Acts 5 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
1. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back [part] of the price, his wife also being privy [to it],
and brought a certain part, and laid [it] at the apostles' feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost,
and to keep back [part] of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?
why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost:
and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
But... Ananias with Sapphira... sold a possession... brought a certain part... and laid it at the apostles' feet...-
This couple presented their gift for the support of the ministry in the same manner as Barnabas had done (4:37), except that he had brought 'the money' (ie., all of it) for his land, while they withheld a portion of their sale proceeds. In keeping with his character, Barnabas had humbly presented the funds out of a profound desire to help the cause. The generosity of Barnabas' gift had not gone unnoticed by the apostles and other believers. Ananias and Sapphira, envious of the praise of men, conspired together to make their gift appear more generous than it was. Mat 6:2-4; 23:5; Php 2:3
...Peter said, Ananias... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God...-
Peter, sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading, identified sin that threatened to quench the Holy Spirit's powerful flow of grace in and through the single-minded church (4:32,33). Like the sin of Achan (who took of the forbidden spoil from Jericho, causing Israel's defeat at Ai), this sin had to be dealt with severely, lest the enemy gain the upper hand (Josh 7:11-12,25-26). Ananias, like Achan, thought he could hide for himself that which had been dedicated to the Lord. But there is nothing hidden from God (Psa 139:4). Our adversary {the meaning of 'Satan'} seeks to exploit our fleshly weaknesses to thwart God's purposes and to harm His people (1Pet 5:8).
     Ananias sought to impress men. But in claiming to give all, while withholding part, he was actually robbing God, by his lie (saying one thing and doing another). Mal 3:8,9; 1Tim 6:10
...while it remained, was it not thine own?... was it not in thine own power?-
Ananias and Sapphira were not forced to sell their property or to give anything. When they decided to sell, they were free to give all or any portion. Their sin was not that they withheld part, but that they said they gave all. God held them accountable for what they said and did. The central issue was not about giving, but about living. They were living a lie.
     There is a warning here for us. For the Lord will hold us accountable for every idle word. Do we mean what we say, when we sing hymns like "All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give..." or "All for Jesus, all for Jesus! All my beings' ransomed powers... all my days and all my hours..."?
...to lie unto the Holy Ghost... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God...-
Here is a clear indication that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and that He is a member of the triune Godhead.
...Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost...-
Judgment was executed swiftly, not by Peter, but by God. The Giver of life has the power to take it away. It is one means by which He chastens His own. Luk 12:20; 1Cor 11:30
     Note that upon "hearing these words" Ananias fell down. It is the Word of God which judges all men (Joh 12:48).
     The phrase 'gave up the ghost' is one GK word {ekpsucho}, which means 'he expired.' He breathed his last. His human soul was required of him. This does not mean that God took His Spirit {GK=pneuma} out of his heart. There is every reason to think that Ananias and Sapphira were both eternally saved through their faith in Christ. But they had sinned a "sin unto death" (ie., physical death) and the Lord took them out of this life (1Joh 5:16).
...great fear came on all... that heard these things...-
The greatness of this fear is emphasized by the repetition of this statement in v.11.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried [him] out, and buried [him].
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?
And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?
behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband [are] at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost:
and the young men came in, and found her dead,
and, carrying [her] forth, buried [her] by her husband.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
...wound him up...- (ie., wrapped his body for burial, as in Joh 19:40)
...Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?... Yea, for so much.-
Sapphira was not stricken for her husband's sin, but for her own sin. They had agreed together to make a false statement. They were both guilty of the same lie to the church and to the Holy Spirit.
...How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt {ie., test} the Spirit of the Lord?...-
Even our secret sins are not hidden from the righteous Judge, who must judge all sin. Willful sin puts the Lord's patience to the test, and invites His wrath. Psa 90:7,8; 95:8-10; 1Cor 10:9
...And great fear came upon all the church...
The fear {GK=phobos, terror} of the Lord, which caused believers to examine their own hearts, kept them pure and preserved the power of the early church. 1Cor 10:11,12; Eph 4:25-32; Heb 12:15; 1Pet 1:17
     This event shook the church more profoundly than that which had shaken the place where they had prayed (4:31). Yet, this was as much an answer to prayer as the granting of power to speak with boldness, and the granting of miraculous signs to confirm the Gospel message (4:29-31; v.12 below).
     The word 'shaken' (in 4:31) is used elsewhere of the power of an earthquake to tear things apart (eg., Acts 16:26)... and of the Presence of the Lord that made Mt. Sinai tremble, and will one day shake down and overthrow everything that does not rest upon the unshakeable Rock (Heb 12:25-29). Thus, the Lord shook out impurity to allow the flow of the Holy Spirit's grace and power to continue unabated.
...and upon as many as heard these things.-
Even unbelievers came under a fear of God, when they heard how the Lord had dealt with this matter. Some of the effects of this fear are seen in the following verses.
12. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;
(and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid [them] on beds and couches,
that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
16 There came also a multitude [out] of the cities round about unto Jerusalem,
bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits:
and they were healed every one.
...by the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people...-
These miracles, along with the Lord's dealing with Ananias and Sapphira, spurred the church to deeper unity, and further fueled the fear of God among the unbelieving nation. Note the results...
  • of the rest durst {dared} no man to join himself to them...- The rate of conversions slowed, as people more carefully considered the consequences of being numbered with the believers.
  • believers were the more added to the Lord...- Yet, multitudes did believe.
  • even unbelievers drew near in hope of physical healing - "...and they were healed every one." (The fact that modern day 'faith healers' fall far short of this cure rate, indicates that their means of healing differs from that of the apostles.) The apostolic miracles were empowered by the Holy Spirit, as signs to confirm to the Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah. These signs were granted, at that time, according to the will of God, and in answer to the prayer of the church (4:29,30).
