his murderers he could pardon; and no sinner need fear that he who is “a Prince and a Saviour at the right hand of God” is unable to pardon his sins. To him we may come with confidence; and when pressed with the consciousness of the blackest crimes, and when we feel that we deserve eternal death, we may confidently roll all on his arm.

Verse 32

And we are his witnesses - For this purpose they had been appointed, Acts 1:8, Acts 1:21-22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Luke 24:48.

Of these things - Particularly of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and of the events which had followed it. Perhaps, however, he meant to include everything pertaining to the life, teachings, and death of the Lord Jesus.

And so is also ... - The descent of the Holy Spirit to endow them with remarkable gifts Acts 2:1-4, to awaken and convert such a multitude Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14, was an unanswerable attestation of the truth of these doctrines and of the Christian religion. So manifest and decided was the presence of God attending them, that “they” could have no doubt that what they said was true; and so open and public was this attestation, that it was an evidence to all the people of the truth of their doctrine.

Verse 33

When they heard that - That which the apostle Peter had said, to wit, that they were guilty of murder; that Jesus was raised up; and that he still lived as the Messiah.

They were cut to the heart - The word used here properly denotes “to cut with a saw”; and as applied to the “mind,” it means to be agitated with “rage” and “indignation,” as if wrath should seize upon the mind as a saw does upon wood, and tear it violently, or agitate it severely. When used in connection with “the heart,” it means that the heart is violently agitated and rent with rage. See Acts 7:54. It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. The “reasons” why they were thus indignant were doubtless:

  1. Because the apostles had disregarded their command;
  2. Because they charged them with murder;
  3. Because they affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, and thus tended to overthrow the sect of the Sadducees. The effect of the doctrines of the gospel is often to make people enraged.

Took counsel - The word rendered “took counsel” denotes commonly “to will”; then, “to deliberate”; and sometimes “to decree” or “to determine.” It doubtless implies here that “their minds “were made up” to do it; but probably the formal decree was not passed to put them to death.

Verse 34

Then stood there up one - He rose, as is usual in deliberative assemblies, to speak.

In the council - In the Sanhedrin, Acts 4:15.

A Pharisee - The high priest and those who had been most active in opposing the apostles were Sadducees. The Pharisees were opposed to them, particularly on the doctrine in regard to which the apostles were so strenuous, the resurrection of the dead. See the notes on Matthew 3:7. Compare Acts 23:6.

Gamaliel - This name was very common among the Jews. Dr. Lightfoot says that this man was the teacher of Paul Acts 22:3, the son of the “Simon” who took the Saviour in his arms Luke 2:0, and the grandson of the famous “Hillel,” and was known among the Jews by the title of “Rabban Gamaliel the elder.” There were other people of this name, who were also eminent among the Jews. This man is said to have died 18 years after 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; but he was evidently a man of far more liberal views than the other members of the Sanhedrin.

A doctor of the law - That is, “a teacher” of the Jewish Law; one whose province it was to “interpret” the laws of Moses, and probably to preserve and transmit the “traditional” laws of the Jews. See the notes on Matthew 15:3. So celebrated was he, that Saul of Tarsus went to Jerusalem to receive the benefit of his instructions, Acts 22:3.

Had in reputation among all the people - “Honored” by all the people. His advice was likely, therefore, to be respected.

To put the apostles forth - This was done, doubtless, because, if the apostles had been suffered to remain, it was apprehended that they would take fresh courage, and be confirmed in their purposes. It was customary, besides, when they deliberated, to command those accused to retire, Acts 4:15.

A little space - A little “time,” Luke 22:58.

Verse 36

For before those days - The “advice” of Gamaliel was to permit these men to go on. The “arguments” by which he enforced his advice were:

  1. That there were cases or precedents in point Acts 5:36-37; and,
  2. That if it should turn out to be truly of God, it would be a solemn affair to be involved in the consequences of opposing him. How long before “these days” this transaction occurred, cannot now be determined, as it is not certain to what case Gamaliel refers.

Rose up - That is, commenced or excited an insurrection.

Theudas - This was a name quite common among the Jews. Of this man nothing more is known than is here recorded. Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 5) mentions one “Theudas,” in the time of “Fadus,” the procurator of Judea, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius (45 or 46 a.d.), who persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them 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. Theudas 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 . For:

  1. Luke, for anything that appears to the contrary, is quite as credible an historian as Josephus.

(2)The name “Theudas” was a common name among the Jews; and there is no improbability that there were “two” leaders of an insurrection of this name. If it “is” improbable, the improbability would affect Josephus’ credit as much as that of Luke.

(3)It is altogether improbable that “Gamaliel” should refer to a case which was not well authenticated, and that Luke should record a speech of this kind unless it was delivered, when it would be so easy to detect the error.

  1. Josephus has recorded many instances of insurrection and revolt. He has represented the country as in an unsettled state, and by no means professes to give an account of “all” that occurred. Thus, he says (Antiq., xvii. 10, section 4) that there were “at this time ten thousand other disorders in Judea”; and (section 8) that “Judea was full of robberies.” When this “Theudas” lived cannot be ascertained; but as Gamaliel mentions him before Judas of Galilee, it is probable that he lived not far from the time that our Saviour was born; at a time when many false prophets appeared, claiming to be the Messiah.

Boasting himself to be somebody - Claiming to be an eminent prophet probably, or the Messiah.

Obeyed him - The word used here is the one commonly used to denote “belief.” As many as believed on him, or gave credit to his pretensions.

Verse 37

Judas of Galilee - Josephus has given an account of this man (Antiq., xvii. 10, section 5), and calls him a “Galilean.” He afterward calls him a “Gaulonite,” and says he was of the city of “Gamala” (Antiq., 18:1:1). He says that the revolt took place under “Cyrenius,” a Roman senator, who came into “Syria to be judge of that nation, and to take account of their substance.” “Moreover,” says he, “Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’ money.” “Yet Judas, taking with him Saddouk, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty, etc.” “This” revolt, he says, was the commencement of the series of revolts and calamities that terminated in the destruction of the city, temple, and nation.

In the days of the taxing - Or, rather, the “enrolling,” or “the census.” Josephus says it was designed to take an account of their substance. Compare Luke 2:1-2.

Verse 38

Refrain from these men - Cease to oppose them or to threaten them. The “reason” why he advised this he immediately adds, that if it were of human origin, it would come to nothing; if of God, they could not overthrow it.

This counsel or this work be of men - This plan or purpose. If the apostles had originated it for the purposes of imposture.

It will come to nought - Gamaliel “inferred” that from the two instances which he specified. They had been suppressed without the interference of the Sanhedrin; and he inferred that “this” would also die away if it was a human device. It will be remembered that this is the mere advice of Gamaliel, who was not inspired, and that this opinion should not be adduced to guide us, except as it was an instance of great shrewdness and prudence. It is doubtless right to oppose error in the proper way and with the proper temper, not with arms, or vituperation, or with the civil power, but with argument and kind entreaty. But the sentiment of Gamaliel is full of wisdom in regard to error. For:

(1) The very way to exalt error into notice, and to confirm people in it, is to oppose it in a harsh, authoritative, and unkind manner.

(2) Error, if left alone, will often die away itself. The interest of people in it will often cease as soon as it ceases to be opposed; and, having nothing to fan the flame, it will expire. It is not so with truth.

(3) In this respect the remark may be applied to the Christian religion. It has stood too long, and in too many circumstances of prosperity and adversity, to be of human origin. It has been subjected to all trials from its pretended friends and real foes; and it still lives as vigorous and flourishing as ever. Kingdoms have changed; empires have risen and fallen since Gamaliel spoke this; systems of opinion and belief have had their day, and expired; but the preservation of the Christian religion, unchanged through so many revolutions, and in so many fiery trials, shows that it is not of men, but of God. The argument for the divine origin of the Christian religion from its perpetuity is one that can be applied to no other system that has been, or that now exists. For Christianity has been opposed in every form. It confers no temporal conquests, and appeals to no base and strong native passions. The Muslim faith is supported by the sword and the state; paganism relies on the arm of the civil power and the terrors of superstition, and is sustained by all the corrupt passions of people; atheism and infidelity have been short-lived, varying in their forms, dying today, and tomorrow starting up in a new form; never organized, consolidated, or pure; and never tending to promote the peace or happiness of people. Christianity, without arms or human power, has lived, keeping on its steady and triumphant movement among people, regardless alike of the opposition of its foes, and of the treachery of its pretended friends. If the opinion of Gamaliel was just, it is from God; and the Jews particularly should regard as important an argument derived from the opinion of one of the wisest of their ancient rabbis.

Verse 39

But if it be of God - If God is the “author” of this religion. From this it seems that Gamaliel supposed that it was at least possible that this religion was divine. He evinced a far more candid mind than did the rest of the Jews; but still it does not appear that he was entirely convinced. The arguments which could not but stagger the Jewish Sanhedrin were those drawn from the resurrection of Jesus, the miracle on the day of Pentecost, the healing of the lame man in the temple, and the release of the apostles from the prison.

Ye cannot overthrow it - Because:

  1. God has almighty power, and can execute his purposes;
  2. Because he is unchanging, and will not be diverted from his plans, Job 23:13-14.

The plan which God forms “must” be accomplished. All the devices of man are feebleness when opposed to him, and he can dash them in pieces in an instant. The prediction of Gamaliel has been fulfilled. People have opposed Christianity in every way, but in vain. They have reviled it; have persecuted it; have resorted to argument and to ridicule; to fire, and faggot, and sword; they have called in the aid of science; but all has been in vain. The more it has been crushed, the more it has risen, and it still exists with as much life and power as ever. The “preservation” of this religion amidst so much and so varied opposition proves that it is of God. No severer trial “can” await it than it has already experienced; and as it has survived so many storms and trials, we have every evidence that, according to the predictions, it is destined to live and to fill the world. See the Matthew 16:18; Isaiah 54:17; Isaiah 55:11 notes; Daniel 4:35 note.

Lest - That is, if you continue to oppose it, you may be found to have been opposing God.

Haply - Perhaps. In the Greek this is “lest at any time”; that is, at some future time, when too late to retract your doings, etc.

Ye be found - It shall appear that you have been opposing God.

Even to fight against God - Greek Θεομάχοι Theomachoi, “those who contend with God.” The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. To fight against God is to oppose him, or to maintain an attitude of hostility against him. It is an attitude that is most fearful in its character, and will most certainly be attended with an overthrow. No condition can be more awful than such an opposition to the Almighty; no overthrow more terrible than what must follow such opposition. Compare Acts 9:5; Acts 23:9. Opposition to the “gospel” in the Scriptures is uniformly regarded as opposition to God, Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23. People may be said to “fight against” God in the following ways, or on the following subjects:

(1) When they oppose his “gospel,” its preaching, its plans, its influence among people; when they endeavor to prevent its diffusion, or to withdraw their families and friends from its influence.

(2) When they oppose the “doctrines” of the Bible. When they become angry that the real truths of religion are preached, and suffer themselves to be irritated and excited by an “unwillingness” that those doctrines should be true, and should be presented to people. Yet this is no uncommon thing. People by nature do not love those doctrines, and they are often indignant that they are preached. Some of the most angry feelings which people ever have arise from this source; and man can never find peace until he is “willing” that God’s truth should exert its influence on his own soul, and rejoice that it is believed and loved by others.

(3) People oppose the “Law” of God. It seems to them too “stern” and “harsh.” It condemns them; and they are unwilling that it should be applied to them. There is nothing which a sinner likes “less” than he does the pure and holy Law of God.

(4) Sinners fight against the “providence” of God. When he afflicts them they rebel. When he takes away their health, or property, or friends, they complain. They esteem him harsh and cruel; and instead of finding peace by “submission,” they greatly aggravate their sufferings, and infuse a mixture of wormwood and gall into the cup by complaining and repining. There is no peace in affliction but in the feeling that God is “right.” And until this belief is cherished, the wicked will be like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt, Isaiah 57:20. Such opposition to God is as wicked as it is foolish. The Lord gave, and has a right to remove our comforts; and we should be still, and know that he is God.

(5) Sinners fight against God when they resist the influences of his Spirit; when they “oppose” serious thoughts; when they seek evil or frivolous companions and pleasures rather than submit to God; and when they spurn all the entreaties of their friends to become Christians. All these may be the appeals which God is making to people to be prepared to meet him. And yet it is common for sinners thus to stifle conviction, and refuse even to think of their eternal welfare. Nothing can be an act of more direct and deliberate wickedness and folly than this. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit none can be saved; and to resist his influences is to put away the only prospect of eternal life. To do it is to do it over the grave; not knowing that another hour of life may be granted; and not knowing that “if” life is prolonged, the Spirit will ever strive again with the heart. In view of this verse, we may remark:

  1. That the path of wisdom is to submit at once to the requirements of God. Without this, we must expect conflicts with him, and peril and ruin. No man can be “opposed” to God without endangering himself every minute.
  2. Submission to God should be entire. It should extend to every doctrine and demand; every law, and every act of the Almighty. In all his requirements, and in all afflictions, we should submit to him, for thus only shall we find peace.
  3. Infidels and scoffers will gain nothing by opposing God. They have thus far been thwarted, and unsuccessful; and they will be still. None of their plans have succeeded; and the hope of destroying the Christian religion, after the efforts of almost two thousand years, must be vain, and will recoil with tremendous vengeance on those who make them.

Verse 40

And to him they agreed - Greek: They were “persuaded” by him; or they trusted to him. They agreed only so far as their design of putting them to death was concerned. They abandoned that design. But they did “not” comply with his advice to let them entirely alone.

And beaten them - The usual amount of “lashes” which were inflicted on offenders was 39, 2 Corinthians 11:24. “Beating,” or “whipping,” was a common mode of punishing minor offences among the Jews. It was expressly foretold by the Saviour that the apostles would be subjected to this, Matthew 10:17. The reason why they did not adopt the advice of Gamaliel altogether doubtless was, that if they did, they feared that their “authority” would be despised by the people. They had commanded them not to preach; they had threatened them Acts 4:18; Acts 5:28; they had imprisoned them Acts 5:18; and now, if they suffered them to go without even the “appearance” of punishment, their authority, they feared, would be despised by the nation, and it would be supposed that the apostles had triumphed over the Sanhedrin. It is probable, also, that they were so indignant, that they could not suffer them to go without the gratification of subjecting them to the public odium of a “whipping.” People, if they cannot accomplish their full purposes of malignity against the gospel, will take up with even some petty annoyance and malignity rather than let it alone.

Verse 41

Rejoicing - Nothing to most people would seem more disgraceful than a public whipping. It is a punishment inflicted usually not so much because it gives “pain,” as because it is esteemed to be attended with disgrace. The Jewish rulers doubtless desired that the apostles might be so affected with the sense of this disgrace as to be unwilling to appear again in public, or to preach the gospel anymore. Yet in this they were disappointed. The effect was just the reverse. If it be asked why they rejoiced in this manner, we may reply:

  1. Because they were permitted thus to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. He had been scourged and reviled, and they were glad that they were permitted to be treated as he was. Compare Philippians 3:10; Col 1:24; 1 Peter 4:13, “Rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”

(2)Because, by this, they had evidence that they were the friends and followers of Christ. It was clear they were engaged in the same cause that he was. They were enduring the same sufferings, and striving to advance the same interests. As they loved the “cause,” they would rejoice in enduring even the shame and sufferings which the cause, of necessity, involved. The kingdom of the Redeemer was an object so transcendently important, that for it they were willing to endure all the afflictions and disgrace which it might involve.

(3)They had been told to “expect” this, and they now rejoiced that they had This evidence that they were engaged in the cause of truth. Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 10:17, Matthew 10:22; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; James 1:2.

  1. Religion appears to a Christian so excellent and lovely, that he is willing, for its sake, to endure trial, persecution, and death. With “all” this, it is infinite gain; and we should be willing to endure these trials, if, by them, we may gain a crown of glory. Compare Mark 10:30.
  2. Christians are the professed friends of Christ. We show attachment for friends by being willing to suffer for them; to bear contempt and reproach on their account; and to share “their” persecutions, sorrows, and calamities.

(6)The apostles were engaged in a cause of innocence, truth, and benevolence. They had “done” nothing of which to be ashamed; and they rejoiced, therefore, in a conscience void of offence, and in the consciousness of integrity and benevolence. When other people “disgrace” themselves by harsh, or vile, or opprobrious language or conduct toward “us,” we should not feel that the disgrace belongs to “us.” It is “theirs”; and we should not be ashamed or distressed, though their rage should fall on us. See 1 Peter 4:14-16.

Counted worthy - Esteemed to be deserving. That is, esteemed “fit” for it “by the Sanhedrin.” It does not mean that “God” esteemed them worthy, but that the Jewish council judged them fit to suffer shame in this cause. They evinced so much zeal and determination of purpose that they were judged fit objects to be treated as the Lord Jesus had himself been.

To suffer shame - To be “dishonored” or “disgraced” in the estimation of the Jewish rulers. The “particular” disgrace to which reference is made here was “whipping.” To various other kinds of shame they were also exposed. They were persecuted, reviled, and finally put to death. Here we may remark that a profession of the Christian religion has been in all ages esteemed by many to be a “disgrace.” The “reasons” are:

  1. That Jesus is himself despised;
  2. That his precepts are opposed to the gaiety and follies of the world;
  3. That it attacks that on which the people of the world pride themselves;
  4. That it requires a “spirit” which the world esteems mean and grovelling - meekness, humility, self-denial, patience, forgiveness of injuries; and,
  5. That it requires “duties” - prayer, praise, seriousness, benevolence. All these things the people of the world esteem degrading and mean, and hence, they endeavor to subject those who practice them to disgrace. The “kinds” of disgrace to which Christians have been subjected are too numerous to be mentioned here. In former times they were subjected to the loss of property, of reputation, and to all the shame of public punishment, and to the terrors of the dungeon, the stake, or the rack. One main design of persecution was to select a kind of punishment so “disgraceful” as to deter others from professing religion. Disgrace even yet may attend it. It may subject one to the ridicule of friends - of even a father, mother, or brother. Christians hear their opinions abused; their names vilified; their Bible travestied; the name of their God profaned, and of their Redeemer blasphemed. Their feelings are often wantonly and rudely torn by the cutting sarcasm or the bitter sneer. Books and songs revile them; their specialties are made the occasion of indecent merriment on the stage and in novels; and in this way they are still subjected to shame for the name of Jesus. Every one who becomes a Christian should remember that this is a part of his inheritance, and should not esteem it dishonorable to be treated as his Master was before him, John 15:18-20; Matthew 10:25.

For his name - For attachment to him.

Verse 42

And daily ... - Compare 2 Timothy 4:2. See also notes on Acts 2:46.

Acts

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/acts-5.html. 1870.

Sours: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/acts-5.html

Acts 5 Bible Commentary

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Chapter Contents

The death of Ananias and Sapphira. (1-11) The power which accompanied the preaching of the gospel. (12-16) The apostles imprisoned, but set free by an angel. (17-25) The apostles testify to Christ before the council. (26-33) The advice of Gamaliel, The council let the apostles go. (34-42)

Commentary on Acts 5:1-11

(Read Acts 5:1-11)

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they were ambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were not true disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego their worldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of finding their account in something else. They were covetous of the wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence. They thought they might serve both God and mammon. They thought to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. But whatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heart of Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. The falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put a cheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls. How sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to that which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil! And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. It would cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread of hypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still do so. It would prevent the increase of false professors. Let us learn hence how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, and not only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use of doubtful expressions, and double meaning in our speech.

Commentary on Acts 5:12-16

(Read Acts 5:12-16)

The separation of hypocrites by distinguishing judgments, should make the sincere cleave closer to each other and to the gospel ministry. Whatever tends to the purity and reputation of the church, promotes its enlargement; but that power alone which wrought such miracles by the apostles, can rescue sinners from the power of sin and Satan, and add believers to His worshippers. Christ will work by all his faithful servants; and every one who applies to him shall be healed.

Commentary on Acts 5:17-25

(Read Acts 5:17-25)

There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visit his people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveries from sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that we may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honoured with the services of our life. It is not for the preachers of Christ's gospel to retire into corners, as long as they can have any opportunity of preaching in the great congregation. They must preach to the lowest, whose souls are as precious to Christ as the souls of the greatest. Speak to all, for all are concerned. Speak as those who resolve to stand to it, to live and die by it. Speak all the words of this heavenly, divine life, in comparison with which the present earthly life does not deserve the name. These words of life, which the Holy Ghost puts into your mouth. The words of the gospel are the words of life; words whereby we may be saved. How wretched are those who are vexed at the success of the gospel! They cannot but see that the word and power of the Lord are against them; and they tremble for the consequences, yet they will go on.

Commentary on Acts 5:26-33

(Read Acts 5:26-33)

Many will do an evil thing with daring, yet cannot bear to hear of it afterward, or to have it charged upon them. We cannot expect to be redeemed and healed by Christ, unless we give up ourselves to be ruled by him. Faith takes the Saviour in all his offices, who came, not to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins. Had Christ been exalted to give dominion to Israel, the chief priests would have welcomed him. But repentance and remission of sins are blessings they neither valued nor saw their need of; therefore they, by no means, admitted his doctrine. Wherever repentance is wrought, remission is granted without fail. None are freed from the guilt and punishment of sin, but those who are freed from the power and dominion of sin; who are turned from it, and turned against it. Christ gives repentance, by his Spirit working with the word, to awaken the conscience, to work sorrow for sin, and an effectual change in the heart and life. The giving of the Holy Ghost, is plain evidence that it is the will of God that Christ should be obeyed. And He will surely destroy those who will not have Him to reign over them.

Commentary on Acts 5:34-42

(Read Acts 5:34-42)

The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimes directs the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain the persecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, while experience and observation show that the success of frauds in matters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ is true preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, and serviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we suffer ill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as we should, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so to do. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This was the preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to be the constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ: Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothing beside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is our station or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, and to glorify his name.

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Acts 5 Commentary


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

THE EXPANDING WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT-EMPOWERED CHURCH


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Acts 5:1  But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, (NASB: Lockman)

KJV Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

  • Leviticus 10:1-3; Joshua 6:1; Mt 13:47,48; John 6:37; 2 Timothy 2:20
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

SHARING OF THE SAINTS 
VS SINS OF THE SAINTS

Recall that the Chapter breaks (and versification) are not inspired and here we encounter another example of a poor chapter break. The fact that this verse begins with a "but" should have been a clue that this is continuation of the story begun in Acts 4. In Acts 4 we see Satan use the Sanhedrin in an attempt to disrupt the work of the Church. But when he found that outside persecution did not work, but even fanned the flames of prayer and bold proclamation, he turned to inside perversion of the practice of giving. External assault on the apostles failed, so Satan simply shifted his strategy to internal adulteration of the saints. And while Satan still uses both external persecution and internal perversion, in America the latter strategy is by far the most common and sadly also the most successful. 

As Warren Wiersbe says "We must face the fact that Satan is a clever foe. If he does not succeed as the "devouring lion" (1 Peter 5:8+), then he attacks again as the "deceiving serpent" or an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:3, 13-14). Satan is both a murderer and a liar (John 8:44), and the church must be prepared for both attacks. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Dynamic).

