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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Acts 5

 

 

Verse 1

CONTENTS

We have here the awful Account of Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Ghost. Peter's Detection of them. The Apostles again imprisoned. The Angel of the Lord brings them out. They are brought before the Council, and after being beaten, are dismissed.


Verses 1-10

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, (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. (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? (4) While 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. (5) And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (6) And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (7) And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. (8) And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. (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. (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.

We have here a most interesting record of two abominable hypocrites, whose crimes and punishment are circumstantially related, for the instruction and comfort of the Church in all ages. It is blessed to observe how God the Holy Ghost watches over his Church, in causing such histories to be handed down to the people. Without such records, we might have been led to suppose, that in those happy days no characters of a contrary principle to the Apostles standard were to be found. But now we learn that the best of Churches, and the best of times, have their spots. In the ark, there was an Ham. Among the Apostles, a Judas, Under the first days of the Holy Ghost's ministry, the Lord permitted Ananias and Sapphira to mingle for a space with the faithful. But so far are these things from proving injurious to the Church, that they ultimately minister to her glory.

Reader, let us first contemplate the dreadful state of the human heart. Here were two persons most fully convinced, as far as head-knowledge could carry conviction, of the truths of God, professing a belief they never felt, and to preserve an opinion among the faithful, consenting, apparently, to give up the whole of their worldly goods for the benefit of the Church of Christ; and yet all the while had not the least real love to Jesus, or his people. And are such instances singular? Alas! the reverse. Perhaps there is not now upon earth a single congregation of professing Christians, of any number, but what hath some of the same description. And doth not the Lord overrule such events to his glory, and his people's welfare? Yes! for it tends to make the Lord's people jealous of themselves, when they discover such goats got into the sheepfold. It tends to humble the soul, under a sense of common corruption. And it operates most blessedly to the Lord's glory, when a child of God is thereby led to discover, that all the difference between one and another is all of grace.

Let us next learn from this picture of human depravity, to admire the tender love of the Lord to the Church, in qualifying Peter to the detection of it. By the power which the Holy Ghost gave him of discerning spirits, the iniquity was found out, and the Church cleansed from the impurity. And thus the Lord watches over his people for good in all ages.

I beg the Reader particularly to remark with me, that Peter charged this man with lying to the Holy Ghost. But why is it so specially said that the lie was to the Holy Ghost? I apprehend on this account. Because conversion-work is the personal operation of God the Holy Ghost? So that the whole, and every part of this man's conduct, was directly leveled against the Holy Ghost. He never had been converted. He never had felt the love of God, and of Christ, in his heart And therefore the deception was principally against God the Spirit. I pray the Reader, under this head, not to overlook how Peter speaks of the Godhead of the Holy Ghost. In verse three, (Acts 5:3) he chargeth Ananias with lying to the Holy Ghost. And in another, (Acts 5:4) he saith that lie was not unto men, but unto God. A plain proof, in Peter's view, that the Holy Ghost is God.

One observation more meets us on this wonderful transaction, I mean the judgment of God, in instant death, both on the man and his wife. It must have been very awful; but it should seem that the Lord deemed it to be necessary. The honor of God the Spirit. The honor of the Church of Christ now more eminently forming. The dreadful alarm it must have given hypocrites, to keep them from the Church. The fears it must have awakened in cautioning the foes of Christ to be very careful how they molested the Apostles. And the terror in all the future ages of the Church it might afford, to preserve the faithful from numberless instances of deception. These were certainly among the causes for which the speedy judgment of the Lord fell upon Ananias and Sapphira; and for which they stand forth, and will stand forth to the end of the world, monuments of the Lord's anger. Reader! let you and I, in the contemplation, learn to bless God for his unspeakable gift!


Verses 11-16

And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. (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. (13) And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. (14) And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) (15) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. (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.

It is easier to conceive than express the wonderful effect such events must have had on the minds of all that heard of them. Even the Sanhedrim for the moment seem to have been struck, so that, instead of apprehending Peter instantly, for the death of those liars, we hear that not only great fear came upon the Church, but upon all that heard of these things. And while multitudes were added to the Lord, not a soul of hypocrisy for a season durst join themselves to the Apostles. And of such veneration were the Apostles in the esteem of the common people, that they looked to them for healing to all their sick, and those vexed with unclean spirits, and we are told that they were healed every one. Reader! ponder well the wonderful relation, and consider the blessed state of the Church in that season.


Verses 17-42

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, (18) And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. (19) But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, (20) Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. (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. (22) But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, (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. (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. (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. (26) Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. (27) And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, (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. (29) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (30) The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. (31) Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (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. (33) When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. (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; (35) And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. (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 naught. (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. (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: (39) But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (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. (41) And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. (42) And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

Let the Reader in this place remark again, what hath been often noticed before in this Poor Man's Commentary, the hardened state of the mind, which nothing short of sovereign grace can cure. And in persons of the characters here spoken of, for whom no provision is made in a grace-union with Christ, the thing is impossible, 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. And solemn as the subject is, yet we see in the history of the characters here shewn, the righteous judgment of God in the appointment. The everlasting hatred they manifested to Christ while upon earth, and now to his Apostles and followers after his departure, shutting up their minds against all conviction most plainly testified the influence of Satan upon their hearts. The Lord leaving all such to their own perverse wills, can be no impeachment of his justice. The Apostle hath very fully shewn this, in his opening of the Epistle to the Romans. As they did not (saith the Apostle) like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, Romans 1:28. This was only leaving a cause to produce its own natural effects. This was but suffering them to remain in that state of unbelief and ignorance, which by their own obduracy they have brought upon themselves, and of consequence will be found in at Christ's second coming.

