Archive for August 2008

Acts 5

August 16, 2008

Ananias [1] and Sapphira attempt to defraud the church by telling them they are handing over all the money from the sale of a piece of land while withholding some. Peter confronts them with their misdeed. They die, stricken down by the Lord[2].

The apostles and the believers gathered under Solomon’s Colonnade [3] and performed miracles of healing and exorcism. Non-believers, even those who respected the apostles, would not join them. But even having Peter’s shadow fall on the afflicted as he passed by was believed to help.

The high priest and his associates, Sadducees all, become jealous and jail the apostles. An angel releases the apostles at night and tells them to preach “the full message of this new life” in the temple courts. When the high priest and the Sanhedrin call for the apostles to be called forth, the jail is empty. The captain of the guard and his officers find and escort the apostles to the assembly of Caiphas and the Sanhedrin, but are careful not to use force, since they are afraid the people would stone them [4].

The high priest complains that not only are the apostles teaching of Jesus, they are blaming the high priest and the Sanhedrin for Jesus’s death. Peter says he is compelled by God to teach that God raised Jesus from the dead and placed Him at His right hand as Prince and Savior to help Israel find repentance and to forgive the sins of Israel. Israel’s leaders are furious and want to kill the apostles, but the Pharisee Gamaliel gives them very wise counsel: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

So, the leaders of Israel order the apostles to be flogged. Everyone leaves happy, the apostles for having the opportunity to be abused for Jesus’s Name. And they don’t stop preaching.

  Notes

1.  There are three Ananiases in Acts. The second is known as Ananias of Damascus. In Acts 9 (and 22), he lays hands on the blind Saul of Tarsus (later known as St. Paul) and Saul’s sight is restored.   The third is the high priest of Acts 23, who had his men ready to smite Paul. 
2.  It’s significant that the only supernatural death recorded in the epistles is inflicted on people who refuse to share. However, what made the sin mortal was the lie they conspired in, rather than the selfishness. Jesus warned that the one sin that God would not forgive was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29). The Holy Spirit is to be understood as the principle that leads people to truth, and is referred to as the Spirit of Truth in John 14-16. See Higgs.  
3.  As was mentioned earlier, Solomon’s Colonnade was a place of kingly judgment dating back to the First Temple. 
4.  Stoning was the punishment for only a handful of capital sins, notably blasphemy.

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