But (de) - This striking term of contrast begs the question, what is Luke contrasting? To answer this question we are almost always forced to examine the preceding context (context is king for accurate interpretation). In this case we find Luke's description of Barnabas is the relevant context...

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-37).

So the clear and dramatic contrast is between two men who are "polar opposites," the positive example of Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) and the negative example of Ananias (Jehovah is Gracious). Barnabas lived up to his name, while Ananias did not live up to his name and died as a result! Barnabas is an example of sharing of the saints and Ananias and Sapphira an example of the sins of the saints. We see a stark contrast between a man filled with the Holy Spirit (Barnabas) and a couple filled with the unholy spirit. This deceptive duo desired the praise accorded Barnabas but were unwilling to pay the price he paid. Barnabas was guided by his generous spirit, while A&S were guided by selfish motives.

A T Robertson suggests a reason for the actions of Ananias and Sapphira - The praise of Joseph was too much for Ananias, but he was not willing to turn over all. He wanted praise for giving all and yet he took care of himself by keeping some. Thus he started the Ananias Club that gave a new meaning to his lovely name (God is gracious). (Word Pictures in the New Testament)

A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira - Names in Scripture often convey something about the character of the person, but in this case, the names fail to do so. As noted Ananias means "Jehovah is Gracious" or "The Lord has favored" (cf Hebrew - ; In the Septugaint "Ananias" translates chananyah = "Lord is gracious" and also Ananiah [Neh 8:4] = "Lord protects"). Sapphira means beautiful. Perhaps to others Ananias appeared gracious and generous, but he would soon find out that God was holy! And Sapphira may have been beautiful on the exterior, but not on the interior for she was ugly with sin. Their names were "too good" for them! Constable adds that "Their names proved as ironic as their behavior was hypocritical!"

Warren Wiersbe - George MacDonald wrote, "Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not." The name that Jesus gave to this practice is "hypocrisy," which simply means "wearing a mask, playing the actor." We must not think that failure to reach our ideals is hypocrisy, because no believer lives up to all that he or she knows or has in the Lord. Hypocrisy is deliberate deception, trying to make people think we are more spiritual than we really are. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Dynamic).

The great sin of Ananias and Sapphira (A&S) was hypocrisy, which is a variation of lying. The hypocrite is a play-actor, pretending to be someone he is not. 

Hypocrisy (Greek hupokrisis) describes a kind of deceit in which persons pretend to be different from what they really are, and especially like A&S that they are acting from good motives when in reality they were motivated by selfish desire for man's praise (like Barnabas). Jesus warned hypocrites, and in fact severely warned them (See Mt. 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29). Believers must strip off any semblance of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one of the sins that God hates above all others. A hypocrite has God on his tongue and the world in his heart.

The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek theater and referred to the practice of putting on a mask and playing a part on stage. It originally conveyed the idea of playing the playing a part on the stage and described the actor's art. The NT gives hupokrisis only a negative connotation referring to hypocrisy, duplicity (the quality of being double - belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action), insincerity, dissimulation (hiding under a false appearance; hiding or disguising one's thoughts or feelings - don't we all do this from time to time?!). The idea is to pretend, to act as something one is not and so to act deceitfully, pretending to manifest traits like piety and love. It means to create a public impression that is at odds with one’s real purposes or motivations, and thus is characterized by play-acting, pretense or outward show. It means to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones.

Wuest adds that the Greek word "is made up of hupo under, and krinō “to judge” and referred originally to “one who judged from under the cover of a mask,” thus, assuming an identity and a character which he was not. This person was the actor on the Greek stage, one who took the part of another. The Pharisees were religious actors, so to speak, in that they pretended to be on the outside, what they were not on the inside… Our word hypocrite  to the act of concealing wrong feelings or character under the pretence of better ones. The true identity of the person is covered up. It refers to acts of impersonation or deception. Christianity requires that believers should be open and above-board. They should be themselves. Their lives should be like an open book, easily read."

Steven Cole - Hypocrisy is always motivated by self-love. We want to impress others, to make them think that we are something that we know in our hearts we are not.

Kent Hughes - Dante portrayed hypocrites in the Eighth Circle of Hell wearing gilded capes that were beautiful to the eye but were actually made of lead, producing the burdened cry, “O weary mantle of eternity.”  Beautiful as hypocrites may be in appearance, they carry debilitating weight throughout life, suppressing the life of the church....Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira about their heart deception. Their story is a call to confront ourselves. Do I practice spiritual deceit? Do I attempt to make others think I am more committed than I am? These are serious questions. In the larger picture, it is a matter of life and death—maybe not our own, but someone else’s—perhaps our children, our grandchildren, our relatives, our neighbors. Possibly God is calling us to confront another believer, as Peter did. Nathan did the same to King David: “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). We must help each other remain honest and obedient to God....we should take an honest look at our lives regarding deceit. Are we truthful people? Do we engage in exaggeration and coloring? Are we promoting spiritual deception about our own commitments. Are we trying outwardly or subtly to make ourselves appear to be what we are not? Perhaps, to acquire objectivity, it would be helpful to seek the perspective of another person—your spouse, if you are married, or perhaps a trusted, honest friend. (Preaching the Word - Acts)

Samuel Johnson wrote "Accustom your children constantly to this [the telling of the truth]; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end.… It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying, that there is so much falsehood in the world."

A hypocrite has God on his tongue and the world in his heart.

A hypocrite is a person who isn't himself on Sunday. 

Hypocrites are like pictures on canvas, they show fairest at farthest.

A clean glove often hides a dirty hand. 

A hypocrite is a man who lets his light so shine before men that they can't tell what is going on behind!  

When reputation becomes more important than character, we have become hypocrites.

Hypocrites are not those who live worse than they profess-that’s all of us. Hypocrites are those who cannot see, or are not honest about the gap between their talk and their walk. Jerry Bridges

A hypocrite is not a person who fails to reach his desired spiritual goals, because all of us fail in one way or another. A hypocrite is a person who doesn’t even try to reach any goals, but he makes people think that he has. His profession and his practice never meet.  Warren Wiersbe

If we are living in sin (“walking in darkness”), then our lives will contradict what our lips are saying, making us hypocrites. Warren Wiersbe

The tragedy of hypocrisy is not only that God sends judgment, but that hypocrisy brings its own judgment. It destroys character; and when character is gone, when the salt has lost its flavor (see Matt. 5:13), what does a person have left?  Warren Wiersbe

Related Resources:

H A Ironside once said "I am a preacher of the Word-a glorious privilege-and if I have prayed once I have prayed a thousand times and said, 'Don't let me be able to preach unless in the power of the Holy Ghost.' I would rather be struck dumb than pretend it is in the power of the Spirit if it isn't; and yet it is so easy to pretend. It is so easy to come before men and take the place of an ambassador for God, and still want people to praise the preacher instead of giving the message only for the Lord Jesus."

Sold a piece of property - Recall from the previous chapter that members of the Body would sell property to provide support for those in need with the wonderful result that "there was a not a needy person among them." (Acts 4:34+). This practice was not mandatory, but reflected a freewill offering by those who were led to sell property. 

James Anderson makes an interesting comment - We must not think that the first church was perfect; it was composed of humans like ourselves with all their failings, and they had a lot to learn from the apostles. Two successive chapters tell of problems in the church, and both were caused by money (Acts 6:1-2). (What the Bible teaches – Acts)

Piece of property (2933)(ktema from ktaomai= to possess, obtain) means any kind of  acquired property or possessions. That which is owned or possessed. Something that a person has come into the possession of, usually property such as lands or houses. 

In the Septuagint of Pr 12:27 ktema describes "the precious possession of a man" as "diligence." Ktema is used in the Lxx to translate vineyard (Pr 31:16, Hos 2:15).

Ktema - 4x in 4v - piece of property(1), property(3). - Matt. 19:22; Mk. 10:22; Acts 2:45; Acts 5:1.

There are 7 uses in the Septuagint - Job 20:29; Job 27:13; Prov. 12:27; Prov. 23:10; Prov. 31:16; Hos. 2:15; Joel 1:11


Satan’s Devices
General George Patton of World War II fame was seldom at a loss for words. What he said during a battle in North Africa may be legend, but it typifies the man. Patton’s troops and tanks were engaged in a successful counterattack of German forces under General Erwin Rommel. Patton is reported to have shouted in the thick of the battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!” And that he did. In Rommel’s book Infantry Attacks, the famed “Desert Fox” carefully detailed his military strategy. And Patton, having read it and knowing what to expect, planned his moves accordingly.  Satan has authored no book. God, however, has exposed our enemy’s tactics in His Holy Word. Here are but a few of his subtle strategies: Quote Scripture to lead us astray (Matt. 4:6). Afflict the body (2 Cor. 12:7). Pluck away the seed of the Word (Mark 4:15). Tempt by impure thoughts (1 Cor. 7:5). Tempt by pride (1 Tim. 3:6). Hinder through circumstances (1 Thess. 2:18). Seduce by pleasure (1 Tim. 5:11, 15). Severely buffet in a crisis (Luke 22:31). Tempt to hypocrisy and lying (Acts 5:3).  The name Satan means adversary. He is also described as “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10) and “a murderer from the beginning” and a liar (John 8:44).  Study these passages and plan your defense. Be always on the alert. Submit to God and resist the devil. Victory can be yours, but first you must know your enemy so you can recognize his strategy.  D.J.D., Our Daily Bread, 


Steven Cole - A 12-year-old boy was waiting for his first orthodontist appointment and was a bit nervous. Apparently he wanted to impress the dentist. On the patient questionnaire, in the space marked “Hobbies,” he had written, “Swimming and flossing” (Reader’s Digest [8/94], p. 112). That’s a humorous example of how we’re all prone to hypocrisy. But spiritual hypocrisy is not humorous; it’s a dangerous and deadly sin. The hypocrisy of professing Christians has served as an excuse for many to disregard the claims of Christ, saying, “The church is full of hypocrites.” The hypocrisy of Christian leaders has caused many believers to stumble. While Jesus was tender with many notorious sinners, He used scathing language to denounce those guilty of religious hypocrisy. The story of Ananias and Sapphira warns us of the danger of the sin of hypocrisy. It was literally deadly for this couple. Someone has said that if God dealt with all hypocrites in the church as He dealt with this couple, our churches would become morgues! (Acts 4-36-5-11 The Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy)


Kent Hughes on Acts 5:1-11 - This is an important but for some reason neglected text. Spurgeon in his sixty volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit anthology Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching has no sermon on this text. Yet, it remains an immensely important passage of Scripture. Dr. Barnhouse, on the basis of this text, would never let his congregation sing the third stanza of “At Calvary:” “Now I have giv’n to Jesus everything; now I gladly own him as my King.” “You see,” he said, “if God acted in the same way today that he did in the fifth chapter of Acts, you’d have to have a morgue in the basement of every church and a mortician on the pastoral staff.”  The truth is, we would not have a pastoral staff either! (Preaching the Word - Acts)


J Vernon McGee - It is obvious that they were imitating Barnabas. They saw that he got a certain amount of publicity, and they thought it would be nice if they could get that kind of publicity, too. They wanted it.
I have found that there are people who will give in order to be noticed. I recall a meeting with businessmen in Pasadena when I was a pastor there. We were planning to start a youth organization, and we were aslang these men to give donations for the founding of this movement. It was decided that donations would not be made public.
I was informed that one of these men would contribute very little if he were not given the opportunity to speak out publicly to let everybody know how much he was giving. It is quite interesting that he contributed a small amount. After the meeting he confided in one of the men that he had intended to give about ten times that amount, but he had expected to be able to stand up or at least raise his hand to indicate how much he had given. You see) pride is still in human nature today. That was the condition of Ananias and Sapphira....I don’t like to have people sing the song that talks about putting “my all” on the altar. Unfortunately, that makes liars out of the people who are singing. We need to be very careful about the songs we sing. A vow to the Lord should never be made lightly.


Illustration: A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."


Illustration: One blistering hot day when they had guests for dinner, Mother asked 4-year old Johnny to return thanks. "But I don't know what to say!" the boy complained. "Oh, just say what you hear me say" his mother replied. Obediently the boy bowed his head and mumbled, "Oh Lord, why did I invite these people over on a hot day like this?"


Strategies of Satan with Believers
  1. Annihilate the church or neutralize its witness from within (Acts 5:1–6).
  2. Virulent persecution from without.
  3. Smother its witness by according it great popularity.
  4. Disturb the unity of the church by creating discord and division
  5. Subversion of the church through apostasy and heresy (2 Peter 2:1–2).
  Satan is No Myth, J. O. Sanders,

Acts 5:2  and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet.

KJV Acts 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.

  • and kept back some of the price for himself Joshua 7:11,12; 2 Kings 5:21-25; Malachi 1:14; 3:8,9; John 12:6; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Peter 2:14,15
  • with his wife's full knowledge Acts 5:9
  • he laid it at the apostles' feet Acts 4:34,35,37; Mt 6:2,3; 23:5; Php 2:3
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

ANANIAS IN EFFECT WAS
"SOUNDING A TRUMPET"

One is reminded of Jesus' clear warning in Matthew regarding our attitude when we give...

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites (hupokrites) do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men (PROBABLY A KEY MOTIVATOR FOR A&S). Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full (A&S HAD THE REWARD FOR ONLY A FEW SECONDS OR MINUTES AT MOST!). “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Mt 6:2,3+)

In addressing the hypocritical religious leaders Jesus said

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. (Mt 23:5)

This was the problem with Ananias and Sapphira who contrived their deceptive scheme to be noticed by men! The gave the impression they gave all the proceeds to the Church.

Rackham - Like Judas, Ananias was covetous; and just as greed of gain lay at the bottom of most of the sins and failures (of many) in Acts (e.g., the sin of Simon Magus, the opposition of Elymas, of the Philippian 'masters' and the Ephesian silversmiths, the shortcomings of the Ephesian converts and the injustice of Felix) so Ananias kept back part of the price."

The ultimate root of their sin of greed was pride, and remember the middle letter of "prIde" is the "big I!" The praise of Barnabas incited their prIde to seek similar adulation. Satan whispered in their ears "You are as spiritual as Barnabas. Just give a big offering, but make sure to keep enough for yourselves." Solomon describes God's attitude toward pride...

“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate. (Pr 8:13).

Comment - Note that here the "antidote" for pride is to cultivate a reverential, holy fear of the LORD God. As John said (speaking of Jesus) "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3:30+)

Warren Wiersbe - Daniel Defoe called pride "the first peer and president of hell." Indeed, it was pride that transformed Lucifer into Satan (Isa. 14:12-15+), and it was pride ("Ye shall be as God!") that caused our first parents to sin (Gen. 3:1-4+). Pride opens the door to every other sin, for once we are more concerned with our reputation than our character, there is no end to the things we will do just to make ourselves "look good" before others. (Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Dynamic).

And kept back some of the price for himself - This would have been no problem had they not pretended to give the entire sum from the sale. But when they pretended to give the apostles the total selling price, they proved themselves to be hypocrites who were boasting in their gift, even though they had deceptively withheld some of the sale proceeds. So A&S were not just lying and deceiving but were in effect robbing from God!

Ananias and Sapphira clearly did not know (or did not heed) the OT teachings on giving, for Solomon was very clear when he stated 

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination (Heb = toebah; Lxx = bdelugma) to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.  (Pr 15:8).

Comment - The word bdelugma gives us vivid picture of God's "opinion" regarding the offerings of the wicked. Bdelugma is derived from bdelusso which means to emit a foul odor, or to turn away from someone on account of the "stench". It describes a divine loathing or disgust. The root word is bdeo which means to stink. In sum, sacrifices like that of Ananias and Sapphira were foul, and were extremely disgusting and abhorrent to God! This is strong language but it shows what God thinks of the horrible sin of hypocrisy! 

Kept back(3557)(nosphizo from nósphi = apart, separated) means to set apart or separate for oneself. In Titus 2:10 it conveys the idea is stealing in small quantities or practicing petty theft. Nosphizo means to keep back or misappropriate something for one's self that which should or does belong to someone else. Nosphizo was found in secular Greek writings in reference to embezzlement of public treasures. It speaks of secretly appropriating and setting apart for one’s self the property of another. In this case, this couple pretended to give it all to God and His needy people, but it was a lie. 

This verb is very interesting and while only used 3 times in the NT (Acts 5:2,3, Titus 2:10+) it is used one time in the Septuagint. In Joshua 7:1 we read 

But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban (a vow or pledge under which property or persons devoted to pagan worship were destroyed), for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things (Lxx = nosphizo) under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel. 

Comment - So just as Ananias and Sapphira had made a vow to give all of the sales proceeds to God, they, like Achan, broke their vow. And nothing like SIN IN THE CAMP (of CONGREGATION) will sap spiritual power from God's congregated people, be it an army like Joshua or an "army" like the Church! Little wonder the church in American lacks spiritual power in a society gone bonkers! 

Keep in mind that Israel had just crossed into the promised land and defeated Jericho, which suggested they would easily conquer the pagan tribes in the land God had promised they would possess. And so just as the birth of the Church in Acts marked God's doing a "new thing," the nation of Israel also was beginning anew (after 40 years of wilderness wandering), but sin crept into Israel through the covetousness of one man named Achan. And what was the impact of this one man's sin on the entire nation? It resulted in a devastating, unexpected defeat for Israel 

So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water. (Joshua 7:4-5) (Read the full story in Joshua 7:10-26)

F F Bruce - “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.” 

The sin of one man affected the power of the entire nation. Satan (although his name is not mentioned in Joshua 7, the event has all the earmarks of his handiwork) had used the covetousness of one man (Achan) to bring about defeat of the entire nation. Similarly here in Acts 5 Satan sought to do the same with this infant church. But this time God's Spirit thwarted Satan's attempts to corrupt the Body of Christ and also to give a strong warning to any who might be tempted to carry out a similar deception. 

Related Resources:

With his wife's full knowledge - Literally "his wife also knowing it together with him." She was complicit. They were partners in this deception. They desire the praise of men for their generosity, without actually being remarkably generous. We call that hypocrisy. 

Horton sadly nails us all (at least from time to time) with his comment that "“Once the love of money takes possession of a person, there is no evil that he cannot or will not do.” (Acts: A Logion Press Commentary)

I agree with F F Bruce who suggests "There may indeed be the further implication that Ananias and Sapphira had vowed to give the whole proceeds of the sale to God, but then changed their mind and handed over only part.”

And bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet - The early church brought their gifts and laid them at the apostles' feet (Acts 4:35, 36, 5:2). This is interesting because presumably this would be done in front of the other believers and would be noticed by them. Today giving is done less publicly and many pastors have no idea who gives what or how much (which I think is a great practice). 

Portion is meros which has the basic meaning of a part in contrast to the whole. In mathematics meros describes fractions (they gave a "faction" of the proceeds). Meros describes the prodigal son who said to his father "Father give me the share (meros) of the estate that falls to me." (Lk 15:12) In Lk 24:42 the disciples gave the resurrected Jesus "a piece of broiled fish." 

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

KJV Acts 5:3 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?

  • why has Satan filled your heart Ge 3:13-17; 1 Kings 22:21,22; 1 Chr 21:1-3; Mt 4:3-11; 13:19; Luke 22:3; John 13:2,27; Eph 6:11-16; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Rev 12:9-11
  • to lie to the Holy Spirit. Acts 5:9; Job 22:13; Ps 94:7-9; Isa 29:15; Jer 23:24; Hosea 11:12
  • to keep back some of the price of the land Nu 30:2; Dt 23:21; Pr 20:25; Eccl 5:4; Ro 2:21,22
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

FILLED WITH 
AN EVIL SPIRIT

Satan is a great counterfeiter and here seeks to contaminate and corrupt the church by causing Ananias to pretend to give the entire sum from the sale of their property. Satan was behind the hypocritical action and words (lies) of A&S. 

This results in a most dramatic contrast between Ananias and Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, who Luke later describes as "a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:24) One man controlled by the Holy Spirit and the other man controlled by the unholy spirit. One might question whether Ananias and Sapphira were genuine believers, but most commentators agree that they were indeed born again (see comment below by MacArthur). How can a couple whose bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (cf Ro 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), make room for an evil spirit? John writes "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He Who is in you (THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST) than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) So while I believe that Scripture does not support the premise that a true believer can be possessed by a demon, it is clear from this passage in Acts that a believer can be controlled by a demonic spirit. I believe that this occurred with Ananias and Sapphira. They became jealous or envious of Barnabas, but they did not want to give all their money to God. In order to "look good" before the saints they pretended to give all their money to God. They may have even initially vowed to give all the proceeds from their sale to God. We cannot be certain of what went on in their mind. 

MacArthur on whether A&S were genuine believers (I agree with MacArthur) - It is best to see them as genuine Christians for several reasons. First, they were included in the "congregation of those who believed" in Acts 4:32. Second, they were involved with the Holy Spirit, thus indicating a relationship to Him. Third, if they were not Christians, what lesson about sin did this give to teach all the rest who were true believers? Fourth, Satan can become personally involved with believers (cf. Mt. 16:21-23; Eph 6:12; 1 Pe 5:8-9). Finally, death can be divine chastening for a believer (1 Cor 11:30-32; 1 Jn 5:16). (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Acts)

Constable - Rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to fill him (cf. Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31), Ananias had allowed Satan to control his heart. Ananias' sin was lying. He sought to deceive the Christians by trying to gain a reputation for greater generosity than he deserved. By deceiving the church, Ananias was also trying to deceive the Holy Spirit who indwelt the church. In attempting to deceive the Holy Spirit, he was trying to deceive God.

But Peter said - Another striking contrast. Ananias' offering which should have been a sweet aroma to God, is discerned by Spirit filled Peter to be an abomination to God. Peter saw through the lie and the attempt to deceive and thus he issues this strong rebuke. Can you imagine Ananias' shock at hearing Peter's words?

Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit - As discussed above, Satan clearly exerted control over this couple. Satan is the "father of lies" (Jn 8:44), and he shot "fiery missiles" of thoughts like "keep some of the money for yourselves" into the heart and mind of A&S. Sadly when these fiery missiles of temptation came flying in, A&S failed to take up the shield of faith to repel the tempting thoughts (cf Eph 6:16+). And so while Satan tempted them to sin, A&S carried out the sin against the Spirit. They were fully responsible. Beloved, don't ever use the old cliche "The devil made me do it!" He may tempt you but there is no Scripture that places the blame of a believer's sin on Satan! And remember what Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all."

We see similar "handiwork" of Satan in the Gospels in the son of perdition, Judas Iscariot...

John 13:2; 27  During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him...(13:27) After the morsel, Satan then entered into him (OF COURSE HERE JUDAS HAD NO RESIDENT HOLY SPIRIT SO IN EFFECT WAS DEMON POSSESSED WHICH IS DIFFERENT THAN WHAT HAPPENED HERE IN ACTS). Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

Luke 22:3+ And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve.

Satan(4567)(satanas  transliterated from Hebrew Satan- see 07854 and Aramaic sātānâ) literally means Adversary, the evil antagonist who offers opposition, hostility, resentment, etc. An enemy who that contends with, opposes, resists. An adversary is one who hates or opposes another person and tries to harm them or stop them from doing something because of hatred and malice. Satan is the inveterate, implacable, relentless, ruthless, remorseless, merciless,heartless, pitiless, cruel,hard, harsh, hardened, incorrigible, dedicated enemy of God and His Church, the Body of Christ. John Stott points out that Satan's activity was behind all the opposition in Acts 3-6 (Message of Acts).

