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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Acts 5

 

 

Verse 1

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

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


Verse 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.

And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part - pretending it to be the whole proceeds of the sale. We have here (as Olshausen says) 'the first trace of a shade upon the pure, bright form of the young Church. Probably among the new Christians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up, every one eager to place his means at the disposal of the apostles.' Thus might the newborn zeal of some outrun their abiding principle, while others might be tempted to seek credit for a liberality which was not in their character. The coolness with which this couple planned the deception aggravated the guilt of it.


Verse 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?

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart - that is, Why hast thou suffered him to do it? implying that Satan is powerless over the hearts of men until they give him encouragement. Compare Acts 5:4, "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" and see the notes at Mark 14:1-11, Remark 8, at the close of that Section; and the note at John 13:27.

To lie to (or 'deceive.') the Holy Spirit - that is, to lie to men so manifestly under His immediate illumination and direction that it was not so much the human instrument as the divine indwelling Spirit that he attempted to deceive. It is astonishing that Neander should speak of it as doubtful whether Peter detected the dissimulation and hypocrisy of this couple 'by a glance into the secret recesses of their hearts, imparted by the immediate influence of God's Spirit, or by a natural sagacity derived from the same source.' Nothing can be clearer than that the historian represents Peter as conscious of supernatural illumination and direction, and wishing the culprits and the whole assembly to recognize this as his sole warrant for proceeding in the matter as he did.

And to keep back part of the price of the land? [Tischendorf, contrary to his own principal authorities, inserts se (Greek #4571) after nosfisasthai (Greek #3557). Lachmann adheres to the Received Text, which wants it.]


Verse 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.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? A striking appeal to themselves, in presence of the whole Christian assembly, whether all the sacrifices which had been made for the support of the new community had not been purely voluntary-the sales first, and then the surrender of the proceeds.

Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? It was this conception of the thing in his own heart which opened the door of it for Satan first to enter in, and then to fill it with this shocking plan.

Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God - in the sense explained at Acts 5:3; and compare Psalms 51:4. Nothing could more clearly imply both the distinct Personality and the proper divinity of the Holy Spirit.


Verse 5

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

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard [these things] - that is, on those without the Christian circle, who, instead of disparaging the followers of the Lord Jesus, as they might otherwise have done on the discovery of such hypocrisy, were awed at the manifest presence of divinity among them, and the mysterious power of throwing off such corrupt matter which rested upon the young Church. [The tauta (Greek #5023) at the end of this verse, though implied, is evidently an addition to the genuine text.]


Verse 6

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

And the young men, [ hoi (G3588) neooteroi (G3501)] arose, wound him up, and carried him out -

i.e., out of the city (compare Luke 7:12; John 11:31),

And buried him. It is a great mistake to suppose (with Mosheim, Olshausen, Meyer, and others) that these were an inferior order of ministers. They were merely some of the younger and more active members of the Church, not in the capacity of office-bearers, nor coming forward now for the first time, but who probably had already volunteered their services in making subordinate arrangements. In every thriving Christian community such warm young volunteers may be expected, and will be found eminently useful.


Verse 7

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

And it was about the space of three hours after. Since the Jewish hours of prayer were at intervals of three hours from each other (see Acts 2:15; Acts 3:1; Acts 9:9), it has been remarked, as not improbable, that the meetings of the Christians were so also, and that Sapphira must have been now coming in, as her husband before had done, to attend one of the stated public assemblies of the Christians.

When his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.


Verse 8

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? - naming the sum.

And she said, Yea, for so much. Thus was coolly carried out this coolly-concerted plan, which was divinely permitted to be gone through with, that the whole guilt of it might be laid bare and brought home before all the assembly to this wretched woman, before the vengeance of Heaven descended upon her.


Verse 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.

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together (see the note at Acts 5:2) to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? - of the Lord Jesus, as the usual style of this book would incline us to understand "the Lord" here. They thus virtually agreed to tempt or try the Spirit of the Lord whether they could not escape detection by that Omniscient Spirit, of whose supernatural presence with the apostles they had had such abundant evidence.

Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. How awfully graphic is this!


Verse 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.

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men , [ hoi (Greek #3588) neaniskoi (Greek #3495)] - in the sense before explained, though the term is slightly varied,

Came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. The later Jews buried before sunset of the day of death. Here again the reader should be on his guard against the tendency to weaken the miraculous character of the judgment that befell this couple; as when Neander would represent it, in the case of Ananias, as the result of the astonishment and terror, produced on him by the detection of his sin and the holy denunciations of a man speaking to his conscience with such divine confidence; and in the case of Sapphira, by the impression of her husband's fate in addition to all this. Even Olshausen would admit that the death might be a natural event, though, in the circumstances, it may be regarded as miraculous. Such comments cannot fail to shake one's confidence in the narrative itself, if he gives any heed to them. No doubt astonishment, terror, and burning shame would be in them like fuel to the flame of divine vengeance; but this is a very different statement from Neander's.


Verse 11

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

And great fear came upon all the church. No doubt this effect on the Christian community itself was the chief design of so startling a judgment, which had its counterpart, as the sin itself had, in Achan (Joshua 7:1-26), while the period at which it occurred-the commencement of a new era-was also similar. 'It is worthy of remarks (says Lechler), that here the word "church" [ ekkleesia (Greek #1577)] occurs for the first time in the Acts. Hitherto it is "the disciples" (Acts 1:15); "all that believed" (Acts 2:44); "the multitude of them that believed" (Acts 4:32). Luke here names "the whole Church" as a collection. It is not to be viewed as accidental that this collective idea of the Church is first brought forward in connection with that event which appears as an imposing act of "divine church discipline"' (as Thiersch expresses it).

Triumphs of the Gospel ()


Verse 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.

And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord (or by common consent) in Solomon's porch - (see the note at Acts 3:11.)


Verse 13

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

And of the rest durst no man join (or 'attach') himself to them - (see the Greek of Luke 10:11; Luke 15:15; Acts 5:36; Acts 9:26.) Of the outside, unconverted, though impressed class, none ventured, after what had taken place, to profess discipleship. This is the only sense of the statement; and in this sense it is taken by nearly every good interpreter, ancient and modern. Alford's interpretation, that none of the Christians presumed to put themselves on an equality with the apostles, hardly deserves mention.

But the people , [ ho (Greek #3588) laos (Greek #2992), the common people], magnified them. Awed as were all who were unprepared to yield themselves to the truth, the populace-having fewer prejudices and interests at stake than others-were unable to restrain their admiration of the apostles and of the infant community.


Verse 14

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

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

The parenthesis within which this verse and the preceding one, with the latter clause of Acts 5:12, are placed in the King James Version, is both unnecessary and injurious to the sense, as it connects what follows the parenthesis with the first part of Acts 5:12; whereas it is meant as a result also of all that comes after it. 'The childhood of the Church at this period (says Humphry, not incorrectly) may be compared with that of its Divine Founder, who increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.'


Verse 15

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and couches that at the 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.

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets , [ kata (Greek #2596) tas (Greek #3588) plateias (Greek #4113)] - 'by streets,' or from street to street,

And laid them on beds , [ klinoon (Greek #2825), or klinarioon (G2824a), which is a much better supported reading] - the softer cushions of the rich,

And couches , [ krabbatoon (Greek #2895)] - the coarser pallets of the poor; all classes thus flocking to these wonder-working men,

That at the least, [ hina (G2443) kan (G2579), 'that if but'] the shadow of Peter passing by - as he went from his own abode to the place of meeting in Solomon's porch,

Might overshadow some of them. That this was no more than a superstitious expectation of miraculous virtue from Peter's shadow is certainly not the impression which the passage naturally conveys; nor, with Acts 19:12 before us, can we well doubt that on certain occasions miraculous virtue did flow forth with such exuberance as to justify expectations of this nature on the part of the people. (See the note at Luke 6:19; and compare 2 Kings 13:21).


Verse 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.

