PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Ananias and Sapphira||Lying to the Holy Spirit||The Sharing of Goods||Ananias and Sapphira||The Fraud of Ananias and Sapphira|
|Many Signs and Wonders Performed||Continuing Power in the Church||Second Arrest of the Apostles||Miracles and Wonders||The General Situation|
|Persecution of the Apostles||Imprisoned Apostles Freed||The Apostles are Persecuted||The Apostles' Arrest and Deliverance|
|A Summons to Appear Before the Sanhedrin|
|Apostles on Trial Again||5:21b-26||5:21b-26||5:21b-26|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:1-6
1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 3But Peter said, "Ananias, why had Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
5:1 "Ananias" The full Hebrew name would have been Hananiah, which means "YHWH has graciously given" or "YHWH is gracious" (BDB 337).
▣ Sapphira" This was Ananias' wife. The name in Aramaic means "beautiful." They were both believers.
5:2 kept back" This same rare verb (nosphizomai) is used in the Septuagint (LXX) of Joshua 7:1 to describe the sin of Achan. F. F. Bruce, in his commentary on Acts (NIC) has made the comment that Ananias was to the early church what Achan was to the Conquest. This sin had the potential of hurting the entire church. This term is also used in Titus 2:10 of slaves stealing from their masters.
▣ "bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet" This mimics what Barnabas did in 4:37. This couple had the freedom to sell or not to sell their personal property (cf. v. 4). They had the freedom to give some or all of it to the Lord's work. They did not have the right to give part, but claim they gave all. Their motives and duplicitous actions revealed their heart (cf. v. 4c; Luke 21:14). God looks at the heart (cf. I Sam. 16:7; I Kgs. 8:39; I Chr. 28:9; Pro. 21:2; Jer. 17:10; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; Rom. 8:27).
5:3 "Satan. . .Holy Spirit" This shows the presence of the two spiritual forces which are active in our world and in our lives. In Eph. 2:2-3 (cf. James. 4) are listed the three enemies of post-Genesis humanity:
1. the fallen world system
2. a personal tempter
3. our fallen nature
▣ "filled" This is the same word used of the Spirit (cf. Eph. 5:18). Filling requires cooperation! We are filled with something (see full note at 5:17)! Satan is involved, but we are responsible (cf. Luke 22:3-6). I recommend the book Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, by Clinton E. Arnold. Surprisingly there is continuing satanic influence in the lives of believers (cf. Eph. 6:10-19; I John 5:18-19). See fuller notes at 2:4 and 3:10.
This phrase (i.e., filled your heart") may be a Hebrew idiom (cf. Esther 7:5; Eccl. 8:11; 9:3). Many scholars assume an Aramaic original to the early chapters of Acts.
▣ "to lie to the Holy Spirit" They lied to Peter and the church, but in reality they lied to the Spirit. Theologically this is very similar to Jesus asking Paul on the road to Damascus, "Why are you persecuting Me?" (cf. Acts 9:4). Paul was persecuting individual believers, but Jesus took it personally, as does the Spirit here. This should be a word of warning to modern believers.
5:4 This verse has two questions that expect "yes" answers. This is a grammatical feature, not an interpretive issue.
▣ "You have not lied to men but to God" It was not that they kept part of the money, but that they lied to make themselves look spiritual. Notice that even a kind, generous act, which is done with a bad motive, is a sin (cf. Rom. 14:23c). Notice that the Holy Spirit mentioned in v. 3 here is called God.
5:5 "fell down and breathed his last" In the ancient world one's last breath was evidence that the spirit of the person had left (cf. Jgds. 4:2; Ezek. 21:7 in the LXX). This rare term is found in the NT only in Acts (cf. 5:4,10; 12:23). This is an example of temporal judgment. This is similar to God's judgment on Aaron's sons in Leviticus 10. Sin is serious to God. It cost a life (cf. II Kgs. 14:6; Ezek. 18:4,20).
▣ "a great fear came over all" This possibly was the purpose of this temporal judgment. This would be analogous to the OT deaths of Nadab and Abihu of Leviticus 10 and Uzzah of II Samuel 6. Based on I Cor. 11:30; James 5:20; and I John 5:16-17, it is possible to assume that some sins by believers result in an early death. It is hard to keep the balance between the holiness of God (transcendence) and Fatherhood of God (immanence).