Horton on why has Satan filled your heart - The question "Why?" draws attention to the fact that their action was voluntary; there was no excuse for what they did. Before they sold it, it remained theirs, and they were under no compulsion to sell it. After they sold it, it was still "at [their] disposal" (in their power or authority). There was nothing compelling them to give it all (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7, "God loves a cheerful giver"—one who is glad to give, delights to give). What Ananias had conceived in his heart was a lie, "not... to men but to God." (Acts: A Logion Press Commentary)

NET Note - This is a good example of the Greek verb fill (pleroo) meaning "to exercise control over someone's thought and action" (cf. Eph 5:18+).

Filled (4137) (pleroo) literally describes something as filled to the brim, but figuratively as in this passage, describes that which controls the one who is filled. In other words, what fills a person, controls that individual. In this case an evil spirit (Satan) filled and controlled Ananias (and Sapphira). This same verb is used in Acts 13:52 to describe the disciples as "continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." In Ephesians 5:18+ Paul commands believers to be continually filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit. The related verb (pimplemi) was used by Luke in the previous chapter to describe the filling of all the believers, this filling by the Spirit, a filling which resulted in boldness to speak the Word of God (Acts 4:31+). In Acts 4:8+ Peter was filled (pimplemi) with the Holy Spirit and empowered to boldly speak out to the antagonistic Sanhedrin. 

Constable Lying to the Holy Spiritis a sin that Christians commit frequently today. When Christians act hypocritically by pretending a devotion that is not theirs, or a surrender of life they have not really made, they lie to the Holy Spirit. If God acted today as He did in the early Jerusalem church, undertakers would have much more work than they do. (Bolding added)

To lie (5574)(pseudomai from pseudo = to cheat, defraud, falsify) means to communicate what is false, with the evident purpose of misleading. The Greek term and the English equivalent ‘to lie’ involve more than simply telling what is not true, for this could occur without an intent to deceive or mislead. It means means to tell a falsehood, attempt to deceive by lying, to speak falsely or deceitfully. Pseúdomai therefore indicates that Ananias not only communicated a falsehood but did so with the intent to deceive the apostles and the believers.

To the Holy Spirit - Note that clearly the Holy Spirit is a Person, because you can't lie to an "it." The irony of this is that the Spirit was the Spirit of Truth Who Jesus had given to guide the disciples in truth...

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (Jn 16:13)

And to keep back (see nosphizo above) some of the price of the land? - Ananias pretended to give all of the proceeds from the sale and the Holy Spirit revealed that fact to Peter.  This statement by Peter indicates that he knew (presumably the Spirit revealed this information) what the total price of the land was and that Ananias had only brought a portion.

Horton - They could have submitted to God and resisted Satan (James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9). But they let pride, self, and the love of money possess them. The love of money is "a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim. 6:10; cf. Heb. 13:5). That is, once the love of money takes possession of a person, there is no evil that he cannot or will not do. With the love of money in control, a person will do things he never would do otherwise, including murder and every other sin. It is clear also that if a person is filled with the love of money he cannot love God (Matt. 6:24). (Acts: A Logion Press Commentary)

Paul warns the church at Ephesus of this same satanic strategy later in Acts...

Be on guard (present imperative = continually guard - the only way to obey is to be continually filled with the Spirit) for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert (present imperative = continually be alert - the only way to obey is to be continually filled with the Spirit), remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31+).

Wiersbe - It is easy for us to condemn Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonesty, but we need to examine our own lives to see if our profession is backed up by our practice. Do we really mean everything we pray about in public? Do we sing the hymns and Gospel songs sincerely or routinely? "These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me" (Matt. 15:8, NIV). If God killed "religious deceivers" today, how many church members would be left? (Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Dynamic).

Guzik writes - According to Calvin, these are the “evils packed under” the sin of Ananias, beyond the mere attempt to deceive God and the church:

  • The contempt of God
  • Sacrilegious defrauding
  • Perverse vanity and ambition
  • Lack of faith (Ed Comment: keeping back part of the money says "We don't trust God to supply our needs.")
  • The corrupting of a good and holy order
  • Hypocrisy

Things we can do against the Holy Spirit:

  • Grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30)
  • Quench the Spirit (1 Th 5:19)
  • Lie to the  Spirit (Acts 5:3,4)
  • Test/Tempt the Spirit (Acts 5:9)
  • Resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51)

Acts 5:4  "While it remained [unsold], did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."

KJV Acts 5:4 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.

  • did it not remain your own Ex 35:21,22,29; 1 Chr 29:3,5,9,17; 1 Cor 8:8; 9:5-17; Phile 1:14
  • Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart Acts 8:21,22; Josh 7:25,26; Job 15:35; Ps 7:14; Isa 59:4; Ezek 38:10; Jas 1:15
  • You have not lied to men but to God  Acts 5:3; Ex 16:8; Nu 16:11; 1 Sa 8:7; 2 Ki 5:25-27; Ps 139:4; Luke 10:16; 1 Th 4:8
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

SECRET SIN ON EARTH
IS OPEN SCANDAL IN HEAVEN

While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? -  The answer is yes it belonged to Ananias and he could do with it whatever he wished.

And after it was sold, was it not under your control? - The question is whether the money from the sale was now at the disposal of Ananias. And the answer again is affirmative. The money was now his to give away. In other words he was under no compulsion to give it all away and he could have kept part for himself. That was not the problem. 

Control(1849)(exousia) means in essence the right and the might. It conveys the idea that Ananias and Sapphira had the power of decision making, the freedom of choice and the right to act or decide what to do with their property. 

Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? - This was not a sin of omission but of commission! It was pre-mediated and planned out by A&S! More literally this reads "Why have you placed in your heart this deed?" Yes, Satan controlled him, but Ananias still had to commit the sin himself. Satan can influence but he cannot commit the sin for us. The verb conceived (literally "placed") is in the middle voice, indicating that Ananias had initiated the action and participated in the carrying out of the deed. Again, the point is he was not forced. Thus he was responsible for his deed. 

Related Resources:

Deed(affair, matter, case) (4229) (pragma) simply means that which is done. It is something that people do or cause to happen. Pragma can speak of an obligatory activity to be done. In the present context this conniving couple falsely reasoned that it would be pragmatic to give enough from the sale to "look good" to the saints (like Barnabas) but to keep back enough to make sure they had enough to support their lifestyle. Pragmatic means they were advocating behavior that was dictated more by practical personal concerns than by devotion to the Lord. 

You have not lied to men but to God - In Acts 5:3 asks why he lied to the Holy Spirit, so clearly the Spirit is God. He is not an "it," but a He, the Third Person of the Godhead. But they also lied to men (Peter, et al), so how is it that they lied to God? In effect what A&S were seeking to do was impress all who witnessed this donation with its ostensiblymagnanimous (noble and generous) character. But it was a sham, a dissimulation, a ruse, a deception. Had the Holy Spirit not given Peter supernatural discernment of the heart of Ananias, all would have been praising this coupe for their wonderful gift to help the needs of the body. 

Wiersbe - If we are lying to the Spirit (Acts 5:3), grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) or quenching the Spirit (1 Th 5:19), He will not assist us; but if we are walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), He will not fail us.

Life Application Bible Commentary - The church has always attracted people with impure motives: hucksters who want to profit financially from religion, power mongers seeking control, the self-centered who want to be pampered and cared for, and glory seekers who want to be noticed and affirmed for their "holy" acts.

Steven Cole - We need to be clear on the exact nature of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Their sin was not that they had sold their property and had given only a part to the church. In fact, Peter makes plain (Acts 5:4) that it would not have been a sin for them to have sold their property and not given anything to the church. Their sin was that they conspired together to deceive the apostles and the church into thinking that they were giving the entire amount, when in fact they kept back a portion for themselves. In other words, they were trying to impress everyone with a higher level of spirituality and commitment than they really had. Have you ever done that? I hope you do not say “no,” or we might need to have a sudden funeral this afternoon! We’ve all been guilty of trying to impress others with our commitment and devotion to Christ, even though we know in our heart that we are exaggerating. A pastor had been preaching on the importance of daily Bible reading. He and his wife were invited over to a parishioner’s home for dinner. His wife saw a note on the kitchen calendar: “Pastor/Mrs. for dinner—Dust all Bibles” (Reader’s Digest [3/90], p. 129)....Jesus always hit hypocrisy hard. In Matthew 23, He pronounced many woes on the scribes and Pharisees, whom He repeatedly called hypocrites. He warned His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). Like leaven, hypocrisy starts small and unnoticed. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal. But if it is not quickly checked, it spreads. It deceives the person into thinking that things are right between him and God, when in reality, things are very wrong. The leaven of hypocrisy can soon infect an entire church. The church at Laodicea thought that things were going well. They said, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But the Lord’s perspective was, “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17+)!...When a prominent Christian is shown to be a hypocrite, the world heaves a sigh of relief, thinking, “Christians are really no different than anyone else. If they’re phonies, then Christianity must not be true.” (Acts 4-36-5-11 The Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy)


Hypocrites Appear After Revivals - C. H. Spurgeon. - Acts 5:1-11 - After a refreshing shower which has made all the flowers to smile till the teardrops of joy stand in their eyes, you will see your garden-paths spotted over with slugs and snails. These creatures lay concealed till the genial rain called them forth to make their slimy way towards, whatsoever they might devour. After this fashion revivals, of necessity, develop hypocrites; yet who would deplore the shower because of the snails, and who would rail at "times of refreshing" because mere pretenders are excited to make a base profession of a grace to which they are strangers?


ILLUSTRATION - In a room glazed with yellow glass the photographer would get heat and light from the sunshine, but he could not produce a photograph because yellow glass, while it lets in the light and heat of the sun, keeps out the chemical or actinic ray necessary to produce a portrait. And so it is true of many that, while they live in the free light and warmth of the gospel day, while the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world shines upon and all round them, they are not savingly changed, they are not transformed by the light into the image of God. So in the case of Gehazi, Judas, and Ananias, covetousness prevented the shining of the example of those around from converting and blessing the heart.


Fraudulent Benevolence - Christians say that they will give a tenth of their incomes, or more, to the work of Christ; and then comes a hard year of tightening in the market. They now think to themselves with a sweet caution, "I must retrench in benevolence this season." Sometimes Christians make a show of contribution, but adroitly manage to get back a fair percentage.


ILLUSTRATION - An ingenious attempt to defraud was detected at the United States Mint recently. A package purporting to contain gold grains was delivered there by express from Little Rock. The general appearance of the grains was much like that daily received, and they also bore successfully the acid test. Subsequently a careful analysis was made to ascertain what the article really was and of what it was composed. The result was astonishing, revealing an ingenious device for the deception of parties dealing in gold bullion. The grains were found to be nothing more nor less than steel filings, and to give them the appearance of grains of the precious metal they were covered with fine gold, which was made to adhere by the use of a composition of turpentine. The Church and the world are often similarly imposed upon. Hypocrites are often able to pick up a coating of cant phrases and wear a sanctimonious appearance who are really base metal. Though the deception may succeed here, and for a time, ultimate detection is inevitable.


The Retribution of Falsehood
George Eliot, in "Romola," powerfully illustrates in that remarkable book the embarrassments involved in one cowardly departure from truth. In the chapter headed "Tito's Dilemma," the occasion arises for Tito to fabricate an ingenious lie. Many chapters on we find him experiencing the inexorable law of human souls that we prepare ourselves for sudden deeds by the reiterated choice of good or evil that gradually determines character, and it becomes a question whether all the resources of lying will save him from being crushed. At another time we read: "Tito felt more and more confidence as he went on; the lie was not so difficult when it was once begun, and as the words fell easily from his lips, they gave him a sense of power such as men feel when they have begun a muscular feat successfully." The penalty is enforced a few pages later. "But he had borrowed from the terrible usurer Falsehood, and the loan had mounted and mounted with the years, till he belonged to the usurer, body and soul."


Satan's Worms of Avarice - Christian Herald
A journal devoted to the interests of horticulture states that a gardener in the employ of a gentleman at Pittsford, New York, has recently solved a problem which has long perplexed him. In the garden under his care is a large lawn, on which he has bestowed much labour, and which was his especial pride. For some time past a small patch on this lawn disfigured it, for the grass that grew there was poor and withered, in marked contrast to all around. For a long time the gardener vainly endeavoured to discover the cause of its decay. One day, as he stood meditatively gazing at it, he saw several birds settle upon it and thrust their beaks through the sod with much diligence and satisfaction. The gardener had the curiosity to turn up a portion of the punctured turf, and discovered, to his amazement, that the earth beneath was alive with a greedy multitude of large white grubs, which had completely consumed the roots of the grass. He continued the work, and at every fresh removal of the sod the same phenomenon presented itself, until quarts of the larvae were gathered and destroyed. It is to be feared that the lack of vigorous life in some portions of Christ's vineyard, the Church, may have a similar cause. The root of the piety of the members is being destroyed by Satan's worms of avarice, ambition, and love of pleasure.


Complete Honesty

Read: Acts 5:1-11

Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

Ask the friends and families of six people buried in a collapsed subway tunnel about complete honesty. Their loved ones’ rescue was delayed for hours when the contractor didn’t report the disaster to the authorities immediately. Instead, the company sealed the site and confiscated cell phones. It wasn’t an outright lie, but it was a cover-up. This dishonest act showed disregard for life. 

In the book of Acts, God gave us a sobering example of how He views dishonesty (4:32–5:11). Some believers had sold their land and shared all the proceeds with the church. Ananias and Sapphira decided to do likewise. But the couple kept some money back despite declaring that they had given the whole amount. Expecting commendation, they were struck dead instead.

Was their punishment too harsh? After all, their “slight” lie wasn’t life-threatening. “Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain,” warns Proverbs 25:14. The apostle Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3), adding, “You have not lied to men, but to God” (v.4).

If we are completely honest with ourselves, can we say that we are completely honest before God

Lord, by Your Spirit grant that we
In word and deed may honest be;
All falsehood we would cast aside—
From You, O Lord, we cannot hide.  —D. De Haan

 There are no degrees of honesty.

By Albert Lee (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Servant Or Master?

Read: Proverbs 30:5-9

No servant can serve two masters . . . . You cannot serve God and mammon. —Luke 16:13

An Illinois resident asked his employer for a two-thirds pay cut in order to put his income below the poverty level. He reasoned that by making himself poor he would not have to pay income tax, and therefore he would not have to support military policies he didn’t agree with. This would make him more consistent in practicing his beliefs. A close friend commented, “He has a strong commitment to justice and peace, and I think this is his way of carrying that out.”

I’m not suggesting that we should follow his example, but he is a person who doesn’t want money to divert him from his ideals. He reminds me of Agur, the wise author of Proverbs 30, who expressed concern that too much or too little wealth can get in the way of commitment to God.

So we are left to consider it—money. The Illinois resident gave up part of it. Agur didn’t want too much or too little of it (Proverbs 30:7-9). Jesus used it (John 13:29). Paul could take it or leave it (Philippians 4:11-12). The rich young ruler clung to it (Luke 18:23). Ananias and Sapphira died because they lied to God about it (Acts 5).

What about our relationship to money? Do we use it wisely or does it control us? Is it our servant or our master? We cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).  

If money is your highest goal,
The thing you long to gain,
Its power will enslave your soul
And cause your life much pain. —DJD

Money is a good servant, but a poor master.

By Mart DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Which Tire Was It?

Read: Acts 5:1-11

You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

One sunny day, four high school boys couldn’t resist the temptation to skip classes. The next morning they explained to their teacher that they had missed her class because their car had a flat tire. To their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a quiz yesterday.” But then she added, “Take your seats and get out a pencil and paper. The first question is: Which tire was flat?”

No one gets away with lying. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira thought they were lying only to Peter and the other believers. But the apostle said to them, “You have not lied to men but to God” (v.4).

Truth is one of the attributes of God. So when we tell a lie, we offend Him. And sooner or later He will uncover every falsehood—if not in this life, then at the final judgment, when we each give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10-12).

We live in a highly competitive world, and sometimes we may be strongly tempted to shade the truth to get ahead. But the short-term gains from lying are worth little compared with the long-term benefits of telling the truth.

If you have deceived someone, confess it to that person and to the Lord. It may be humbling, but it’s the first step to restoring integrity in your life.

The road that leads to misery
Is caused by a tongue that wags;
Beware of lying lips, my friend,
And a mouth that boasts and brags.  —Shade

If you always tell the truth, you will never be trapped in a lie.

By Dennis J. DeHaan  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Closing The Gaps

Read: Acts 5:1-11

Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

After the final episode of the 2002 TV program Survivor: Africa, a wrap-up special focused on the final contestants. The show’s host Jeff Probst said that the victor won “mostly by sticking with his principles.” The champion later explained that he wanted to win while retaining “dignity and self-respect.” He elaborated that you don’t have to lie, cheat, or do underhanded things to win. You can be competitive, yet still be truthful and nice. In short, he permitted no discrepancy between image and reality.

In the book of Acts we read about Ananias and Sapphira, who did have a gap between what they wanted to be known for and who they really were (5:1-11). Satan filled their hearts with a deceptive plan. They sold a piece of property and brought just a portion of the money to the apostles, while pretending they were giving all the proceeds. They wanted to be recognized as a generous couple, but they were not what they appeared to be. This gap caused them to lie to the Holy Spirit and to the faith community. They paid a terrible price—death. Their example stands as a stark warning to us all.

What discrepancies have we permitted in our lives? We must confess them and close the gaps.

Lord, by Your Spirit grant that we
May live with such integrity
That when we simply give our word
No one will doubt what has been heard. —D. De Haan

Integrity means never having to look over your shoulder.

By Marvin Williams (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


There is one major thrust in all biblical references to hypocrisy; it is a warning. No matter in what context it is found, the practice is always condemned.

Paul Apple's summary of Jesus' teaching on hypocrisy...

  • Giving to the poor to be recognized by others  (Matthew 6:2)
  • Praying in public to be recognized as "God's man" (Matthew 6:5, 23:14)
  • Letting everybody know you are fasting to get recognition by others  (Matthew 6:16)
  • Complaining about other's behavior when yours is even worse. (Matthew 7:5, Luke 6:42)
  • Pretending to honor God through lip service only (Matthew 15:7-9, Mark 7:6)
  • Testing other people to try to make yourself look superior (Matthew 22:18, Mark 12:15)
  • Deceiving people from knowing God (Matthew 23:13)
  • Repressing the poor and widows (Matthew 23:14)
  • Teaching proselytes to be hypocrites (Matthew 23:15)
  • Tithing (giving to the church), but neglecting justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23)
  • Doing everything for show, while really being self-indulgent and unrighteous (Matthew 23:25, 27, 28, 29, 34)
  • Treating stock animals better than fellow human beings (Luke 13:15)
  • Being able to analyze the weather, but unable to distinguish between right and wrong (Luke 12:56-57)

6 Lessons we learn here about Spiritual Hypocrisy: 

  • Spiritual Hypocrisy is energized by Satan
  • Spiritual Hypocrisy is a matter of the Heart
  • Spiritual Hypocrisy never fools God
  • Spiritual Hypocrisy is always connected with other sins – Here: Greed, covetousness, envy
  • Spiritual Hypocrisy is intentional
  • Spiritual Hypocrisy is a serious offense 

Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. - Achan, Belshazzar, and Ananias, met the same fate, because of their persistent use of devoted things. When once we have devoted aught to God, He counts it as his own, and strikes down the hand that would abase it to common and profane use. The Lord our God is a jealous God; He will brook no perversion of his rights. Beware that you take back nothing which you have laid on God’s altar, least of all yourself. Each gathering of believers is endowed with mystic and extraordinary importance, because the Lord, through the Eternal Spirit, is literally present. The true President is not the minister, however distinguished by his gift or grace, but the Divine Spirit Himself; and any sin against the Church is really against Him. It is this Divine presence that invests a gathering of the simplest, humblest believers with such unique importance. It is this which gives them the mysterious binding and loosing power, which is recognized and ratified in heaven. Behind Peter was the real Head of the Church; and so with every faithful minister. Honor the Personality, the Presidency, and Deity of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in this narrative.
Dr. Gordon told me on one occasion that he had in his church a man who, like a very crooked stick, obstructed all its work. He spoke to him alone, and before his brethren; but to no purpose. Then he bethought himself; and remembered that not himself, nor his church officials, was the true Head of the Church, but Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. He therefore handed the whole matter over to the Divine Spirit, as the Executive of the Godhead. In a fortnight this man had left the city, and necessarily ceased the obstruction in which he had persisted. 

Acts 5:5  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.

KJV Acts 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

  • And as he heard these words Acts 5:10,11; 13:11; Nu 16:26-33; 2 Kings 1:10-14; 2:24; Jer 5:14; 1 Cor 4:21; 2 Cor 10:2-6; 13:2,10; Rev 11:5
  • great fear came over all who heard of it. Acts 5:11,13; 2:43; Lev 10:3; Nu 16:34; 17:12,13; Dt 13:11; 21:21; Josh 22:20; 1 Sa 6:19-21; 1 Chr 13:12; 15:13; Ps 64:9; 119:120; 2 Cor 7:11; Rev 11:13
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

DISSIMULATION
A DEADLY DECEPTION

Vance Havner - If God dealt with people today as he did in the days of Ananias and Sapphira, every church would need a morgue in the basement.

John Calvin - God cannot stand unfaithfulness, and pretending to be holy is contemptible mockery.

J Vernon McGee - If those who lied to God in our churches were to drop down dead, we would have a lot of funerals. The undertakers would be doing a land-office business.

David Guzik - Because his sin was lusting after public praise for his generosity, it was appropriate that the sin be exposed publicly. “It is a good general rule that secret sins should be dealt with secretly, private sins privately, and only public sins publicly.” (Stott)

And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last - The physical cause of his death is unknown and not important. What is important is to see this as the judgment of God! Ananias laid down the deceptive donation, but God laid down Ananias because of his deception. His death was not delayed, but was immediate.

Paul Apple quips "Talk about being slain in the Spirit – not your holy laughter and rolling in the aisles type of experience here." I would add it is more like they were slain BY the Spirit, then IN the Spirit!

As G Campbell Morgan noted "“Observe that Peter said no word to Ananias about his death. The sentence was not calling down upon a man of a curse at the caprice of an ecclesiastical official. The death of Ananias was the act of God.”

We lose the approval of God
when we seek the applause of men.

Gotquestions comments - Right away, in the church’s infancy, God made it plain that hypocrisy and dissimulation were not going to be tolerated, and His judgment of Ananias and Sapphira helped guard the church against future pretense. God laid the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira in the path of every hypocrite who would seek to enter the church. (Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying?)

Constable points out that "We should not interpret the fact that God rarely deals with sinners this way as evidence that He cannot or should not. He does not out of mercy. He dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, Achan, Nadab and Abihu, and others severely when He began to deal with various groups of believers. He did so for those who would follow in the train of those judged to illustrate how important it is for God's people to be holy (cf. 1 Cor. 10:6). Furthermore God always deals more severely with those who have greater privilege and responsibility (cf. 1 Pet. 4:17)."

