The Acts Challenge: Chapter 5, Apostles Persecution

If you’ve been with me this far for The Acts Challenge 2019, THANK YOU! It’s been exciting thus far, hasn’t it, learning about the apostles and the early church? And it looks like there’s so much more to learn from this amazing book, I just can’t wait to get started on the next one!

In case you missed them, here are links to the previous four chapters of Acts.

Here is Chapter 1

Then check out Chapter 2

Chapter 3 is pretty interesting

And just prior to this one was Chapter 4

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I’d also love to hear any comments you have once you’re finished reading. Just drop those in the comment section below, and feel free to share!

The Apostles, Ananias, and Sapphira

(Vs. 1) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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?

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

(Vs. 6) And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

(Vs. 7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

(Vs. 8) And Peter answer unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 11) And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

What Do You Make of That?

Reading what happened here to Ananias and Sapphira is hard to read sometimes. I admit I’m still not sure exactly what it means, or if my own thoughts on the matter are in line with God’s “point.”

To me, the early church, and the apostles who oversaw it, was important. Like, this is the very first church, it can’t be taken lightly, important. With that thought, having a couple like these two in the ranks couldn’t be allowed. This was the birth of Christianity, the establishment of the church, and the dawn of a new age for humanity.

To allow someone to be involved with that who would be willing to lie before God, even on the smallest matters, simply couldn’t be tolerated. What’s more, it had to be made KNOWN that it couldn’t be tolerated. Their deaths brought great fear on the church and, in my opinion, it should have.

We can’t take God lightly. We can’t take serving His Kingdom as if it doesn’t matter. And we can’t lie, surely, to those in authority over us. No matter what the reason, it’s just not feasible.

There are those that say these two were wanting to hold back enough money to go back out on their own if this “thing” didn’t work out. Well, first of all, that’s a lack of faith! And second of all, again, there was no room for that in this earth-moving bunch of Christians.

If you have thoughts on what happened here with Ananias and Sapphira, I’d love to hear them! Please add your thoughts in the comment section!

Signs and Wonders

(Vs. 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.

Solomon’s porch (if you’re curious like me!) was located on the Eastern side of the Temple. It was named as such because it was considered to be a relic of the Temple that Solomon built, that was destroyed when the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem.

(Vs. 13) And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

The situation with Ananias and Sapphira had apparently left a mark on people. No one really wanted to “join himself” to them, for fear of being struck dead if they didn’t act right. (For lack of a better way to explain it.) The people were (rightfully so) fearful of a God who stuck to His guns, so to speak.

At the same time, however, the apostles were magnified because the signs and wonders that followed them couldn’t be denied. Even the chief priests couldn’t deny that!

More Believers Added

(Vs. 14) And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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.

I think maybe my favorite words in this entire chapter are, and they were healed every one.

It’s one thing for people to say that Jesus healed everyone because, well, because He was Jesus! But after Jesus had ascended, and after the Holy Ghost was poured out on the day of Pentecost, those signs and wonders were turned over to the apostles and those that followed and believed in and obeyed Jesus’ commandments.

When people came to be healed by those in the early church, who were healed? Some? A few? A dozen or more?

No. NO!

They were healed EVERY ONE. When did that stop? Why did that stop? I believe if we were to get hold of what that early church had then we would see EVERY ONE of our OWN sick healed, delivered, and set free, just as Jesus had intended!

Peter & Company In Trouble Again

(Vs. 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,

Can you just imagine… being in the presence of these men of God and being “filled with indignation”? I try to wrap my mind around it and the only thing I can come up with is that the enemy had entered them the same way that he had entered Judas. Perhaps it was “meant to be.” Or perhaps, they were like so many people are today… blinded by the God of this world with no desire to be set free from that.

(Vs. 18) And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

While the apostles laid their hands on people to make them as whole as God intended them to be, the chief priests laid their hands on them to put them in prison!

Rescued to Serve

(Vs. 19) But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

(Vs. 20) Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

I spent quite a bit of time wondering what “all the words of this life” might have been. If you want to read an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING sermon by C. H. Spurgeon (dated July 8, 1888), just click HERE.