There came also a multitude out of the cities round about , [ to (Greek #3588) pleethos (Greek #4128) toon (Greek #3588) perix (Greek #4038) poleoon (Greek #4172)] - rather, 'the population of the surrounding towns,'

Unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. Now did the predicted greatness of Peter, as the directing spirit of the earliest Church (Matthew 16:18), rise to its height.

Arrest and Miraculous Deliverance of the Apostles - Resumption, by Divine Command, of their Public Teaching ()


Verse 17

Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and 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,

Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him - that is, his more immediate friends and supporters,

Which is the sect of the Sadducees, - exasperated beyond others, for the reason already mentioned (see the note at Acts 4:2), "and were filled with indignation."


Verse 18

And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

And laid [their] hands on the apostles , [ autoon (Greek #846) is an ill-supported addition to the text], "and put them in the common prison."


Verse 19

But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

But the (or 'an') angel of the Lord by night , [not dia (Greek #1223) tees (Greek #3588) nuktos (Greek #3571), as in the Received Text, but simply nuktos (Greek #3571), according to the best authorities] - that is, in the course of the same night, "opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,"


Verse 20

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

Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Beautiful expression of that life in the Risen One which was the burden of all their preaching!


Verse 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.

And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. How self-possessed!-the indwelling Spirit making the glory of their testimony so to irradiate their own souls, and their wonderful liberation so to confirm it, as to lift them above fear.

Remarks:

(1) The severe fidelity with which our historian-immediately after picturing the beautiful disinterestedness of the young Christian community-proceeds to relate a foul case of covetousness and duplicity in two of its members, with the terrible punishment that so speedily overtook it, without any explanation or reflection of his own, cannot but strike the thoughtful reader as an indubitable mark of authenticity in the narrative itself. As for the occurrence itself, though no one, perhaps, would have expected it in such a state of the infant Church as the close of the preceding chapter describes, it is, nevertheless, in thorough consonance with all that we know of the workings of the human heart in a state of high religious excitement. In such circumstances as those before depicted, characters like Ananias and Sapphira may be expected to appear-so powerfully worked upon by the truth, and by the manifest seal of Heaven upon it, as to join themselves to so divinely-owned a society without thorough heart-sympathy with them and entire surrender to the Lord.

So powerful, however, is the sympathy which they do feel, that, once sucked into the atmosphere of Christians, and henceforth mingling constantly with them, they catch their impulses, and are ready, for a considerable time and to a large extent, to go along with them. At length their real character comes out, which, indeed, only waited for some adequate occasion to call it forth. That occasion, in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, was the sale of their property. In resolving to dispose of it for the Church they were probably quite sincere. While everyone was surrendering his all, they could not think of being behind. Besides, it would be noticed by those who knew their means, and would be regarded in an ill light. So they go away, perhaps from some meeting at which they had seen other brethren offering princely gifts, to vie with them in self-sacrifice. They dispose of their property, and have the proceeds in hand ready for surrender at the apostles' feet, when, lo! at the sight of such a sum, the thought occurs to them whether, after all, it was quite right, fitting, or necessary that they should part with the whole.

Perhaps their first proposal to one another was to state openly that what they contributed was but part of what they had realized by the sale. But this, on reflection, would seem fitted to raise remarks on the selfishness of reserving a part. Still clinging to the money, yet loath to want the credit of disinterestedness, their next thought, perhaps, was, whether by laying down at the apostles' feet what they agreed to surrender as the price of the land, they might not leave it to be concluded, without expressly saying so, that it was the whole proceeds; and they might flatter themselves that by this way of putting it there would be no lie in the matter. One almost fancies this to be implied in Peter's question to Sapphira-as if he had designed to bring out of her, more explicitly than had been expressed by the donors, the real truth. Be this as it may, they played with the temptation until they made up their minds to practice a deception in the matter upon the apostles and the brethren. The apostle treats Sapphira differently from Ananias. To her he opens a way of escape, by the admission-if she would have made it-that the sum gifted was but part of the price. On him he brings down at once, and before all, the charge of falsehood in its most aggravated form, expostulating with him on the absence of all temptation to such a deed, provided they were right-hearted. But the history of religious movements in all time proves that the desire to establish a religious reputation beyond the actual attainments of the parties cherishing it is with some a very strong principle of action; and when this works on a covetous nature, and in connection with money, we may expect manifestations of it not very unlike to that here nature, and in connection with money, we may expect manifestations of it not very unlike to that here recorded. With respect to the severity of the punishment, let these following things be observed:

First, Peter did not call down the vengeance of Heaven, nor (so far as appears) even announce what would happen in the case of Ananias, insomuch that some have thought it took the apostle as much by surprise as others in the assembly-a view we cannot concur in.

Second, The deception-deliberately planned, and in the absence of all temptation-was openly practiced amidst blazing evidences of a divine presence in the Christian assemblies, and daily manifestations of transparent simplicity and overflowing liberality on the part of others.

Third, Had such a high-handed sin, which could not long have remained hid, been allowed to pass, or been only exposed and censured, the unparalleled love and liberality of the infant Church would have come under just suspicion; the wonder and admiration which it was attracting would have been converted into a very different feeling, and the credit of the young community would have been speedily destroyed.

As it was, the effect produced was of the deepest character, and eminently salutary. But one such example in the Church was quite enough, proclaiming for all time that He who walketh among the golden candlesticks hath His eyes as a flame of fire, and will give unto every one according to his works.

(2) The personality of Satan, and his subtlety and skill in turning even the highest religious movements to his own purposes; but, at the same time, that there is a "Stronger than he," who is able to outwit him, and make his wrath to praise Him-these truths stand out on the very surface of this narrative very strikingly.

(3) The entire freedom of the human will, even when most under the dominion of the wicked one, is strikingly seen in the apostle's expostulations on the subject with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3-4).

(4) Two things are to be equally valued in the Gospel-that life from the dead in the Risen Saviour which it proclaims, and "the words of this life," or the divine testimony regarding it, or (as it is called in Isaiah 53:1) "our report" as ambassadors for Christ. (See Romans 10:14-16.) True "the words of this life" are but the casket which contains the pearl of great price-the vessel in which the waters of life are held. But when the vessel is shattered, what becomes of the water it contained? Even so will the life everlasting evaporate as soon as the divine message, authoritatively conveying it to the acceptance of men, is thrown away.

(5) 'There is (says a German writer, quoted by Gerok) a divine "but" which often puts all human plans to shame. Men are prepared with their human designs, when this "but" steps in. Joseph says to his brethren, "Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good." David complains that "the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and His Anointed; but He that sitteth in the heavens laugheth at them, the Lord hath them in derision," (Psalms 2:1-12.)'

(6) How delightfully is the ministry of angels in behalf of the cause, as well as "the heirs, of salvation," displayed in such interpositions as that here recorded (Acts 5:19).

Hearing that the Apostles Are at Large and Publicly Teaching, the Sanhedrin Send for Them and Question Them ()

But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate , [ gerousian (Greek #1087), the word used by the Septuagint to denote the assembled elders]

Of the children of Israel. This was evidently an unusually general convention of the authorities, hastily summoned.

And sent to the prison to have them brought.


Verse 22

But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,

But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,


Verse 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.

Saying, The prison [truly] found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing [without] before the doors - rather, 'at the doors' [ epi (Greek #1909) here being preferable to pro (Greek #4253)]. The bracketed words [ men (Greek #3303) and exoo (Greek #1854)] want authority.

But when we had opened, we found no man within. This miracle, it will be observed, was precisely the converse of that recorded in Acts 16:26, where, though all the prison doors were thrown open, none of the prisoners sought to escape: here, while all the doors were fast shut, the imprisoned apostles were found at large without.


Verse 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.

Now when the high priest , [ hiereus (Greek #2409), not arche (Greek #746); but the context shows that the officiating high priest is what is meant]

And the captain of the temple and the chief priests - in the wider sense of that term, And the captain of the temple and the chief priests - in the wider sense of that term,

Heard these things, they doubted of them (or 'were in perplexity about them') whereunto this would grow - and what wonder, since they were fighting against God?