Ray Stedman applies this section to real life in the church -That is what this story of Ananias and Sapphira underscores for us. The minute they pretended to be something they were not -- death! When we come to church we put on a mask of adequacy, but inside we are inadequate, and we know it. We are struggling with problems in our homes, but we don't want to tell anyone about them. We can't get along with our children, but we'll never admit it to anyone. The pride that doesn't want anyone else to know what is going on between husbands and wives, and between parents and children, keeps us from sharing. We come to service, and put on a mask that says everything's fine! Everything's wonderful! Somebody asks us how are things going. "Great, great! Fine!" "How's everything at home?" "Oh, wonderful! We're having a wonderful time!" The minute we say that and its not true, we die. Death sets in. Soon that death pervades the whole church. That is why dishonesty is the primary characteristic of the church today. (Body Life)

Bob Utley on breathed his last (gave up the ghost - KJV) - In the ancient world one’s last breath was evidence that the spirit of the person had left (cf. Jgds. 4:2; Ezek. 21:7 in the LXX). This rare term is found in the NT only in Acts (cf. 5:4, 10; 12:23). This is an example of temporal judgment. This is similar to God’s judgment on Aaron’s sons in Lev. 10. Sin is serious to God. It cost a life (cf. 2 Kgs. 14:6; Ezek. 18:4, 20).

Breathed his last (1634)(ekpsucho from ek = out + psuche = the soul or psucho = to breathe) means to expire, to breathe out and so to die. Vine says "to breathe out the soul (or life), to give up the ghost." This verb is used three times to describe three deaths each one because of their sin against God! -- Anania (Acts 5:5), Sapphira (Acts 5:10) and Herod who was struck by an angel of the Lord after receiving plaudits from the people that he was a god (Acts 12:23). Ekpsucho is used in the Septuagint to describe Sisera's death when Jael drove a tent peg through his head (Judges 4:21+) Hippocrates used ekpsucho as a medical term. Given the notoriety associated with ekpsucho, it is not surprising that Luke used a different verb (expneo) in Luke 23+ to describe Jesus breathing His last. 

There is a message here for all of us and that is we had better be careful not to presume upon the lovingkindness or longsuffering of God when we wantonly sin against Him. Paul describes the results of some in Corinth who had taken Communion without confessing and repenting of their sins...

For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.  (1 Cor 11:29-32)

Comment - Have you ever heard the pastor warn you not to take communion by explaining you might become sick or die if you eat or drink in an unworthy manner? In all my years (34 years as a believer) I have never heard a pastor emphasize this warning prior to serving the Lord's Supper! Could it be that some of the sheep in the flock are sick because of failure to heed this warning? Just a thought to ponder!

The apostle John also gives a warning regarding sin in believers...

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. (1 Jn 5:16+)

Comment - I have personally known of at least two situations where believers (both pastors) were taken home because of persistent unconfessed, unrepentant sin. 

Gotquestions comments - Of all the interpretations out there, none seem to answer all the questions concerning this verse. The best interpretation may be found by comparing this verse to what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1–10 (see also 1 Corinthians 11:30). The “sin unto death” is willful, continuous, unrepentant sin. God has called His children to holiness (1 Peter 1:16), and God corrects them when they sin. We are not “punished” for our sin in the sense of losing salvation or being eternally separated from God, yet we are disciplined. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6). First John 5:16 says there comes a point when God can no longer allow a believer to continue in unrepentant sin. When that point is reached, God may decide to take the life of the stubbornly sinful believer. The “death” is physical death. God at times purifies His church by removing those who deliberately disobey Him. The apostle John makes a distinction between the “sin that leads to death” and the “sin that does not lead to death.” Not all sin in the church is dealt with the same way because not all sin rises to the level of the “sin that leads to death.” (What is the sin unto death?)

John MacArthur - 1 John 5 The Sin unto Death or Sermon

And great fear came over all who heard of it - Fear seized all who heard (believers and non-believers alike - see Acts 5:11) The church would have realized that "Holy" in the name "Holy Spirit" indicates He is indeed set apart from sin and it can be a fearful thing to lie to Him and/or commit willful, pre-meditated sin (like A&S)! Another result of two sudden deaths was to warn the infant church of the danger of sin "in the camp" and ultimately to facilitate every member's desire to pursue purity and godliness. It is also very likely that it cause many saints to do some "internal (heart) inventory" akin to that seen in Paul's exhortation to the church at Corinth (that had a few issues with "sin in the camp")...

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?(2 Cor 13:5+)

Peter could have justifiably uttered the words Daniel spoke to the King Belshazzar...

But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. (Da 5:23+)

Comment - Every breath we take is a gift from God's hand! God withdrew His hand from A&G. This should make all of us tremble when we wantonly, willfully sin and think we are "getting away with it!" God just might withdraw His hand which gives us breath!

Just a point of conjecture but can you imagine the offerings the congregation gave that afternoon when the offering plate passed by!

Fear (5401)(phobos) can mean reverence (holy awe) but in this context certainly describes a significant element of dread or terror produced by the Judgment of God. 

J Edwin Orr on great fear - William Castle, from Sichuan in China, said, ‘Revival means judgment day.’ That’s what happened in Shantung. Judgment on missionaries, pastors, people, and then fear fell on the world and God’s name was glorified. And people have such a wrong idea of what revival means… They think of revival as something triumphant and, shall we say, an overflow of great blessing. It’s judgment day for the church. But after the judgment, and after things are settled, it’s blessing abounding.” (His last sermon Revival is Like Judgment Day)

Guzik - Ananias' sin was greed (in keeping the money); but his greater sin was pride, in wanting everyone to consider him so spiritual that he “gave it all” – when he had not. Their sin is imitated in many ways today. We can create or allow the impression that we are people of Bible reading or prayer when we are not. We can create or allow the impression that we have it all together when we do not. We can exaggerate our spiritual accomplishments or effectiveness to appear something we are not. It is too easy to be happy with the image of spirituality without the reality of spiritual life. Their great sin was rooted in pride. Pride corrupts the church more quickly than anything else.

Lesson - Don't pretend to be someone in church that you are not!

Lesson - Believers can become liars and deceivers! (We all need to hear and heed Paul's warning in 1 Cor 10:12)

Lesson - "the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is that we presume greatly on God when we assume that there is always time to repent, time to get right with God, time to get honest with Him. Any such time given by God is an undeserved gift that He owes no one; we should never assume it will always be there." (Guzik)

In times of beginning "of a new period in salvation history" (Wiersbe) God is often more severe in His punishment. Here in Acts of course the Church has just been born and the era of the New Covenant has begun, so we should not be surprised or shocked by the Lord's punishment of these first two church hypocrites!

H B Hackett says "Such severity in the beginning of Christianity,” says Benson, “was highly proper, in order to prevent any occasion for like punishments for the time to come. Thus Cain, the first murderer, was most signally punished by the immediate hand of God; thus, upon the erecting of God’s temporal kingdom among the Jews, Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for offering strange fire before the Lord; and Korah and his company were swallowed up alive by the earth for opposing Moses, the faithful servant of God; and the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense upon that occasion were consumed by a fire which came out from the Lord; and, lastly, Uzzah, for touching the ark, fell by as sudden and remarkable a divine judgment when the kingdom was going to be established in the house of David, to teach Israel a reverence for God and divine things. Nay, in establishing even human laws, a severe punishment upon the first transgressors doth oft prevent the punishment of others, who are deterred from like attempts by the suffering of the first criminals.”

And so we see a similar fearful punishment described by Moses in the early days of the holy priesthood in which God's wrath broke forth on Aaron's sons who were offering "strange fire."

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them (PICTURE). 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. (Leviticus 10:1-3+)

Related Resources:

Another description of God's judgment for irreverence is found in the story of Uzzah touching the Ark of Testimony...

Now David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim. 3 They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. 4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. 5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.  6 But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. 7 And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God (picture). (1 Sa 6:1-7)

Comment - The second time, David was careful to bring the Ark of Testimony on the shoulders of the Levites as God had commanded (1 Chr 15:12-15).

Related Resources:

We also see an especially fearful punishment for the rebellion of Korah...

And he (MOSES) spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, or you will be swept away in all their sin.” 27 So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones. 28 Moses said, “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. 29 “If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 “But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.”  31 As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open (Dore Woodcut); 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (Nu 16:26-33)

Related Resource:

Acts 5:6  The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

KJV Acts 5:6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

  • Leviticus 10:4-6; Dt 21:23; 2 Samuel 18:17; John 19:40
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him - They did not practice embalming (and even today do not practice embalming possibly because of Ge 3:19! See Utley's topic "Burial practices."). In the hot climate, dead bodies needed to be buried quickly to prevent decay and stench. They wrapped him up in a shroud or enshrouded him. Did you notice that Luke mentions no weeping as one often sees when someone dies (e.g. Tabitha in Acts 9:36-37, 38)! The deaths of A&S were not commemorated, commended or cried over, as one would see with the usual expressions of mourning! 

They covered him (wound him up - KJV)(4958)(sustello from sun = together + stello = to bring, contract, shrink) means to draw together, contract. In the passive, it describes an extent of time as to be limited, be short, be near the end (1Cor 7.29); (2)  in Acts 5.6 sustello is variously understood: (a) wrap up, enshroud; (b) snatch up; (c) remove. 

But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none (1 Cor 7:29)

Comment - To what time does Paul refer? The brevity of a man's lifespan and the imminence of the Lord's return. The first is short, the second sudden! Are you ready?

ESV Study Bible on (1 Cor 7:29-31) - The purpose of 1 Corinthians, in large part, is to encourage Christians to attend to the kinds of daily affairs that would be unimportant if Christ were returning within weeks or months....Paul’s point here is simply that the form of this world, or its day-to-day affairs, is not eternal. Christians should prioritize their human relationships, material possessions, and worldly dealings accordingly.

Vine - the coming of the Lord is always to be regarded as nigh for the believer, who is to be in constant expectation of His return, and thus is to keep himself from being the slave of earthly conditions and life's relationships. 

Vincent has a lengthy note on sustello wrapped him round. The verb means to draw together, or draw in; hence used for shortening sail, reducing expenses, lowering or humbling a person. In 1 Corinthians 7:29, it occurs in the phrase, "the time is short (συνεσταλμένος, Rev., properly, shortened);" i.e., drawn together, contracted. In the sense of wrapping up it is found in Aristophanes, of wrapping cloaks or garments about one; also of tucking up the garments about the loins, as a preparation for service. In the sense of shrouding for burial, it occurs in Euripides ("Troades," 382): "They were not shrouded (συνεπεστάλησαν) by the hands of a wife." In medical language, of bandaging a limb; of the contraction of tumors, and of organs of the body, etc. Some, however, as Meyer, refer the word here to the pressing together of the dead man's limbs. (Word Studies in the New Testament)

Peter and the congregations recognized Ananias' dropping dead was clearly a judgment from God which in Deuteronomy called for immediate burial.

“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death (cf ANANIAS), and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.(Dt 21:22-23)

Robertson adds "They may have used their own mantles. The time for burial was short in Jerusalem for sanitary reasons and to avoid ceremonial defilement.

PURE CHURCH AND HOLY GOD - Some read the account of Ananias and Sapphira being struck down and accuse God of being harsh. "I thought God was supposed to be loving and forgiving. I thought all that wrath stuff was for Old Testament times." With an emphasis on grace and mercy, it's easy to overlook the equally important truth of God's holiness. We must remember that God has not changed (Malachi 3:6). He still hates sin as much as he ever did. And he is especially offended when his own people cut moral corners and try to hide behind the cloak of forgiveness. Thus, sinning Christians were removed from fellowship in order to preserve the purity of the church. (Life Application Bible Commentary – Acts)


Steven Cole - George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, tells of a time when he was about 19. He heard a man deliver a powerful sermon. It moved Verwer to rededicate his life to Christ. He went up to talk with the man at the end of the service. As he stood there, he noticed all of the church people in their expensive clothes. He also noticed that the speaker was very well dressed, exuding an aura of success. He asked him whether he thought that these people would respond to the message of giving everything for Christ. He speaker looked down at Verwer and said, “See here, young man, I’m an evangelist, and this is my living. This is how I make my money, by preaching and doing God’s work. What I was speaking about, that was all true, but I doubt if anyone would really live that way, unless perhaps there was a war on.” Verwer walked away feeling very shaken. Hypocrisy is a deadly sin. It destroys the hypocrite and it damages many that are contaminated by it. In this New Year, I urge you to allow God’s Word to confront your life. If you’re playing the religion game, quit now! Get real with the living God. Spend time each day with Him. Judge your sins and turn from them. Seek to grow in godly character. Our God desires truth in the innermost being (Ps. 51:6). (Acts 4-36-5-11 The Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy)

Acts 5:7  Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

KJV Acts 5:7  And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours - Luke pays close attention to detail in recording 3 hours. And we complain today if the service lasts more than 90 minutes! Here we see it was still going on 3 hours later! It is interesting that there was a 3 hour delay - can you imagine the attentiveness to the apostles' preaching during this time! The delay and repetition of his wife's death would also serve to imprint this event forever in the minds of all the church. 

McGee - Simon Peter knows what will happen to her. He did not know what was going to happen to Ananias, but now it is quite obvious what will happen to this woman.

And his wife came in, not knowing what had happened - She did not have a clue! It is surprising that no one grabbed her as she came in and told her "You won't believe what happened to Ananias." But God was in charge and He would see His judgment through to completion. She was undoubtedly ready to receive commendation and praise from Peter for such a generous gift to the needy! Such is the self-deception of hypocrisy. Look out! You could be acting the part of a religious hypocrite and not even have a clue! Pray Psalm 139:23-24!

Acts 5:8  And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price."

KJV Acts 5:8  And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

AN OPPORTUNITY
TO CONFESS

And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" - Peter did not have to ask this question, but in so doing it at least gave her an opportunity to tell the truth about what A&S had received for the sale. 

Constable - He did not warn her ahead of time by mentioning her husband's death because he wanted her to tell him the truth. She added a spoken lie to hypocrisy.

Sold (paid) (591) see apodidomi

And she said, "Yes, that was the price." Pretense persists! Peter knew how much they had received for the land because he knew that Ananias had only brought a portion. Think about this for a moment. What had A&S agreed to do with the proceeds? They had agreed to keep back some for themselves. Peter's awareness of what they sold the land for should have been a "wake up" call to Sapphira. Now it is possible he used the value of the proceeds Ananias had laid at his feet. If so, that would not have alerted her that the "jig was up." But if she had come to her senses and was no longer held captive by the devil to do his will (2 Ti 2:26), she could have said "No, the real price was such and such." Either way, she had an opportunity to confess and repent of her sin, but choose not to do so. After all the eyes of the entire congregation were on her and it would have been most embarrassing to admit they had tried to rob God! 

Acts 5:9  Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well."

KJV Acts 5:9 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.

  • Why is it that Ge 3:9-13; Luke 16:2; Ro 3:19
  • you have agreed together Acts 23:20-22; Dt 13:6-8; Pr 11:21; 16:5; Ps 50:18; Micah 7:3
  • to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test  Acts 5:3,4; Ex 17:2,7; Nu 14:22; Ps 78:18-20,40,41,56; 95:8-11; Mt 4:7; 1 Cor 10:9
  • the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door  Acts 5:6; 2 Kings 6:32; Ro 10:15
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together (cf the "Why" question in Acts 5:3) - The verb sumphoneogives us our English "symphony." The couple had practiced harmonizing their hypocrisy! But ironically their "spiritual symphony" was characterized by dissonance not consonance.

Vincent adds "The figure in the word is that of concord of sounds. "Your souls were attuned to each other respecting this deceit."" 

Agreed together(4856)(sumphoneo from sun = together + phoneo = make a sound) literally means to sound together. Vine = "to be in accord, primarily of musical instruments." To be in harmony or unison. To fit in with or agree with (Acts 15:15, Lk 5:36). To fit together - secular use the joints of the stones fit together. To match in sound. To have common interests - be in agreement with. To come to an agreement (Mt 18:19, 20:2, Acts 5:9). 

Vine sumphoneo "is used in the NT of the "agreement" (a) of persons concerning a matter, Matt. 18:19; Matt. 20:2, 13; Acts 5:9; (b) of the writers of Scripture, Acts 15:15; (c) of things that are said to be congruous in their nature, Luke 5:36.Note: Cp. symphōnēsis, "concord," 2 Cor. 6:15, and symphōnia, "music," Luke 15:25." 

Sumphoneo - 6x in 6v - agree(3), agreed(1), agreed together(1), match(1)  Mt. 18:19; Mt. 20:2; Mt. 20:13; Lk. 5:36; Acts 5:9; Acts 15:15. Three times in Septuagint - Ge 14:3 = "came as allies", 2 Ki 12:8 = "the priests agreed", Isa 7:2. 

To put the Spirit of the Lord to the test - How? By lying to God (Acts 5:4) "You have not lied to men but to God." Constable remarks that "Putting God to the test means seeing how far one can go in disobeying God-in this case lying to Him-before He will judge (cf. Deut. 6:16; Matt. 4:7). This is very risky business."

Do we ever put God to the test? Absolutely! Every time we sin willfully, we take our lives in our hands, because we are testing God! Thank God that He is filled with mercy and forgiveness and longsuffering. But next time we make provision to commit that sin which so easily entangles us, perhaps we might pause a moment and ponder what Acts 5, asking the Spirit to steel our hearts and our resolve to not sin against God's grace. 

Horton on put the Spirit of the Lord to the test - They were deliberately trying to Acts 5:13see how far they could go in disobedience without provoking God's wrath.(Acts: A Logion Press Commentary)

Here are some examples of putting the Lord to the test (using same verb peirazo or derivative ekpeirazo).

Exodus 17:2  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test (Heb = nacah/nasah; Lxx = peirazo) the LORD?”

Numbers 14:22 “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test (Lxx = peirazo) these ten times and have not listened to My voice

Dt 6:16  “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test (Heb = nacah/nasah; Lxx - ekpeirazo) as you tested Him at Massah (derived from nasah = to test).

Psalm 78:18;  And in their heart they put God to the test (Heb = nacah/nasah; Lxx - ekpeirazo) By asking food according to their desire. 

Psalm 78:41 Again and again they tempted (Heb = nacah/nasah; Lxx = peirazo) God, And pained the Holy One of Israel. 

Psalm 78:56 Yet they tempted (Heb = nacah/nasah; Lxx = peirazo) and rebelled against the Most High God And did not keep His testimonies, 

Luke 4:12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST (ekpeirazo).’” 

Test (3985)(peirazo from the noun peira = test from peíro = perforate, pierce through to test durability of things) is a morally neutral word simply meaning “to test”. Whether the test is for a good (as it proved to be in Heb 11:17) or evil (Mt 4:1 "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil") depends on the intent of the one giving the test and also on the response of the one tested. To test God means to blatantly defy God, even to the point of daring Him to act. A&S found out it is not a good thing to test God Who acted with swiftness and severity!

Related Resource:

Behold (2400)(idou) is the second person singular aorist middle imperative of eidon which means to see, perceive, look at. In the NT idou is used as a demonstrative particle that draws attention to what follows. Idou in the middle voice means "you yourself look, see, perceive!" The aorist imperative is a command emphasizing "Do it now! Don't delay!"

Spurgeon reminds us that "Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation." I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect "Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!"

The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well - Peter did not say that he knew what was going to happen to Ananias prior to his death. But this time Peter knew what would happen to Sapphira and his words must have chilled her to the bone! This is the first time she realized that her husband was dead. 

Wiersbe - We must keep in mind that their sin was not in robbing God of money but in lying to Him and robbing Him of glory. They were not required to sell the property; and, having sold it, they were not required to give any of the money to the church (Acts 5:4). Their lust for recognition conceived sin in their hearts (Acts 5:4, 9), and that sin eventually produced death (James 1:15). (Ibid)

James warned us...

Let no one say (present imperative) when he is tempted (peirazo), “I am being tempted (peirazo) by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt (peirazo) anyone. 14 But each one is tempted (peirazo) when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (epithumia). 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived (planao in the present imperative with a negative - the only way to successfully obey this command continually is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit - Eph 5:18+, cf Gal 5:16-17+), my beloved brethren. (James 1:13-16+)

Comment - A&S failed to heed this warning, were deceived and died just like the passage predicts! 

Acts 5:10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

KJV Acts 5:10 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.

NET  Acts 5:10 At once she collapsed at his feet and died. So when the young men came in, they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 

Immediately marks Sapphira's death as supernatural. God's judgment is swift and sure! 

Immediately (at once) (3916)(parachrema from pará = at, and chrḗma = something useful or needed) means suddenly, immediately, at the very moment, on the spot, forthwith, directly after something else has taken place. Note how most of the uses are in the context of a miraculous event and emphasize the absence of delay in the performance of the miracle. 

She fell at his feet and breathed her last - She did not put any money at Peter's feet, but just her body!

Breathed his last (1634)(see discussion of ekpsucho)

Boice - “True Christians do not lose their salvation by sinning. The punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, though extreme, was for this life only.” 

And the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband - So it had taken the young men about 3 hours to bury Ananias for they were just returning from his grave site.

Robertson on beside her husband - Face to face to her husband.

Blaiklock addresses the criticism of some who say the treatment of A&S was too harsh - "Peter was severe, and the fate of the two delinquents shocking, but the strictures of Christ on hypocrisy must be borne in mind (Mt. 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29). . . . The old 'leaven of the Pharisees' was at work, and for the first time in the community of the saints two persons set out deliberately to deceive their leaders and their friends, to build a reputation for sanctity and sacrifice to which they had no right, and to menace, in so doing, all love, all trust, all sincerity. And not only was the sin against human brotherhood, but against the Spirit of God, so recently and powerfully manifest in the Church."

Acts 5:11  And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.         

KJV Acts 5:11  And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

NET  Acts 5:11 Great fear gripped the whole church and all who heard about these things. 

  • Acts 5:5; 19:17; Ps 89:7; Jer 32:40; 1 Cor 10:11,12; Php 2:12; Heb 4:1; 11:7; Heb 12:15,28; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev 15:4
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

MEGA FEAR GRIPPED
THE ENTIRE CHURCH

It is worth noting that the early church moved from the "mega power" and "mega grace" of Acts 4:33+, to the "mega fear" of Acts 5:11! And power, grace and fear are all still important to the vitality and effectiveness of God's Church. How does your church rank on the "mega" scale? Is it "O-mega" or "No-mega?"

And great fear came over the whole church - Luke reiterates the effect of her instant death was instant fear on the congregation. I was made aware of a situation in which there was secret sin in the life of a pastor which resulted in his death. Sadly, the sin was covered up and never revealed to the congregation. One wonders what would have been the effect had the congregation been told the truth in love. Clearly the whole church was aware of the sin of A&S, and it undoubtedly had a sobering and likely purifying effect. "No doubt much self-examination took place following the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira." (MacArthur)

The writer of Hebrews alluded to the importance of godly fear when he wrote...

