Key Verse 5:20
“‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”
1. Read 4:36-5:2. How did the believers deal with material things? What
did Ananias and his wife do, and why did they do it? Contrast
Ananias and Barnabas.
2. Read 5:3-11. According to Peter, what was Ananias' sin? (3,4) What
happened to him and his wife? How did Sapphira prove to be a poor
coworker? Why was their sin so serious?
3. What was the immediate effect of these events? (11) What does it
mean to fear God? What difference does it make?
4. Read verses 12-16. How did the apostles feel about this event? Where
and why did the believers meet? How does Luke describe the mighty
work of God among them?
5. Read verses 17-26. How did Satan attack? How did God help his
servants? What does this reveal about God's mission for his church?
What did the apostles do? (21) What happened? (22-26) What can we
learn from them?
6. Read verses 27-29. How could the apostles overcome fear? How did
they use circumstances to preach Jesus? Read verses 30-32. What was
the content and point of their message?
7. Read verses 33-40. How did the Sanhedrin respond to Peter's
challenge to repent? What was Gamaliel's point? What happened? Read
verses 41-42. What was the apostles' attitude toward suffering?
8. Read 6:1-7. What problem arose as the church grew? How did the
apostles deal with it? What can we learn here from them?
In chapters 3 and 4 Luke recorded how Peter and John emerged as
victors, and how the believers made a giant leap in number and grew
stronger in the grace of Jesus, despite the threats of the Jewish
rulers. But the church of Jesus had to grow more, until it could fill
the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today's passage deals
with a couple who had no fear of God in their hearts. Most importantly,
in today's passage we learn the apostles' uncompromising spirit while
teaching the word of God.
I. "You have lied to the Holy Spirit" (4:36-5:11)
The early Christians were filled with the grace and spirit of
Jesus. They were free indeed in Jesus. Where the spirit of Jesus was,
there was true freedom (2Co 3:17). No one was stingy. Everyone was
generous. Everyone was filled with joy. There was a man named Joseph,
a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, meaning Son of
Encouragement. He sold a field he owned and brought the money and put
it at the apostles' feet (4:36). They say that money is the testing
stone of one's faith. In light of this saying, Barnabas was a true man
of faith. There was another man named Ananias. In contrast to Barnabas,
he was a fake Christian; he was a man of discouragement to all who were
in the early work and history of God.
The story about the couple Ananias and Sapphira is so serious that
many Bible scholars skip over their story, being afraid to comment on
it. From a human point of view, it was indeed a baffling event. But the
apostles were very clear about how to deal with this event. Here we
learn two things.
First, Peter's uncompromising spirit (1-4). These days many people make
use of the name of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their evil
doings. They act indiscreetly with the illusion that no one can see the
Holy Spirit with their eyes. Ananias is the first example in the New
Testament in committing such a sin. Ananias sold a piece of property
and kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and
lied to Peter that he had brought all of it. Probably he said to
himself, "I want recognition! It'll be okay if I hide some for my kids
and give the rest to the apostles as though I gave all of it." Ananias
and Sapphira brought a big amount of money to support the newly growing
movement. Because of their contribution, the church leaders could have
said, "Thank you, thank you!" It is hard for any church leader not to
compliment rich people like Ananias and Sapphira.
What did Peter do with them? Peter rebuked Ananias. Look at verse
3. "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your
heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself
some of the money you received for the land.'" Ananias was smart. But
in the spiritual world, his act of self-deception could not be
tolerated. The money was at his disposal before and after he sold the
land. Even if he had not contributed any of it, it would not have
mattered. What mattered was his self-deception. In self-deception he
lied to God's servants. But it was lying to himself, as well as to the
Holy Spirit. Not only so, but also he opened the gate of the fortress
of the early church of Jesus for Satan to come in. This is the reason
Peter rebuked him severely. What Ananias did was not even to be
considered in the church of Jesus. So Peter said to him in verse 4b,
"What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men
but to God." Humanly speaking, Peter could not rebuke him. But he
rebuked him, anyway. Thus he did not compromise with a rich man.
