ACTS 5:12-42 OCTOBER 9, 2016
Several years ago a young soldier was facing a court martial for carrying his Bible on guard duty, even after being forbidden to do so. He disobeyed direct orders. His commanding officer explained that he was not against the Bible. He said, “It simply is against regulations for anyone to be reading on sentry duty. We don’t want him distracted from guarding the base.” The young soldier defended his actions by saying: “Sometimes I get bored on duty. The Bible helps me concentrate on the job.” As Christians, we are responsible for putting Christ first. However, in this instance, the soldier was in the wrong. Colossians 3:22-25 (NIV) “22 Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” May the Lord give us wisdom when it is appropriate and right to disobey orders! This passage in Acts 5 is a good example of when we must obey God rather than obey man.
The news of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira spread though out the city of Jerusalem, to believers and non-believers. Acts 5:12-13 (NIV) “12 The apostles performed many miraculous 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.” Because Ananias and Sapphira had been struck down by the Spirit because of their intention to deceive, people realized that joining the church was a serious commitment in the eyes of God.
As the Apostles continued to do miraculous acts of healing and in teaching the people about Jesus, the Church continued to grow in numbers. Acts 5:14 (NIV) “14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” The news of these miraculous healings began to spread beyond Jerusalem. In turn, this resulted in a negative reaction by the Jewish religious leaders. Acts 5:17-18 (NIV) “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.”
It should not be surprising to anyone that people began to bring in others from outside the city with hopes of being healed. They would also have begun hearing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The spread of this movement was greatly opposed by the Sanhedrin who had Jesus crucified. Remember that the high priest had given a command to Peter and John about teaching about Jesus. Acts 4:18-20 (NIV) “18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” People in authority do not appreciate when someone completely ignores their instructions to stop their prohibited behavior. So it is not surprising that all of the Apostles were arrested and put in jail.
The Sanhedrin intended to put all of the Apostles on trial and probably intended to have all of them stoned to death for blasphemy. God had other plans! Acts 5:19-21 (NIV) “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 the full message of this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.” The angel who released them gave them explicit instructions, which all of the Apostles obeyed. The very behavior for which they were arrested they continued to do!
Acts 5:21 (NIV) “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 a surprise to find the apostles missing. It is hard to have a trial when the guilty have disappeared. This news of their disappearance would have been greatly troubling. Then to discover that the twelve guilty individuals are in the Temple courts teaching about Jesus would have been galling!
Luke mentions that the captain of the guard did not use force when bringing the apostles before the Sanhedrin because they were afraid that the people would stone them. When they arrived the apostles are reminded that they have disobeyed their orders. Acts 5:28 (NIV) 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.” Luke used the word teaching three times in this passage in Acts 5 (vs. 21, 25, 28). The apostles concentrated on teaching the truth about what Jesus accomplished and so should we. We are not trying to get people to become fans of Jesus. We are seeking people to repent of their sins and to become disciples.
How did Peter defend himself in their disobedience? Acts 5:29 (NIV) “29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” Peter later teachers in his letter to the church that we should obey the governmental leaders. 1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV) “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” There is no conflict here until government seeks to forbid our first allegiance, which is to Jesus Christ. Luke 16:13 (NIV) 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” “We must obey God rather than the rules of men!”
What were they teaching about Jesus? Acts 5:30-32 (NIV) “30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” We must preach the truth about sin and that we are sinners needing to be forgiven. We are not to preach a message of self-help or solely a message of helping others! We are to preach the message of salvation. This is our prime directive.
These words of Peter did not go over well. Acts 5:33 (NIV) “33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.” Gamaliel, a prominent teacher, convinced them to not rashly put them to death. Acts 5:38-39 (NIV) “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.” Here we can see the providence of God at work. However, it did not prevent them from being flogged. Acts 5:40 (NIV) “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.” The apostles would have received 40 lashes, minus one, which is the proscribed punishment in Deuteronomy. They are again commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus.
Luke records the reaction of the apostles. Acts 5:4 (NIV) “41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Flogging was considered by the Jews to be disgraceful and a source of shame. However, the disciples considered it to be a badge of honor, showing their loyalty to Jesus.
Many years later when Peter wrote his first letter to the Church, he reflected on what it means to be obedient to God and to suffer persecution. 1 Peter 3:14-17 (NIV) “14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Please note that their punishment did not diminish their efforts in proclaiming the Gospel. Acts 5:42 (NIV) “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 Christ.” May we be encouraged by their faithful witness! May we do the same.To God be the glory!
Let us pray.