Ananias and Sapphira are instantly judged. God through the apostles worked many signs and wonders, and the people greatly honored the Messianic community. Some feared to join, but others did. Peter’s shadow was cast on them and miracles happened. The council arrested the apostles and put them in prison, but an angel released them. They went into the temple and preached but were rearrested. Gamaliel gave his speech urging caution about executing them. The apostles were flogged and released but never stopped preaching.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Ananias and Sapphira and Judgment (Acts 5:1-11)
1 But a certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold property, 2 and he misappropriated some of the proceeds and, with his wife being aware, brought some of the proceeds and placed it at the feet of the apostles. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why did Satan fill your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, in order to misappropriate the proceeds of the land? 4 Is it not the case that what remained belonged to you, and once you sold it, the money was authoritatively at your disposal? Why did you put this matter in your heart? You lied not to man, but to God!” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias fell and breathed out his life. And great awe spread around all the people who heard. 6 Some young men got up and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 Now, there was an interval of about three hours. And his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. 8 Peter responded to her: “Tell me: did you sell the land for this amount?” And she said, “Yes, that’s the amount.” 9 And Peter said to her, “Why did you agree together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who just buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” 10 And instantly she fell at his feet and breathed out her life. When they entered, the young men found her dead and carried her out and buried her next to her husband. 11 And great awe spread around the entire church and upon everyone who heard it.
Barnabas stands in contrast to Ananias, and Sapphira. Barnabas’s gifts were mentioned in the last verses of Acts 4:
34 No one among them was poor, for as many as owned land or possessed houses, sold them, brought the money from the sales, 35 and placed it at the feet of the apostles; it was distributed to each one according to his need.
36 Joseph, surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which means “son of encouragement”), was a Levite, a Cyprian by birth. 37 Since he owned real estate, he sold it, and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:34-37)
I already covered the historical and theological and cultural context of Ananias and Sapphira’s odd behavior in this post:
Also see Abihu and Nadab, which forms the background to this episode.
More OT background: Gehazi was Elisha’s servant, and the servant acted dishonestly for money. He was judged instantly (2 Kings 5:26-27). Achan kept some of the spoils of war when God (and Joshua) said not to do this. He was put under immediate judgment (Josh. 7).
Now let’s begin the commentary.
It’s an odd plot. Peter makes clear that the land sales and gift giving was voluntary (v. 5). So why did they concoct this plot? Why didn’t they just stay away? The answer is found in v. 3: “Why has Satan filled your heart…?” This a satanic infilling that stands in contrast to Holy Spirit’s infilling (Acts 4:32). Satan can tempt, harass and attack Spirit-filled believers, but the evil spirit being cannot fill their hearts because the Spirit occupies them (Rom. 5:5).
Peterson, citing other commentators, teaches us that Satan is now attacking the church from within, using the vice of greed to gain access to the Christian community. Let’s hope the churches today are not being attacked from within, due to the vice of greed (comment on v. 3).
Clearly Ananias and Sapphira were never filled with the Spirit and never converted. They stood outside the New Covenant and still remained within the Old. And the punishment inflicted on Old Covenant Israelites when they sinned in the Holy Presence of God was equally severe. Aaron’s two sons were struck down (Lev. 10:1-3); Achan withheld items and was stoned to death (Jos. 7); and Uzzah, who touched the holy ark, was also struck down (2 Sam. 6:6-7). However, those verses say God carried out those punishments or commanded the people to stone Achan and household. It is imperative to distinguish between the two covenants.
These verses from the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:11-15 say that Satan can steal the word, so conversion and discipleship is interrupted and taken away:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable:
The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path: they heard it; then the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts, so that they might not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rocky ground: they receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root; they believe for a time, but in the time of testing, they fall away. 14 The ones falling among the thorn bushes: they have heard, but as they go, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they do not produce mature fruit. 15 The ones in the good soil: after hearing the word with a truly good heart, they hold on to it and produce fruit by endurance.” (Luke 8:11-15, emphasis added)
Ananias and Sapphira match the first soil. The devil stole the word from them hearts and filled them hearts before the seed took root, so they were never saved in the first place. They were still part of the old Sinai Covenant.
Next, in Acts 5:1-11, God is never said to strike them down. Maybe what the great scholar F. F. Bruce wrote is correct: Ananias and Sapphira died of shock in an environment charged with the Holy Presence of God (1990, p. 164). Add the factor of Satan filling their hearts (by unity with her husband Sapphira’s heart was influenced by Satan too), it is possible that Satan struck them down or so weakened their constitution that they could not take the shock of his being exposed and her discovering the death of her husband.
As noted at the link to Why Did Ananias and Sapphira Drop Dead?, God uses law enforcement and the judiciary (Rom. 13:4), particularly those who live within the New Covenant.
