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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Acts 5

 

 

Verse 32

Sin, cleansing and further growth (4:32-5:16)

Believers continued to sell their property and bring money from the sales to the apostles for distribution among the poor (32-35). One example of generosity came from a Jew from Cyprus who so consistently helped and encouraged others that people gave him a name to suit his character, Barnabas (meaning 'son of encouragement') (36-37).

There was no rule that forced people to sell their property. When Ananias and Sapphira sold some property, their sin was not that they kept part of the money for themselves, but that they lied through saying they had handed over all the money. After the unbroken triumphs of the weeks since Pentecost, this entrance of deliberate sin into the church must have shocked the apostles. As often happened when there was deliberate sin at the start of a new stage in God's unfolding plan for his people, God emphasized the seriousness of sin in a dramatic judgment (5:1-10). (Comparable judgments on deliberate sin occurred in the Garden of Eden, at the establishment of the Levitical priesthood and upon Israel's entrance into Canaan; Genesis 3:1-24; Leviticus 10:1-7; Joshua 7:1-26.)

Such severe judgments emphasized the holiness God demanded. They also reminded his people that all were sinners, and only his grace kept them alive and allowed them to serve him (11).

Far from slowing down the growth of the church, the judgment removed the sin that could have hindered growth. Although people saw that insincerity had no place in the church, vast numbers continued to join the church. Meanwhile, the healing ministry of Jesus continued to operate through the apostles (12-16; cf. Matthew 14:35-36).


Verses 17-42

Opposition from Jewish leaders (5:17-42)

A sizable portion of the population of Jerusalem was now Christian (cf. 2:41,47; 4:4,16,17; 5:14,16,28). And the more the church grew, the more jealous and angry the Sadducees became. Again they brought the apostles before the Sanhedrin, though God showed he could rescue them at any time, should he so desire (17-21a). The apostles knew that, because of their widespread popular support, they could have successfully resisted arrest, but they chose not to. Instead they trusted in the overruling power of the sovereign God whom they served (21b-26).

The Sadducees in particular were angry; for they, being the high priestly party, were the ones whom the apostles blamed for the death of Jesus (27-28; cf. 4:6,10; 5:17). Also this new movement was based on a belief in Jesus' physical resurrection, something that the Sadducees believed could not happen but that the apostles repeatedly claimed they had witnessed. The apostles refused to alter their message, but assured the Sanhedrin that forgiveness was available to the repentant (29-32).

Though the Sadducee majority in the Sanhedrin would gladly have killed the apostles, a respected Pharisee teacher named Gamaliel persuaded the Sanhedrin not to. The Pharisees were pleased to see so many believing in the resurrection, for it gave support to their belief against the Sadducees'. They regarded the Christians as sincerely religious Jews who, though unusually enthusiastic, were orthodox enough to attend the temple daily to preach and pray (see 2:46; 3:1; 5:12,25,42). Gamaliel advised against opposing the new movement, in case it was from God. If it was not, it would collapse anyway (33-39).

Acting on Gamaliel's advice, the Sanhedrin released the apostles. But the Sadducees gained some satisfaction by having the apostles beaten for disobeying a previous Sanhedrin command (40; cf. 4:17; 5:28). This was the first time that Christians suffered physical punishment for their faith in Jesus, but they rejoiced through it all (41-42).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/acts-5.html. 2005.

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