5:6 "they buried him" Jews of the first century did not practice embalming (they still do not), probably because of Gen. 3:19 (cf. Ps. 103:14; 104:29). A person had to be buried quickly, usually within one day.
Because of the offense there was no memorial service or other Christian burial rites.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:7-11
7Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price." 9Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." 10And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
5:7 "about three hours" This shows the vividness of the account by an eyewitness. Luke's writing is characterized by this attention to details. It reflects both his writing style and research methods (i.e., interviews with eyewitnesses).
5:8 The lie, the pretense continues!
5:9 "test" In a round about sense, this was a test of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father's personal presence on earth (see Special Topic at 1:2). There are temporal consequences, as well as eternal consequences for challenging the Spirit! These two did not realize that it was the Spirit they were lying to, but Peter did.
There are two Greek terms used to denote a test. This one connotes "to test with a view toward destruction." This possibly reflects Exod. 17:2 and Deut. 6:16, where these texts warn against tempting/testing YHWH (cf. Ps. 78:18,41,56).
5:10 The term used to describe "the young men" (neōteroi) in v. 6 is different from the term neanikoi in v. 10. It is uncertain whether this is just authorial variety or a different group of young men in the church. Both Greek words come from the same root word (neos).
5:11 "great fear. . .over all who heard of these things" Luke uses the common word phobos several times in this same general sense (cf. Luke 1:69; 3:37; Acts 19:17). For believers it is a sense of reverence, respect, and awe, but for unbelievers it is a sense of foreboding, fear, and terror (cf. Luke 12:4-5; Heb. 10:31).
▣ "church" This is the first time this term is used in Acts, although it is in the Textus Receptus at 2:47. See Special Topic following.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:12-16
12At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. 13But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.
5:12-16 This is a brief summary, which is so characteristic of the book of Acts (cf. 2:43-47 and 4:32-35).
5:12 "many signs and wonders" This is an Imperfect passive (deponent) indicative. These two terms appear in Peter's quote from Joel 2 in Acts 2:19. Miracles were repeatedly performed (cf. 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 15:20). Remember that the miraculous is not automatically a sign of deity (cf. Matt. 24:24; and II Thess. 2:9), but it was and is a way to confirm the Christian message, which was so radically different from the focus and emphasis of Judaism.
▣ "they were all in one accord" See note at 1:14. It is important to Luke to emphasize this again and again. It was an ideal that did not last long!
▣ "in Solomon's portico" This was an open colonnade within the Temple area along the eastern wall of the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus often taught there also (cf. John 10:23). This was the site of Peter and John's first arrest.
NASB"none of the rest dared to associate with them"
NKJV, NRSV"none of the rest dared join them"
TEV"Nobody outside the group dared join them"
NJB"No one else dared to join them"
This is an unusual phrase. It seems to describe the negative side of "fear." There are several groups designated in this context (cf. vv. 12-16). For most, the events were a draw to faith in Christ (cf. #5 and possibly #6 and #7) or a confirmation of faith in Christ (i.e., #3).
1. the Apostles, v. 12
2. the people, vv. 12,13
3. the believers (i.e., in one accord in Solomon's portico), v. 12
4. the rest (i.e., the Jewish leadership), v. 13
5. new believers, v. 14
6. the sick of Jerusalem, v. 15
7. the sick and possessed from the surrounding villages, v. 16
The present middle infinitive "to associate" is literally "to glue." Luke uses this term often, but in a wide variety of senses. Here it refers to their not becoming part of the new group (i.e., believers in Jesus as the promised Messiah).
5:14 "believers" This is a present active participle, which implies an ongoing action. See Special Topics at 2:40 and 3:16.
NJB, NIV"in the Lord"
NKJV, NRSV"to the Lord"
This grammatical form (i.e., eight case system) can be understood as dative ("to") or locative ("in"). I think it is a way to show that believers belong to the Lord. We are His possession, and He is ours!
▣ "women" Luke especially highlights "women," both in the Gospel and Acts (i.e., 1:14; 8:12; 16:1,13; 17:4,12,34; 18:2; 21:5). Jesus brings a new sense of dignity and worth to women and children.