The lesson for us is that Satan can mislead believers to listen to bad teaching, use defective reasoning, and behave badly. They can get caught in sexual affairs and shady finances, for example, and then justify it from their own evil desires. The solution is to stay close to the clear teaching of Scripture and a wholesome, loving, and Bible-based church. Claim Eph. 6:16: Put on the shield of faith that quenches the fiery arrows of the enemy. (I pray that verse every day).
We will never know for sure this couple’s backstory, so maybe we should place them in God’s hands.
“Breathed out his soul-life”: my translation comes from one Greek verb, ekpsuchō, which appears in the NT only in Acts 5:5, 10; 12:23 (pronounced ek-psoo-khoh; the p in ps- is pronounced). It literally means “out-soul.” It could be translated creatively as “he desouled.” But standard translations are “expired,” “gave up the ghost,” “breathed his last,” or just plain “died.”
“church”: v. 11 is the first mention of this word in Acts, though the reality behind the noun already existed—they was a church before Luke used the term. In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together. It describes an assembly or gathering.
Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.
Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.
By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1).
Please see these posts for BDAG’s fuller definition.
Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.
This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”
Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely.
Moreover, one thing that impresses me about all those above references, is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So, wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.
The Spirit is a person who can be lied to. Here are posts about the Spirit in the area of systematic theology:
I like how Bruce summarizes this startling episode:
The incident shows, too, that even in the earliest days the church was not a society of perfect people. Luke’s picture of the primitive community is no doubt idealized, but it is not over-idealized. Lest the readers should overestimate the unity and sanctity of the first believers, he has recorded this incident which not only illustrates his honest realism but is intended also to serve as a warning to others (1988, p. 104).
Bruce does not assume that Ananias or Sapphira were truly converted; he is not sure (comment on v. 11), but if they were (and I say they were not because the Parable of the Sower says they were not), then either way they do indeed serve as a warning.
GrowApp for Acts 5:1-11
A.. To avoid Ananias and Sapphira’s fate, we must go all in completely, entering the New Covenant by the born again experience and salvation by grace through faith, and being filled with the Spirit. Have these wonderful experiences happened to you?
Signs and Wonders and ‘Handiwork’ (Acts 5:12-16)
12 Through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders took place right in front of the people. And all of them were together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one of the rest of the people dared joined them, but the people held them in great esteem. 14 More than that, believers in the Lord were added, a large crowd of both men and women, 15 with the result that they even carried the disabled to the streets, placing them on beds and mattresses, so that when Peter went by, even his shadow would fall on some of them. 16 And so the people from all the towns around Jerusalem gathered together, carrying the disabled and those troubled by unclean spirits, and all of them were being healed.
This is another summary passage about the great works of God (see also 2:41-47; 4:32-35).
Solomon’s Colonnade was a covered portico that ran the entire length of the eastern part of the outer temple court, along and just inside the eastern wall of the temple (see 5:12) (HT: Longenecker, comment on 3:11).
“Through the hands”: Ministry of healing and signs and wonders is often hands on. Jesus himself used his hands in healing work (Matt. 8:3; 15; 9:25; Mark 8:23-25; Luke 5:13). Clearly the apostles were following Jesus in this practice. Today, Renewalists observe that the power of God often flows through the hands. But God is the source; the people who pray are mere conduits.
“signs”: Sēmeion (pronounced say-may-on). In the singular it is mostly translated as “sign” or “miraculous sign.” A sign points towards the loving God who wants to heal and redeem broken humanity, both in soul and body. Signs are indicators of God breaking into his world, to help people and announce that he is here to save and rescue them and put things right.
“wonders”: Teras (pronounced teh-ras). It is often translated as “wonders” and is always in the plural. Only once does it appear without “signs,” in Acts 2:19, where wonders will appear in the sky. Wonders inspire awe and worship of God through Christ who performs the wonders. The purpose is to patch up and restore broken humanity. They testify that God in his kingdom power is here to save and rescue people.
For nearly all the references of those two words and a developed theology of them, please click on:
“Right in front of the people”: To have their full impact, signs and wonders have to be done in front of people. People need to know and experience that God has broken into their world to rescue them, body and soul.
“Solomon’s Colonnade”: at the temple; the growing church had thousands, so house churches were deficient for a large meeting. Call it an outdoor mega-church with small groups in various houses.
“of one spirit and soul”: Once again homothumadon (pronounced ha-ma-thoo-mah-dawn or ho-mo-thoo-mah-dohn) is a favorite of Luke (Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57 [negative!]; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12 [negative]; 19:29, and then one in Rom. 15:6). It is a compound word: hom-, meaning “same” and thum-, meaning “soul” or “mind” or “spirit.” It meant in earlier Greek literature a heroic and excellent fighting spirit. But here it means “united in soul and spirit.”
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? A certain segment of people may have been too fearful of joining the Messianic community publicly. People nibbled around the edges. However, this segment of the people may not associate with the community, but they intended to get the benefits of it—healing (vv. 15-16).