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence (eulabeia) and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29+)

H B Hackett on over the whole church, and over all who heard - To produce this impression both in the church and out of it was doubtless one of the objects which the death of Ananias and Sapphira was intended to accomplish. The punishment inflicted on them, while it displayed the just abhorrence with which God looked upon this particular instance of prevarication, was important also as a permanent testimony against similar offences in every age of the church.

Peter later wrote a passage what could be viewed as a "comment" on the fearful events of Acts 5:1-11...

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17+)

D Edmond Hiebert "explains the divine aspect of the readers' (OF PETER'S LETTER WHO WERE) suffering for Christ's sake. It was the time or appropriate season for God to deal in judgment with His people. Being infinitely holy, God cannot condone sin; even His own family stands under His judgment. The readers' experience of His chastening discipline should be understood in light of the coming judgment. It is appropriate for God's judgment to begin (commence its operation) "with the family of God", His people (1 Peter 2:5), "as a proof of their membership in His family, and a pledge of their escape from the end of those whom the last judgment shall find disobedient to the Gospel." (First Peter)

John MacArthur on judgment...household of God - Not condemnation, but the purging, chastening, and purifying of the church by the loving hand of God. It is far better and more important to kingdom work to endure suffering as the Lord purges and strengthens the church, than to endure the eternal sufferings of the unbeliever in the lake of fire. And, if God so strongly and painfully judges His church which He loves, what will be His fury on the ungodly? (The MacArthur Study Bible)

What does it mean that judgment begins at the house of God?  - excellent

Horton wisely wrote "Some people imaginewe must lower God's standards for the Church to make progress in today's world. But this has never been true. The Church has always been strengthened when it catches a vision of the holiness of God and seeks practical holiness in individual lives." (Acts: A Logion Press Commentary) (Ed: Acts 5:14 records that the first church's "seeker unfriendly" service, in contrast to scaring away the seekers, in fact drew "all the more believers in the Lord.")

And over all who heard of these things - Who are the all who heard? These would appear to be non-believers as they are described as a group separate from the whole church. And did this "mega" fear have any relation to the fact that "all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number?" (Acts 5:14) We know that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Pr 9:10)

Fear (5401)(phobos) can mean reverence (holy awe) but in this context certainly describes a significant element of dread or terror produced by the Judgment of God. Phobos describes awe, respect in believers, foreboding, terror in unbelievers! (cf Lk 12:4,5+)

Paul used phobos in a similar context of congregational discipline writing

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful (phobos) of sinning. (1 Timothy 5:19-20)

The writer of Hebrews uses the related adjective phoberos (derived from phobos) describing that...

For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying (frightful, formidable, fearful, dreadful, terrible, horrifying) thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30-31+). 

Comment: A&S are not an example of "church discipline" but of the Judgment of God Who is jealous for His Church, the Bride of Christ.

Church (1577)(ekklesia from ek = out + klesis = a calling, verb = kaleo = to call) literally means called out (but see note by Louw-Nida below) and as commonly used in the Greco-Roman vernacular referred to citizens who were called out from their homes to be publicly assembled or gathered to discuss or carry out affairs of state. Wuest writes that "The word assembly is a good one-word translation of ekklesia." While ekklesia was used in the Septuagint to describe the congregation of Israel (e.g., Dt 9:10 Lxx of "assembly" = ekklesia) , the use of ekklesia for the Body of Christ does not justify calling the church the "new Israel" as the NT church is an entity never described in the Old Testament. (See Israel of God)

Constable on ekklesia - This was a common word that writers often used to describe assemblies of people that congregated for political and various other types of meetings. The word "church," like the word "baptism," can refer to more than one thing. Sometimes it refers to the body of Christ as it has existed throughout history, the universal church. Sometimes it refers to Christians living in various places during one particular period of time (e.g., the early church). Sometimes it refers to a group of Christians who live in one area at a particular time, a local church. Here it seems to refer to the local church in Jerusalem.

A T Robertson - Here ekklēsia for the first time in Acts of the believers in Jerusalem. Twice already in the Gospels, once of the whole body of believers or the Kingdom (Matthew 16:18), the other of the local body (Matthew 18:17). In Acts 7:38 it is used of the whole congregation of Israel while in Acts 19:32 it is used of a public assembly in Ephesus. But already in Acts 8:3 it is applied to the church which Saul was persecuting in their homes when not assembled. So here the etymological meaning of "assembly" disappears for "the church" were now the scattered saints hiding in their separate homes. The whole body of believers in Jerusalem and all who heard of the fate of Ananias and Sapphira (beautiful, her name means) were in awe and dread. It was already a dangerous thing to be a follower of Christ unless one was willing to walk straight.

All of Luke's uses of ekklesia - Notice this is the first use in Acts.

Acts 5:11; Acts 7:38; Acts 8:1; Acts 8:3; Acts 9:31; Acts 11:22; Acts 11:26; Acts 12:1; Acts 12:5; Acts 13:1; Acts 14:23; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:22; Acts 15:41; Acts 16:5; Acts 18:22; Acts 19:32; Acts 19:39; Acts 19:41; Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; 

George Barkman: 5 Reasons for discipline in the church:

  • Purity = remove contamination from unconfessed sin; Remove the leaven (1 Cor. 5); Healthy body of Christ
  • Perspective = Bring everybody back into the right perspective = seriousness of sin from God’s perspective
  • Preventive measure = keeps others from sinning
  • Perception of the world = Testimony of the church to outside world; outside world afraid to fake being a Christian; lines are clearly drawn; understanding that identification with Christ means a commitment to a life of holiness
  • Power for the church to continue to grow and prosper

Yet few churches practice any form of church discipline – Result: the church is rampant with spiritual hypocrisy!

John Stott sums up this section - 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. (TNTC-Acts)


Poor Trade-Offs

Read: Acts 5:1-11

He who sows to his flesh will . . . reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will . . . reap everlasting life. —Galatians 6:8

Life is full of trade-offs. Today’s poor choices are a down payment on tomorrow’s problems. It’s all a part of living with the law of God that says we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7).

That was true of a 30-year-old Mississippi resident. A conviction for felony drunk driving resulted in his getting a 15-year prison sentence. The judge then suspended 14 years of the sentence if the man would honor the terms of a 1-year house arrest.

The trade-off was simple: Stay home and out of trouble for 1 year instead of going to prison for 15. But the man didn’t like being cooped up, so he went fishing—driving with a suspended license to get there. He was arrested and the judge threw him in prison. The fishing trip cost him many years of freedom.

What bad trade-offs do we make? Do we reject God’s mercy so we can enjoy sin’s season of pleasure? In the Bible, we see some examples. Moses traded the Promised Land for an outburst of anger (Num. 20:7-13). David traded his reputation for a night of passion (2 Sam. 11). Ananias and Sapphira traded life for some extra money (Acts 5:1-11).

Are you facing temptation today? Don’t give in. Cling to Jesus. Obey His commands. Never exchange fellowship with Him for anything. It’s always a poor trade-off.

It's wise to flee when tempted—
A fool is one who'd stay;
For those who toy with evil
Soon learn it doesn't pay. —DJD

In the heat of temptation, don't lose your cool.

By Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Don't Break Community

Read: Acts 5:1-11

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. —Romans 12:9

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a depressing chord that disrupts an upbeat account of the young church in action. Thousands of converts had trusted Christ. They were worshiping together and cared deeply for one another.

One member, Barnabas, sold some valuable acreage and gave all the proceeds to meet some pressing church needs. Ananias took his lead from Barnabas and decided that he too would make an impressive gift. But he was only seeking attention. He and his wife pretended to give everything, but they gave only a portion.

They got noticed—they both dropped dead in front of everybody! Taking the offering was never the same after that. Luke tells us that “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).

Ananias and Sapphira lied to God by trying to deceive the congregation, which disrupted the sense of church community. To live in community demands that we live with integrity. That’s why God took such drastic action.

When we join a church, we become part of other people’s lives. Our love for them should be without hypocrisy. That glorifies God and benefits everybody. We are to take our involvement in church as seriously as God does.

We join our hearts and hands together,
Faithful to the Lord's command;
We hold each other to God's standards—
All that truth and love demand. —DJD

To keep harmony in the church, keep in tune with Christ.

By Haddon W. Robinson   (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


How Honest Are You?

Read: Acts 5:1-11

Those who deal truthfully are [God’s] delight. —Proverbs 12:22

Woman’s Day magazine surveyed more than 2,000 people to check out their honesty level. When asked, “How honest are you?” 48 percent said very honest, 50 percent said somewhat honest, and the other 2 percent said not very honest.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents confessed that they had taken office supplies from their job for personal use. And 40 percent admitted that they would cheat on their taxes if they knew they wouldn’t get caught.

Ananias and Sapphira must have thought they could get away with lying (Acts 5:1-11). But they quickly found out differently when Peter confronted them and told them that they had lied to the Holy Spirit. Immediately they were struck dead (vv.5,10).

The Lord’s desire was to keep His new church pure so He could use the believers in the lives of others. As Bible teacher G. Campbell Morgan says, “The church pure is the church powerful. . . . The only power [able to make] a church pure is that of the indwelling Spirit of God.” The purity of the church led to their testimony spreading, and “believers were increasingly added to the Lord” (v.14).

Let’s be the kind of people who “deal truthfully” (Prov. 12:22) so we can be used by the Lord.

Lord, by Your Spirit grant that we In word and deed may honest be; All falsehood we would cast aside, From You, O Lord, we cannot hide. —D. De Haan

There are no degrees of honesty.

By Anne Cetas   (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Be Safe—Not Sorry!

Read: Acts 5:1-11 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 31-32; Acts 23:16-35

Do not quench the Spirit. —1 Thessalonians 5:19

Two young women lost their lives in a fire that swept through their apartment as they slept. Their home was equipped with a smoke detector that was in good working order, but it hadn’t gone off. Why? Fire inspectors concluded that the device had been deactivated for a party the night before. The unit had been disconnected to keep it from sounding off because of the smoke from cooking and candles.

In Acts 5 we have another example of two people who apparently deactivated an alarm system that could have saved their lives. Ananias and Sapphira must have quenched the Holy Spirit by turning a deaf ear to their consciences, believing they had plenty of good reasons for doing what they did. But their action cost them their lives.

We need to realize that the Holy Spirit was not given to annoy us like a sensitive smoke detector. He doesn’t sound false alarms. When He activates our conscience by bringing to mind a principle or warning from God’s Word, it is really His love and wisdom in action.

By weighing the warnings of His love against the cost of our foolishness, we’ll soon realize that it’s always better to be safe than sorry. —MRD II

Our conscience is a gift from God,
It is a guiding light;
And when aligned with God's true Word,
It shows us what is right. —Sper

To ignore your conscience is to invite trouble.

By Mart DeHaan  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Nobody Can Keep A Secret From God

Read: Acts 5:1-11

Cleanse me from secret faults. —Psalm 19:12

Washington, D.C., is full of secrets. Some say as many as 3 billion! But not all of them are legitimate secrets that safeguard national security. Many are documents concerning hazardous medical experiments made years ago on human subjects without their knowledge or consent. Others are contracts and bills that civilian manufacturers, often guilty of excessive overcharges, labeled “confidential.” But now, under a new policy inaugurated by the Department of Energy, “a pyramid-like tomb of classified documents” is being systematically exposed to public scrutiny. As a result, many people and companies are being sued.

Life, like Washington, is full of secrets. Most secrets are trivial and unimportant. Some, however, are evil and tragic, as illustrated in today’s Bible reading. What about secret sins? We may be able to hide them successfully from people, yet on God’s timetable a day is scheduled when He who “knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21) “will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing” (Eccl. 12:14).

Bring those secrets out in the open. Confess your sins now and claim the complete cleansing that is promised through the Savior’s sacrifice (1 Jn. 1:9).

You cannot hide your sin from God,
He knows what's in your heart;
Confession is the quickest way
To make a brand-new start. —Sper

Our secret sins are open scandal to God.

By Vernon Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


NOT IN IT FOR THE MONEY
It is unfortunate when the ministry of the Gospel is sometimes hindered by an overemphasis on money. The unsaved world is convinced that most preachers and missionaries are only involved in "religious rackets" to take money from innocent people. No doubt there are religious "racketeers" in the world today, people who "use" religion to exploit others and control them. We would certainly not agree with their purposes or their practices. We must make sure that nothing we do in our own ministry gives the impression that we are of their number.
A wrong attitude toward money has hindered the Gospel from the earliest days of the church. Simon the magician thought he could buy the gift of the Spirit with money (Acts 8:18-24). Ananias and Sapphira loved money more than they loved the truth, and God killed them (Acts 5).
For eighteen fruitful years, Dr. H.A. Ironside pastored Moody Church in Chicago. I recall the first time I heard him announce an offering. He said, "We ask God's people to give generously. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, we do not ask you to give. We have a gift for you—eternal life through faith in Christ!" He made it clear that the offering was for believers, lest the unsaved in the congregation stumble over money and then reject the Gospel. (Pause for Power - Warren Wiersbe)


Restoring Integrity

Read: Acts 5:1-11

You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

One sunny day, four high school boys couldn’t resist the temptation to skip classes. The next morning they explained to a teacher that they had missed her class because their car had a flat tire. To their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a quiz yesterday, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper.” She waited as they sat down and got ready for the quiz. Then she said, “First question: Which tire was flat?”

No one can get away with lying. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira thought they were lying only to Peter and the other believers. But the apostle said to them, “You have not lied to men but to God.”

Truth is an attribute of God. When we lie, we offend Him. And sooner or later He will uncover every falsehood—if not in this life, then at the judgment (Rom. 14:10-12).

We live in a highly competitive world, and sometimes we may be strongly tempted to shade the truth to get ahead. But the short-term gains from lying are worth little compared with the long-term benefits of telling the truth.

If you have deceived someone, confess it to that person and to the Lord. It may be humbling, but it is the first step to restore integrity in your life.

The road that leads to misery
Is caused by a tongue that wags;
Beware of lying lips, my friend,
And a mouth that boasts and brags. —Shade

To avoid lying, do nothing that needs to be covered up.

By Dennis J. DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Acts 5:12  At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico.

KJV Acts 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.

NET  Acts 5:12 Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon's Portico.

  • At the hands of the apostles Acts 2:43; 3:6,7; 4:30,33; 9:33,40; 14:3,8-10; 16:18; 19:11; Mark 16:17,18; Mark 16:20; Ro 15:19; 2 Cor 12:12; Heb 2:4
  • they were all with one accord Acts 1:14; 2:42,46; 4:32
  • in Solomon's portico Acts 3:11; John 10:23
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Vance Havner comments that "Here is the church in the full bloom of her power: a Spirit-filled church, a wonder-working (not a wondering!) church; a church that stirred up the devil."

At the hands of the apostles - This is an important detail because many today desire signs and wonders. But notice that Luke says these signs and wonders were performed not by the disciples in general but by the apostles. And while some maintain there are still apostles today, there is absolutely no way they are apostles in the true Biblical sense, for they lack one of the major requirements of a NT apostle -- they have not seen Jesus physically and personally.

While God's Spirit used the hands of the apostles to carry out the signs and wonders we must not forget that they were enabled to perform them "through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:30) The apostles were God's instruments. God was the One performing the signs and wonders.

Apostles (652)(apostolos from apo = from + stello = send forth) (Click discussion of apostle) means one sent forth from by another, often with a special commission to represent another and to accomplish his work. In the ancient world a apostle was the personal representatives of the king, functioning as an ambassador with the king’s authority and provided with credentials to prove he was the king's envoy. At times in the NT apostle carried the broad meaning of one sent as a messenger or delegate with instructions from a group or an individual (cf 2Cor 8:23, Php 2:25-note). And so in its broadest sense, apostle referred to all believers, because every believer is sent into the world as a witness for Christ. But the term is primarily used as a specific and unique title for the thirteen men (the Twelve, with Matthias replacing Judas, and Paul) whom Christ personally chose and commissioned to authoritatively proclaim the gospel and lead the early church. The thirteen apostles not only were all called directly by Jesus but all were witnesses of His resurrection, Paul having encountered Him on the Damascus Road after His ascension. Those thirteen apostles were given direct revelation of God’s Word to proclaim authoritatively, the gift of healing, and the power to cast out demons (Mt 10:1). By these signs their teaching authority was verified (cf. 2Co 12:12). Their teachings became the foundation of the church (Ep 2:20-note), and their authority extended beyond local bodies of believers to the entire believing world.

Utley on many signs and wonders -  These two terms appear in Peter’s quote from Joel 2 in Acts 2:19. Miracles were repeatedly performed (cf. 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 15:20). Remember that the miraculous is not automatically a sign of deity (cf. Matt. 24:24; and 2 Thess. 2:9), but it was and is a way to confirm the Christian message. 

Many signs and wonders were taking place among the people -  These signs and wonders were  in essence an answer to their prayer in Acts 4 - "And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30). In fact as Paul later wrote the signs and wonders were in themselves "confirmatory signs" substantiating that these men were indeed apostles for Paul wrote "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." (2 Cor 12:12) 

Beloved, you can mark it down...

The church pure is
the church powerful!

Would you describe your local assembly as "powerful?"

The Lord Jesus had predicted "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.  So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mk 16:17-19) To whom did Jesus make these promises? Clearly He spoke to His apostles. As Henry Morris says these signs were "necessary for a time, since they had neither Christ with them in person any longer nor any written record of His life and teachings. Eventually, as the church became established and the New Testament Scriptures were written and circulated, these miraculous attestations became unnecessary. This passage did not specify a time limit, but neither did it promise that such miracles would continue throughout all subsequent time. The very existence of the church and the inspired writings of the apostles in the New Testament would be sufficient."

Ray Stedman adds that the signs Jesus promised to His apostles "were never intended for the church at large. They were intended to confirm the ministry of these mighty apostles who laid the foundations of the church in the giving of the Scriptures. Not only were they to manifest the power of God in physical ways, but this physical manifestation was to be a symbol, a sign, of the spiritual power that God would release among the people. It is always a mistake to put emphasis upon a physical miracle. Physical miracles, although they attract attention, also confuse people so that ultimately they miss the point of what God is saying. That is why the Lord Jesus consistently said to the men and women that he healed in the days of his flesh, "Now don't tell anybody about it." He did not send them out to broadcast the story; he said, "Go home and say nothing to anyone." He did not want the confusing effect of physical miracles to thwart his spiritual ministry."

Signs (4592)(semeion from sema = sign) a sign is something that serves as a pointer to aid perception or insight. In the NT a sign speaks of a token which has behind it a particular message. For example, in John's Gospel (where semeion is most concentrated) the apostle recorded certain miracles not for the wonder they produced, but because of the message they taught ultimately "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." (Jn 20:31). All of Luke's uses of semeionin the book of Acts - Acts 2:19; Acts 2:22; Acts 2:43; Acts 4:16; Acts 4:22; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:8; Acts 7:36; Acts 8:6; Acts 8:13; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12

Wonders (5059) (teras) are similar to signs but appeal to the senses, being recognized as a phenomenon that needs to be explained. Something strange, exceptional, causing the beholder to marvel. All of Luke's uses of teras in Acts - Acts 2:19; Acts 2:22; Acts 2:43; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12; Acts 6:8; Acts 7:36; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12

Vance Havner on "signs and wonders" - There were miracles in the Bible and God still performs miracles today but they are not the basis for Christian life and experience. Salvation does not come by the assent of the head but by the consent of the heart. One is not born again when he accepts enough signs and wonders to believe that Jesus is the Saviour of the world but when he trusts Jesus as his own personal Saviour with a simple, childlike trust. The Christian faith is built on the miracle of the Resurrection. We are not saved by intellectually agreeing that Jesus rose from the dead but by receiving the risen Saviour into the heart. The Scriptures read, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9). In our daily living as Christians, God works through faith and obedience, not by occasional miracles. There may be miracles but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Too many dear souls would live by fits and starts, signs and wonders, but if everything were miraculously provided, we would need no faith. We live in a world spoiled by sin and subject to all the distempers and accidents and troubles that beset humanity in general. It is a world run largely by the law of cause and effect but the Christian walks by a faith that believes when it cannot see or understand and when no sudden revelation comes to clear away the fog. If God supplied us with instant ready answers to every problem or angel intervention in every crisis, there could be no growth of rugged Christian character in the storms of life. If we must have signs and wonders, then we belong to the adulterous generation that believes only what the senses will accept...Some seek special experiences, signs and wonders, but will not live daily by faith, looking unto Jesus.

SINGLENESS OF
PURPOSE

One accord (3661) (homothumadon/homothymadon from a combination of homos = same + thumos/thymos = temperament or emotion of the mind) means with one mind, unity of mind, with one purpose, with unanimous consent, of one accord. In a word it means together (Webster says "together" means "in company, in union, in the same place, in the same time, in concert, as the allies made war upon France together.") One lexicon says homothumadon means "to be of one soul." It speaks of an action agreed upon unanimously (with one impulse) or by common consent. Homothumadon was frequently used in secular settings to describe the unanimity of a synod, of creditors, of a husband and wife, of brother (TLNT, Moulton and Milligan)

Homothumadon is used repeatedly in Acts but sadly is not found after Acts (with one exception Ro 15:6) - Acts 1:14; Acts 2:46; Acts 4:24; Acts 5:12; Acts 7:57; Acts 8:6; Acts 12:20; Acts 15:25; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:29.The point is that this first church was without a doubt the "purest" church that has ever existed. 

What is important about this detail of Solomon's portico? Two things: (1) It was a big enough space for the entire church (numbering up to 10,000 or more) and (2) It was a perfect place for unbelievers to see the signs and wonders and most importantly to hear the message of the Gospel. Since this was still the Jewish Temple, many unbelieving Jews came through this area enter the inner sections of the Temple to pray and offer sacrifices.

Recall that Jesus had ministered at Solomon's portico (Jn 10:23) and "The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him." (Jn 10:31) when He declared to them "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30), clearly claiming deity.

NET Note - Solomon's Portico was a covered walkway formed by rows of columns supporting a roof and open on the inner side facing the center of the temple complex. Located beside the Court of the Gentiles, it was a very public area. 

In Solomon's portico -   See this diagram of the Temple grounds - note the right side of the picture faces East and that is the location of Solomon's Portico on the diagram. The Portico of Solomon consisted of a set of magnificent pillars supporting a roof and open on the inner side facing the center of the temple complex. (See picture of Portico.) The Portico was on the east side of the Court of the Gentiles and extended along the entire eastern wall of the Temple forming a covered walkway which was a place of commerce and conversation. (Described by Josephus, Ant. 15.11.3–5, 20.9.7) On the diagram of the Temple grounds note for comparison the football field in the bottom right side of the diagram. Here is the point - the Temple grounds adjacent to the Portico of Solomon would have been approximately 4 football fields in size which could have easily provided room for several thousand church members.

Acts 5:13  But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.

