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Bible Commentaries
Acts 5

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

Lying to the Holy Spirit

Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, sold a piece of land, but decided to only lay a portion of the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. Ash notes that the same word translated "kept back," is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jos_7:1 when describing the sin of Achan in taking of the accursed thing. Both instances seem to have arisen because of greed. Peter said Satan had filled their hearts to lie to the Holy Spirit. Because the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, pretending to give all the money from the sale of the land to the apostles was tantamount to lying to the Spirit. Coffman actually says this event threatened the credibility of the apostles' speech. Since they claimed to be speaking through the Spirit, failure to see through this ruse would have brought their word into question. The amount of the gift was not the problem, as Peter said, the land was theirs to do with as they pleased. The problem arose when they tried to deceive God as to the size of the gift. Ananias, upon hearing Peter's words, fell down dead. This resulted in great fear coming upon all who heard about the incident. Young men wrapped Ananias' body and took it out to be buried ( Act_5:1-6 ).

Three hours later, an unsuspecting Sapphira also came before Peter. He asked her if they had sold the land for the amount Ananias had laid at the apostles' feet. When she said that the amount named was correct, Peter knew they had conspired to deceive or, as he said, test the "Spirit of the Lord," who is also described in this story as the Holy Spirit and God (see Act_5:3-4 ). He asked her why they had taken this action and told her the men who had buried her husband's body would also bury her. Sapphira fell down at Peter's feet, died and was carried out by the same young men to be buried beside her husband. This awe inspiring event moved the church, or called out, and any others who heard the report to fear. Not only the deaths, but also God's ability to know the intents of the hearts of the conspiring couple ought to cause anyone to think twice before trying to deceive God ( Act_5:7-11 ).


More Miracles

God continued to work miracles through the inspired apostles. The united church continued to assemble on Solomon's porch. Though those outside of the church had been moved to fear, they did not dare to join the number of believers. However, they did hold the Christians in high esteem and increasing numbers of those who believed on Jesus were added to the Lord. Significantly, those believers were both men and women. Remember, there is no difference between men and women in Christ, all can find salvation ( Gal_3:26-29 ).

People were so impressed with the way God worked through the apostles that they brought their sick out into the streets. In this way, Peter could see them and stop to heal them as he passed by, or, at least, his shadow would fall on them. Whether they were actually healed by the shadow of Peter passing over them, one cannot tell from the text. Others even came from surrounding towns bringing those who were sick or possessed by an evil spirit. All were healed by the power of God working through the apostles ( Act_5:12-16 ).

Verses 17-24

The Apostles Imprisoned

Seeing the high regard the apostles were held in by the people and knowing the number being added to the church moved the high priest and the Sadducees to jealousy. They caused the apostles to be seized and placed in common prison. After all, the apostles, despite an earlier warning, had continued preaching in the name of Jesus. Their ongoing proclamation of the resurrection was totally contrary to the teaching of the Sadducees. But, God is more powerful than any earthly authority. He sent a messenger to release the apostles and command them to go to the temple and preach the words which give eternal life.

Around daybreak, the apostles were in the temple preaching. At roughly the same time, the high priest called for the council to assemble. Luke described the council as a senate, probably because Theophilus would have been more familiar with that word's meaning. The high priest also sent to the prison to have the apostles brought to the meeting of the assembled council. However, the officers soon came back to report they found the jail secure and all the guards in place but no apostles. Despite such a clear sign that God was with the apostles, the high priest and those allied with him wondered what would happen ( Act_5:17-24 ).

Verses 25-32

Before the Council

It must have been a shock for the council to learn that the men they had charged not to preach in the name of Jesus were, even as they met, preaching in the temple. The captain and his officers brought them back without violence because they feared the common people, who sympathized with the apostles, would stone them. The high priest asked the apostles why they continued to preach in the name in which they had been strictly told not to preach. Coffman notes they would not even speak Jesus' name because of the great hatred they had for him and all for which he stood. When our Lord was crucified, they, with the mob, had been very willing to have the blood of Jesus on their hands, but now they expressed shock that the apostles would portray them as responsible parties in his death ( Act_5:25-28 ; Mat_27:25 ).

The answer of Peter and the other apostles carries profound implications for each generation of Christians. "We ought to obey God rather than men." Clearly, no law was considered by the apostles to be above God's law. After all, the limit of the Sadducees authority could be seen in the fact that they had crucified Jesus and God had raised him up from the grave. Further, the apostles said God had now seated Jesus on the throne as ruler and savior. The Lord had been empowered by his Father to give repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins to all of Israel. The twelve stood as witnesses of God's working and the Holy Spirit confirmed the truthfulness of the events they related through the miracles he enabled them to perform ( Act_5:29-32 ).

Verses 33-39

Gamaliel's Counsel

Peter's words accusing the council of murdering Jesus enraged them to the point of being prepared to murder the apostles as well.

But they could take no such action without the support of the Pharisaic members of the court. The Pharisees were in the minority, but they commanded much more popular respect than the Sadducees did, so much so that the Sadducean members of the Sanhedrin found it impolitic to oppose the Pharisees demands. This was particularly important in a case like the present, where the defendants enjoyed the people's good will (Bruce, pp. 123-124).

So, when Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher from among the Pharisees, rose to speak and asked for the apostles to be put outside, his words were instantly heeded.

Gamaliel warned the council against the actions they were contemplating. He reminded them of a man named Theudas who had claimed to be someone special and led four hundred men in a rebellion. He had been killed and those following him scattered, with the rebellion coming to nothing. Another man, named Judas of Galilee, also rose up during the time of a census and caused a number of people to follow him, but he was killed and his followers similarly scattered.

Gamaliel urged the council to leave the apostles alone. He reasoned that if their work was of their own creation, it would come to nothing. However, if their actions were truly directed by God, the council could not stop them and they would be found in the unenvious position of opposing the Almighty ( Act_5:33-39 ).

Verses 40-42

The Council Actions and the Apostles' Response

Having accepted Gamaliel's council as good advice, the council called for the apostles to be brought back into their chambers. They had them beaten and "commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus." Then, they released them. The response of the apostles to being beaten and coming so close to being killed is remarkable. They rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." Perhaps that is, in part, because they knew how much Jesus had suffered for them on Calvary and they felt that this was a small thing to do in contrast to such a great act of love. Peter certainly saw it as a sign that they Spirit of God was with the one suffering and God's name would be glorified ( 1Pe_4:14-16 ). So, every day the apostles continued to teach Jesus as God's anointed in the temple and from house to house ( Act_5:40-42 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 5". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-5.html. 2014.
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