“join”: it is the verb kollaō (pronounced kohl-lah-oh). It is not the standard Greek verb for “convert” or “saved.” They admired the Christian community on the edge and maybe were close to it, but they did not go all in. This is surely what Ananias and Sapphira did. If so, they did not enjoy the protection of the New Covenant.
But the other side of the story is that another segment of the people in fact joined them. Why? The power of God (vv. 14-15). Healing is the dinner bell that causes people to run towards the food. Let’s hope they run to Jesus and his kingdom, and not just the physical benefits, and after receiving them, the people wander off.
“Both men and women”: Jewish culture was patriarchal, so it is remarkable that Luke would even think of reminding us that women were included in the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in their small world at Jerusalem. He didn’t have to mention womankind at all. Let’s not take this honorable mention for granted.
Using biblical logic, I like to imagine that all the various Marys in the NT and Joanna and Susanna (Luke 8:1-3) and Salome and Peter’s wife and Jesus’s brothers’ wives and the other apostles’ wives (1 Cor. 9:5) and many countless unnamed women who followed Jesus during his ministry guided these new female converts and discipled them.
I like to image that the mature-in-the-faith women taught the newer ones—the “newbies”—that God loves and accepts them as well. They are full participants in God’s kingdom, and he highly values and treasures them.
I even like to imagine that they helped the apostles in their ministries, as these men intersected with needy women—the ones who needed healing and deliverance, the ones who were placed along the roads. There is a practical side of power ministry, and the male apostles may have felt uncomfortable getting too deeply involved with the female side of things—too many temptations (yes, they were humans!).
I like to imagine that Jesus himself called the women to help the apostles in their ministry, appearing to them in dreams and visions (Acts 2:17-18) and saying, “Go! Help! Minister!”
Women are vital in ministry. We men could not live without them! Thank you, women!
“Believers on the Lord”: The preposition epi (pronounced eh-pee) with believe means “believe on.” The preposition eis (pronounced ace) with believe signified “believe in.” But the direction of believing is still the Lord. If anyone wishes to nuance the differences, then he is welcome to do so.
Let’s looked at the verb believe, which is translated as “believers” or “those who believe.” The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross. True acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Here faith is connected to “saved.”
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
“to the streets”: The Greek noun plateia could also be translated as “wide roads,” “main streets,” “broadways,” or perhaps even “plazas” or “squares” (Our word plaza comes from this Greek word, and so does Italian piazza, French place, and German platz).
The power of God was so thick and awesome that Peter’s shadow would heal. Bock points out that some pagans and Jews claimed unusual miracles, but nothing that attests to exact parallels (comment on v. 15, p. 232). Yes, Renewalists believe these things can happen today. Reports from the Developing World say similar things. Some healing evangelists in the West, particularly in America, try to see these unusual miracles in their meetings. However, let’s hope they are not moved by soul power that manifests in shrieking and freaking and dancing and prancing on the platform. One gets the impression from these verses that Peter never did those outlandish displays. He was calm and authoritative, as he walked by or laid hands on people. Happily today, outlandish displays of soul power are in decline (or so I hope).
Schnabel: “Luke does not see these happenings in a critical light. He is convinced that the conversion of thousands of people was accompanied by a mighty display of God’s power that healed many people in miraculous ways, and that the reputation of the apostles was linked with the healings that took place during this period. For Luke, it was not the shadow of Peter but God who caused healings to happen when people come to faith in Jesus (3:16; 4:10, 30)” (comment on v. 15).
“were being healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” Its tense is imperfect, which means unfinished or incomplete action. People were continuously being healed; this is not to say their healings were gradual (though healings can often be gradual). Rather, the imperfect tense means that Peter’s and the eleven’s ministry was never done—they kept on healing and delivering people. Exhilarating and exhausting, in one!
“Unclean spirits”: The spirit was unclean, and Luke had to remind his pagan or former pagan readers that all spirits were bad, for some pagans believed that some spirits were good or a sign of blessing. People need to be healed of demonic oppression, after the demon leaves. They must be sure they do not fall in the same trap that led them to oppression in the first place, like drugs or sex addiction or unhealed abuse or unforgiveness and bitterness and so on. Life must be surrendered to God; then the devil can be resisted (Jas. 4:6-8). An unsurrendered life gives access to the devil.
GrowApp for Acts 5:12-16
A.. Many people turned to the Lord. Have you ever been a part of an evangelistic campaign to see people convert? Have you ever prayed for one?
B.. If you belong to a church that believes in signs and wonders like these, how must you be careful to give glory to God? How does the church avoid being gimmicky but instead simply love people?
The Apostles Are Imprisoned and Divinely Released (Acts 5:17-32)
17 At this time, the chief priests and those with him, who were of the party of the Sadducees, stood up and were filled with envy 18 and arrested the apostles and put them in public prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison and led them out and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple courts and speak to the people all the words of this life!” 21 When they heard this, they went to the temple at daybreak and began teaching. When the high priest arrived and those with him, they summoned the council and all elders of the descendants of Israel and sent to the prison to escort them out. 22 But when the officers arrived, they did not find them in the prison, so they turned back and reported, 23 saying, “We found the jail locked up very securely and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 When the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard this account, they were perplexed about all of this—what this might mean.