KJV Acts 5:13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

  • But none of the rest dared to associate with them Acts 5:5; Nu 17:12,13; 24:8-10; 1 Sa 16:4,5; 1 Kings 17:18; Isa 33:14; Luke 12:1,2; Luke 14:26-35; John 9:22; 12:42; 19:38; 2 Peter 2:20-22
  • however, the people held them in high esteem  Acts 2:47; 4:21; 19:17; Luke 19:37,38,48
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

HOLY FEAR BRINGS
A "HOLY REPULSION"

Vance Havner on none of the rest dared to associate with them - People didn't join this church carelessly. They were afraid to. There was a holy awe that kept Tom, Dick, and Harry at a distance. People didn't rush into this fellowship just because it was the nice thing to do. It meant something to unite with this crowd. There was a holy repulsion, and I know of nothing that the church needs more today. It is the last thing we think we need. We are always trying to attract. Our programs, prizes, picnics, and pulpit pyrotechnics are aimed at drawing the people in. Here was a church that made people stand back! We have catered to the world, we have let the world slap the church on the back in coarse familiarity. Here was a church that prospered by repelling! You will observe that all this followed on the heels of the death of Ananias and Sapphira. If the church took a stand today on sins within; if we thundered out, as Peter did here, against lying to the Holy Ghost, it would make the world stand at a respectful distance, and the fear of God would fall on a generation that laughs at the church. What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? They pretended to make a full consecration which was not real. And are not our churches filled with men and women who sing, "I surrender all," when they have not surrendered anything? The church is cluttered with people who should never have joined. She already has too many of the kind she has. We need a holy repulsion. You don't have to be different to be a church-member now. There is little about the average church to make men stand back in reverence. In other days we at least had church discipline. I can recall the old Saturday church meetings, when Ananias and Sapphira were dealt with. Some mistakes were made but there was a healthy regard for the sanctity of the church. When the church takes a stand, it repels careless "joiners."...When judgment fell on Ananias and Sapphira the world sat up and took notice. Today we coddle and excuse our sins, call weakness what God calls wickedness. We shelter sin in the Church, and when a preacher would cry out against it he is advised, "Don't be too hard, nobody is perfect," and is given a dressing-down from the text, "Judge not that ye be not judged." We have let down the bars until anybody can get into a church and nobody ever gets out. If we raised the New Testament standard it would stop the rush of superficial disciples and win respect where now there is ridicule.

But none of the rest dared to associate with them - Why not? Clearly they had heard had the sudden demise of A&S and there was "great fear over all who heard of these things." (Acts 5:5, 11). The verb associate (kollao) means "glue together" giving us an interesting picture of joining the Church! They did not want to be "glued to" the disciples, as a result of the fate of A&S! It reminds me of the fact that many people glibly join a church, but have never been "glued to" Jesus by grace through faith! Very sad! They are under the deception thinking that they are saved by joining a local church. Some denominations go so far as to say you won't be saved from hell if you don't join their church! Another deception!

Vincent on none of the rest - Unbelievers, deterred by the fate of Ananias from uniting themselves to the church under false pretenses.

NET Note -  The group was beginning to have a controversial separate identity. People were cautious about joining them. T

Dared (had courage)(5111)(tolmao from tólma = courage) means to have courage, to be bold or to dare to do something. BDAG says  "to show boldness or resolution in the face of danger, opposition, or a problem." To be courageous enough to join this fellowship in which 2 people had just died! The only other use of tolmao in Acts is in Acts 7:32 when Moses upon seeing the burning bush "shook with fear and would not venture (dare) to look."

Associate (join) (2853)(kollao from kolla = glue) means literally to glue, cement, join or fasten together and thus to unite (someone with or to someone or some thing). To fasten firmly together. In 1 Cor 6:17 kolla describes one "who joins himself to the Lord" and as a result is "one spirit with Him." 

Vincent on associate (join) - In all but two instances (Ro 12:9; 1 Cor 6:17), the word implies a forced, unnatural, or unexpected union. Thus Philip would not, without a special command, have "joined himself" to the chariot of the Ethiopian prince (Acts 8:29). Saul's attempt to join himself to the apostles was regarded by them with suspicion (Acts 9:26); and the fact that certain persons "clave to" Paul in Athens is expressly contrasted with the attitude of the citizens at large. The sense of an unnatural union comes out clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:16. (Note on Luke 15:15 = The verb means to glue or cement. Very expressive here, implying that he forced himself upon the citizen, who was unwilling to engage him, and who took him into service only upon persistent entreaty. "The unhappy wretch is a sort of appendage to a strange personality" -Godet)

However, the people held them in high esteem - The people is Jews. These were still days in which Christians were esteemed by the Jews. That would soon change as the church grew. Today a mention of that you are a Christian to a Jew does not necessarily garner you high esteem!

Held in high esteem(3170)(megaluno from megas - great) to make or declare great. Most commonly in the NT it means to magnify or praise (Luke 1:46; Acts 5:13; 10:46; 19:17; 2 Cor. 10:15; Phil. 1:20; Sept.: 2 Sa 7:26; Ps. 34:3; 69:31). In Acts 10:46 it describes exalting God and in Acts 19:17 of magnifying the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Acts 5:14  And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number,

KJV Acts 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

NET  Acts 5:14 More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women. 

  • And all the more believers in the Lord Acts 2:41,47; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31,35,42; Isa 44:3-5; 45:24; 55:11-13
  • multitudes Acts 8:3,12; 9:2; 22:4; Ex 35:22; Dt 29:11,12; 31:11,12; 2 Samuel 6:19; Ezra 10:1; Neh 8:2; 1 Cor 11:11,12; Gal 3:28
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

GROWING NOT DECREASING AS ONE MIGHT
EXPECT IN LIGHT OF GOD'S JUDGMENT 

And all the more believers in the Lord - Everyone is a "believer" (in something or someone) but not everyone is a believer "in the Lord." 

Believers is the verb pisteuo (present tense = continually believe = ongoing action) describing the Jews who had been persuaded that Jesus was their divine Messiah and Redeemer and so placed their confidence or trust in Him, signifying their reliance in Him for their eternal salvation. Remember that to "believe" does not to just ask Jesus into your heart (a phrase not actually in the Bible), but as W E Vine says it is "(1) a firm conviction which produces full acknowledgment of God's revelation of Truth - (2Thes 2:11 -"in order that they all may be judged who did not believe [pisteuo] the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness."), (2) a personal surrender to the Truth (Jn 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe [pisteuo] in His name") and (3) a conduct inspired by and consistent with that surrender." Ultimately, one is shown to be a believer in the Lord, but a changed life (not perfection but "direction"). If a person "asks Jesus into their heart" and subsequently demonstrates no evidence of a changed life, it is likely they are a professor, but not a possessor. Some would refer to this as "Easy Believism."

Multitudes of men and women - Note that Luke no longer gives a specific number added but clearly this was a significant influx. Earlier Luke had given specific numbers of those saved as "about 3000 souls" (Acts 2:41) and "and the number of the men came to be about 5000." (Acts 4:4). 

Multitudes (4128)(plethosfrom pletho = to fill - gives us English "plethora") means fullness or magnitude. is also used to express quantity, size, or number of something, e.g., an amount of money or length of time. In classic Greek it had the basic meaning of multitude. In the Gospels and Acts plethos usually means a quantity (of people). A bundle of sticks in Acts 28:3. Plethos describes the descendants of Abraham as like the stars of heaven in number. (Heb 11:12) Figurative used in James 5:20, 1 Peter 4:8 to describe a "multitude of sins."

Vine - "a large company, a multitude," is used (a) of things: of fish, Luke 5:6; John 21:6; of sticks ("bundle"), Acts 28:3; of stars and of sand, Heb. 11:12; of sins, Jas. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8; (b) of persons, (1) a "multitude:" of people, e.g., Mark 3:7, 8; Luke 6:17; John 5:3; Acts 14:1; of angels, Luke 2:13; (2) with the article, the whole number, the "multitude," the populace, e.g., Luke 1:10; Luke 8:37; Acts 5:16; Acts 19:9; Acts 23:7; a particular company, e.g., of disciples, Luke 19:37; Acts 4:32; Acts 6:2, 5; Acts 15:30; of elders, priests, and scribes, Acts 23:7; of the Apostles and the elders of the Church in Jerusalem, Acts 15:12.

Gingrich -

1. quantity or number Heb 11:12.

2. large number, multitude—

a. of things w. gen. Lk 5:6; bundle Acts 28:3; host James 5:20.—

b. of persons

— crowd, throng, host Mk 3:7f; Lk 2:13; 6:17; Ac 5:14; 21:36.

— a meeting, assembly Lk 23:1; Ac 23:7.

— people, populace, population Lk 8:37; Ac 2:6; 5:16; 14:4; 25:24.

— community, church, fellowship Lk 1:10; 19:37; Ac 4:32; 6:5; 15:12, 30; 19:9.

Plethos - 30x in 30v - assembly(1), body(1), bundle(1), congregation(4), crowd(3), great number(1), multitude(7), multitudes(1), number(1), number of people(2), people(6), quantity(1), throng(1).

Mk. 3:7; Mk. 3:8; Lk. 1:10; Lk. 2:13; Lk. 5:6; Lk. 6:17; Lk. 8:37; Lk. 19:37; Lk. 23:1; Lk. 23:27; Jn. 5:3; Jn. 21:6; Acts 2:6; Acts 4:32; Acts 5:14; Acts 5:16; Acts 6:2; Acts 6:5; Acts 14:1; Acts 14:4; Acts 15:12; Acts 15:30; Acts 19:9; Acts 21:36; Acts 23:7; Acts 25:24; Acts 28:3; Heb. 11:12; Jas. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8

Plethos is used over 250x in the Septuagint so here are only uses in the Pentateuch - "Multiplied sacrifices" (Isa 1:11)

Gen. 16:10; Gen. 17:4; Gen. 27:28; Gen. 30:30; Gen. 32:12; Gen. 36:7; Gen. 48:16; Gen. 48:19; Exod. 1:9; Exod. 8:24; Exod. 12:6; Exod. 15:7; Exod. 19:21; Exod. 23:2; Exod. 32:13; Exod. 36:5; Lev. 25:36; Num. 32:1; Deut. 1:10; Deut. 10:22; Deut. 26:5; Deut. 28:47; Deut. 28:62;

John Stott - This paradoxical situation has often recurred since then. The presence of the living God, whether manifest through preaching or miracles or both, is alarming to some and appealing to others. Some are frightened away, while others are drawn to faith.

Utley - Luke often used summary statements of the growth of the church (cf. Acts 2:47; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20).

Were constantly added to their number - Added is in the imperfect tense describing the addition of new believers as ongoing (over and over, again and again). Added is in the passive voice which in this context is the divine passive, signifying this was not just folks joining a physical church but souls being saved and added to the Body of Christ by God Himself. Recall that the divine passive signifies God (unexpressed) is the subject carrying out the action. 

Constantly added(4369)(prostithemi from from prós = to or besides + títhēmi = to put) means to put to and so to add to a number already present. Luke had used this same verb in Acts 2:41 describing that "there were added about three thousand souls" and again in Acts 2:47 where "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Both of these uses are also "divine passives.")

Acts 5:15  to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.

KJV Acts 5:15 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. 

  • they even carried the sick out into the streets Acts 19:11,12; Mt 9:21; 14:36; John 14:12
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

To such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets - Who is they? In context Acts 5:14 describes believers who were added to the church, so here the pronoun "they" would refer to believers. They obviously had confidence that the sick could be healed.

Gilbrant suggests "They believed the Lord would honor Peter's faith and theirs even if Peter was not able to stop and lay hands on each one of them."

Carried out (1627)(ekphero from ek = out + phero = carry, bear) means literally to bear or carry out (Acts 5:6, 9, 10, 5:15). Bring out, lead (Mk 8:23). Bring forth, in the sense of growth, as the ground or earth "bears out" plants (Heb 6:8, Ge 1:12). This verb is used 4 times in Acts 5 -  Acts 5:6; Acts 5:9; Acts 5:10; Acts 5:15 in situations that were striking contrasts - Acts 5:6, 9, 10 referring to carrying out the corpses of A&S and here of course carrying out the sick. 

Sick (772)(asthenes) describes those who were without strength and powerless to help themselves.

So that (hina) - Term of purpose

Constable - Even today some people in the Orient superstitiously believe that a person's shadow carries his power. Eastern parents have pulled their children away from the shadow of a wicked person and thrust them into the shadow of an honored individual. The action of these first century Near Easterners shows their respect for Peter who had the power to heal. These signs and wonders authenticated the apostles as Jesus and God's representatives (cf. 19:11-12; Matt. 10:8).

John Stott - Their action may have been somewhat superstitious, but 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, had recognized him as a man of God and an apostle of Christ, and believed that through close proximity to him they could be healed. (Ibid)

John MacArthur -  The streets of Jerusalem were an incredible sight. Everywhere there were beds occupied by rich and poor alike, all waiting for the apostles to move through town. The inhabitants of Jerusalem actually believed that Peter's shadow could heal. Some ancient peoples believed that a man's shadow carried his influence, so parents would place their children into the shadow of great men and snatch them away from the shadow of someone they disliked. The text doesn't say that Peter's shadow healed anyone, only that the people believed so. Their actions display a tremendous respect for Peter. Great miracles indeed occurred.

Miracles were common during this time as a way to authenticate the word of the apostles because there was no New Testament text to which one could refer. 

Utley adds that "these miracle signs were given to (1) show the compassion of God, (2) show the truth of the Gospel and (3) show who were the God-called leaders. These signs were given in a particular culture, for a specific purpose. Because God did it there, it does not automatically mean that He will do the same in every period of history in every culture. Not that God is not active in every age nor less compassionate, but that the people of God must walk by faith and not by sight! Miracles continue, but salvation of sinners must be the greatest goal, not physical healing for those who will still die! It seems to me that God has not changed. His character, power, compassion, and desire for all to be saved remains the same, but looking at history theologically, there are two major periods of intense, supernatural signs, both from God and from Satan -- (1)surrounding the time of the incarnation and development of the early church
and (2) preceding the end-time events when believers will be under terrible persecution. 

When Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them - Note that Luke does not say specifically that they were healed by Peter's shadow, but the implication is that they were (cf Acts 5:16 - all being healed). How they were healed is not stated by Luke the physician. If a touch of Jesus' clothing healed a woman (Lk 8:44), nothing prohibits God from using a shadow to heal. God can do whatever He pleases even when it defies human logic (Jer 32:27). The practice of placing the sick in Peter's may have been a superstition, because one source says "In the ancient world many people believed that a person’s shadow could possess magical healing powers." (Nelson Study Bible).

Barrett is correct in pointing out that "It is not the effect of Peter’s shadow but of the presence and power of God which Peter represented."

Might fall(1982)(episkiazofrom epi = upon + skia = shadow) "literally, as darkening by partially blocking out a source of light" (Friberg) and so to throw a shadow, here to throw a shadow upon the sick. This rare verb is used in Mt 17:5, Mk 9:7 and Lk 9:34 of the transfiguration in which the cloud overshadowed the Peter, John and James. In Lk 1:35 episkiazo describes "the Most High" overshadowing Mary when the Spirit came upon her with power. John Stott writes "“It may be significant that the verb episkiazo, which Luke chooses, meaning ‘to overshadow’, he has used twice in his Gospel of the overshadowing of God’s presence.”

Robertson - There was, of course, no virtue or power in Peter's shadow. That was faith with superstition, of course, just as similar cases in the Gospels occur (Matthew 9:20; Mark 6:56; John 9:5) and the use of Paul's handkerchief (Acts 19:12). God honors even superstitious faith if it is real faith in him. Few people are wholly devoid of superstition. 

Marshall agrees with Robertson writing "The idea that shadows had magical powers, both beneficent and malevolent, was current in the ancient world and explains the motivation of the people.” 

Luke describes a similar unusual mode of healing in Acts 19...

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.(Acts 19:11,12)

Comment: The purpose of the miracles was to authenticate Paul's message (Acts 19:10).  Notice Who was performing the miracles? God. Paul was simply His "chosen instrument" (Acts 9:15). 

MacArthur makes an excellent point that "the absence of a written New Testament by which to measure someone's teaching, God used signs and wonders to authenticate His message (2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3-4; cf. Acts 2:22)....The idea that healing power could be so magically transmitted was prevalent in the ancient world (cf. Matt. 9:21)" (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Acts)

Mark records a similar description in Jesus' healing ministry...

When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. 54When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, 55 and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. 56 Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured. (Mark 6:53–56)

We see a another description in Mt 9:20-22

And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well. 

Comment: Don't misunderstand what Jesus says. He is not saying that faith did the healing. Ultimately God did the healing and He also gave her the faith which "was the divinely appointed means for her bodily healing, as well as for her spiritual salvation." (ESV Study Bible)

Acts 5:16  Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.      

KJV Acts 5:16 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.

  • bringing people who were sick Mt 4:24; 8:16; 15:30,31; Mark 2:3,4; 6:54-56; John 14:12
  • they were all being healed Acts 4:30; Mark 16:17,18; Luke 5:17; 9:11; 1 Cor 12:9; James 5:16
  • Acts 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

MULTITUDES COME
ALL HEALED

Also the people (plethos= crowd, multitude) from the cities in the vicinity (perix = around, only here) of Jerusalem were coming together - Notice it does not describe these as believers. But much like with Jesus (cf Lk 5:15), the word was out that healing and exorcisms were being performed by Jesus' apostles. Were coming together is imperfect tense describing them as coming one after another, a steady stream of sick folks. This is the first mention of the Gospel work spreading beyond the city of Jerusalem. Notice in this case, the people were being brought to the apostles. However Jesus' charge in  Acts 1:8+ was that the apostles would go forth "both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” But in Acts 8:1 God would allows persecution and force them to go forth from Jerusalem.

Luke the physician makes a clear distinction between those who were sick and  those who were afflicted with unclean spirits. Thus Luke distinguishes those demonically afflicted from those affected by ordinary maladies (cf Acts 8:7).

Bringing people who were sick - Bringing (phero) is in the present tense picturing a continuing stream of sick and oppressed coming into the city. Sick is asthenes (a = neg + sthenes = strong) meaning literally without strength, powerless, which is why others had to bring them to the apostles. Asthenes describes one's state of limited capacity to do or be something and is used literally of physical weakness (most of the uses in the Gospels) and figuratively of weakness in the spiritual arena (weak flesh, weak conscience, weak religious system or commandment [Gal 4:9, Heb 7:18], etc) and thus powerless to produce results spiritually. While the primary meaning in this context is physical, all were also spiritually helpless. One wonders how many of these were in the multitudes in Acts 5:14.

J Vernon McGee - May I compare this to modern faith healing? Modern faith healers never heal all the people who come to them. Have you ever noticed that? The apostles had sign gifts, friend. No one in the church since then has had those gifts. People were healed, every one of them. They emptied the hospitals. This was the power of the early church. We must remember that at that time there was no written New Testament. The church is built on Jesus Christ—He is the Cornerstone—and the apostles were witnesses to Christ. The sign gifts were given to them to demonstrate the fact that they spoke with God’s authority, Today we have a written New Testament as our authority.

Afflicted with unclean spirits - A separate group from those with pure physical sicknesses. The majority of the sick were not demon possessed! Evil (demonic) spirits were afflicting them. Afflicted is the verb ochleofound only here in NT and in the present tense means they were continually being troubled, disturbed, tormented, harassed. (See Utley's topic - Demonic or Unclean Spirits)

Robertson adds that ochleomeant "to excite a mob (ochlos) against one, to trouble, annoy. Old word, only here in the N.T., though enochleo in Luke 6:18+. ("those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured.)." 

Unclean(169)(akathartos from a = without + kathaíro = cleanse from katharos = clean, pure, free from the adhesion of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts, in an ethical sense, free from corrupt desire, sin, and guilt; related = akatharsia) in a moral sense refers to that which is unclean in thought, word, and deed. It can describe a state of moral impurity, especially sexual sin and the word foul is an excellent rendering. Akathartos is frequently associated with sexual sin, referring to immoral thoughts, passions, ideas, fantasies, and every other form of sexual corruption! An ugly word to be sure! It is not surprising that this word is repeatedly applied to filthy demonic spirits in the Gospels.

Akathartos - 30x in the NT - note most of the uses in the Gospels refers to unclean spirits. 

Matt. 10:1; Matt. 12:43; Mk. 1:23; Mk. 1:26; Mk. 1:27; Mk. 3:11; Mk. 3:30; Mk. 5:2; Mk. 5:8; Mk. 5:13; Mk. 6:7; Mk. 7:25; Mk. 9:25; Lk. 4:33; Lk. 4:36; Lk. 6:18; Lk. 8:29; Lk. 9:42; Lk. 11:24; Acts 5:16; Acts 8:7; Acts 10:14; Acts 10:28; Acts 11:8; 1 Co. 7:14; 2 Co. 6:17; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 16:13; Rev. 17:4; Rev. 18:2

Guzik comments "We shouldn’t miss the connection between the purity preserved in the first part of the chapter (with the death of Ananias and the fear of God among the Christians) and the power displayed here. God blessed a pure church with spiritual power."

Related Resources:

And they were all being healed - All means there were no exceptions - it does not mean some healed, some not healed. Being healed is in the imperfect tense picturing the healing as one after another, one at a time, again and again! Being healed is passive voice, almost certainly indicating a divine passive, which signified this was a work of God's Spirit. This must have been quite a scene to behold!

Now while all were being healed physically, this does not indicate that all were being healed in the more important way -- spiritually. As Utley rightly says "Physical healing is a poor substitute for spiritual salvation. Miracles are only truly helpful if they bring us to God."

Therapeuo is used in a parallel passage in Acts 8:7 Luke recording that "in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed."

Healed (cured)(2323)(therapeuo from therapon 

Sours: https://www.preceptaustin.org/acts-5-commentary

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Acts 5

[A new version of this page can be found here]

The Church Grows Despite Opposition

A. The lie of Ananias and Sapphira.

1. (Act 5:1-2) What Ananias and Sapphira did.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

a. After they saw the great generosity of Barnabas, and how well he was respected, Ananias and Sapphira decided they wanted some of the same respect.

b. He kept back part of the proceeds: They sold the possession, and gave only a portion to the church, while implying that they had sacrificially given it all to the church.

i. The word for kept back is nosphizomai, which means "to misappropriate." The same word was used of Achan's theft in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Joshua 7:21), and in its only other New Testament use, it means to steal (Titus 2:10).

ii. "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." (Bruce)

c. His wife also being aware of it: Clearly, both husband and wife were in on the deception.

i. "There may indeed be the further implication that Ananias and Sapphira had vowed to give the whole proceeds of the sale to God, but then changed their mind and handed over only part." (Bruce)

ii. "Once the love of money takes possession of a person, there is no evil that he cannot or will not do." (Horton)

iii. According to Calvin, these are the "evils packed under" the sin of Ananias, beyond the mere attempt to deceive God and the church: The contempt of God, sacrilegious defrauding, perverse vanity and ambition, lack of faith, the corrupting of a good and holy order, and hypocrisy.

2. (Act 5:3-6) Peter confronts Ananias.