Second, the fear of God (5-11). Look at verse 5. "When Ananias heard
this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what
had happened." Again, verse 11 says, "Great fear seized the whole
church and all who heard about these events." In these verses, the word
"fear" means the fear of God. By the coming of the Holy Spirit, the
fear of God came upon them. The fear of God is the best medicine for
fearful people. Let's experiment on ourselves with this truth. Now,
please say, "I fear God." Then you can experience the peace of God,
because when you have the fear of God in your heart, the Holy Spirit
comes upon you. On the other hand, if you say, "I don't fear God. I can
sin freely," you will experience indomitable fear within you, because
when you have no fear of God, evil spirits come upon you (Ro.8:15).
When Adam feared God, he was happy all the time. But when he did not
fear God, being influenced by Satan's lie, he became fearful--so
fearful that to him, his beautiful wife looked burdensome. These days
many people have no fear of God; they commit sin freely. As a result,
they are paralyzed by fear and don't know what to do with their fear
problem. They must learn how to fear God, for, "The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of knowledge..." (Pr 9:10).
Peter also rebuked Ananias' wife Sapphira because she had tested the
Holy Spirit. When Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and
Ananias got for the land?" she said, "Yes, that is the price." She
should have helped her husband not to lie. But she did not fulfill her
mission as a suitable helper. Peter rebuked her, saying, "How could you
agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?" (9a) At the moment Peter rebuked
her, the feet of the men who buried her husband were at the door to
carry her out, also (9b). Lying to God is not a light matter. Those who
have a habit of lying to God will finally experience the tragic end
Ananias and Sapphira experienced.
II. The apostles' Bible teaching (12-42)
Were the apostles discouraged by the event of Ananias and Sapphira?
No! Rather, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and performed many
miraculous signs and wonders among the people. These early Christians
had no church building. So they met together to hear the word and pray
in the spacious open place surrounding Solomon's Colonnade. When they
prayed and listened to the word of life, there was a great work of
God. Firstly, many people in high positions were eager to join,
despite peer pressure (13). And a great number of ordinary people
believed in the Lord and were added to their number (14). In this way,
the word of God gained power and began to spread to the whole world.
Secondly, there was a great healing work. Of course, healing the sick
is not a monopoly of the church of Jesus: it has been done by many
people of other religions. However, in verses 12-16, Luke says that
where there was earnest prayer and Bible study, there was a powerful
healing ministry. And many bad people were changed into good people.
Where there was the work of the Holy Spirit, there was also the work
of Satan. Out of their jealousy, the Jewish rulers arrested the
apostles and put them in the public jail. The apostles were helpless to
do anything. But God was with them; God brought them out of the jail
through his angel and said in verse 20, "Go, stand in the temple
courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life." This
verse tells us that the ultimate mission of the church of Jesus is to
teach the word of God.
Meanwhile, police officers were sent by the Sanhedrin council to
bring the apostles from the jail to their courtroom. On arriving at the
jail, the officers did not find them there. So they came back and
reported, "We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing
at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside" (23).
What were the apostles doing after the angel brought them out of the
jail? Look at verse 21. "At daybreak they entered the temple courts,
as they had been told, and began to teach the people." Also, look at
verse 25. "Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail
are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.'" It is amazing
to see that they did not go to get some sleep or to eat breakfast, even
though they had suffered overnight in the jail. It is amazing to see
that they were teaching the word in the temple courts where, of all
places, their enemies could see them. They did not worry about what
might well happen to them at any moment. In this event, we can see in
them a clear picture of a man of mission. They were fearless. They were
filled with strength (25), and they gave the word of life to all
people, as they had been commissioned.
Again, the apostles were brought to appear before the Sanhedrin to
be questioned by the high priest. He said, "We gave you strict orders
not to teach in this name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your
teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." At
this moment when their hearts quailed, what could the apostles say?