▣ "were constantly added to their number" Luke often used summary statements of the growth of the church (cf. 2:47; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20).
5:15 "when Peter came by at least his shadow" Miracles at this stage were common as a way of confirming the gospel. Peter was the obvious spokesman for the Apostles. This same type of confirming, healing also occurred through Paul (cf. 19:12).
As interpreters we must remember that these miracle signs were given to
1. show the compassion of God
2. show the truth of the gospel
3. show who were the God-called leaders
These signs were given in a particular culture, for a specific purpose. Because God did it there, it does not automatically mean that He will do the same in every period of history in every culture. Not that God is not active in every age nor less compassionate, but that the people of God must walk by faith and not by sight! Miracles continue, but salvation of sinners must be the greatest goal, not physical healing for those who will still die!
It seems to me that God has not changed. His character, power, compassion, and desire for all to be saved remains the same, but looking at history theologically, there are two major periods of intense, supernatural signs, both from God and from Satan.
1. surrounding the time of the incarnation and development of the early church
2. preceding the end-time events when believers will be under terrible persecution
I would like to quote A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. III, p. 62
"There was, of course, no virtue or power in Peter's shadow. That was faith with superstition, of course, just as similar cases in the Gospels occur (Matt. 9:20; Mark 6:56; John 9:5) and the use of Paul's handkerchief (Acts 19:12). God honours even superstitious faith if it is real faith in him. Few people are wholly devoid of superstition."
5:16 "they were all being healed" This is an imperfect passive indicative, which asserts each one was healed (the agent is unexpressed, but probably the Spirit) one at a time, over and over and over, until none were left!
This is a summary type statement. Are we to take it literally (i.e., every single one)? Jesus required faith or used the healing to (1) train the disciples or (2) cause the crowds to listen.
It is shocking to me that not all those healed in the NT were simultaneously "saved" (i.e., trust Christ and have eternal life). Physical healing is a poor substitute for spiritual salvation. Miracles are only truly helpful if they bring us to God. All humans live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. God often chooses not to intervene, but this says nothing about His love and concern. Be careful of demanding that God act miraculously every time in this current evil age. He is sovereign and we do not know the full implications of any given situation.
At this point I would like to add my commentary notes from II Tim. 4:20 about Paul and physical healing (see www.freebiblecommentary.org ) :
"There are so many questions we would like to ask the NT writers. One subject all believers think about is physical healing. In Acts (cf. 19:12; 28:7-9) Paul is able to heal, but here and in II Cor. 12:7-10 and Phil. 2:25-30, he seems unable. Why are some healed and not all, and is there a time window connected to healing which has closed?
I surely believe in a supernatural, compassionate Father who has and does heal physically as well as spiritually, but why is this healing aspect seemingly present and then noticeably absent? I do not think that it is connected to human faith, for surely Paul had faith (cf. II Corinthians 12). I feel that healing and believing miracles affirmed the truthfulness and validity of the gospel, which it still does in areas of the world where it is first proclaimed. However, I feel that God wants us to walk by faith and not by sight. Also, physical illness is often allowed in believer's lives (1) as temporal punishment for sin; (2) as consequences of life in a fallen world; and (3) to help believers mature spiritually. My problem is that I never know which one is involved! My prayer for God's will to be done in each case is not a lack of faith but a sincere attempt to allow the gracious, compassionate God to work His will in each life."
▣ "unclean spirits" See Special Topics below.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:17-26
17But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20"Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life." 21Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. 22But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, 23saying, "We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside." 24Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25But someone came and reported to them, "The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" 26Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
5:17 "they were filled with jealousy" The Greek word simply means "to boil." Therefore, context must tell us it is zealousness or jealousy. This shows the true motivation of the religious leaders, jealousy! In Luke's Gospel Jesus' main enemies were the Pharisees, but in Acts His followers' main enemies were the Sadducees.
The verb "filled" is used in a variety of ways by Luke to show what characterizes or describes a person or personified entity.