25 Then someone came in and reported to them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple courts and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain left with the officers and led them away without violence, for they feared the people stoning them. 27 Leading them onwards, they stood them right in front of the council. The high priest examined them, 28 saying, “We strictly ordered you not to teach in this name! And look! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood on us!” 29 But in reply, Peter and the apostles said: “We must obey God rather than man! 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on wood. 31 This is the one whom God exalted at his right hand to be the Ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these words, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to all who obey him!”
It’s the high council or court (Sanhedrin) again, the highest in the land. They had warned the apostles not to preach in Jesus’s name, implying that they knew they were the ones who pushed for his crucifixion (4:5-12). His name convicted them (5:33). That warning provided the basis for prosecution now.
Expect a backlash when you work for God. In fact, if you don’t get one, you may be missing an element or two, like your effectiveness for the kingdom of God.
When (not if) you get a backlash for your testimony (hopefully not for your wrongdoing), expect God to see you through, whether you spend years in prison or get an angelic release that night. Either way, God will give you strength, as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23).
This angel does not have an indefinite article “the.” So it is an angel of the Lord. An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). The risen and exalted Jesus is the one who sent this angel. Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
“this life”: this translation comes from one Greek noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, -ay as in play). It encompasses eternal life down here on earth and salvation. In other words, you don’t need to wait for heaven to live a blessed life. You can live one now. Even the apostles, who are about to be flogged (v. 40), lived a blessed life of friends and family and fellowship within the growing Messianic community. Even in persecution a believer can live a blessed life because he realizes God is with him, no matter what.
God offers people who love and know him eternal life in the here and now, so it means both life now and life in the age to come. The kingdom breaking into the world system through the life and ministry of Jesus brings life right now.
Now let’s look at life more closely.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
“saved” is related to the Greek noun sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah). Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times).
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3!; 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).
“council”: That’s my translation of Sanhedrin (see vv. 17-18).
“They listened”: it could be translated expansively as “obeyed” or “heeded.” It is always good to obey the direct order of an angel sent by God! It is marvelous and awe-inspiring to know that God commanded the apostles to preach in the temple, when he knew they would be re-arrested and then flogged (v. 40). He did not tell them to flee the city, though sometimes he might tell you to do that (Matt. 10:23 and 24:16). But God is not the one who flogged them or even ordered it to be done. The Sanhedrin heard the gospel from the twelve. The Sanhedrin did not have to be so hard-hearted. But they refused to convert and got enraged (v. 33) and wanted to kill them. The unjust flogging was on them, not God (see v. 30 and Acts 2:23 for a little more discussion of God’s plan and human free will).
It was important for the twelve to show strength before Jesus’s executioners—or the ones who pushed the Romans to be the executioners. The apostles’ wonderous response to the flogging is seen in the final major section.
Who were the assistants? In other contexts, they were officers of the temple or guards (Matt. 26:58; 14:54, 65; John 7:32, 45, 46; 18:3, 12, 18, 22; 19:6). In some contexts it could be translated as “servants,” when Jesus said his “servants” could fight to prevent his arrest, but he was not interested in this outcome (John 18:36).
Next question: Was Saul (soon to be called Paul in Acts) among the Sanhedrin? If he was in town, and he most probably was, then of course he was, maybe standing in the background near Gamaliel; he was Saul’s rabbinic teacher (or mentor), who is about to make his famous speech (5:33-39). If their students were not allowed in the council chamber, then he could have stood right outside. He was zealous and eager to persecute, after all. Yes, the text is silent about his involvement at this time, but he will lead the charge against Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1). So it is easy, using biblical and historical logic, to imagine he was leading the persecution against the twelve right now. He may have been the source of this story for Luke, later on.
“someone”: probably an assistant or jailer, but I still like to imagine it was Saul! The text does not say it, and if “someone” were he, Luke would have mentioned it—or would he? Saul or “someone” searched the temple or was making his rounds to be sure the place was in order. More likely he was looking for the twelve escapees. Where could they be? They were no longer in their cell or cells. He must have figured that they would break the order not to preach. Sure enough, he discovered them in the temple disobeying the Sanhedrin’s direct order. But the people greatly esteemed them, so the guards were afraid they would be stoned, if they treated the apostles roughly.
“the feared the people stoning them”: If Saul and other rabid zealots were the ones escorting them off, then they were fearful of being stoned. Saul will show no such fear when Stephen was stoned by the mob.
“Look!”: I translate the standard Greek word “Behold!” I chose the updated translation.