They said, "We must obey God rather than men!" They feared God. So they
did not fear the threats of the interrogators.
It is amazing to see that the apostles began to witness Jesus to the
Jewish rulers in the courtroom. Read verses 30-32. "The God of our
fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him
on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior
that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are
witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has
given to those who obey him." Their witness to Jesus was the same, but
now they stressed repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. The
apostles invited them to repent.
When the Jewish rulers heard this message, they were furious and
wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher
of the law, who was honored by all the people, spoke up. He quoted the
examples of Theudas and Judas and said, "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" (35-39). His speech persuaded them. They called the
apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak
in the name of Jesus, and let them go (40). Obviously, the apostles had
been badly beaten up and threatened. But they were happy about their
sufferings and never stopped teaching. We learn two things from them.
First, the apostles had a right attitude toward suffering. In history,
many people suffered and died, not knowing why they suffered so much.
Peter also hated suffering; he wanted an easy and glorious life without
suffering, by virtue of Jesus (Mk 9:5). Later he came to know that
there are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that comes after
committing sin, and suffering for doing good (1Pe 2:20). God gave man
suffering as the means to grow in God. This is God's truth. So we must
accept this truth about suffering. Otherwise, we become like animals.
It is amazing to see that the apostles had learned the true meaning
of suffering through the crucifixion of Jesus. Finally they rejoiced to
suffer for his name's sake. Read verse 41. "The apostles left the
Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering
disgrace for the Name." Beating, threats and disgrace because of Jesus'
name did not make them bitter. Rather, they rejoiced because they had
been counted worthy of suffering for his name. The early apostles were
truly great men of God, and their attitude toward suffering was
glorious. Later Peter said to the early Christians who were under fiery
persecutions, "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of
Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1Pe
4:13). To our surprise, the desire to participate in the suffering of
Jesus our Lord is nothing but the beginning point of Christian life.
Second, they suffered endlessly to teach the word of God. Look at verse
42. "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they
never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the
Christ." At that time, it was illegal to teach people in Jesus' name.
And they were under immense pressure from the Jewish rulers. But they
did not stop teaching the Word.
At this time, we must think about why God commands them to teach the
word (20). It is because the word of God is the word of life. Jesus
taught the word of God to the people in season and out of season.
During the time of his ministry on earth, Jesus taught the word of God
to all kinds of people, who wanted something else more than the word of
life (Jn 6:60). Jesus taught the word even during the Passover week,
bracing himself for his upcoming crucifixion (Lk 22:47, Mk 14:43). It
was to give them the word of life. Paul realized this importance and
said, "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season" (2Ti
4:2a). Peter realized this importance also and said, "For 'All men are
like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the
grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands
forever'" (1Pe 1:24,25).
III. The decision to do no more business (6:1-7)
As the church grew, business also grew bigger. As business grew, the
number of complaints among the people also grew. Among the early
Christians there were two kinds of people--native Jews who spoke
Aramaic, and Greek-speaking Jews. Greek-speaking Jewish women
complained that they had received an unfair distribution of food
compared with the native Jews. It was a golden chance for the apostles
to make a big success. But to our surprise, they decided to hand the
business over to other people so that they might give more attention to
prayer and the ministry of the word. What impractical people they
were! But one thing was very clear. They made a clear decision of
faith to remain as evangelists, giving up the chance for big business.
What a great decision it was! They were men of faith and of
uncompromising spirit. They did not want to neglect the ministry of the
word of God because of business. So they chose seven men to take over
their business of food (5).
We are living in a democratic society. Democracy seems to be an
ideology to get mutual benefits by means of compromise. But in this
passage we learn the apostles' uncompromising spirit while teaching the
Word. They didn't compromise with a rich man. They didn't compromise
with worldly rulers. They didn't compromise with the chance to make a
big business. They were heroic. They were true leaders of the world.
They were true men of God who obeyed the Lord's command when he said,
"Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message
of this new life."