In essence, he says that preachers must preach more than just “doctrine” but the “life” that the doctrine creates. And then he pointed out that the Scripture itself gives the best clue of all as to what “all the words of this life” actually means. The very last verse of this chapter says that they CEASED NOT to preach JESUS CHRIST. Hallelujah!

Confused Priests?

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 22) But when the officers came, and found them not in prison, they returned and told,

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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.

When the priests and the temple captain were ready to question the prisoners, they sent guards for them. When those guards came back and said they weren’t there, the priests and captains didn’t believe them. It was in the midst of this discussion that the next thing happened…

Lost Focus or Lost Apostles?

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 26) Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

(Vs. 27) And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,

(Vs. 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, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

I think it’s really interesting, but yet never really preached, that these chief priests never once asked the question that would surely have been asked today: How did you get out of a locked, guarded prison?

No, that wasn’t what they asked! Instead, they wanted to know why they were still doing what they had already commanded them NOT to do. They told them it was obvious they were trying to bring the man’s (Jesus’s) blood upon them.

Of course, never mind the fact that it was, indeed, on them. Remember that even during the hearing in front of Pilate, when Pilate symbolically “washed his hands” of Jesus Blood, they cried out asking for Jesus blood to be on their hands and the hands of their children? This is an eerie revisiting of that fragment of time that I can’t help but think they were thinking back on themselves!

Peter’s Powerful Response

(Vs. 29) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

(Vs. 30) The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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.

It’s always best to start out by making sure your accusers know, you intend to serve God first and foremost. Even when they know it, and you know they know it, say it anyway!

Then, they reiterated the fact that Jesus Blood WAS on them, by stating quite frankly, “whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.” They summed up their stance by telling them that they were witnesses of the resurrection, as was the Holy Ghost, and that they would obey God.

Cut to the Heart

(Vs. 33) When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

In Scripture, “cut to the heart” can mean polar opposites. It’s all about context, though, right?

In the second chapter of Acts, which we’ve already read, “cut to the heart” meant that people were willing to receive the Gospel. Here, however, it means that it was their willful intent to REJECT the Gospel. And in rejecting the Gospel, along with Jesus and the apostles themselves, they could only think of their desire to kill these men.

Isn’t that amazing? For a group of people to so deeply hate these apostles for simply preaching the Gospel. That had to have been a demon possession of an entirely different level.

Gamaliel to the Apostles Rescue

(Vs. 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;

There’s not much to speak of concerning Gamaliel, except that he was considered a “prince” or “master” in the Great Sanhedrin. This is disputed in many circles, but it cannot be denied that he was a man of position, as he was here in verse 34 listed as a “doctor of the law” who “had in reputation among all people.”

Moreover, Paul made mention of him later in Acts chapter 22:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. (Acts 22:3)

Whatever other stories abound about this man, these two are here in the Scriptures and stand to tell us quite a bit about who he was. While certainly a Pharisee, his plea to the council shows that he is also a man of reason, and ever so possibly, a man whose eyes were being opened to the Truth!

Gamaliel’s Instructions to the Council Concerning the Apostles

(Vs. 35) And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 38) And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel of this work be of men, it will come to nought:

(Vs. 39) But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

In a nutshell, Gamaliel had said, You need to leave these men alone. If they’re like all the others who had lofty ideas and then died, their followers will die out with them in time. Be patient and see what happens. If this is a fleshly work, it will die. If it is of God, then you’ll be, in essence, fighting God

Apostles Let Go With a Warning

(Vs. 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.

(Vs. 41) And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

(Vs. 42) And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

The apostles were called in, commanded – AGAIN – not to preach in THE NAME OF JESUS, and beaten. If that were to happen today, they certainly wouldn’t have left “rejoicing” that they had suffered FOR HIS NAME!

More than that, they went on… DAILY… and in EVERY HOUSE… teaching and preaching JESUS CHRIST.

Not the Ten Commandments. Not Mosaic law. They didn’t remind people of the Levitical rituals for every little thing. No, they PREACHED JESUS CHRIST and everything that NAME meant.

What does it mean to YOU today?

Please feel free to share your thoughts below! And thank you for reading!

Ever In His Service,

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