  • The authorities were moved to renew and intensify their persecution (as shown in the verses below).
17. Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,)
and were filled with indignation,
18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
21 And when they heard [that], they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.
But the high priest came, and they that were with him,
and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel,
and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety,
and the keepers standing without before the doors:
but when we had opened, we found no man within.
24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things,
they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
Then the high priest... (...the sect of the Sadducees)...-
This second persecution, like the first (in ch. 4), was led by the Sadducees, who did not regard the scriptures as the Word of God.
...were filled with indignation {GK=zelos, jealousy, envy, excitement of mind}...-
The apostles and their message were at the center of the nation's attention. The rulers, blinded and motivated by jealousy, took action against them. (Envy had also moved these same rulers against Jesus. Joh 11:47-49; 27:17,18)
...laid hands on them... put them in the common prison...-
Thy were confined in the 'public hold' which was under the control of the Jewish authorities and guards. Acts 4:3
...but the {lit., 'an'} angel of the Lord... opened the prison doors... brought them forth...-
In the OT, 'the angel of the Lord' refers to the pre-incarnate Christ. Here, the text reads 'an angel' (there is no definite article), and refers to a spiritual messenger sent by God.
...and said, Go... speak... all the words of this life.-
Whether His servants are in prison or set free, the Lord's Word is not bound (2Tim 2:8-10). Prison bars and guards cannot confine the Word that has power to free those who are in bondage to death, and to bring them into life eternal (Php 2:16). This is the Word that speaks of the One who is Life (Joh 14:6; 17:3,8; 1Joh 1:1-3; 5:11,12).
the high priest came... called the council together...-
The Sanhedrin was assembled. The prisoners were summoned. But they were not found. The word 'found' {GK=heurisko} indicates that diligent search had been made.
     The high priests and the captain of the temple {ie., the magistrate who oversaw the temple guard and the public hold} were 'thoroughly perplexed' as to what was going to come of this situation. It was beginning to be evident, that their efforts to stop the proclamation of the Gospel would come to nothing. cp. Acts 4:25,26; Psa 2:1-6
25 Then came one and told them, saying,
Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
26. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence:
for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
27 And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council:
and the high priest asked them,
28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?
and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine
{ie., teaching},
and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
Indeed, the apostles had been commanded and threatened against speaking of Jesus, at their previous appearance before the Sanhedrin. But the Lord had granted them boldness to continue. Acts 4:16-21,29
29 Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said,
We ought to obey God rather than men.
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour,
for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
32 And we are his witnesses of these things;
and [so is] also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Again, the Holy Spirit (speaking through the apostles) confronts the rulers of Israel with the case against them.
It was the rulers, not the apostles who were on trial.
The facts of the case:
  • Israel's rulers were guilty of rejecting the Messiah and arranging for His crucifixion.
  • God had raised and exalted Him...
    • to be...
    • to provide the means of repentance and forgiveness -
      Through faith in the rejected Messiah, the guilt and judgment of the rulers and their nation could be reversed. (This is the third time that the nation of Israel was granted an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ. Acts 3:13-26; 4:10-12)
  • The witnesses to these facts were the apostles and the Holy Spirit (1:8).
33 When they heard [that], they were cut [to the heart], and took counsel to slay them.
The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God, like a sword, to lay open the core of every man's being. (Joh 16:7-10; Heb 4:12).
Some, convicted by what the Word reveals, cry out for the remedy to their sinful condition (Acts 2:37), while others, like these rulers, are enraged with hatred and seek to eradicate the Gospel of Christ and its messengers.
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel,
a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people,
and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel,
take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody;
to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves:
who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing,
and drew away much people after him:
he also perished; and all, [even] as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone:
for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it;
lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
...a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law {ie., a master teacher of God's Word}...-
Gamaliel was a highly respected teacher. Later, we read that Paul was one of his students (Acts 22:3).
The Pharisees considered the scriptures to be God's Word, and recognized that God is fully able to fulfill His prophetic promises, including the resurrection of the dead (23:8).
...take heed to yourselves {ie., beware} what ye intend to do...
Gamaliel cautioned the rulers against the plans they were laying to kill the apostles (v.33), by reminding them of two recent political movements, which had risen and grown under the influence of charismatic leaders. In each case, the movement failed and faded away completely, following the death of the leader.
...I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone...
Gamaliel's counsel was that the rulers should pull back from their murderous plans, and take no action at all against the apostles.
...lest... ye be found... to fight against God.
Gamaliel's counsel was sound, because it rested on the wisdom of God, as given in the scriptures. The best laid plans of men will fail, if they are not according to God's purposes (Psa 33:10,11; Lam 3:37; 1Cor 3:19). All of God's purposes will prevail against any and all opposition (Isa 43:13; 46:9,10; Dan 4:35).
...if it be of God...-
Was Gamaliel considering this as a viable possibility? We are not told. Perhaps he was being drawn toward an inescapable conclusion, by the scriptures which he studied (Joh 5:39).
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten [them],
they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
...to him they agreed...-
The Sanhedrin yielded to Gamaliel's persuasive argument. However, they did not fully accept his counsel. For the moment, they would "refrain" from their plans to kill the apostles. But they refused his advice to "let them alone." Instead, they repeated their command against speaking of Jesus (4:18,21), this time, emphasizing their threats with beatings that threatened further punishment, if they did not comply.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council,
rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house,
they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
...counted worthy to suffer shame for His name...-
Before His departure, the Lord had prepared His disciples by telling them what to expect in the course of following Him. Mat 5:10-12; 10:17; 23:34; Joh 15:18-21,26-27

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