1. John the Baptist, even before his birth, was filled with the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:15
2. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:41
3. Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit –Luke 1:61
4. all in the Synagogue who heard Jesus speak were filled with rage – Luke 4:28
5. those in the house where the paralytic was lowered through the roof were filled with fear – Luke 5:26
6. Pharisees and Scribes traveling with Jesus on a Sabbath were filled with rage – Luke 6:11
7. those in the upper room on Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:4
8. those who heard Peter speak in the temple were filled with amazement – Acts 3:10
9. Peter speaking before the Sanhedrin was filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 4:8
10. all in the upper room were filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 4:31
11. Satan filled Ananias' and Sapphira's hearts – Acts 5:3
12. Peter and John spoke to the Sanhedrin again and they were filled with jealousy – Acts 5:17
13. Jerusalem filled with the gospel – Acts 5:28
14. the seven full of the Spirit and wisdom – Acts 6:3
15. Stephen full of faith and the Holy Spirit – Acts 6:5,8; 7:55
16. Ananias lays hands on Saul/Paul and he is filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 9:17
17. Paul preaches filled with the Spirit – Acts 13:9
18. Jews in the crowd who Paul preached to were filled with jealousy – Acts 13:45
19. the disciples were continually filled with joy and the Holy Spirit – Acts 13:52
20. Ephesus was filled with confusion – Acts 19:29
In the presence of the gospel what are you "filled" with?
5:18 These first chapters in Acts show the problems faced by the early church. The problems differ from age to age, culture to culture, but God is for us, with us, and empowers us to overcome. Nothing—prison, attempted humiliation, threats, etc.—can rob believers of the presence and peace of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).
5:19 "an angel of the Lord" This phrase is used two ways in the OT.
1. an angel (cf. Gen. 24:7,40; Exod. 23:20-23; 32:34; Num. 22:22; Jdgs. 5:23; I Sam. 24:16; I Chr. 21:15ff; Zech. 1:28)
2. as a way of referring to YHWH (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2,4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 2:1; 6:22-24; 13:3-23; Zech. 3:1-2)
Luke uses the phrase often (cf. Luke 1:11,13; 2:9; Acts 5:19; 7:30; 8:26; 12:7,11,23; 10:3; 27:23), but in the sense of #1 above. The NT does not use sense #2, except in Acts 8:26 and 29, where, "an angel of the Lord" is paralleled to the Holy Spirit.
▣ "opened the gates of the prison" This is similar to Paul and Silas' experience at Philippi (cf. Acts 16:26). In many ways the life of Peter is paralleled in Paul. This may have been Luke's literary intentionality.
5:20 "Go, stand and speak" These function as three imperatives.
1. Go, present middle (deponent) imperative
2. Stand, aorist passive participle used as an imperative (Friberg's, Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 379)
3. Speak, present active imperative
The angel had an evangelistic mission for the early church (and for today's church).
▣ "speak to the people" This was the major thrust of the Apostles' ministry. Boldness (see Special Topic at 4:29), not fear, characterizes their new spirit-filled lives.
NASB"the whole message of the Life"
NKJV"all the words of this life"
NRSV"the whole message about this life"
TEV"all about this new life"
NJB"all about this new Life"
This phrase is speaking about the new life (zōe, eternal life) found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They had been freed both spiritually (salvation) and physically (out of prison). Now they were to tell all to all (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8)!
5:21 Notice that being supernaturally freed did not imply that they would not be imprisoned again. Even God's provision does not mean that all difficulties will be solved or removed in ministry (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 8:17; I Pet. 4:12-16)
▣ "the Council. . .the Senate of the sons of Israel" See Special Topic: Sanhedrin at 4:5. To whom does "the Senate" refer? Curtis Vaughan, in Acts, pp. 39-40, says it was the elders of Jerusalem who were not members of the Sanhedrin at that present time (cf. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, Vol. 1, p. 234), but the NASB and NIV translations assume that Council and Senate are synonymous.
5:23 "locked" This is a perfect passive participle. The idea was that the prison doors were secure and the guards set (perfect active participle), but the prisoners were gone.
5:24 "they were greatly perplexed" Luke uses this term several times. It is an intensified form of aporeō (cf. Luke 24:4; Acts 25:20) with dia (cf. Luke 9:7; Acts 2:12; 5:24; 10:17). Its basic meaning is doubt, uncertainty, or perplexity.