But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

a. Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart: God apparently gave Peter supernatural knowledge of what Ananias had done. This spiritual gift, called the word of knowledge, is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

i. When Peter said this, Ananias must have been crushed. Certainly, he was expecting praise for his spectacular gift, but was rebuked instead.

b. Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit: Peter did not accuse Ananias of lying to the church, or to the apostles, but to the Holy Spirit Himself.

c. While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Peter freely acknowledges that the land and its value belonged to Ananias alone; he was completely free to do with it what he wanted. His crime was not withholding the money, but in deceptively implying that he was giving it all.

i. Of course, his sin was greed (in keeping the money); but his greater sin was pride, in wanting everyone to consider him so spiritual that he "gave it all."

ii. It wasn't that Ananias' gift wasn't big enough, but that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15:8).

iii. The spirit of Ananias is alive and well in the church today. Far too many want to be considered "spiritual" while refusing to pay any kind of price in their service to God.

d. Their sin was so unnecessary: While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Ananias was free to use the money for whatever he wanted, except as a means to inflate his own spiritual pride.

e. Satan had filled the heart of Ananias, yet Peter could ask why he had conceived this thing in your heart. Satan can influence the life of a believer, even a spirit-filled believer, but he can't do your sinning for you. Ananias had to conceive it in his heart.

f. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last: Peter did not pronounce a "death sentence" on Ananias. He simply confronted him with his sin and Ananias fell down dead. It isn't the business of the church to pronounce a "death sentence" on anyone!

i. "Observe that Peter said no word to Ananias about his death. The sentence was not calling down upon a man of a curse at the caprice of an ecclesiastical official. The death of Ananias was the act of God." (Morgan).

ii. Peter was probably more surprised than anyone when Ananias fell down dead!

g. God struck Ananias dead for his sin. Doesn't this seem rather harsh?

i. The greater wonder is that God delays His righteous judgment in virtually all other cases. Ananias received exactly what he deserved; he simply could not live in the atmosphere of purity that marked the church at that time.

ii. The physical means by which Ananias died was probably a heart attack. Ananias lived in a time, and among a people, who really believed there was a God in heaven we must all answer to. It frightened him to have his sin exposed and to know he was accountable before God for it. How many people would be frightened before God if confronted with sin like this? Today, too many people would yawn or debate if confronted with sin like this!

iii. What Ananias did also must be seen in the context of its time.  This was a critical juncture for the early church, and such impurity, sin, scandal and satanic infiltration could have corrupted the entire church at its root. "The Church has never been harmed or hindered by opposition from without; it has been perpetually harmed and hindered by perils from within." (Morgan)

iv. Why don't we see God judge the same way now? In part, because the church has so many "branches." Even if the entire body of Christ in the United States was to become corrupt through scandal or sin, there is plenty of strength in other parts of the "tree."

v. "The Church's administration to-day is not what it was, or there might be many dead men and women at the end of some services." (Morgan)

h. The shock of being exposed was too much for Ananias. For many Christians in compromise, their greatest fear is not in sinning itself, but in being found out.

i. As much as anything, the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is that we presume greatly on God when we assume that there is always time to repent, time to get right with God, time to get honest with Him. Any such time given by God is an undeserved gift that He owes no one; we should never assume it will always be there.

i. God's purpose was accomplished in the church at large: So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. Surely, this is one of the great understatements of the Bible!

3. (Act 5:7-11) Peter confronts Sapphira.

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

a. How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?  Sapphira was a knowing and willing participant in the sin, as well as the blatant cover-up. God's judgment of her is just as righteous as His judgment of Ananias.

b. We don't know if Ananias and Sapphira had a good or a bad marriage, if they agreed often or fought often. We do know that they at least agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord. They should have found agreement for the Lord, instead of against Him!

i. Married couples in the Lord have a responsibility to keep each other from sin, and to refuse to participate in sin together, for God will hold each accountable. The concept of submission does not extend to submitting unto sin.

c. Great fear came upon all the church: This is the first use of the word church in the Book of Acts. What is the church?

i. "The Greek word has both a Gentile and a Jewish background. In its Gentile sense it denotes chiefly the citizen-assembly of a Greek city … but it is its Jewish usage that underlies its use to denote the community of believers in Jesus. In the Septuagint it is one of the words used to denote the people of Israel in their religious character as Yahweh's 'assembly.'" (Bruce)

ii. In other words, Luke chose a term that was used in his Bible to describe the people of God in the Old Testament. It was not the only term, but certainly one of the terms.

iii. "The Christian ekklesia was both new and old - new, because of its relation and witness to Jesus as Lord and to the epoch-making events of his death exaltation and the sending of the Spirit; old, as the continuation of the 'congregation of the Lord' which had formerly been confined within the limits of one nation, but now, having died and risen with Christ, was to be open to all believers without distinction." (Bruce)

4. Observations on the account of Ananias and Sapphira.

a. Were Ananias and Sapphira saved? It is impossible to say for certain, for only God knows. But we can see that it is possible for a Christian to sin unto death (1 John 5:16-17), and we have New Testament examples of saved Christians being judged by being "brought home" in death (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

b. Notice that their great sin was rooted in pride; pride will corrupt the church more quickly than anything else.

c. In noticing the comparison between the incident of Ananias and Sapphira and Achan in the book of Joshua, it is interesting also to look at the contrasts. In Joshua, God expected the people of God themselves to execute the judgment upon the offender. But in Acts, God takes this type of judgment out of the church's hand and executes it Himself. The church has no place in administering such punishment itself or in having civil authorities do so for them.

B. Continuing power in the church.

1. (Act 5:12) Power shown through miracles and unity.

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch.

a. Many signs and wonders were done … they were all with one accord: Often, the fact that God's people are together all with one accord is a greater display of the power of the Holy Spirit than any particular sign or wonder. Our hearts and minds can be harder to move than any mountain!

b. We can wonder why at this time God chose to do these miracles through the hands of the apostles and not mainly through others. But God sovereignly chooses which hands will bring a miracle. He had a purpose in doing it through the hands of the apostles.

c. Solomon's Porch: The second temple was a massive compound, with extensive colonnades and covered areas. No doubt, the early Christians gathered together in a particular area of the temple complex, an area open to all.

2. (Act 5:13-14) The church's reputation and growth.

Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

a. None of the rest dared join them: The community of Christians had a marvelous reputation for integrity, and everybody knew it was a serious thing to be a follower of Jesus. An Ananias and Sapphira incident would cut down on casual commitment!

b. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord: Yet, the church kept growing; though people knew it was a serious thing to be a Christian, the Spirit of God kept moving with power.

c. Notice how new believers were added: Added to the Lord, not to a "church" or a person or even a movement, but to God Himself.

3. (Act 5:15-16) The expectation of miracles among the early Christians.

So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

a. They brought the sick out into the streets: People were so convinced of the reality and power of what the Christians believed, they thought they could be healed by the mere touch of Peter's shadow.

i. That at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them: Our text does not specifically say people were healed by Peter's shadow; it merely tells us people thought it would, and they took action based on this belief. We don't know for certain if people were actually healed by this.

b. Assuming people were healed, apparently, even the shadow of Peter became a point of contact where people would release faith in Jesus as healer. It seems that people well understood what Peter said in Acts 3:12-16: That Jesus heals, even if He is doing His healing work through His apostles.

i. It may sound crazy that one could be healed by the touch of a shadow, but we know one was healed by the touch of a garment, when the woman touched the hem of Jesus' garment (Luke 8:44). There wasn't anything magical in the garment, but it was a way her faith was released. In the same, there was no power in Peter's shadow itself, but there was power when a person believed in Jesus to heal them, and the passing of Peter's shadow may have helped some to believe.

ii. "It may be significant that the verb episkiazo, which Luke chooses, meaning 'to overshadow', he has used twice in his Gospel of the overshadowing of God's presence." (Stott)

iii. "The idea that shadows had magical powers, both beneficent and malevolent, was current in the ancient world and explains the motivation of the people." (Marshall)

c. However, we can trust that Luke is not merely recording legends. "From what we know of physicians, even in those days, we cannot assume that Luke would gullibly accept stories of 'miraculous healing' without investigating them." (LaSor)

d. They were all healed: However God chose to bring the healing, there is no doubt that a remarkable work of healing was present. We shouldn't miss the connection between the purity preserved in the first part of the chapter (with the death of Ananias and the fear of God among the Christians) and the power displayed here. God was blessing a pure church with spiritual power.

e. When we see that a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, we see that people are coming from afar to the apostles, instead of the apostles going to them. This is exciting, but not exactly according to the command of Jesus. He told the disciples to go out to Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). In fact, the apostles wouldn't leave Jerusalem until they were forced to by persecution (Acts 8:1, 12:1-2).

C. The apostles are imprisoned by the Jewish rulers.

1. (Act 5:17-18) The arrest and imprisonment of the apostles.

Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

a. They were filled with indignation: The apostles, like Jesus whom they represent, are persecuted because their good works and popularity are a threat to those who have an interest in the status quo of religious and moral darkness.

2. (Act 5:19-20) Angelic intervention frees the apostles.

But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life."

a. An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors: Of course, this was easy for God to arrange. Angels are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). God sent forth this angel to minister for the apostles. Locked doors are nothing for the Lord!

b. They are not only set free, but they are set free for a purpose, that they may Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. God did not set the apostles free so they could run for the hills or so they could just indulge their own comfort. They were set free for a reason.

i. Isn't this a pattern for our own lives? We are set free so that we may proclaim all the words of this life, instead of being set free for our own pleasure and comfort.

c. An angel of the Lord: Possibly, they only understood this was an angel in retrospect. Angels often come in human appearance, and it may not always be easy to recognize an angel (Luke 24:3-7, Hebrews 13:2).

3. (Act 5:21-28) The apostles begin preaching again, and are arrested again by the Jewish rulers.

And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!" Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

a. They entered the temple early in the morning and taught: What obedience! What boldness! They went to the most public place they could (the temple), and as soon as they could (early in the morning). When they were thought to be in the prison, they were obediently teaching God's word.

i. When the high priests and other officials found out the apostles were gone, but the prison was still shut securely, they wondered what the outcome would be. They might have wondered, but we don't - we know God's work will continue.

b. The captain went with the officers and brought them without violence: The apostles were soon arrested again. It would have been tempting for them to think that since they were miraculously released, that God would keep them from being arrested again, but that wasn't the case.

i. When the apostles went back into custody, they knew how easy it would be for God to release them again, if it pleased Him to do so. Their past experience of the power of God had filled them with faith for the present.

ii. Brought them without violence: Significantly, the apostles do not appeal to popular opinion for protection against the Jewish rulers. After all, they could have incited the crowd by shouting, "Are you going to let them take us away?" But their trust is in God and God alone. A carnal solution to their problem was available, but they did not use it.

c. For they feared the people: The hearts of the Jewish rulers are again exposed. They feared the people, but they did not fear God.

d. The accusation of the high priest is a wonderful testimony to the effectiveness of the message preached by the apostles. The high priest himself declares they have filled Jerusalem with [their] doctrine. He also knows that they want to bring this Man's blood on the Jewish rulers!

i. By calling Jesus this Man, the Jewish leaders are obviously avoiding the name Jesus, but they can't avoid the power of Jesus; it is staring them right in the face.

ii. The charge that the apostles did intend to bring this Man's blood upon us is interesting. The high priest no doubt meant that the apostles intended to hold the Jewish leaders responsible, in some measure, for the execution of Jesus (Acts 2:23). Yet, we know that the apostles must have desired for the high priest and the other Jewish leaders to come to faith in Jesus, even as some other priests did (Acts 6:7). For certain, the apostles wanted to bring the covering, cleansing blood of Jesus upon the high priest!

D. The resolution of their case before the Jewish rulers.

1. (Act 5:29-32) The testimony of the apostles before the Sanhedrin.

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."

a. We ought to obey God rather than men: This was a testimony of great boldness, in contrast to the Sanhedrin, who were more concerned about man's opinion than God's opinion.

i. The apostles' response to the Sanhedrin is not a defense, nor is it a plea for mercy; it is a simple explanation of action.

ii. We should obey rulers, but not when they contradict God: "Therefore, if a father, being not content with his own estate, do essay to take from God the chief honour of a father, he is nothing else but a man. If a king, or ruler, or magistrate, do become so lofty that he diminisheth the honour and authority of God, he is but a man. We must also thus think of pastors." (Calvin)

b. This was a testimony faithful to the foundation of the Christian faith. Peter speaks of man's guilt (Jesus whom you murdered), Jesus' death (hanging on a tree), Jesus' resurrection (Him God exalted to His right hand), and our responsibility to respond (to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins).

i. Why does Peter refer to the cross as a tree? Because he is drawing an association from Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where it says that a person hanged from a tree is cursed by God. Peter is bringing attention to the magnitude of their rejection of Jesus, pointing out that they killed him in the worst way possible, both from a Roman perspective (the cross) and a Jewish perspective (the tree association).

ii. "While xylon [tree] was used in antiquity and in the LXX variously for 'a tree,' 'wood' of any kind, 'a pole,' and various objects made of wood, including 'a gallows,' it is also used in the NT for the cross of Jesus." (Longenecker)

c. We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit: This was a reliable testimony, because it is based on eyewitness testimony, which is also confirmed by God!

2. (Act 5:33-39) Gamaliel's advice to the Sanhedrin.

When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest you even be found to fight against God."

a. They were furious: "Luke graphically describes them as 'being sawn asunder (in heart)." (Williams)

b. A Pharisee named Gamaliel: This was the grandson of the esteemed Hillel, the founder of Israel's strongest school of religion. Gamaliel was given the title Rabban ("our teacher"), which was a step above the title Rab ("teacher") or Rabbi ("my teacher").

i. The Mishnah says of Gamaliel: "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."

c. Significantly, Gamaliel was a Pharisee. Though the Sadducees had more political power (Acts 5:17), it was politically foolish for the Sadducees to ask the Romans to execute the apostles without support from the Pharisees.

d. Some time ago Theudus rose up: Josephus, the Jewish historian, does mention a Theudas who led a rebellion, but at a later point than this. It could be that Josephus had his dates mixed up or that this was a different Theudas (it was a common name). Josephus does describe a Judas of Galilee (Antiquities, 18.1.1,2,6 and 20.5.2) who may be the same one mentioned here.

e. If this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest you even be found to fight against God: Gamaliel was speaking for himself and not for God. There are many movements that are considered successful in the sight of man, but are against God's truth. Success is not the ultimate measure of truth.

i. Gamaliel was really a fence sitter. He spoke as if they should wait and see if Jesus and the apostles were really from God. But what greater testimony did he need, beyond Jesus' resurrection and the apostles' miracles? Why does he adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude?

ii. Gamaliel proposed the test of time, and that is an important test, but more important than the test of time is the test of eternity.

iii. "We should not be too ready to credit Gamaliel with having uttered an invariable principle … the Gamaliel principle is not a reliable index to what is from God and what is not." (Stott)

3. (Act 5:40-42) After a beating, the apostles resume preaching with joy.

And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

a. When they had called for the apostles and beaten them: The leaders thought they would intimidate and discourage the apostles with a beating. Instead, they left rejoicing. They were not rejoicing that they suffered, but that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. It was a privilege to be associated with Jesus in any circumstance, even to suffer shame.

b. Beaten can also be translated skinned; the beating they received stripped the skin off of their backs.

i. Marshall on the beating they received: "It was no soft option; people were known to die from it, even if this was exceptional. It was meant to be a serious lesson to offenders."

c. They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Whatever beating or shameful treatment the Sanhedrin gave them, it did absolutely no good. The disciples didn't stop preaching for a moment. Would we have stopped? Is a beating or social rejection enough to get us to back down for Jesus? We need to have the apostles' courage and determination to stand firm for Jesus Christ.

i. Spurgeon spoke of this kind of bold heart: "Now, I charge every Christian here to be speaking boldly in Christ's name, according as he has opportunity, and especially to take care of this tendency of our flesh to be afraid; which leads practically to endeavours to get off easily and to save ourselves from trouble. Fear not; be brave for Christ. Live bravely for him who died lovingly for you."

ii. Spurgeon also challenged the cowardly heart: "Yet you are a coward. Yes, put it down in English: you are a coward. If anybody called you so you would turn red in the face; and perhaps you are not a coward in reference to any other subject.  What a shameful thing it is that while you are bold about everything else you are cowardly about Jesus Christ. Brave for the world and cowardly towards Christ!"

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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5 commentary acts

Acts chapter 5

New International Version

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

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

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

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

8 Peter asked her, 'Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?' 'Yes,' she said, 'that is the price.'

9 Peter said to her, 'How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.'

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people all about this new life.'

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin--the full assembly of the elders of Israel--and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.' 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.' 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,' he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead--whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.'

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

English Standard Version

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

King James Version

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 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. 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? 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. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 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. 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. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

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. 13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 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. 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.

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, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 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. 22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23 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. 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. 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.

26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 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. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 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. 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. 33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. 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; 35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 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. 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. 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 come to nought: 39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 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. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

New American Standard Bible

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the proceeds for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.' 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias collapsed and died; and great fear came over all who heard about it.6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

7 Now an interval of about three hours elapsed, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, 'Tell me whether you sold the land for this price?' And she said, 'Yes, for that price.' 9 Then Peter said to her, 'Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.' 10 And immediately she collapsed at his feet and died; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard about these things.

12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all together in Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14 And increasingly believers in the Lord, large numbers of men and women, were being added to their number,15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any of them. 16 The people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together as well, bringing people who were sick or tormented with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.

17 But the high priest stood up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and leading them out, he said, 20 'Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life.'

21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple area about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, that is, all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison for them to be brought. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported, 23 saying, 'We found the prison locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.' 24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25 But someone came and reported to them, 'The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple area and teaching the people!' 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).

27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the Council. The high priest interrogated them, 28 saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.' 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.'

33 But when they heard this, they became infuriated and nearly decided to execute them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, 'Men of Israel, be careful as to what you are about to do with these men. 36 For, some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee appeared in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he also perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or movement is men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if the source is God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.'

40 They followed his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus as the Christ.

New Living Translation

1 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife's consent, he kept the rest.

3 Then Peter said, 'Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren't lying to us but to God!'

5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

8 Peter asked her, 'Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?' 'Yes,' she replied, 'that was the price.'

9 And Peter said, 'How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.'

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.

12 The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon's Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord--crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles' work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter's shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

17 The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 'Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!'

21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching. When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council--the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 'The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!'

24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: 'The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!'

26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 'Didn't we tell you never again to teach in this man's name?' he demanded. 'Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!'

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.'

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, 'Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 'So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!'

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: 'Jesus is the Messiah.'

Christian Standard Bible

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife's knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles' feet.

3 "Ananias," Peter asked, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 Wasn't it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn't it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God." 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.

7 About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

8 "Tell me," Peter asked her, "did you sell the land for this price?" "Yes," she said, "for that price."

9 Then Peter said to her, "Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.

12 Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's Colonnade. 13 No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. 14 Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers--multitudes of both men and women. 15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

17 Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 "Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life."

21 Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. When the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin--the full council of the Israelites--and sent orders to the jail to have them brought. 22 But when the servants got there, they did not find them in the jail, so they returned and reported, 23 "We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing in front of the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside." 24 As the captain of the temple police and the chief priests heard these things, they were baffled about them, wondering what would come of this.

25 Someone came and reported to them, "Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. 27 After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, 28 "Didn't we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."

29 Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than people. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had murdered by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted this man to his right hand as ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. 35 He said to them, "Men of Israel, be careful about what you're about to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God." They were persuaded by him. 40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name. 42 Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Sours: https://www.bibleref.com/Acts/5/Acts-chapter-5.html
Ananias and Sapphira explained - Acts 5: 1-13 - Ryan Rufus.

The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) are nothing if not frightful and puzzling. The two, a married couple, sell a piece of property and publicly give the proceeds to the community. However, they secretly hold back a portion of the money for themselves. Peter detects the deception and confronts the two separately. Merely hearing Peter’s accusation causes each of them to fall dead on the spot. To our ears, their fate seems out of proportion to their infraction. Peter acknowledges that they were under no obligation to donate the money: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? he says. And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal?” (Acts 5:4). Private property has not been abolished, and even those in the community of love-for-neighbor may legitimately choose to hold the resources God has entrusted to them. So why does lying about the money bring instant death?

Many attempts have been made to describe the reason for their deaths and even simply to name the sin they committed. It appears, fundamentally, that Ananias and Sapphira’s transgression is they are counterfeit community members. As the scholar Scott Bartchy puts it, “By lying in order to achieve an honor they had not earned, Ananias and Sapphira not only dishonored and shamed themselves as patrons but also revealed themselves to be outsiders, non-kin.” They are not so much misers as imposters.

Their deceit demonstrates that they are still functioning as members of the Roman patronage system, while they pretend to have become members of the Christian love-of-neighbor system. They attempt to look like Barnabas in his other-centered approach to stewarding resources (Acts 4:36-37). But their motivation is actually to gain honor for themselves on the cheap. In so doing, they actually function as part of the Roman patronage economy. They look generous, but they are giving for the sake of status, not love. Moreover, their lie about their stewardship of resources is interpreted by Peter as a lie to the Holy Spirit and to God (Acts 5:3-4). How striking that a lie to the community is equated with a lie to the Spirit of God! And a lie about resources is as serious as a lie about “religious” matters. We have seen already that one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to form God’s people into a community that uses resources in accordance with a deep concern for others. It is not surprising, then, that Ananias and Sapphira’s faked act of generosity is depicted as falsifying the work of the Spirit. Their false generosity and their attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit are a threat to the identity of the Christian community. This is a sober reminder of the serious stakes connected to the Christian community and to our own participation within it.

Ananias and Sapphira’s deceit occurs in the realm of money. What if it occurred in the realm of work itself? What if they had falsely pretended to serve their masters as though serving God (Colossians 3:22-24), or to treat subordinates justly (Colossians 3:25), or to engage in conflict honestly (Matthew 18:15-17)? Would deceiving the Christian community about such things have caused a similarly unacceptable threat to the community? Luke doesn’t report on any such cases in Acts, yet the same principle applies. Genuinely belonging to the Christian community carries with it a fundamental change in our orientation. We now act in all ways—including work—to love our neighbors as ourselves, not to increase our social status, wealth and power.


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Sours: https://www.theologyofwork.org/new-testament/acts/a-clash-of-kingdoms-community-and-power-acts-5-7/ananias-and-sapphira-a-case-of-malicious-identity-acts-51-11

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Acts 5 – The Church Grows Despite Opposition

A. The lie of Ananias and Sapphira.

1. (1-2) What Ananias and Sapphira did.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

a. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession: After they saw the great generosity of Barnabas and how well he was respected (Acts 4:36-37), Ananias and Sapphira decided they wanted to receive the same respect.

b. He kept back part of the proceeds: They sold the possession, and gave only a portion to the church, while implying that they sacrificially gave it all to the church.

i. The ancient Greek word for kept back is nosphizomai, which means “to misappropriate.” The same word was used of Achan’s theft in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Joshua 7:21). The only other time nosphizomai is used in the New Testament, it means to steal (Titus 2:10).

ii. “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.” (Bruce)

c. His wife also being aware of it: Clearly, both husband and wife were partners in the deception. They both wanted the image of great generosity, without actually being remarkably generous.

i. “There may indeed be the further implication that Ananias and Sapphira had vowed to give the whole proceeds of the sale to God, but then changed their mind and handed over only part.” (Bruce)

ii. “Once the love of money takes possession of a person, there is no evil that he cannot or will not do.” (Horton)

iii. According to Calvin, these are the “evils packed under” the sin of Ananias, beyond the mere attempt to deceive God and the church:

· The contempt of God.

· Sacrilegious defrauding.