Council is my translation of Sanhedrin (see vv. 17-18)
“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, under the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
“this man’s blood on us”: The apostles did not hold back in their preaching. They actually linked the crucifixion to the most powerful gathering of men in all of Israel, right in the capital. To be honest, I would have (wrongly) withheld that bit and just preached Jesus crucified and raised and exalted. But the apostles knew that everyone in the city realized that the Sanhedrin were in part responsible for his death. But what was the apostles’ goal to keep reminding the people of the Sanhedrin’s complicity? To break the people free from their tie to the Sanhedrin and by extension Judaism—or that high-level Judaism? Or did they just simply preach the truth of the recent events? All three questions were the apostles’ goal. Let’s move away from Judaism and the temple.
“filled Jerusalem”: In his examination, it is easy to imagine the chief priest gesturing at them and pointing to the city in a sweeping motion.
I like how the twelve were said to speak up, and not only Peter. Who? Philip or Thomas or Bartholomew or Matthew or the new guy Matthias? Whoever it was, the speech lasted a lot longer than the brief (and accurate) summary in these verses.
“we must obey God rather than man”: These are the most famous of words for those bringing about justice when the authorities say no. Some laws are unjust, and limiting speech is one such injustice. The first thing that get restricted in tyrannical regimes is this basic right—freedom of the press and of speaking out against the oppressive regime.
But if people today protest, let it be by proclamations and debates, not burning down buildings or throwing rocks. However, sometimes revolution is needed when the vote happens in a sanctioned body or gathering, as it happened when the men signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Everything was done legally and openly, without a secret conspiracy or a spontaneous eruption of lawlessness and destruction.
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Here God is leading the apostles to honor God over the opinions of these august councilmen.
“the God of our ancestors”: Peter connects the recent events to the long history of Israel. Those words were relevant to the guardians of Judaism. The Sanhedrin’s God raised Jesus up, so now the august body of men is ensnared by irony. They believed they were doing the God of their fathers a favor by eliminating Jesus, but they were unjust and wrong. God was with Jesus, instead of them.
What about God’s sovereign plan and man’s injustice in carrying out the crucifixion? In other words, God ordained that Jesus would die for the sins of the world, but woe to those by whom this decree was carried out! How did it happen? How do we reconcile the two sides of God’s overarching plan and man’s free will? God knew the hard hearts of certain men, and he let the events flow through them. God’s plan is fulfilled, but the instruments (men) are guilty. To be truthful, we’ll never be able to figure it out completely (see v. 21 and Acts 2:23 for a little more discussion on the tension).
Bruce points out that Peter’s short sermon is a concise summary of early Christian kerygma (content of preaching). Here is the summary: “affirming the act of God in the appearance of Jesus, his enemies’ giving him over to death, God’s reversal of their adverse judgment, his enthronement and saving power, and the apostles’ personal testimony to the truth of their message” (1990, p. 172)
Evangelists who preach to large crowds who do not understand the gospel would do well to incorporate those elements, particularly the last one: personal testimony. Preachers today did not witness the original resurrection and his appearances 2000 years ago, but they have the resurrected Jesus in their hearts. And they may have seen the resurrected Lord in their dreams or a personal appearance. Either way, preach it based on Scripture and personal experience.
Here are the basics about resurrection in the New Testament:
1.. It was prophesied in the OT (Ps. 16:3-11; Is. 55:3; Jnh. 1:17)
2.. Jesus predicted it before his death (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33-34; John 2:19-22)
3.. It happened in history (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-8)
4.. Power used to resurrect Jesus:
a.. Power of God (Acts 2:24; Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 2:12)
b.. Christ’s own power (John 10:18)
c.. Jesus is the resurrection (John 11:25-26)
d.. Power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18)
5.. Nature of Christ’s resurrection
a.. The same body that died was raised (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27)
b.. It was a physical body
(1)) He ate (Luke 24:41-43; John 21:12-13; Acts 10:40-41)
(2)) He could be touched (John 20:27; 1 John 1:1)
(3)) It was a gloried body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21)
(4)) He passed through locked door (John 20:19, 26)
(5)) He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9)
c.. It was also a transformed and glorified body
And for a review of the basics, please click on this post:
You can also go to youtube to find out the evidence for it. Look for Gary Habermas or Mike Licona.
For a table of his appearances and other facts, please see:
“seized”: it comes from the Greek verb diacheirizō (pronounced dee-ah-khay-ree-zoh), and it has the word hand (cheir-) in it, and it usually means “manage,” “have in hand,” “conduct,” or “administer.” But in the verb form here, some translators have “kill,” and their hanging him on “wood” or the cross, is decisive. The participle is modal—how they killed him.
“wood”: the Greek word is xulon (pronounced xoo-lone), and it could be translated “tree,” but I like the more general term. The cross was made of wood. The Greek word echoes Deut. 21:22-23, which talks about someone being guilty of a capital offense and his body being exposed on a pole. In the LXX (third-to-second century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) of that text, the word for pole is xulon. In Jesus’s case he was accused of blasphemy (Mark 14:61-64), and ignorantly found guilty of it, which carried the death penalty (Lev. 24:16).