Verse 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.

Then came one and told them. The Sanhedrim sat in a chamber at the south side of the temple, while Solomon's porch, where Peter appears to have 'spoken unto the people all the words of this life,' was in another direction.

[Saying.] This bracketed word is an addition to the true text.


Verse 26

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

Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. How great must have been the popular enthusiasm in favour of the apostles-whose beneficent miracles no doubt won the admiration even of those who held aloof from them, while their own miraculous liberation from prison would inspire the general community with awe-when even the officers of the Sanhedrim were afraid of becoming the victims of popular violence if they laid a rough hand upon them! But in what a hateful light does this exhibit those hypocritical, hardened ecclesiastics! They are astonished, they are dismayed; but they are all unawed by the miraculous tokens of God's presence with the apostles, and have only the fear of the mob before their eyes!


Verse 27

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,


Verse 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.

Saying, Did not we straitly (or strictly) command you. The true text here would seem to be not in the form of a question, but of an affirmation: 'We strictly commanded you' [omitting ou (Greek #3756), which crept naturally in after epeerooteesen (Greek #1905) of Acts 5:27],

That ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine. Noble witness this, both to the success of their preaching, and (for the reason mentioned in Acts 4:4) to the truth of their testimony, from reluctant lips!

And intend to bring this man's blood upon us. They avoid (as Bengel remarks) naming Him whom the apostle gloried in holding up before them. In speaking thus, of bringing His blood upon them, they seem haunted by disagreeable recollections of their own recent imprecation, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27:25), and perhaps of the traitor's words as he threw down their money, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matthew 27:41).

Peter's Noble Reply ()


Verse 29

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

Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. This is the expression not of defiant rebellion, even in the best of causes, but of a constraint which they cannot but believe will have an echo in the breasts of their judges themselves, and an indirect protestation that nothing but the overpowering command of God Himself would have warranted or induced them to disobey the command of men placed lawfully in authority over them. (See the notes at Acts 4:19-20.)


Verse 30

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

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus This is understood to mean 'raised Him from the dead ' by The God of our fathers raised up Jesus. This is understood to mean 'raised Him from the dead,' by Chrysostom, Erasmus, Meyer, and Alexander. But (as DeWette says) it suits better the progress of the thought to take it in the sense of 'raised up of the seed of David,' as in Acts 13:23 : see also Acts 3:22, and the same word in Luke 1:69. So Calvin, Bengel, and Lechler.

Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree , [ diecheirisasthe (Greek #1315) kremasantes (Greek #2910)] - rather, 'hanged and slew,' or 'slew by hanging,' as also in Acts 10:39. This naked and bold reference to the ignominy attached to that mode of death was evidently intended to bring out more vividly the contrast between their treatment of Him and God's, to be expressed in the next verse. (See the notes at Acts 2:22; Acts 3:10-11.)


Verse 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.

Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour , [ archeegon (Greek #747) kai (Greek #2532) sooteera (Greek #4990)] - the one word expressing that Royalty which all Israel looked for in Messiah, the other the Saving character of it which they had utterly lost sight of. Each of these features in our Lord's work enters into the other, and both make one glorious whole. (See the notes at Acts 3:15; Hebrews 2:10.)

For to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. "Israel," it will be observed, is here represented as the immediate object of the whole divine purpose of mercy in Christ, as being the direct children of the promise. Hence, the rule of preaching was ever "to the Jew first." In fact, at this earliest stage of the Christian Church the accession of the Gentiles at all was probably not before the apostle's mind, and any express allusion to it would have needlessly grated on the ears of a hostile Sanhedrim. (See the notes at Acts 2:14-47, Remark 1, at the close of that Section.) But it is of more importance to observe the two august titles here given to Jesus, and the sense in which they are used. While Jesus dispenses His gifts as a "Prince," the gifts themselves are those of a "Saviour" - "repentance and the remission of sins." (Compare Zechariah 6:13; and see Acts 4:12.) On the relation of the one of these to the other, see the note at Acts 20:21.