▣ "as to what would come of this" The grammatical form of the phrase is an incomplete Fourth class conditional sentence (an plus aorist middle [deponent] optative). The optative mood expresses perplexity (cf. Luke 1:61-62; 3:15; 8:9; 15:26; 22:23; Acts 5:24; 8:31; 10:17; 21:33, see James Allen Hewett, New Testament Greek, p. 195).
5:26 "they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned" This showed the popularity of the early church (cf. v. 13; 2:47; 4:21) and the source of the continuing jealousy of the Jewish leaders.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:27-32
27When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." 29But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
The NKJV has "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name," which is a Greek manuscript variant found in the Greek texts אi2, D, and E, but not in MSS P74, א*, A, or B. The UBS4 puts the NKJV option in the text, but "not" in brackets. This question expects a "yes" answer. The Apostles were warned!
The construction is a Semitic idiom (cf. Luke 22:15) similar to the cognate accusative in Koine Greek, where the verb (parangellō) and the direct object (parangelia) are from the same root. This construction intensifies the basic meaning of the terms. It is interesting that this term in the Koine papyri found in Egypt meant an official summons to court or an order from a court (cf. Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, p. 481).
▣ "this man's" This expression shows the contempt of the Jewish leaders. They never mention Jesus' name. The Talmud even calls Him "so and so" (cf. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 1, p. 234).
▣ "blood upon us" Peter and John were continuing to assert that these Jewish leaders engineered Jesus' death (cf. v. 30; 2:33; 3:14-15; 4:10). This was also Stephen's accusation in 7:52.
5:29 "must" This word dei means moral necessity. This shows the Apostles' obligation to preach the truth, regardless of the consequences (cf. 4:19). See full note at 1:16.
5:30 "The God of our fathers" These early Christians believed they were the true spiritual heirs and descendants of the OT people of God (cf. 3:13; Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:16; I Pet. 3:5,9; Rev. 1:6).
▣ "raised up Jesus" The NT affirms that the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24,32; 3:15,26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9) to confirm the truth of Jesus' life and teachings. This is a major aspect of the Kerygma (cf. I Corinthians 15).
It should also be noted that the NT affirms that the Son and the Spirit were also involved in this great affirmation event.
1. the Son – John 2:19-22; 10:17-18
2. the Spirit – Rom. 8:11
▣ "whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross" This relates back to the curse of Deut. 21:23. These religious leaders wanted Jesus, a Messianic pretender, to bear the curse of YHWH. Jesus bore the curse of the OT law (i.e., the soul that sins will surely die [cf. Ezek. 18:4,20] and all humans have sinned, cf. Rom. 3:9-18, 23) for us (cf. Gal. 3:13; Col. 1:14). Jesus was the innocent lamb of God who gave Himself for the estranged world (cf. John 1:29; II Cor. 5:21).
5:31 "God exalted to His right hand" The term "exalted" is translated in John 3:14 as "lifted up" and in Phil. 2:9 as "highly exalted." The cross was Christ's means of exaltation and triumph (cf. Col. 1:15; II Cor. 2:14).
The anthropomorphic phrase "right hand" was a metaphor for the place of power and authority (cf. Matt. 26:64). God is an eternal Spirit. He does not have a physical body. See Special Topic at 2:33.
▣ "Prince" This verse clearly and specifically asserts the Messiahship of Jesus. This same term was used of Jesus in 3:15, where it could be translated "Author" (NRSV). It can mean "chief," "pioneer," or "prince." It was also used of the founder of a school or family (cf. Heb. 2:10; 12:2). See Special Topic at 3:15.
▣ "Savior" This term was used in the first century Greco-Roman world of Caesar. He claimed to be the savior of culture and peace. Another term which the Caesars claimed for themselves, but Christians used uniquely for Jesus, was Lord (kurios).
This term "Savior" was used in the OT as a term for YHWH (cf. II Sam. 22:3; Ps. 106:21; Isa. 43:4,11; 45:15,21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8). NT writers often assert the deity of Jesus by attributing to Him OT titles of YHWH. Notice how Paul in his letter to Titus does this.