“ruler”: it comes from one Greek word archēgos (pronounced ahr-khay-gahss or ahr-khay-gohss). It literally means “ruler-leader.” It can also be translated as “originator,” “founder” or “prince.”
Next, “savior”: it come from sōtēr (pronounced soh-tayr). It means “Savior” (he who saves from Satan, world system, and oneself), “Deliverer” (he who delivers from Satan, world system and oneself) and Preserver (he who preserves from Satan, world system, and oneself). The two words are titles or names of Jesus. They describe his character and person—who he is. We can now preach those attributes of who he is.
“repentance”: it comes from the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), which literally means “change of mind”; however, throughout the New Testament, it means more than that. It means regret and turning around and going in the other direction, and it must bear fruit (Matt. 3:8; Acts 20:21; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Heb. 6:6). It is a radical life change.
However, warning! Heb. 6:1-2 tells us that repentance is an elementary teaching:
1 Therefore leaving the message about the elementary principle about Christ, let us carry on to maturity, not again laying the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God and 2 of the teaching about baptisms and the laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment (Heb. 6:1-2).
“The elementary principle about Christ,” which is a literal translation, but it could also be “leaving the basic teaching about Christ.”
In any case, the main idea is about the Jesus we teach to little children. Or the phrase in Heb. 6:1 could mean calling adults and the youth to enter the kingdom of God for the first time. Repent! Follow Jesus! Yes, it is wonderful as a foundation, but we must move on to Christ’s deeper teachings. In our context today, we should teach repentance to an audience where there may be the unrepentant and unconverted, but let’s not harangue the church with constant calls for them to repent. They need mature teachings. Too many fiery preachers never allow their churches to grow, but shriek about fire and brimstone (eternal punishment). Happily, this seems to be changing, and preachers bring up repentance, but also realize that there are many other doctrines in Scripture.
“to Israel”: Never fear preaching the pure gospel to anyone, even Israelites and even the Sanhedrin! Every Jew needs to hear about Yeshua ha–Meshiach (Jesus the Messiah) and be given the chance to repent and accept him.
“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Please, please read Ps. 103:10, and 12; Mic. 7:19.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12, ESV)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
Please see my post about forgiveness:
“sins”: it comes from the Greek word hamartia. A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
“words”: It is a free translation of the plural of the noun rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah). The stem rhē means “speaking,” while the suffix ma– means “the result of.” So rhēma means “a word that is the result of speaking” or “the spoken word.” A story in the ancient world was spoken, because the books were much, much too expensive for the average person. He needed to listen to it being read. Also, a story has a certain order to it. The earliest preaching also has an order in it. So I translate it as “storyline.” However, the noun rhēma can also mean “matter” or “thing” or “event,” and the major translations have “things” (even the Message Bible does). But that’s too vague for me. “Events” would have been better. But I’ll stick with mine.
“Holy Spirit”: He is given to those who obey. In this context, obey means to repent. It would be to place too much weight on the order of the process: believe – repent – receive, or some variation of it. Leave that to professional theologians. I believe the Spirit through the gospel draws people to Jesus, even before they convert. The Spirit is then given to or poured out on people who obey God in his call to repentance and believe in the Lordship of Jesus. The Spirit will live with them forever.
For systematic theology:
GrowApp for Acts 5:17-32
A.. The apostles filled the entire city of Jerusalem with the gospel about Jesus. How can you help your church to reach your city?
B.. After the angel released them, the apostles went right back out and boldly preached, though the Sanhedrin had ordered them not to do this. How determined are you to obey God in your own personal commission?
Gamaliel’s Wise Counsel (Acts 5:33-39)
33 When they heard this, they were infuriated and intended to kill them. 34 But a certain man, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, honored by all the people, rose in the council and ordered the men to go outside a little while. 35 He said to them, “Men of Israel, watch yourselves in regard to these men and what you are about to do! 36 For some time ago Theudas, claiming to be somebody, followed by about 400 men, was killed, and everyone who was convinced by him was dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this, Judas the Galilean led the people in a revolt after him, during the census. He too perished, and everyone who was convinced by him was scattered. 38 In the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and release them! If this plan or action is of human impetus, it shall come to ruin. 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to destroy it. Perhaps you will be found to be fighters against God!” They were convinced by him.
“infuriated”: It could be translated literally as “sawn in two.” It comes from the Greek verb diapriō (pronounced dee-ah-pree-oh), which literally means “saw through.” It shows the hearts and consciences were stung and cut. The apostles did not hold back before priests and especially the mighty Sanhedrin. This boldness is a theme in Acts 2-7.
Who intended to kill them? Was Saul / Paul the first to rush them or shout for their deaths? We will never know for sure, but if he were inside or even outside the council chamber, then why not conclude that he did push hard for their executions? However, in Acts 7:58, he is seen standing coolly off to the side, but then soon after Stephen is stoned to death he will aggressively drag people away (8:3).
