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  • Writer's pictureALD

Acts 5: Obeying God Over Man

The end of Acts Four and the beginning of Acts Five make the most sense when viewed as logic would indicate, as one story. After Peter and John are released from their short imprisonment a chapter earlier, we hear of a man named Barnabas, one of the Apostles, who willingly sold a field that belonged to him and gave all of the proceed to the brethren. This gift is seemingly well-received and God-honoring.

Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, follow suit, only they choose to hold some of the profits back and give the Aposles only a portion of the money. The results are strikingly different.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, - Like we see at the end of chapter two, Ananias and his wife sell off their property to contribute to the saints' and join the movement.

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. - This is in sharp contrast to the selfless actions of Barnabas. The deviation is in the words "part of it".

sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Acts 4:37

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? - Peter could only have known this two ways. The couple had told him, which there is no evidence of, or the Holy Spirit told him.

While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? - It was his land, and had he not communicated and went through with the sale of the property. He could have kept some or all of its value.

And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? - Once he sold it for the purpose of supporting the Kingdom, the proceeds were no long his; they had reverted back to God, the originator of everything.

Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? - Peter knew that it was satan at work. Ananias, thinking he was going to be praised for whatever he contributed, was confronted with the truth, "feelings" can not be trusted. The prophet Jeremiah tells us of this way back in 600 BC when he tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

You have not lied to man but to God.” - The promise was in the heart, not on the lips. A vow was initiated, and that was between Ananias and Sapphira and The Father.


A Bit About Vows

Whether this is or is not a vow is debated, but knowing what we know about the severity of vows and correlating that with the sudden stop of respiration Ananias and his wife Sapphira, it is worth exploring what the Bible says about vows.

“When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the Lord your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised. - Deuteronomy 23:21-23

If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. - Numbers 30:2

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:33-37

Apparently, to God, our word is very important, and vows or oaths should not be entered into lightly.


When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. - Dead

And great fear came upon all who heard of it. - The fear used here in Greek is phobos which translates into panic or terror. These men were reminded of the power the Father possesses.

The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. - According to the Mishnah, a collection of Oral laws and traditions, a dead human body was amongst the most unclean items imaginable. It is no surprise that they had the body wrapped and removed immediately.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” - The process of submission does not extend to sinful behavior.

But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? - How does one test the Spirit of the Lord? God knows everything, hears everything and knows everything. His word tells us:

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. - Psalm 147:4

For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. - Jeremiah 16:17

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. - Romans 8:29-30

Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” - Can you imagine hearing of your death mere seconds before you experience it?

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. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. - God had sent his message, and the text explain to us, twice in the last 7 verses, that it was received.

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. - Remember back in chapter four when Peter tells us how they were doing these signs and wonders? The power in the name of Jesus.

And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. - They are most likely speaking to the Apostles, and anyone who may have been in the room in Chapter Four when it shook with the power of the Holy Spirit would likely be in the courtyard where we will find Peter preaching in often.

None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. - Their bravery, while not yet emulated, but it was already appreciated.

And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, - Even in death, Jesus met people where they were. Then, like now, he is often found in the darkest depth of our existence.

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. - An outpouring of need is not always an outpouring of faith. All came to be healed, just as in life, yet some were not.

The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, - Word of these healings was spreading.

bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. - God distributes healing in the same way he does salvation, surrounded by a mystery and wrapped in a cloud.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy - These religious men of the upper class were watching the people of Jerusalum and the surrounding areas being healed by the students of the very mane they just crucified. Not only that, they were telling everyone that the power to do these healings comes from the name of the same man their leaders had just murdered.

they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. - Notice in Chapter Four, Peter and John were set free as not guilty for this exact act. In the Roman Empire, long-term imprisonment was not the norm. Most prisoners were awaiting either trial or execution. The length of imprisonment depended on a trial’s swiftness, which could be drawn out for years, especially in political cases. Conditions of imprisonment were closely linked to the status of the prisoner. Non-Roman citizens, such as many of the Apostles, were often harshly treated. In contrast, house arrest was typically more comfortable for the prisoner, who was usually physically chained to a guard but could still host visitors.

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, - God overturns the sinfulness of man as it is His right to do.


An angel of the Lord

Angel in Hebrew is malach, a non-specific word that means nothing more than a messenger. Humans play the role of messengers most of the time, but on rare occasions, God sends a special messenger of a different type. A modifier to the word messenger is our main clue toward deciding if the messengers we read about are human or divine.

If we read the word Malach (messenger) with the word Elohim (God) or Adonia (Lord), we can safely make the assumption that we are reading about an angel of some degree.


and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. - How are we to read this in light of the 2020 world health alert and Romans 13:1-6 in mind? Churchs were divided if the order to close was to be observed as a way of honoring God's word or, ironically, if they should violate the order and remain open as a way of honoring God's word. Acts 5:20-21 could give the impression that man's laws are invalid if they are not in line with God's will.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. - Romans 13:1-6

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. - The High Preist, Caiaphas, who was the man who convinced the crowd to choose the release of Barabbas over Jesus as the Passover offering from Rome.

But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 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. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. - The truth, however, slowly finds the light. The message, accompanied by personal testimonies, was turning people towards the Lord, and the council knew it.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 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.” - The arrogance of these men is revealed in their statement. They feel that what they said to Peter should override what God said to him.

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” - Tom Bradford lists what he calls the 7 Gospel points presented in Peter's message as:

1. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

2. Yeshua was executed by humans on a Cross, thereby fulfilling the OT prophecies

about Him

3. God resurrected Yeshua from the dead

4. God exalted Yeshua and has placed Him at His right hand, in Heaven

5. Yeshua is not only Savior, He is Ruler.

6. Repentance of our sins that comes from the knowledge of Yeshua is required for

forgiveness of our sins

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. - A act they had done just months earlier and one they would succeed at again several times.

  • 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.

  • Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.

  • James was beheaded in Jerusalem.

  • James the Less was thrown from a height and 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.

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, - Gamaliel, also known as Gamaliel the Elder, was a member of the most prestigious Pharisee family. His knowledge of the Torah was considered unrivaled.

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; - The teacher pleads with the council to stop their plans to kill these men. He tries to explain to them that, like rebellions before, if it is not of God's will, it will ultimately not happen.

but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. - Starting with Peter and now this teacher, the leaders of the council continually try to place mand laws above Gods.

You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them - The Sanhedrin listened to Gamaliel and released them but not before flogging them for doing exactly what they were told not to do only a day earlier. To not dispense some punishment would have made the council look weak.

and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. - Again.

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. - The greatest times of conversions in church history have always coincided with martyrs, suffering, and unjust persecution.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. - In the first century-church, worship and discipleship were not reserved for Sundays.


Bible Study Questions - Week 5

  • Why did they lay the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles in V.2?

  • What did Peter mean in V.4?

  • Why did the wife suffer the same fate as the husband?

  • What were the "unclean spirits" in V.16, and how can they make people sick?

  • Why were they arrested (again) in V17?

  • What did Peter mean in V.19? (to yourself now... is this speaking to you about any areas of your life?)

  • What are we to make of V.38?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about God the Father in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about Jesus Christ in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about the Holy Spirit in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about the church in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about what a pastor should do in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?

  • What verses of the Old Testament did you cross-reference to understand this chapter?

  • What is the biggest thing you learned or rediscovered in this chapter?

  • So what? How will the answer to the question above change how you live life on a day-to-day basis?

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