Acts 5 Bible Study

Bible study of Acts chapter 5

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Acts 5 Bible Study

ACTS 5:1-6  1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

What "possession" did Ananias and Sapphira sell?
Their "land" (Acts 5:3).

What did they do with the "proceeds"?
Ananias "kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet."(Acts 5:2)

What was wrong with keeping back part of the proceeds?
There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Peter even told him he could have done whatever he wanted with it: "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?" (Acts 5:4)

Then what was Ananias guilty of?
Lying to God. Ananias had claimed that what he brought in was the entire proceeds from the sale. He thought he was lying to men, but Peter corrected him: "You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:4)

Why would Ananias make that claim?
He was probably jealous of and trying to copy Joses, who had been named the "Son of Encouragement" by the Apostles and who had brought in the entire proceeds from the sale of his land as mentioned at the end of the previous chapter: "And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet." (Acts 4:36-37)

What would have happened if Ananias had simply brought in some money for the needs of others?
He would have been fine and probably praised. But Ananias had wanted more, to be known as someone who had at least matched Joses' devotion. His motivation wasn't to please God and help people, at least not purely, but (also) to glorify himself, while being led by greed to hold back some money, and by Satan to lie. 

What does this passage say about the Holy Spirit?
By telling Ananias, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit... You have not lied to men but to God", Peter testified that Holy Spirit is God.

ACTS 5:7-11  7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

Did Peter trap Sapphira with his question, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?"
No, he "answered" her with that question, which means that Sapphira first asked him a question or said something that led him to respond with this question.

Why do Peter and Sapphira converse in terms of "so much"?
Both of them most likely could visualize the money that Ananias had brought in and were conversing while looking at and/or pointing to it.

What does Peter learn from her answer?
Sapphira had been party to the lie: "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9)

Did Peter kill Sapphira?
No, he prophesied that she would end up like her husband.

What effect did this incident have on the church?
"Great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things." (Acts 5:11)

How can the offerings of Joses, Ananias and Sapphira be compared?
We don't know the values of the land sold by Joses and Ananias and Sapphira. It's possible that Ananias and Sapphira's land was much larger and they had brought in more money than the entire proceeds from the sale of Joses' land. But the amount isn't what God is cares about, since everything in the universe is His, and He just wants to see how we treat and what we do with what He has entrusted to our care. Joses brought in God's money to God out of a true desire to serve Him and fellow Christians, and was praised. Ananias and Sapphira brought in "their" money to be praised by men, out of pride, and were struck dead.

Why do you give "your" money, skills and time to God?
...

ACTS 5:12-16  12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Why did they keep gathering at "Solomon’s Porch"?
Most likely because it was centrally located and the only public place in Jerusalem that was large enough to accommodate the crowd.

How can "believers" be "increasingly added" when "none of the rest dared join them"?
The key phrase is "the rest", which could be referring to the other hypocrites like Ananias and Sapphira who "dared" not "join them" lest they be struck dead as well. In addition or alternatively, since Acts 5:13 contrasts "the rest" against "the people", it could be referring to the priests and the others who ruled over the people and who were inside the temple just next to the Solomon's Porch.

ACTS 5:17-26  17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

Why were the high priest and the Sadducees "filled with indignation"?
For one, "a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem" (Acts 5:16) not to come to them but to go to the apostles, so they were envious. For another, Sadducees didn't believe in resurrection and didn't appreciate the apostles preaching about Jesus' resurrection.

Whom did they arrest, and why?
Acts 5:29 indicates that they arrested least three of the apostles, but they may arrested all of them. They wanted to convene the Sanhedrin and try them the next day.

Did the angel open the prison doors to let the apostles escape?
No, since he told them to go and preach "in the temple", instead of just outside of it as they had been preaching thus far. The Lord wanted the apostles to confront the Sanhedrin, but first wanted to demonstrate His power, which was appreciated by at least one alert member of the Sanhedrin, as we will read below.

Who were the "officers" and how did they bring the apostles "without violence"?
They were the temple guards, not the Roman soldiers, and they most likely just asked the apostles to come with them.

ACTS 5:27-28  27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Mans blood on us!”

What might have been the high priest's demeanor?
Having convened the Sanhedrin, he had ordered the prisoners to be brought, and been told that the men he put in jail are teaching in the temple. So he was probably flustered after having been embarrassed in front of the crowd he should have impressed.

What is he admitting to the apostles in Acts 5:28?
We can’t control you, and you’re beating us.

What does he mean by, "you... intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"
He's accusing the apostles of trying to make them guilty of killing Jesus.

Who already answered that question?
The high priest himself: "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children." (Matt 27:24-25)

Do the apostles intend to bring Jesus' blood on them?
Spiritually, they should hope so since only by the blood of Jesus could their sins be forgiven.

ACTS 5:29-32  29 But 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 you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Do the apostles try to defend their actions?
No, they sound more like prosecutors, telling them, "you murdered" Jesus "by hanging on a tree", and obeying their prior order "not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:18) would have been in disobedience to God, and also implying that the high priest isn't among "those who obey Him."

Why might the apostles have been particularly emboldened?
An angel of the Lord had just led them out of prison, right past guards who couldn't see them. They knew God was with them.

ACTS 5:33-42  33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it - lest you even be found to fight against God.” 40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So 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 did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Who is "Gamaliel" and what did he do?
"A Pharisee... a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people" and the "alert" member of the Sanhedrin previewed above. He warned them and prophesied, "if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it."

How much do his words apply to today?
As much as they did back then. If any "plan or... work is of men, it will come to nothing," as Jesus had said: "for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5). But "if it is of God", nobody can "overthrow it."

What is peculiar about Acts 5:40?
Since "they agreed with" Gamaliel, they should have just let the apostles go instead of beating them and commanding them "that they should not speak in the name of Jesus."

How did the disciples take the beating and their command?
"They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

Was being beaten something that the apostles should really be "rejoicing" over?
Very much so, according to Jesus: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12)

What examples do the apostles set for us?
When we are persecuted for Christ, we should also "rejoice" for having been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And when religious or other authorities try to stop us from sharing the Lord, we should share with them Peter's words, "We ought to obey God rather than men" and "not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

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