“Gamaliel”: He was Saul’s rabbinic teacher, under whom he was thoroughly trained (Acts 22:3). Gamaliel seemed to be moderate. If he had not spoken up, the apostles were going to die, though the movement would not have died out because Jesus was behind it. “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). But it would have been hampered and leaderless for a while. Somehow God read Gamaliel’s softer heart and nudged him to defend the twelve. God can work with a soft or moderate heart, but he has a tough time reaching fanatics and the stubborn. Yes, human free will is a powerful gift of God.
“Watch yourselves”: It is a strong warning that must have stopped the calls for the apostles’ deaths.
God was not behind the movements of Theudas and Judas. They led small movements of violence. So Gamaliel’s statement is a general observation because plenty of massive movements last but are not God-endorsed.
“perished”: it comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.”
There appears, at first glance, to be a discrepancy in Luke and his account of Theudas. Gamaliel here, in about AD 34, refers to an uprising of Theudas, which did not occur until about a decade later (AD 44). Critics say therefore that Luke cannot be trusted throughout his entire history—throw everything out. Longenecker, however, has an explanation:
And despite the caustic comment about “special pleading,” usually leveled against the proposal, it remains true that (1) the Theudas whom Gamaliel cites in Acts 5:36 may have been one of many insurgent leaders who arose in Palestine at the time of Herod the Great’s death in 4 BC and Judas of the Galilean of AD 6, whereas Josephus focused an another Theudas of AD 44. Our problem with these verses, therefore, may result as much from our own ignorance of the situation as much from our own ignorance of the situation as from what we believe we know based on Josephus. (comment on vv. 36-37)
Bruce cuts the Gordian knot in this way:
The most reasonable conclusion is that Gamaliel was referring to another Theudas, who flourished before AD 6. While it is usually precarious to cut this kind of Gordian knot by assuming that the person in question is someone else of the same name, the assumption is acceptable here (1) because Luke is as credit-worthy a historian as Josephus, (2) because Theudas is a common name (it is a contraction of Theodorus, Theodotus, Theodosius, etc.), occurring also in inscriptions [Bruce references the inscriptions] … and (3) because there were many such risings under similar tumults and disorders in Judea after Herod’s death (4 BC), and this rising may have been one of these.
Bruce implies in his second explanation that Josephus could also be wrong, as some commentators believe, for he is the one who situates the revolt in AD 44.
Hypothetically, if Luke got his chronology wrong in this one instance, then for me, it does not matter. We get the main idea. Movements come and go. The one led by Theudas came and collapsed. Our faith should not be so brittle that it snaps in two when a tiny historical tidbit is under review or even inaccurate. Let’s not throw out the entire book of Acts. That’s an over-reaction. The book is still inspired by the Spirit and still infallible in its message and is still highly reliable and accurate in its historical details. However, I like Longenecker’s and Bruce’s explanations. They sound reasonable to me.
Now let’s move on.
The English is a little awkward: “If this plan or action is of human impetus”: in Greek, not reflected in the translation, Luke uses a construction that doubts it is of human impetus. But if it may be of God.
In v. 38, “plan” is the noun boulē (pronounced boo-lay), and BDAG is the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it defines the term thus: (1) “that which one thinks about as possibility for action, plan, purpose, intention”; (2) “that which one decides, resolution, decision”; (3) it can even be a council that takes up proposals and deliberates, council meeting. Here it is the first definition. It is used 12 times, and 9 times in Luke-Acts. He favors this word.
“But if it is of God”: The Greek signifies that Luke believes it is of God.
“God-fighters”: It is a compound noun: theomachos (pronounced theh-oh-ma-khohs). The– means “God” and mach– means “fight.”
Don’t thwart God’s plan in your life. Stop fighting him and his plan! He knows what will make you content and fulfilled in him.
So why didn’t Saul (later Paul) take Gamaliel’s advice of moderation? Saul ravaged the church (Acts 8:1-3), yet he was Gamaliel’s pupil, after all. Longenecker has a solid explanation:
Between Gamaliel’s advice and Saul’s action, however, there arose within Christian preaching something that could only be viewed by the Jewish leaders as a real threat of Jewish apostasy. In Acts 6-7, Stephen is portrayed as beginning to apply the doctrines of Jesus’ messiahship and lordship to traditional Jewish views regarding the land, the Law, and the temple. Moreover, he is seen as beginning to reach the conclusion that related to the primacy of Jesus’ messiahship and lordship and the secondary nature of Jewish views about the land, the Law, and the temple. (comment on vv. 38-39).
Longenecker goes on to say that Stephen tread on a dangerous path—“a path that even the apostles seemed unwilling to take at that time.” Stephen will criticize the temple.
I add: in v. 33 the Sanhedrin was infuriated and were determined to kill them, so they did not need a strong nudge to persecute them, despite Gamaliel’s speech advocating caution.