Verse 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.

And we are his witnesses of these things , [ toon (Greek #3588) reematoon (Greek #4487) toutoon (Greek #5130)] - 'of these matters,' meaning here matters of fact, of which Peter affirms himself and his fellow-apostles to be competent witnesses;

And [so is] also the Holy Spirit - attesting these facts by undeniable miracles. Whom God hath given to them that obey him , [ tois (Greek #3588) peitharchousin (Greek #3980) autoo (Greek #846)] - that is, that render to Him the obedience of faith in His Son (cf. Acts 6:7; Romans 16:26).

The Deadly Rage of the Sanhedrim at this Testimony Is Calmed by Gamaliel ()


Verse 33

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

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart. The word used here and in Acts 7:54 [ dieprionto (Greek #1282)] signifies 'were cut through,' but the sense is rightly given in our version.

And took counsel to slay them. How different this feeling, and the effect of it, from that 'pricking of the heart,' which drew from the first converts on the day of Pentecost the cry, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" The words used in the two places are strikingly different. (See Acts 2:37.)


Verse 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;

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, Gamalieel (G1059) [= Gamliy'eel (H1583), Numbers 1:10], a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people. In all probability he was one of that name celebrated in the Jewish writings for his wisdom, the son of Simeon-possibly the same Simeon who took the infant Saviour in his arms (Luke 2:25, etc.), and grandson of the celebrated Rabbi Hillel. He died 18 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. (So Lightfoot, who is, however, a little too positive.)

And commanded to put the apostles forth - or, 'the men forth,' according to what is probably the true reading [attested by 'Aleph (') A B and the Vulgate, Memphitic, and Armenian versions. The received reading is supported by manysmore manuscripts, and by the Syriac versions and others, and some fathers. But internal evidence, as we think, is in favour of tous (Greek #3588) anthroopous (Greek #444), and this is the reading of Lachmann and Tischendorf, and approved by Meyer, but not by DeWolfe and Alford] --

A [little] space. [The ti (Greek #5100) after brachu (Greek #1024) is unauthorized.] If Gamaliel was now (as Lightfoot thinks) president of the assembly, it was his business to give this order; but in that case the historian would scarcely have called him simply "one in the council."


Verse 35

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

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


Verse 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.

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. Josephus (Antiquities 20: 5, 1) speaks of a deceiver of the name of Theudas, who headed an insurrection some twelve years after this; and as the circumstances appear to agree with what is here said, DeWette, Meyer, Neander, Lechler, and others take them to be the same person, in which case our historian is held to have fallen into a chronological error. But the error of our historian in this case (as Olshausen says) is double: he has not only named before Judas a man who lived long after him, but he has made Gamaliel name a man who lived after himself. This should be a little too much even for the laxest interpreters to palm upon such a historian as Luke. It is surely far more natural (with some of the best interpreters) to suppose that among the many raisers of insurrection against the Roman authority who appeared among the Jews, by the testimony of Josephus, this was one, in the days of Augustus, of whom he makes no mention. (See the notes at Luke 13:1-3.)


Verse 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.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing , [ tees (Greek #3588) apografees (Greek #582)] (see the note at Luke 2:2),

And drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him were dispersed. (See Josephus, Antiquities 18: 1, 1.)


Verse 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:

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:


Verse 39

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

But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it - rather, 'ye shall not be able to overthrow it,' [the future duneesesthe (Greek #1410), being better supported than dunasthe (Greek #1410)],

Lest haply ye be found even, [ kai (G2532), rather, 'also,'] to fight against God - as well as against these disciples of Jesus. This neutral policy, in the exasperated and murderous temper of the council at that time, was true wisdom; although personal neutrality is hostility to Christ, as Himself teaches (Luke 11:23).

The Council, Having Ordered the Apostles to be Scourged, and to Cease Speaking in the Name of Jesus, Dismiss Them-They Depart Rejoicing, and Cease not to Teach and Preach Jesus ()


Verse 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.