· Perverse vanity and ambition.

· Lack of faith.

· The corrupting of a good and holy order.

· Hypocrisy.

2. (3-4) Peter confronts Ananias.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

a. Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart: God apparently gave Peter supernatural knowledge of what Ananias had done. This spiritual gift, called the word of knowledge, is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

i. When Peter said this, Ananias must have been crushed. Certainly he expected praise for his spectacular gift, but was rebuked instead. Peter saw that Satan was at work, even through a man numbered among believers like Ananias.

ii. Because his sin was lusting after public praise for his generosity, it was appropriate that the sin be exposed publicly. “It is a good general rule that secret sins should be dealt with secretly, private sins privately, and only public sins publicly.” (Stott)

b. Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit: Peter did not accuse Ananias of lying to the church or to the apostles, but to the Holy Spirit Himself.

i. Peter clearly believed that the Holy Spirit was a Person, because one can only lie to a person. He also believed the Holy Spirit is God (You have not lied to men but to God).

c. While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Peter freely acknowledged that the land and its value belonged to Ananias alone; he was completely free to do with it what he wanted. His crime was not in withholding the money, but in deceptively implying that he gave it all.

i. Of course, his sin was greed (in keeping the money); but his greater sin was pride, in wanting everyone to consider him so spiritual that he “gave it all” – when he had not.

ii. Their sin is imitated in many ways today. We can create or allow the impression that we are people of Bible reading or prayer when we are not. We can create or allow the impression that we have it all together when we do not. We can exaggerate our spiritual accomplishments or effectiveness to appear something we are not. It is too easy to be happy with the image of spirituality without the reality of spiritual life.

iii. Their great sin was rooted in pride. Pride corrupts the church more quickly than anything else.

d. While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? This shows how unnecessary their sin was. Ananias was free to use the money for whatever he wanted, except as a way to inflate his spiritual image and pride.

e. Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? Satan had filled the heart of Ananias, yet Peter could ask why he had conceived this thing in your heart. Satan can influence the life of a believer, even a spirit-filled believer, but he can’t do your sinning for you. Ananias had to conceive it in his heart.

3. (5-6) The death of Ananias.

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

a. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last: Peter did not pronounce a death sentence on Ananias. He simply confronted him with his sin and Ananias fell down dead. It isn’t the business of the church to pronounce a death sentence on anyone.

i. Peter was probably more surprised than anyone else when Ananias fell down dead. “Observe that Peter said no word to Ananias about his death. The sentence was not calling down upon a man of a curse at the caprice of an ecclesiastical official. The death of Ananias was the act of God.” (Morgan).

b. Fell down and breathed his last: This was a harsh penalty for a sin that seems to be common today. Some wonder if God was not excessively harsh against Ananias.

i. The greater wonder is that God delays His righteous judgment in virtually all other cases. Ananias received exactly what he deserved; he simply could not live in the atmosphere of purity that marked the church at that time.

ii. The physical means for the death of Ananias was perhaps a heart attack caused by sudden shock or terror. He lived in a time and among a people who really believed there was a God in heaven we must all answer to. It frightened him to have his sin exposed and to know he was accountable before God for it. He didn’t yawn or debate when confronted with his sin; he fell down and breathed his last.

iii. What Ananias did also must be seen in the context of its time. This was a critical juncture for the early church and such impurity, sin, scandal and satanic infiltration could have corrupted the entire church at its root. “The Church has never been harmed or hindered by opposition from without; it has been perpetually harmed and hindered by perils from within.” (Morgan)

iv. We can surmise that one reason we don’t see the same remarkable judgment of God in this way today is because God’s church has so many branches. Even if the entire body of Christ in the United States was to become corrupt through scandal or sin, there is plenty of strength in other parts of the tree.

v. “The Church’s administration to-day is not what it was, or there might be many dead men and women at the end of some services.” (Morgan)

c. Fell down and breathed his last: The shock of being exposed was too much for Ananias. For many Christians in compromise, their greatest fear is not in sinning itself, but in being found out.

i. As much as anything, the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is that we presume greatly on God when we assume that there is always time to repent, time to get right with God, time to get honest with Him. Any such time given by God is an undeserved gift that He owes no one; we should never assume it will always be there.

ii. “We must not infer from the rarity of such judgments in this word, or from their solitariness, that God’s mind has changed as to the exceeding sinfulness and hatefulness and ill desert of the sin he has thus rebuked. The solitary example must stand as a lasting and terrible monument of what God thinks of that sin.” (Pierson)

d. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things: God’s purpose was accomplished in the church as a whole. This was evidence of a great work of God among His people.

i. Dr. J. Edwin Orr’s last sermon was titled Revival is Like Judgment Day. In it, he describes how the coming of revival is almost always marked by a radical work of God in dealing with the sins of believers.

ii. “Now, put this in a modern context. If this had happened today, we would have had a cover-up committee. Don’t let it get out to the public. You can take heart, this may be a surprise to you, when God exposes things… one of the outcomes was that when God was vindicated, the work gained strength again.” (Orr)

iii. “William Castle, from Sichuan in China, said, ‘Revival means judgment day.’ That’s what happened in Shantung. Judgment on missionaries, pastors, people, and then fear fell on the world and God’s name was glorified. And people have such a wrong idea of what revival means… They think of revival as something triumphant and, shall we say, an overflow of great blessing. It’s judgment day for the church. But after the judgment, and after things are settled, it’s blessing abounding.” (Orr)

4. (7-9) Peter confronts Sapphira.

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

a. How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Sapphira was a knowing and willing participant in the sin, as well as the blatant cover-up. God’s judgment of her was just as righteous as His judgment of Ananias.

b. You have agreed together: We don’t know if Ananias and Sapphira had a good or a bad marriage, if they agreed often or fought often. We do know that they at least agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord. They should have found agreement for the Lord, instead of against Him.

i. We don’t know if Ananias suggested this or if Sapphira did or they came to the idea together. But if Ananias thought of it and pressured Sapphira to go along, he was wrong to do so and she was wrong to go along. The concept of submission does not extend to submitting unto sin.

5. (10-11) The death of Sapphira.

Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

a. Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last: Fittingly, the same judgment came upon Sapphira as came upon her husband Ananias. Since they shared the same sin, it was fitting that they shared the same reaction to being found out – shock and horror.

i. Ananias and Sapphira both died, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they did not go to heaven. It is impossible to say for certain, for only God knows. But we can see that it is possible for a Christian to sin unto death (1 John 5:16-17), and we have New Testament examples of saved Christians being judged by being “brought home” in death (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). “True Christians do not lose their salvation by sinning. The punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, though extreme, was for this life only.” (Boice)

ii. In noticing the comparison between the incident of Ananias and Sapphira and Achan in the Book of Joshua, it is interesting also to look at the contrasts. In Joshua, God expected the people of God themselves to execute the judgment upon the offender. But in Acts, God took this type of judgment out of the church’s hand and did it Himself. This shows that the church has no place in administering such punishment itself or in having civil authorities do so for them.

b. Great fear came upon all the church: The name Sapphira means, Beautiful in Aramaic. The name Ananias means God is Gracious in Hebrew. It might seem that their names contradicted their lives, but we see the beauty and graciousness of God in two significant ways.

i. If Ananias and Sapphira were actually heaven-bound, it shows that God was beautiful and gracious enough to not deny them salvation even for a grievous sin.

ii. The beauty and graciousness of God was seen in the continued blessing of God upon the church. He protected it not only against outside attack, but also against itself. If Ananias and Sapphira were filled with grace, this would have pleased them. “Oh Lord, take us to heaven now if You must; but let Your work continue and let Your name be glorified.”

iii. This is the first use of the word church in the Book of Acts. “The Christian ekklesia was both new and old – new, because of its relation and witness to Jesus as Lord and to the epoch-making events of his death exaltation and the sending of the Spirit; old, as the continuation of the ‘congregation of the Lord’ which had formerly been confined within the limits of one nation, but now, having died and risen with Christ, was to be open to all believers without distinction.” (Bruce)

B. Continuing power in the church.

1. (12) Power shown through miracles and unity.

And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.

a. Many signs and wonders were done: In Acts 4:30, we read that these early Christians prayed that God would continue to do signs and wonders through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. This shows that this prayer was answered, and these remarkable signs and wonders continued.

i. We aren’t told what these signs and wonders were. Presumably they were like what we see in other places in Acts and in the Gospels – healings, deliverance from demonic powers, unusual blessings.

b. They were all with one accord: Often, the fact that God’s people are together all with one accord is a greater display of the power of the Holy Spirit than any particular sign or wonder. Our selfish hearts and stubborn minds can be harder to move than any mountain.

c. Through the hands of the apostles: Seemingly, God chose to do these miraculous works through the hands of the apostles and not mainly through others. Yet God wisely chooses which hands will bring a miracle. He had a purpose in doing it through the hands of the apostles.

d. Solomon’s Porch: The second temple was a massive compound, with extensive colonnades and covered areas. No doubt, the early Christians gathered together in a particular area of the temple complex, in an area open to all.

2. (13-14) The church’s reputation and growth.

Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

a. None of the rest dared join them: The community of Christians had a marvelous reputation for integrity, and everybody knew it was a serious thing to be a follower of Jesus. An Ananias and Sapphira incident would reduce the level of casual commitment.

b. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord: Yet, the church kept growing. Though people knew it was a serious thing to be a Christian, the Spirit of God kept moving with power.

c. Increasingly added to the Lord: New believers were added: Added to the Lord, not to a “church” or to a person or even to a movement, but to God Himself. They were added in multitudes.

i. The mention of multitudes of both men and women is Luke’s way of reminding us that the cleansing of the church connected with Ananias and Sapphira did no lasting damage.

3. (15-16) The expectation of miracles among the early Christians.

So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

a. They brought the sick out into the streets: People were so convinced of the reality and power of what the Christians believed, they thought they could be healed by the mere touch of Peter’s shadow.

i. That at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them: Our text does not specifically say people were healed by Peter’s shadow; it merely tells us people thought it would, and they took action based on this belief. We don’t know for certain if people were actually healed when the shadow of Peter passed over them.

b. That at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them: Assuming people were healed, apparently, even the shadow of Peter became a point of contact where people released faith in Jesus as healer. It seems that people well understood what Peter said in Acts 3:12-16: That Jesus heals, even if He does His healing work through His apostles.

i. It may sound crazy that one could be healed by the touch of a shadow, but we know a touch of Jesus’ clothing healed a woman (Luke 8:44). There wasn’t anything magical in the garment, but it was a way that her faith was released. In the same, there was no power in Peter’s shadow itself, but there was power when a person believed in Jesus to heal them, and the passing of Peter’s shadow may have helped some to believe.

ii. “It may be significant that the verb episkiazo, which Luke chooses, meaning ‘to overshadow’, he has used twice in his Gospel of the overshadowing of God’s presence.” (Stott)

iii. “The idea that shadows had magical powers, both beneficent and malevolent, was current in the ancient world and explains the motivation of the people.” (Marshall)

iv. However, we can trust that Luke is not merely recording legends. “From what we know of physicians, even in those days, we cannot assume that Luke would gullibly accept stories of ‘miraculous healing’ without investigating them.” (LaSor)

c. They were all healed: However God chose to bring the healing, there is no doubt that a remarkable work of healing was present. We shouldn’t miss the connection between the purity preserved in the first part of the chapter (with the death of Ananias and the fear of God among the Christians) and the power displayed here. God blessed a pure church with spiritual power.

d. A multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem: This is the first mention of the work extending beyond Jerusalem. People came there instead of the apostles going to them. This was exciting, but not exactly according to the command of Jesus. He told the disciples to go out to Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). The apostles didn’t leave Jerusalem until they were forced to by persecution (Acts 8:1, 12:1-2).

C. The apostles are imprisoned by the Jewish rulers.

1. (17-18) The arrest and imprisonment of the apostles.

Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

a. Then the high priest rose up: The meeting of Peter and John with the religious leaders in Acts 4:5-22 ended well for the early followers of Jesus. Yet that was not the end of the matter, and the religious establishment again pushed against them.

i. “Luke alternates between a picture of the church by itself…and a portrait of the church as it exists in its relationship to the world. The second portrait increasingly deals with persecution.” (Boice)

b. They were filled with indignation: The apostles, like Jesus whom they represented, were persecuted because their good works and popularity were a threat to those who had an interest in the status quo of the religious establishment. Sadly, the religious establishment of that day left the people worse off, not better.

c. Put them in the common prison: Seemingly, this included all the apostles (on the apostles). It wasn’t the first time that Peter and John had been imprisoned (Acts 4:3).

2. (19-20) Angelic intervention frees the apostles.

But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

a. An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors: This was easy for God to arrange. Angels are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). God sent forth this angel to minister for the apostles. Locked doors are nothing for God or those who He uses.

b. An angel of the Lord: Possibly, they only understood this was an angel in retrospect. Angels often come in human appearance, and it may not always be easy to recognize an angel (Luke 24:3-7, Hebrews 13:2).

i. “There is some divine humor here, too, because the Sadducees [Acts 5:17] did not believe in angels.” (Hughes)

c. Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life: Their rescue from prison was wonderful, but for a purpose – so they could continue their work. God didn’t set them free primarily for their safety or comfort. They were set free for a reason; and after this they were not always delivered.

i. The later history of these apostles – and others associated with them in the early church – shows that sometimes God delivers by a miracle, sometimes He does not. According to fairly reliable church history and tradition, miraculous angels did not always deliver them.

· Matthew was beheaded with a sword.

· Mark died in Alexandria after being dragged through the streets of the city.

· Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.

· John died a natural death, but they unsuccessfully tried to boil him in oil.

· Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.

· James was beheaded in Jerusalem.

· James the Less was thrown from a height then beaten with clubs.

· Philip was hanged.

· Bartholomew was whipped and beaten until death.

· Andrew was crucified and preached at the top of his voice to his persecutors until he died.

· Thomas was run through with a spear.

· Jude was killed with the arrows of an executioner.

· Matthias was stoned and then beheaded – as was Barnabas.

· Paul was beheaded in Rome.

ii. This reminds us that we should trust God for miraculous things and wish to see them more and more; but knowing that He also has a purpose when He does not deliver with a miraculous hand. We also see that we, like the apostles, are set free for a purpose – not merely to live for ourselves.

iii. “The angel of the Lord opened the prison door and set free the preachers, but might not be a preacher himself. He might give the ministers their charge, but he had no charge to preach himself.” (Spurgeon)

3. (21-23) The apostles resume their work and are discovered to be missing from prison.

And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”

a. They entered the temple early in the morning and taught: This was remarkable obedience and boldness. If they were not sure if God wanted them to continue their public teaching work, the word from the angel at Acts 5:20 made it clear that they were to continue.

i. They went to the most public place they could (the temple), and as soon as they could (early in the morning). When they were thought to be in the prison, they were obediently teaching God’s word to the common people.

b.Theyreturned and reported: There is humor in all of this. The religious establishment solemnly gathers to deal with the troublemakers who teach about Jesus. They intimidate them with a prison stay, and bring them to the council to put them in the proper place. Yet when the officers looked they saw the prison door as it should be, the guards as they should be, but no apostles in the cell.

4. (24-26) The apostles are found and arrested again.

Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

a. They wondered what the outcome would be: At this point the religious leaders had to wonder just what they were dealing with. There was the repeated evidence of supernatural power at work with the followers of Jesus.

i. Following Luke’s story to this point, we understand why they wondered what the outcome would be. Yet we, as readers of the account, don’t wonder. We know God’s work will continue.

b. The captain went with the officers and brought them without violence: The apostles were soon arrested again. It was perhaps tempting for them to think that since they were miraculously released that God would keep them from being arrested again, but that wasn’t the case.

i. When the apostles went back into custody, they knew how easy it would be for God to release them again if it pleased Him to do so. Their past experience of the power of God had filled them with faith for the present.

c. Brought them without violence: Significantly, the apostles did not appeal to popular opinion for protection against the religious leaders. They could have incited the crowd by shouting, “Are you going to let them take us away?” But their trust was in God and God alone. A carnal solution to their problem was available, but they did not use it.

d. For they feared the people: The hearts of the religious leaders was again exposed. They feared the people, but they did not fear God who clearly showed that He was at work among the disciples.

5. (27-28) The accusation against the apostles.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

a. They set them before the council: This was another attempt to intimidate the apostles with the trappings of the council’s institutional authority. The apostles, knowing how God protected them, were probably not intimidated or even overly impressed.

b. Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? They had commanded Peter and John to no longer teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17-18). Yet Peter and John openly told them that they would continue, in obedience to God (Acts 4:19-20).

c. You have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine: The accusation of the high priest was a wonderful testimony to the effectiveness of the message preached by the apostles. Their message had filled Jerusalem.

d. Intend to bring this Man’s blood on us: By calling Jesus this Man, the religious leaders were obviously avoiding the name Jesus, but they could not avoid the power of Jesus; it stared them right in the face.

i. The charge that the apostles did intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us is interesting. The high priest no doubt meant that the apostles intended to hold the Jewish leaders responsible, in some measure, for the execution of Jesus (as in Acts 2:23). Yet, we know that the apostles must have desired for the high priest and the other Jewish leaders to come to faith in Jesus, even as some other priests did (Acts 6:7). For certain, the apostles wanted to bring the covering, cleansing blood of Jesus upon the high priest and others in the council.

D. The resolution of their case before the Jewish rulers.

1. (29-32) The testimony of the apostles before the Sanhedrin.

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

a. We ought to obey God rather than men: This was a testimony of great boldness, in contrast to the Sanhedrin, who were more concerned about man’s opinion than God’s opinion.

i. The apostles’ response to the council was not a defense, nor was it a plea for mercy; it was a simple explanation of action. In general, the New Testament teaches that we should submit to those in authority over us. Yet submission on the human level is never absolute, and never is more important than submission to God.

ii. We should obey rulers, but not when they contradict God: “Therefore, if a father, being not content with his own estate, do essay to take from God the chief honour of a father, he is nothing else but a man. If a king, or ruler, or magistrate, do become so lofty that he diminisheth the honour and authority of God, he is but a man. We must also thus think of pastors.” (Calvin)

b. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus: This was a testimony faithful to the foundation of the Christian faith. Peter spoke of:

· Man’s guilt (Jesus whom you murdered).

· Jesus’ death (hanging on a tree).

· Jesus’ resurrection (Him God exalted to His right hand).

· Man’s responsibility to respond (to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins).

i. Peter referred to the cross as a tree because he drew an association from Deuteronomy 21:22-23, where it says that a person hanged from a tree is cursed by God. Peter brought attention to the magnitude of their rejection of Jesus, pointing out that they killed Him in the worst way possible, both from a Roman perspective (the cross) and a Jewish perspective (the tree association).

ii. “While xylon [tree] was used in antiquity and in the LXX variously for ‘a tree,’ ‘wood’ of any kind, ‘a pole,’ and various objects made of wood, including ‘a gallows,’ it is also used in the NT for the cross of Jesus.” (Longenecker)

c. We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit: This was a reliable testimony, because it was based on eyewitness testimony, which was also confirmed by God.

2. (33) The council’s strong reaction.

When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.

a. They were furious: Peter and the apostles had clearly and briefly explained to them (again) the core ideas of who Jesus was, what He did for all of us on the cross, and how we should respond to who Jesus is and what He did. Their reaction was furious anger.

i. “Luke graphically describes them as ‘being sawn asunder (in heart).” (Williams)

ii. We can imagine what went through their minds. “Who are you to tell us to repent?” “We don’t need this forgiveness.” “Don’t blame us for the death of Jesus.” “Don’t you know who we are?”

b. And plotted to kill them: Right then, the death of the apostles was set in motion. We had not previously read that they wanted to kill them, but now it is clear.

i. “Since they were unable to contend with the disciples on the level of truth, they resorted to naked authority and force. First, threats. Second, a beating. Ultimately, death.” (Boice)

3. (34-39) Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin.

Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow itlest you even be found to fight against God.”

a. A Pharisee named Gamaliel: This was the grandson of the esteemed Hillel, the founder of Israel’s strongest school of religion. Gamaliel was given the title Rabban (“our teacher”), which was a step above the title Rab (“teacher”) or Rabbi (“my teacher”).

i. The Mishnah wrote of Gamaliel: “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.”

ii. Significantly, Gamaliel was a Pharisee. Though the Sadducees had more political power (Acts 5:17), it was politically foolish for the Sadducees to ask the Romans to execute the apostles without support from the Pharisees.

b. Some time ago Theudus rose up: Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentioned a Theudas who led a rebellion, but at a later point than this. It could be that Josephus had his dates mixed up or that this was a different Theudas (it was a common name). Josephus did describe a Judas of Galilee (Antiquities, 18.1.1,2,6 and 20.5.2) who may be the same one mentioned here.

c. If this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it–lest you even be found to fight against God: Gamaliel spoke for himself and not for God. There are many movements that may be considered successful in the sight of man, but are against God’s truth. Success is not the ultimate measure of truth.

i. Gamaliel was really a fence sitter. He spoke as if they should wait and see if Jesus and the apostles were really from God. But what greater testimony did he need, beyond Jesus’ resurrection and the apostles’ miracles? He took a “wait-and-see” attitude when there was plenty of evidence.

ii. Gamaliel proposed the test of time, and that is an important test, but more important than the test of time is the test of eternity.

iii. “We should not be too ready to credit Gamaliel with having uttered an invariable principle… the Gamaliel principle is not a reliable index to what is from God and what is not.” (Stott)

4. (40-42) After a beating, the apostles resume preaching with joy.

And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

a. When they had called for the apostles and beaten them: The leaders thought they could intimidate and discourage the apostles with a beating. Instead, they left rejoicing. They were not rejoicing that they suffered, but that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. It was a privilege to be associated with Jesus in any circumstance, even to suffer shame.

i. Beaten can also be translated skinned; the beating they received stripped the skin off of their backs. “It was no soft option; people were known to die from it, even if this was exceptional. It was meant to be a serious lesson to offenders.” (Marshall)

ii. “Because of Gamaliel’s rational entreaty a compromise was reached and the apostles were let off easy – easy, that is, if we think thirty-nine stripes is easy.” (Hughes)

b. They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Whatever beating or shameful treatment the Sanhedrin gave them, it did absolutely no good. The disciples didn’t stop preaching for a moment.

i. This challenges each of us as followers of Jesus. They continued where we may have stopped. We often find the threat of social rejection enough to make us keep quiet about who Jesus is and what He did for us. We need to have the apostles’ courage and determination to stand firm for Jesus Christ.

ii. Spurgeon spoke of this kind of bold heart: “Now, I charge every Christian here to be speaking boldly in Christ’s name, according as he has opportunity, and especially to take care of this tendency of our flesh to be afraid; which leads practically to endeavours to get off easily and to save ourselves from trouble. Fear not; be brave for Christ. Live bravely for him who died lovingly for you.”

iii. Spurgeon also challenged the cowardly heart: “Yet you are a coward. Yes, put it down in English: you are a coward. If anybody called you so you would turn red in the face; and perhaps you are not a coward in reference to any other subject. What a shameful thing it is that while you are bold about everything else you are cowardly about Jesus Christ. Brave for the world and cowardly towards Christ!”

©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Sours: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/acts-5/


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