Read: Acts 5:12-42
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira resulted in great fear among the people, but these events did not slow the growth of the church in the least. The remainder of chapter 5 climaxes with Gamaliel’s assertion that the disciples should be allowed to follow their hearts and let God be the judge. His compelling speech satisfies the jealous Sanhedrin and propels the Gospel without taking sides. A brilliant political move. God’s church will grow!
What About Ananias and Sapphira?
No mourning over Ananias and Sapphira is reported. Did they have no friends? Did the church simply not care? These kinds of thoughts are serious distractions, whispers from the great tempter to distract us from the main story. Luke did not record these details because they are not the primary story. I’m not faulting anyone for having questions, merely redirecting the thoughts from that which would take away from the incredible story of the birth of Christ’s church.
Miracles of Healing
So much of the early church was fueled by miraculous events, signs, and wonders that drew spectators, the curious, and the serious.
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. Acts 5:12
The reputation of Peter, in particular, grew to such heights that people wanted to be close enough to have his shadow fall on them for healing or restoration. There is no indication that Peter is paying attention to this notoriety, instead, he just keeps on preaching the gospel!
The Sanhedrin — Again
The incessant preaching and crowds of people gathering to hear and be healed cannot possibly go unnoticed. As expected, the religious leaders are greatly offended by their actions.
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. Acts 5:17
With hearts bent against the disciples, the priests arrest them and put them in prison. During the night an angel of the Lord appears and releases them miraculously. The doors are still locked and the guards alert and present, but the disciples are simply not in the prison. It’s a mystery no one can explain, but they end up in the temple courts in the morning preaching again.
Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” Acts 5:25
The guards carefully “invite” the disciples into the presence of the Sanhedrin. They aren’t fools! If the disciples were transported to the courtyard miraculously, there’s no telling what might happen to them if they cause trouble. Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Let’s be careful!
We Must Obey God and Not Men
Peter and the other apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, makes his consistent proclamation:
We must obey God rather than human beings! We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. Acts 5:29, 32
This is key. These leaders of the early church were 100 percent sold out to their calling and completely immersed in the Holy Spirit. Completely. There is no hidden agenda, no secret desire for a big building, private office, or reserved parking space. They are on a mission to spread the great news about Jesus.
Wise Counsel from Gamaliel
I believe Gamaliel was inspired by the Holy Spirit to address the entire Sanhedrin. The strength of his argument, coupled with the sound logic, was exactly what was needed at the time.
…in the present case I advise you: 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. Acts 5:38-39
There is no counter-argument. The disciples are flogged (nothing to laugh about in those days) and released.
Joy in Suffering for Christ
Given the historical context, I don’t think the beating they received was any less than extremely painful, but we are not offered any insight here, instead, we read that they counted the beating as another sign that they are worthy of their calling.
rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41
How about us? Are we so heaven-bent on preaching the gospel that the world is beating us?
Lord, I pray we would get serious about Your great commission and preach through obstacles that hold us back. May we rely on You in times of difficulties, in a world that is desperate to know You, even if they don’t know.