ACTS - CHAPTER 5 - THE GREATER WORKS
ACTS – CHAPTER 5 – THE GREATER WORKS
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
February 29, 2022, the year of our LORD
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
We begin chapter 5 with the story of Ananias and Sapphira, his wife who sold a possession and kept back part of the proceeds. Ananias brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
As a pastor, I can affirm that very many Christians, nominal or otherwise, have committed Ananias’ sin and have not fallen down dead. Peter’s statement in 5:4 shows clearly that no pressure was brought to bear on believers to induce them to sell their properties or to bring the sale price to the common fund. Presumably the couple could have stated that they wished to keep back a part of the price, and the other part would have been accepted.
Whether Ananias and Sapphira were carnal Christians or ‘mere professors’ cannot be determined and does not affect the case. They wanted to stand before the church as equal to Barnabas in faith and generosity, and such seekers after human glory fall under the Lord’s strong condemnation.
John 5:44: How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you---Moses, in whom you trust.
That Ananias and his wife sinned against the bright light of the almost perfect testimony of the early Church; and that God often shows His disapproval openly when sins besmirch the beginnings of a new state of His witness in the world. Death was the judgment of the sin of Achan when Israel was starting out as a conquering nation. He stole and hid a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels. I coved them and took them. There they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it…. So, all Israel stoned him and his family with stones and burned them with fire. The Lord’s anger was turned away from the children of Israel.
Acts 5:3-11: Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? After it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. The young men arose, wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. It was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the LORD? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. The young men came in and found her dead. They carried her out and buried her by her husband. So, great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Let no one marvel that divine disapproval should have been manifested by immediate judgment in days of the plenitude of the spirit of holiness. The lie was to God (and to the Holy Spirit, who is God) although they wished to act their part before men.
Matthew 4:7: Jesus said to him (the Devil), It is written again, You shall not tempt the LORD your God.”
Jesus is referring back to rebellious Israel in the wilderness. Deut. 6:16: You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
As well as we know this story, we must be faithful to continue to preach the Word of God. From the point of view of the Christian Church of the 21st century, the death of Ananias and Saphira was a drastic example of 1 Co. 5:7: Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since we are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
The “fresh dough” of the early church must yet continue to be unleavened. It must not be deduced that sickness and death among the LORD’S people are always directly related to some special sin. Discipline through trials may be the special experience of those who follow the way of holiness.
Heb. 12:3-6: Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
The NAME OF JESUS was shown to the people to be powerful, not only for witness and healing, but also for judgment, and the fear which came upon the church and others were entirely salutary.
The prayer of Acts 4:29-30 was abundantly answered.
Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word; by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant, Jesus.
5: 13-16: Through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. They were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. Believers were increasingly added to the LORD, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also, a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
Healing and miracles were the established sign of the Messiah to the Jews. To see men and women healed and delivered in wholesale fashion after Pentecost, meant that the Messiah was still present and working through His apostles.
John 5:36: I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish---the very works that I do---bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
His apostles had begun the greater works ministry.
John 14:12: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
The Greater Works Ministry of Jesus Christ was established and sealed by the Apostolic Ministry of the disciples. The apostles display the total power of Jesus Christ over sickness and demons (Mt. 4:23-25).
“No one else dared join them (13): This is a difficult phrase. I believe it is best understood that no one from outside their number ventured to join them. That is, worshippers passing by Solomons Porch, kept away from the Nazarene throng unless they were of those being added to the church. No phony believers with any motive other than Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ were added to the church. People were afraid to pretend in spiritual maters once it was noised about that two people were slain for hypocrisy. So, for a time the church was protected. On the one hand the Sanhedrin made no secret of its hostility toward the new church, on the other, the apostles were covered with such great authority and power only the most genuine seekers dared to step out for Christ. The combination of awe, wonder, and fear served to screen out all who were not sincere.
The jealous and condemned Sanhedrin, react.
5: 17-20: The high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the LORD opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the works of this life.” When they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
The power of the name of Jesus manifested in many works of healing and miracles preserved the apostles and gave them tremendous popularity and prestige in Jerusalem. The situation was similar to that following the resuscitation of Lazarus when the rulers had either to believe (which they would not do) or decide on desperate measures of violence, despite the danger from the mob. All the apostles were thrown into the public jail. The mission of the visitation of the angel of the LORD is clearly stated – go back to the temple and preach the words of life. In short, give no place to persecution or rejection. Keep preaching the gospel where and when you are appointed.
The judges are puzzled by the miraculous release of their prisoners, but not deterred from their mission.
5: 21-28: When they heard that they entered the temple early in the morning and taught, the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. When the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” Now, when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So, one came and told them, saying, “Look the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. When they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest asked them saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood us!”
The apostles are accused of rebellious defiance of an official decree. The High Priest made three charges against the apostles.
1. They continued to mention Jesus’ name after being forbidden to do so.
2. They stirred up the entire city of Jerusalem.
3. They were trying to make the Sanhedrin guilty of shedding innocent blood.
After Jesus was crucified hanging on a tree, according to Jewish law his name was accursed. Custom required that his name never be spoken again.
Deut. 21: 22-23: If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.
Legally Jesus was cut off from Israel. Recall how, in rage, the Sanhedrin once shouted, “let this man’s blood be upon us!” Now they are facing that solemn fact, for Peter is saying, “His blood is upon you!”
Ironically the Lord uses the lips of His enemies to declare that the apostles had successfully carried out the first part of their commission. Jesus told them to begin “at Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is flooded with the teaching of the gospel of life.
5:29-32: Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. God has exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.
This is the second condition to receiving the Holy Spirit. No. 1 is to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior and now there is #2, “Obey Him.” Peter declares that all who obey the gospel receive the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of Christ has been poured out (like rain) upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). Those who obey the gospel receive Him. A double gift is here attributed to Christ, repentance and forgiveness of sin.
Peter is speaking in superhuman courage to accuse this august assembly with the worst crime under heaven, crucifying the Christ, the Prince of the Sanctuary (Ez. 48:21; Dan. 9:26), Savior of Mankind and now seated at the right-hand of God. Without fear, Peter blames the leaders for Jesus’ death, and through them, the nation of Israel. This is in spite of the fact they had the power to put him to death.
Their very cogency aroused the homicidal rage of the Sanhedrin.
5: 33-39: When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. He said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. Some time ago, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. Now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it---lest you even be found to fight against God.”
Gamaliel was the teacher of Saul of Tarsus, was the leader of the more liberal sector of the Pharisees, and his learning was so appreciated that he received the honorable appellation of the “Rabban.” The title of Rabban is higher than Rabbi and is conferred on very few Jewish leaders. In private session, he makes a plea for moderation in typical Pharisaic terms. He uses examples of two self-appointed messiahs whose factions were destroyed by the Romans. It is commendable of him that he was used to intervene for the Apostles and for his acknowledging God as Supreme over His Kingdom. I wonder if he was ever able to receive Christ. The Holy Write does not tell us.
5: 40-42: They agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So, they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
The Sanhedrin accepts Gamaliel’s advice. Actually, they didn’t have much of a choice since the apostles were so popular and well respected. They proceed to have the apostles beaten reiterating the threat to not speak in the name of Jesus. The beating would be the Jewish forth strokes save one. The disciples did not resign themselves to suffering, but rejoiced to be counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus Christ in the place where their LORD had been condemned. They continued to obey the high calling and never stopped teaching and preaching, Jesus is the Christ.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from NKJV. I entered into the labors of F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary/E, H. Trenchard. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of Brother Trenchard.