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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Acts 5

 

 

Verses 1-42

Acts 5:3. Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost. These words not only indicate that Ananias was a minister of the word, but that he for once had yielded his heart to the unclean spirit. Castellio reads, Ut spiritum Sanctum falleres. Ananias spake as though the Holy Spirit had uttered the deception. Now, the gentiles seem agreed, that the virgin or pythoness who should deliver a falsehood as the oracle of a god should suffer death. Ananias was speechless, after hearing the solemn charge exhibited against him.

Acts 5:6. They carried him out, and buried him. In hot countries they still bury the dead on the day they die, if it can conveniently be done.

Acts 5:11. Great fear came upon all the church. They might advert to the sentence of God against king Ahaziah, 2 Kings 1.; and to the sentence of death pronounced against Hananiah, the false prophet. Jeremiah 28. Christ has in the church a sword with two edges; and she must be sanctified by the strokes of his rod.

Acts 5:12. They were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. See the notes on John 10:23.

Acts 5:16. There came a multitude out of the cities round about — bringing sick folks. Thus was fulfilled the words of Christ, Greater works than these, in point of number, shall ye do, because I go to the Father, and endue you with power.

Acts 5:17. Then the highpriest rose up, and all the sadducees who composed the council, being filled with indignation. The infidels taking a lead in this persecution, indicates that political reasons were assigned for the rigorous proceedings against the church. This was the second storm that arose in quick succession, and which the angels, for the present, warded off, that the young converts might acquire stability in the faith.

Acts 5:20. Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Faint not in the battle, God is on your side; confute the sadducees your persecutors, who deny a future state. The gospel especially demonstrates immortality and life. God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 1 John 5:11. So are all the succession of promises. “Because I live, ye shall live also. He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.” John 3:36.

Acts 5:31. Him hath God exalted — a Prince and a Saviour. Peter is careful here to use the words of the prophets. Messiah is the Prince: Messiah is the Saviour: Messiah is coëqual with the Sire, because the Father hath called him, and not any angel, to sit at his right hand. Christ is exalted as the dispenser of grace, to give repentance, a broken and a contrite heart to rebels, even to those that crucified him, and the joys of remission in all the comforts of the Holy Ghost. This is the grace and truth which came by Christ.

Acts 5:34. Gamaliel, a doctor of the law. He was successor in the chair to the great Hillel, a man of extensive learning. Some say that he and his son Abibon became christians. Gamaliel is said to be the son of Simeon, who took our Saviour in his arms, at the time of his presentation in the temple. Luke 2:35.

Acts 5:36-37. Before these days rose up Theudas, against the Roman power, who was slain, and his men dispersed. Josephus’s Antiq. lib. 10. cap. 1. — After him, Judas of Galilee raised an army to oppose the poll- tax, mentioned in Luke 2. He also perished, and his forces were dispersed. Therefore, if this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it. So said Gamaliel, and truly wisdom is better than might.

REFLECTIONS.

This chapter opens with a dark cloud, after the finest sunshine of grace. It discovers the dormant mystery of iniquity which began to work in the church. The sale of houses and lands, which went on as the church had need, was very popular, and discovered a godlike charity. Ananias, supposed to be one of the hundred and twenty, sold a possession, and brought only a part of the price. His pride wished to retain the whole of the honour, while his covetousness retained a part of the price.

Here we see the dreadful sin of a cool and deliberate lie; for when a man tells an untruth through mistake, his heart is innocent, and he can reproach himself with nothing but inattention, and with the hurt which his mistake may do. God is truth: his works are the image of truth. The sun does not lie to the morning, but rises at the appointed time; and he is faithful to the seasons of the year. Why then should man in the face of the sun lie to his brother.

Equivocation is in God’s account the same as a palpable falsehood. Ananias had indeed sold the land for so much, but he had also sold it for more. This neither diminished his sin nor mitigated his punishment: it rather added craft to guilt.

It was a most grievous lie, being the effect of counsel, and of an agreement to tempt the Lord. The man and his wife were equally guilty, and equally punished by an instantaneous death. How tremendous are the judgments of heaven. May they teach us righteousness, and sanctify us by fear unto all generations. This purifying stroke of God would show his immediate care to sanctify the church. Had Ananias only died, physicians, who seek a physical cause for every consequence, might have said, it was apoplexy occasioned by excitement, but the same event falling on his wife and at the distance of three hours, shows the hand of God. These strokes would give proper alarm to hypocrites, and to all false brethren.

It ought also to be remarked, that after the ratification of a covenant and the promulgation of a law, God has often inflicted immediate punishment on the first presumptive transgressors. Adam and Eve lost their glory, and became mortal for the first offence. Nadab and Abihu were burnt for offering strange fire. Likewise the first blasphemer, and the first sabbathbreaker were both stoned for daring to offend; and though providence frequently reserves the punishment to the last, the sinner shall not fare the better for a long contempt of mercy.

Instances of flagrant apostasy are often marked, even in these later times, with awful expressions of divine displeasure. I have noticed some sad cases of rebels, who have presently died under the censure of the church; and charity would induce me to hope that the punishment fell on the body only. But in regard to providence, men often die in the immediate act of crime. In the year 1789 I read an inscription of this nature in the marketplace of Devizes, concerning Ruth Pearce, but the inscription is now removed. And the venerable Richard Pearce, of Bradford, Wilts, gave me the following account of that visitation. Four poor women joined to buy a load of wheat on the marketday. The price was seventeen shillings; each woman gave her money into the farmer’s hand. On counting it he said, I have but sixteen shillings and nine-pence. I gave four shillings and threepense said one; and I gave four shillings and threepense said the second, and so said the third. Then Ruth, said one, it must be you. She rejoined — And, if I did not give four shillings and threepense, I wish I might drop down dead. It is awful to add, she instantly fell dead on the spot, and the threepense was found in her hand! The parishioners very laudably erected a monument to deter all persons from the heinous sin of lying.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/acts-5.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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