GrowApp for Acts 5:33-39
A.. If God backs your personal mission, nothing will stop it. How can you be sure God backs your mission and not go out in your own desire and ambitions?
Apostles Are Flogged, Yet Rejoice (Acts 5:40-42)
40 So after summoning the apostles, they flogged them, ordered them not to speak about the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
41 And so they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were considered worthy to be dishonored because of the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and households, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that the Jesus was the Messiah.
They got flogged for contempt of court—no doubt Saul pushed for this. The lashes must not exceed forty (Deut. 25:3; see 2 Cor. 11:24). But they rejoiced anyway, despite this injustice. It makes me wonder whether I could rejoice after a flogging for boldly proclaiming my faith. Only by God’s grace and infilling of the Spirit.
“Name of Jesus”: See vv. 27-28 for a discussion. The Sanhedrin obsessed over it. It convicted them in their historical context, knowing they pushed for his crucifixion.
Matthew was one of the apostles who was flogged. He wrote in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and falsely speak every bad thing against you, because of me. 12 Rejoice and celebrate because your reward is great in heaven, for in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:11-12)
Those verses became real for Matthew this day, and no doubt the other apostles who heard the Sermon remembered what Jesus had predicted.
Here’s a parallel passage:
22 Blessed are you when people hate you and exclude you and shame and cast aspersions on your name as evil because of the Son of man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap around, for look! Your reward in heaven is huge, for in the same way their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)
Persecution in certain cultures—Islamic and communist ones—is real. Let’s pray that God gives them the gift of joy and he sustains them.
“worthy to be dishonored”: Reversal of outlooks. The natural, unfilled soul would weep and wail. A supernatural, filled soul rejoices. How many of us would rejoice, when we suffer a little misunderstanding for doing what’s right? Very few. However, it is an honor and privilege to serve Jesus and know him and be loved by him. No matter what happens to us, let’s rejoice that our names are written in heaven and the book of life (Luke 10:20; Rev. 20:15).
“Spreading the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke-Acts, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
“Preaching or spreading the good news” is traditional and better, however.
“in the temple and households”: The temple is where the large group of Messianic Jews met, or they went to their own households at night and at other times. Wherever they met, the apostles (and presumably others by extension) never let up preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. There’s a lesson in there for us. Never stop. Never give up. Never let up.
“Jesus was the Messiah”: The Greek word order supports this translation, or it could read the Messiah is Jesus = Jesus is the Messiah (the same thing).
“household”: As noted, at v. 20, Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8). See v. 11 for a long study about the church and some links to basics about the church.
“name”: see v. 28 for a closer look at this noun.
GrowApp for Acts 5:40-42
A.. The apostles rejoiced after being flogged. Have you ever rejoiced when you suffered either weak or strong persecution?
Observations for Discipleship
It is imperative to distinguish between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Living in the New, we are not subjected to God’s punishments. When people live in the Old, however, they are at risk of being judged by its exacting standards. The Messianic Jewish community was transitioning from the Old to the New. And that’s why Peter was the conduit through whom God judged Ananias and Sapphira by the standards of the Old. The whole episode warned the Messianic Jews to tread lightly. Don’t get too attached to it. But in fact they were so attached to Judaism that God will have to use persecution in the aftermath of the martyrdom of Stephen, so filled with the Spirit and wisdom and foresight, to dislodge them from Jerusalem and the temple, so they can spread the gospel outside the capital of Judaism.
Evil and sin stalk humanity. They take on lives of their own. They are powerful. They penetrate the human mind. It is wisely said: “the battlefield of the mind.” The answer is that we must surrender our lives to God, his Word, and fellowship with others, and pray. When we submit to God, then we can resist the devil and he will flee (Jas. 4:7). An unsurrendered life gives access to the devil.
The name of Jesus is the weapon we can also use. The seventy-two disciples were sent out in Luke 10, and they celebrated the fact that demons submitted to them in his name (Luke 10:17-19). Yes, he deflected their joy towards their salvation, but it is still a fact that demons have to bow before the name of the Lord Jesus. (For a brief discussion of name, scroll back up to vv. 27-28.)
Boldness for the gospel. The Spirit will fill you over and over again, for the purpose of ministry. Do you teach Sunday school? Expect a power surge or to be anointed, sometimes right before you teach—or during! Lead worship or teach on the platform at church? Expect the same infilling and power surge. You don’t feel anything while doing your ministry? I’m sure you used your prayer language before you got to the church or venue. God still sustained you, if you don’t have your prayer language.
In some dangerous contexts, Jesus, after he fills you with his Spirit, may even ask you to denounce injustice right in front of the authorities that are imposing the injustice! If that happens, may God give you strength to go through imprisonment and flogging. However, may God keep you clear of both of those punishments!
In getting to know Jesus better, pray for the persecuted ones around the globe. Sign up for emails from Christian watchdog organizations, so you can pray for the persecuted people. I get emails, and every time I open them, I read and pray.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.