The opening the prison doors to the Apostles, and bringing them out, might have taught them, would they have listened to the loud voice accompanying the sovereign act, that the miracle was of God. And those Apostles not running away when brought out, as is the case with ordinary prisoners, carried a further conviction under whose protection they were. But all lose their effect with such hardened minds as are resolutely bent to resist all persuasion. Hence a judicial blindness follows. Israel, (that is, professing Israel, Romans 9:6-7.) would name of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts, and they walked in their own counsels, Psalms 81:11-12.

There is somewhat very sweet and striking in the angel's precept to the Apostles, Go, stand and speak in the temple, to the people, all the words of this life. Not, go, and hide yourself from the fury of your enemies. Not, go, and be idle, and give over what will expose you to persecution. But, go into the most public place, the temple, stand with firmness and intrepidity, and speak to the people, the Lord's people, the people whom Jehovah hath formed for himself, they shall shew forth his praise, Isaiah 43:21, all the words of this life, even eternal life, yea, Christ himself, who is life eternal: for he is the life and the light of men. By him, life and immortality is brought to light. For He it is, that by his incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection, hath destroyed death, spiritual death, and eternal death. And by the life, both spiritual and eternal, which in his own life-giving, soul-renewing communication, as an Head to his members, he communicates to his whole body the Church, he quickens them from sin to salvation here in grace; and from death to life hereafter in glory. Go stand and speak to the people all the words of this life!

I pray the Reader to remark the firmness of the Apostles: But let him not fail to keep always in remembrance the cause. Oh! what strength cannot the Lord impart; yea, what strength will he not impart to his people, when his glory, and his Church's welfare, are concerned?

I must not stay to enter into particulars concerning the history here recorded, of the faithfulness of the Apostles, and the malice of their persecutors. Indeed the whole is so sweetly and plainly related, that it can need no comment. Let the Reader not fail to observe, how Peter harps in all his discourses, on Covenant love, while he so often calls upon those he addressed, to attend to what the Lord Jehovah hath done, in this grand concern, as the God of our fathers. And how blessedly he points to Jesus, as a risen, and an ascended Prince and Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins. So that Jehovah's Covenant-love, and the Redeemer's fulness of grace, finally leaves all without excuse, who neglect so great salvation!

The indignation of the Council, the advice of Gamaliel, the beating of the Apostles, and the command with which they suffered them to depart, no more to speak in the name of Jesus; these open large subjects for improvement: and I pray the Lord the Spirit to give both to the Writer and the Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, grace so to gather sweet instruction from the perusal. But I must not enlarge.

One point more, I would call upon the Reader particularly to notice in this Chapter; namely, the Apostles departing from the presence of the Council, when stripes had been laid upon them, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. And so far were they from being overawed by the threats of their enemies, or paying the least respect to their commands, that daily in the temple, and from house to house, they ceased not to teach, and to preach Jesus Christ.

Reader! can your mind furnish to itself anything more lovely, than such a view of primitive faithfulness, in those first earnest laborers in the Church! They were nothing intimidated by their adversaries, nothing terrified or distressed. Both publicly in the temple, and in every private house wheresoever they came; not Lord's days only, but every day; and not now and then, but unweariedly, their teaching, as well as their preaching, was all of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus was with them, both text and sermon; they found enough in him for endless discourse. Oh! that those glorious days would return, when Christ and Christ alone, Jehovah's Christ, and Jehovah's chosen, may fill every pulpit, occupy every house, warm every heart, and flow from every tongue, in his Churches, and among his people! Lord! the Spirit, in mercy to thy Church, hasten the hour, when, the Redeemer shall arise out of Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob! Come my beloved, (saith the Church,) and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices!


Verse 42

REFLECTIONS

What an awful delusion, must that delusion of the mind be, which like Annias and Sapphira, is trifling with God? What an horrible state to be feeding on ashes, when a deceived heart hath turned the sinner aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand?

Blessed Lord! let my soul be relieve, and comforted, when turning from the view of the Ananias's and Sapphira's of the present generation, I behold the zeal and honesty, the faithfulness and diligence of thy servants the Apostles in their day, holding forth the word of this life. Endued with the Spirit from on high, let me admire the burning fervor of Peter's mind, in punishing by divine authority, the daring lie of such awful characters, committed against God the Holy Ghost. And cause me, thou dear Lord, to see how the Lord honors them, whose delight it is to honor the Lord. Oh! for such a portion of the same spirit, as actuated the mind of Peter, to be poured out on all the faithful ministers of the sanctuary, that they may teach and preach Jesus Christ, and be instant in season, and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.

And Lord, to all the persecutions and malice of their enemies, may an holy indifferency manifest, that they are borne up and supported by thee; that though troubled on every side, yet not distressed; or if perplexed, yet never in despair; that they may always bear about the dying of the Lord Jesus; that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in their body. And do thou Lord to all the prison frames, and bondage exercises of thy Church and people, give them to see the Angel of the Covenant always at hand to bring them out. Yea, let every eye of thy redeemed family be directed by God the Spirit, to be looking to Him, who is exalted as a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to his Israel, and remission of sins. Precious Jesus! send down all thine ascension-gifts, and bless thine whole Church with the manifestation of thyself, until Christ be formed in every heart the hope of glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 5:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/acts-5.html. 1828.

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