Bible Study – Acts 5:12-42

REACP:

Last week Paul took us through the wonderful prayer that the apostles prayed. There prayer begins with worship, and then they do not pray for God to STOP the persecution or threats but that they may have courage to speak the gospel despite the threats. And God’s immediate answer was to fill them with the spirit.

We then have a glimpse into the function of the very early church – united in mind and possessions. Not that everyone sold everything immediately but they were WILLING to sell land and possessions for those in need and for the work of the gospel. A good example was Joseph, a Levite, known as Barnabas, who we will encounter again. He sells some land and places the money at the apostle’s feet. But the contrast to Barnabas is Ananias and Sapphias, who sell land but then keep some of the money.

John Stott writes: Ananias and Sapphias were not so much misers as thieves and above all liars. They wanted the credit and the prestige for sacrificial generosity without the convenience of it. So in order to gain a reputation to which they had no right they told a brazen lie. [1]

ANYTHING FURTHER ON ANANIAS AND SAPPHIAS BEFORE WE MOVE ON?

READ 5:12-16

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE FLEDGLING CHURCH’S REPUTATION?

WHAT EFFECT ARE THEY HAVING?

The prayer that the disciples prayed is already being fulfilled – signs and wonders are happening.

They are doing very public ministry and it is having two types of effect. As one writer has said On the one hand awestruck reserve on the other great missionary success.

The presence of the living God, manifested through either preaching or miracles or both is alarming to some and appealing to others. Some are frightened away and others are drawn to faith.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 shows us this – Paul says: For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing– to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life.

The presence of God is so present that even Peter’s shadow may have brought healing. Although the word used for overshadow, Luke uses in Luke 1:35 and 9:34 to denote the overshadowing of God’s presence.

READ 5:17-33

The disciple’s actions cause the Sanhedrin to be filled with jealousy. The word Zelos is religiously motivated rage. The Sanhedrin is in a rage, and they arrest them. But the disciples are brought out of the jail by an angel and instructed to go back to the temple to preach.

BY GOING BACK INTO THE TEMPLE TO PREACH AT DAYBREAK WHAT ARE THE APOSTLES EXHIBITING?

On one level immense bravery. Everything within the human nature would say RUN AWAY FROM HERE!!

But in reality it shows the immediate fulfillment of their prayer for courage in the midst of threats. They were normal human beings so I think they had some fear in them – but God’s peace and power is stronger than their fear. They are determined to obey God’s commands (go back and preach) rather than man’s command (stop preaching).

If you pray for courage God may put you in a place where you might have to exercise some courage. Just as if you pray for patience, God is likely to put situations before you that will allow you to exercise patience.

Also, their actions are going to inflame the religious rage of the Sanhedrin.

WHAT DOES V26 IMPLY ABOUT THE APOSTLES?

They went voluntarily. The apostles could have used the situation to inflame the crowd or to cause some trouble but instead when the temple guard came for them they went quietly, without any resistance. They knew they were going back to be punished.

WHAT DOES V28 SAY ABOUT THE AUTHORITY OF THE SANHEDRIN?

They have none when it comes to the living God. They had condemned and killed Jesus – they had forbidden the apostles to speak – they have jailed the apostles – and yet Jerusalem had been filled with the gospel.

Despite seemingly having all the power and authority they are in fact powerless in the face of the gospel proclamation of the living God. [2]

Peter now sees another opportunity to preach – WHEN DID HE GET TIME TO WRITE ALL THESE SERMONS!!!!!!

WHAT PRINCIPLE DOES PETER LAY DOWN IN V29

If authority, civil or ecclesiastical, disobey or misuses God given power, to command what he forbids or to forbid what he commands then the Christian must disobey the authority in order to obey GOD.

WHAT DOES PETER’S SERMON RESULT IN?

Would we speak in such a way knowing that our life may be endangered by what we say? We read this, I think, without fully understanding the INTENSE pressure Peter must have been faced with – a Sanhedrin filled with hateful faces – possibly hearing insults and threats as he spoke. And yet Peter does not hold back or water down his words. He says what he knows is truth regardless of what may come.

TRUTH ALWAYS HAS OPPOSITION.

Are we people who will speak the truth of the living God?

READ 5:34-42

Gamaliel then speaks out. Gamaliel is a legendary Rabbi in Jewish tradition – the one whom Saul of Tarsus was mentored by. A wise and respected teacher.

IS GAMALIEL’S ADVICE GOOD OR BAD?

There is an element of truth to Gamaliel’s thinking but that is the danger that can come by wisdom which is not based in Christ.

Ultimately his position is a laissez-Faire attitude – to the point of saying “We will ignore the truth until the truth proves itself.” It gives license to ignore the work of God now!! It also says we will wait until the winning side is declared and then we will decide whom to join – which is faith.

Yes, ultimately God’s purposes will triumph – but Gamaliel’s position does not take into account that in the shorter term evil plans sometimes succeed while good plans, conceived in accordance with the will of God sometimes fail.

Gamaliel’s position means Jesus lost and his work was not of God.

Gamaliel wins the day and the apostles are beaten and released.

WHY DO THE APOSTLES REJOICE? WHY DO THEY CONSIDER IT AN HONOR TO SUFFER?

Because they had obeyed God. They had overcame any fear – they knew they had been guided by the spirit – they knew their prayer had been answered – they had not backed away, or compromised. The issue is not the suffering, the issue is that they had obeyed God  for the sake of the name – Jesus Christ.

They had obeyed, to the point of willing to die, for their Lord – Jesus Christ.

Do we rejoice for this same reason?


[1] Kept back: nosphizomai = misappropriate. Same word LXX uses of Achan in Jos 7. Used in Titus 2:10 = meaning to steal

[2] Guilt of this man’s blood – Matthew 27:25

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