1. 1:3, "God our Savior"
2. 1:4, "Christ Jesus our Savior"
3. 2:10, "God our Savior"
4. 2:13, "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus"
5. 3:4, "God our Savior"
6. 3:6, "Jesus Christ our Savior"
▣ "to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" This shows the purpose of Jesus' death (cf. Luke 24:47 and Acts 2:38). It is unusual for NT authors to refer to repentance as a gift from God (cf. Acts 11:18 [to Gentiles]; II Tim. 2:25; and possibly also Rom. 2:4). Usually it is one of the requirements of the New Covenant for the human recipient of the gospel (cf. Mark 1:15 and Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). I think it is a literary way to show that God wants all humans made in His image to be saved. It is not an issue related to God's sovereignty.
Often those who focus solely on God's part in the New Covenant use this verse to prove that salvation is all of God and does not involve any participation on the part of mankind. However, this is a good example of proof-texting a passage to fit one's preconceived system of theology. The Bible clearly asserts the priority and necessity of God's initiation, but also reveals that the concept of "covenant" best describes His chosen model of how to relate to needy humanity. Freedom is a gift which God gave in creation. God does not violate this gift/responsibility (cf. Rom. 2:4; II Cor. 7:10). He does draw us, woo us, work with us, and provide a way of redemption (cf. John 6:44,65). But fallen humans must respond and continue to respond in repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance.
Here is an interesting quote from Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, p. 119:
"Men cannot achieve but only receive repentance, yet they must receive it. By faith a man receives Christ into his innermost person; and Christ, as a transforming presence reverses the course of that life from self-trust to trust in God, from self-assertion to self-denial. This conversion is the reversal of the Fall, in which man sought to find the whole meaning of his existence within himself."
5:32 Several times in Acts Peter referred to the fact that the Apostles and disciples are witnesses of Jesus' life and death and resurrection. In this context he adds, "the Holy Spirit" as witness. This may be a way of affirming the two necessary OT witnesses to confirm a matter (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6).
Luke/Acts speak of the gift of the Spirit
1. at baptism – 2:38
2. at obedience to the gospel – 5:32
3. cannot be bought – 8:19-20
4. to the Gentiles – 10:45; 11:17
5. from the Father – Luke 11:13 (cf. James 1:17)
▣ "those who obey Him" Obedience is a lifestyle choice! We must obey by believing the gospel. We must continue in obedience to enjoy its fruits (cf. Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-48). The rare term "obey" (peithomai plus archē, cf. 27:21; Titus 3:1), used in vv. 29 and 32, was a combination of the terms "ruler" (archē) and obey.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:33-39
33But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."
NASB"they were cut to the quick"
NKJV"they were furious"
NRSV"they were enraged"
TEV"they were so furious"
NJB"this so infuriated them"
This term literally means "cut with a saw" or "gnash with the teeth." This very same term in the same form is also used in 7:54, where the added phrase, "cut to the heart," shows the full metaphorical sense (see also Luke 2:35). This strong term (i.e., diaprō) is similar in meaning to 2:37a.
▣ "intended to kill them" This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative, implying that (1) they began at this point to try to kill them or (2) this was a recurrent plan and desire. From our knowledge of the early church's growth from Acts, #1 fits best. Notice it is the Sadducees who expressed this anger and murderous intent. It is just possible that the Pharisees (i.e., Gamaliel) saw the early church as a useful thorn to poke at the Sadducean rejection of resurrection in general. Pharisees would not want to affirm the resurrection of Jesus, but would affirm the concept of a resurrection followed by a future life with God.
It is surprising to modern Bible readers that religious leaders could plan murder. Remember these were Sadducees committed to the writings of Moses, which commanded that a blasphemer must be stoned to death. These leaders thought they were acting on God's behalf and in conformity to His word (cf. Lev. 24:10-16).
5:34 "Pharisees" See Special Topic following.
5:36-37 "Theudas. . .Judas of Galilee" Josephus mentions these same two names (cf. Antiq. 20.5.1). However, he listed them in the reverse order. Further historical information shows that there were two persons by this name who were Jewish zealots against Rome. Therefore, both the NT and Josephus could be accurate. The one mentioned by Gamaliel rebelled in a.d. 6, whereas the one mentioned by Josephus rebelled in a.d. 44.
5:37 "in the days of the census" Josephus (cf. Antiq.18.1.1; Wars 2.8.1) tells us that Augustus ordered a tax to be levied on the Jews, soon after Archelaus was dethroned and Quirinius was made legate of Syria (i.e., about a.d. 6-7). These census for taxation purposes occurred every fourteen years, but took years to complete.