And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten (or 'scourged') them , [ deirantes (Greek #1194)] - for disobeying their orders; possibly also as a compromise with the more violent portion of the Council-too like what Pilate in the case of our Lord, even when pronouncing Him innocent, offered to these same Jewish authorities, and carried into effect (Luke 23:16; John 19:1).


Verse 41

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

And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. The true reading, beyond doubt is 'for the Name;' the pronoun "His" [ autou (Greek #846)] having hardly any manuscript support. In this case, of course, "the Name" which is above every name, is sweetly emphatic (as in 3 John 1:7 in the Greek), and is at once intelligible. They rejoiced (as Humphry well puts it) that they were thought worthy by God to be dishonoured by man. (See Matthew 5:12; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 4:16.) This was their first taste of persecution, and it felt sweet for His sake on account of whom they suffered it.


Verse 42

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

And daily in the temple, and in every house , [ kat' (Greek #2596) oikon (Greek #3624)] - rather, 'and privately' (see the note at Acts 2:46).

They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ - Jesus as the Messiah.

Remarks:

(1) How refreshing is the contrast here presented between the impotent rage and embarrassment of these Jewish ecclesiastics-intent only on preserving their own status, with all their traditional prejudices, and steeled against whatever evidence was fitted to overthrow it-and that lofty heroism which in those simple men gave such grand utterance to unwelcome truth, and which, without anything of unseemly defiance, calmly announced their inability to refrain from testifying to their Lord! But "this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). This faith-bright and burning in Peter's breast, through the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him-made him at once victorious and calm. Nor has it lost anything of its power through lapse of time. Yet, though the highest of all the forces by which humanity is or ever shall be moved, it lives only in those who receive "all the words of this life;" and what goes under its name-in the language of that transcendental, intuitional, unbiblical Christianity, with which some are now intoxicated-is but an impotent caricature of it.

(2) The apostle's way of representing the glorified Saviour's occupation in heaven confirms the view given of it in our comments upon the opening words of this book-namely, that His work in heaven is but the continuance of His work upon earth, and that all which is done by the instrumentality of men in gathering sinners under His wing, and planting, upholding, and extending His Church throughout the world, is strictly His own doing, to whom, for this intent, is given all power in heaven and in earth, and who, for this end also, hath the residue of the Spirit. The express design for which God hath exalted Him, says the apostle, is to "give repentance to Israel and the remission of sins;" not only to open the way for these, and invite men to them, but Himself to dispense them; because nothing short of this is a satisfactory sense of the apostle's language. 'We have already (says Olshausen) found this "repentance" in conjunction with the "remission of sins," as the great object of the preaching of the Gospel.' But here there is a more precise intimation in the word "to give" - namely, that this "repentance" is not a thing which can be produced by the will of man, but must be effected by grace. All Pelagian modes of conception, therefore, stand in most decided opposition to this passage. But that repentance as well as forgiveness is strictly a work divine and gracious, though it be clearly conveyed in this passage, is not the precise truth of which we now speak. It is that Jesus, as the glorified Administrator of the new covenant, is not merely the Channel but the Dispenser of all spiritual blessings. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." This is the proper Regal Activity of Jesus, and will be until all things are put under His feet, and the ends of the Mediatorial Economy have been fully accomplished.

(3) The mode in which Gamaliel proposed that the new Faith should be dealt with is based upon a stable principle of the divine government-that falsehood in religion, as in everything else, is destined to come to nought, despite of all attempts to prop it up; while truth, however resolutely and perseveringly opposed, will eventually triumph. Religious persecution, if we look to its permanent results, is a mistake no less than a crime. As a means of extinguishing error it is superfluous, and against truth it is vain.

(4) The joy with which the apostles tasted their first sufferings for Jesus' sake is intelligible only to those to whom His name is dear. But such have in every age felt the love of Christ constraining them, as a principle of all-subduing power-bracing them up in times of persecution to heroic endurance; in times of peace prompting them to self-sacrificing efforts to spread His name, and habitually impelling them to walk worthy of Him, and adorn His doctrine.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-5.html. 1871-8.

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