In our study of Acts chapter five, we see the effects that lies can have as well as the cost involved in sharing the truth.
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Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 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.
At the end of chapter 4, we saw the example of Barnabas selling land and giving the money to the apostles. He went on to be a great evangelist and companion of Paul. Here, we see a man and wife sell some property. That seems harmless enough and they even bring part of the proceeds from the sale and give it to the church.
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? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.'
Here, Peter tries to explain to Ananias what he has done wrong. You see, they had the right to sell the land and keep the money but the problem was in the lie. They wanted it to appear that they had sold it and given it to the Lord when, in fact, they had not given it all to the Lord. Peter explains that the lie was not only to the apostles but to God.
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
The fear that is described here comes with the understanding that God knows and sees all things. This made everyone who heard about this stop and think about the fact that nothing is hidden from God.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, 'Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?' 'Yes,' she said, 'that is the price.'
Isn't it great that each of us only has to answer for our own actions? You see, just like God, Peter knew the truth without asking Sapphira. Ananias had earlier received his punishment but she was still given the opportunity to tell the truth.
Peter said to her, 'How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? The feet of the men that buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.' 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. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
For agreeing with Ananias to lie to the Spirit of the Lord, Sapphira died as well. This passage goes on to tell us that, because of these events, great fear seized the people. This healthy fear is really respect and awe in that they knew that God could see into the hearts of men. These wolves had tried to undermine the church by making people believe that they could hide their sin from God. If you believe that you can hide sins from God, then, you do not know God and cannot trust in His payment for those sins.
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
In this passage, we are told that the believers gathered at Solomon's Colonnade. This was a porch on the east side of the temple in Jerusalem. It was a place where they gathered to discuss the Word of God. It was sort of like what we would call a small group Bible study. We are told that others didn't dare to join them and this is talking about non-Christians. They did not join them for the talk about Jesus because they had heard about the punishment for being a pretender (wolf in sheep's clothing).
Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 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. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
In spite of the persecution, people still came to know the Lord. Those that were Christians did not hide and tremble in fear but were out being an example and people noticed. God worked through Peter and people were healed. Word spread all around Jerusalem.
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadduces, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
Now the religious establishment is angry. Many people came to believe in Jesus from the signs and miracles that God performed through the apostles. Now, the religious leaders see their influence and power slipping away so they round up the apostles and throw them in jail.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 'Go stand in the temple courts,' he said 'and tell the people the full message of this new life.'
This first verse should be a reminder to us all that God is in control. No matter what the depth of our problems may be, He is still in control. The apostles were thrown into jail for telling the gospel and God sent an angel to get them out. The angel then tells them to go and preach the gospel. Many people (including Christians) are going around and wondering what their purpose is. This second verse tells us God's will for our lives.
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.
What an example of obedience for us today. The apostles, disregarding fear of return to jail or death, obeyed the Lord and went back to teach the people. We may think that they were special but we can all have a faith like that. If you are sold out to Jesus Christ, there will be no fear of imprisonment or death in fact it will be seen as an opportunity. Are you truly sold out?
But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 'We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.
Isn't it awesome how God takes care of his people? Only He could take his people out of a locked jail cell and leave the captors wondering what had happened.
On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this.
Now, they know that they have a big problem. They started to wonder how this was going to affect their power. Talk was going to get around about how the prisoners were miraculously released from the prison.
Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.' 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.
Isn't this interesting? The apostles were teaching the people about Jesus Christ and it was working. Notice how we are told in this passage that the officers did not use force because they were afraid that the people would stone them. The people did not have a problem with the teaching, it was the religious establishment. Sadly, we face many of the same type of struggles in the church today.
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. '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.'
The high priest, instead of repenting, is trying to protect his reputation. If the apostles teaching that Jesus is the Messiah is true, then, it makes the religious establishment guilty of murder. You see, Jesus was basically put on trial and executed for saying that He was the Son of God. If it was true (which was demonstrated by his resurrection), then, he was falsely accused by the Sanhedrin therefore His blood would be on their hands. They were also afraid of riots and losing their power when the people learned of what had happened.
Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'
When brought before the rulers of Jerusalem, the apostles had to decide whether to do what they said and stop teaching about Jesus or ignore them and do what God had told them to do. The above verse is the beginning of their reply. There are many times when we have the same choice to make in our daily lives. We must remember that God's word comes first because it is perfect. Other authorities can make laws but they are not perfect. When the two disagree, we must give the same reply as the apostles did here.
'The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead- whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.'
The apostles are giving the Sanhedrin an explanation of their actions. It was not normal for the people to defy an order from the Sanhedrin but the apostles had. Their explanation is pretty simple in that they explain that God sent Jesus for the payment of our sins and, because of that, we are his. They go on to explain that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God.
When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 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,
Now, the Sanhedrin wants to sentence the apostles to death but Gamaliel, a Pharisee intervenes. This same Gamaliel is the one who taught Saul (Paul) before he became an apostle.
Then he addressed them: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 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. 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. 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. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'
Gamaliel is speaking to the Sanhedrin in this passage. This same Gamaliel was the one that taught religion to Saul (Paul). Now, he is trying to get the Sanhedrin to understand that if the apostles are not from God they will fail. If they are from God, then His will be done. We too can have this assurance from God. If we are doing His will, who can stop us?
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. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 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 Christ.
The Sanhedrin took Gamaliel's advice and did not kill the apostles. Instead, they beat them and told them to stop talking about Jesus. The apostles rejoiced in the fact that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Then, they went on and continued to teach just as God had told them to. You do not know how strong you are in the faith until you are put to the test. Can you rejoice in the face of persecution?