▣ "Judas of Galilee" He is mentioned several times by Josephus (cf. Antiq. 18.1.1-6; 20.5.2 and also in Wars 2.8.1; 2.17.8-9). His revolt occurred in about a.d. 6 or 7. He was the founder of the zealot movement. The zealots (Josephus calls them "the fourth philosophy) and the Sicarii (i.e., assassins) are possibly the same political movement.
5:38 "stay away from these men and let them alone" What surprising advice! This phrase has two aorist active imperatives.
1. aphistēmi, separate, put away
2. aphiēmi, send away, dismiss
▣ "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.
5:39 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which usually denotes an affirmation of truth, but here it cannot be true. This shows the literary use of this grammatical form.
▣ "or else you may even be found fighting against God" It must be remembered that these religious leaders think they are acting on God's behalf. The very fact that Gamaliel speaks the possibility of their being sincerely wrong is a shocking statement (cf. 11:17).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:40-42
40They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
5:40 "They took his advice" This phrase is included in v. 39 in some translations (cf. NRSV) and in v. 40 in others (cf. NASB, NKJV). The TEV and NJB keep it in v. 39, but start a new paragraph.
▣ "flogged" This was not the same as the Roman flogging (mastix, cf. Acts 22:24-25), which Jesus endured. This referred to the Jewish beating with rods (cf. Deut. 25:3; i.e., derō, Luke 12:47-48; 20:10-11; 22:63). It was very painful, but not life-threatening.
The interpretive problem is that these two Greek terms are often used interchangeably. The Septuagint of Deut. 25:3 has mastix, but it refers to a Jewish punishment. Luke regularly uses derō for this Jewish synagogue beating (literally "skinning an animal").
▣ "and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus" This same Council had done this earlier (cf. 4:17,21). This time they beat them and repeated the warning.
5:41 Jesus had predicted this type of treatment (cf. Matt. 10:16-23; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 12:1-12; 21:10-19; John 15:18-27; 16:2-4).
▣ "rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name" This seems surprising to us today because we live in a society where physical persecution is so rare, but this has not been the case for the vast majority of believers through the centuries.
Jesus plainly said that His followers would suffer. Please read Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-2; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4;; 8:17; II Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:29; I Thess. 3:3; II Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4. Also notice how in I Peter Jesus' suffering (cf. 1:11; 2:21,23; 3:18; 4:1,13; 5:1) is to be emulated by His followers (cf. 1:6-7; 2:19; 3:13-17; 4:1,12-19; 5:9-10).
5:42 "every day, in the temple" These early witnesses of Jesus refused to be silenced, even in the very heart of Judaism, the temple in Jerusalem.
▣ "from house to house" The early church had their meetings in private homes spread throughout the city (cf. 2:46). There were no church buildings until several hundred years later.
NASB, NKJV"the Christ"
In this Jewish setting the title "Messiah" (see Special Topic at 2:31) is more appropriate (cf. 2:31; 3:18; 5:42; 8:5; 9:22), as Peter used in Matt. 16:16. When Paul preached to Jews he also used this as a reference to the promised, anointed One (cf. 17:3; 18:5,28).
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR ACTS 3-5
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Why did the Apostles stay within Judaism so long?
2. List the titles of Jesus and their meanings which are used in chapter 3.
3. What are the two minimal requirements in salvation?
4. Why is Moses quoted so often in the New Testament?
5. What is the significance of the Abrahamic covenant to the NT church?
6. Why were Peter and John arrested?
7. Outline Peter's third sermon.
8. What is significant about the prayer of 4:24-31?
9. To be truly New Testament must one be communistic? (cf. 4:32)
10. List the reasons why Luke included the account of Ananias and Sapphira.
11. Did Ananias realize that he was filled with Satan? Did he realize that he had lied to God?
12. Why was God seemingly so harsh?
13. What about miracles (especially healings) in our day?
14. Why were the Sadducees so mad?
15. Why did the angel release the Apostles from prison?
16. Outline Peter's fourth sermon. List the common elements between his other recorded sermons in Acts.
17. Who was Gamaliel?
18. Why should Christians rejoice in suffering?
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