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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 5

Ac 5:1-11. Ananias and Sapphira.

"The first trace of a shade upon the bright form of the young Church. Probably among the new Christians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up, every one eager to place his means at the disposal of the apostles" [Olshausen]. Thus might the new-born zeal of some outrun their abiding principle, while others might be tempted to seek credit for a liberality which was not in their character.

2. kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it—The coolness with which they planned the deception aggravated the guilt of this couple.

brought a certain part—pretending it to be the whole proceeds of the sale.

3-6. why hath Satan filled—"why … fill—"why hast thou suffered him to fill"

thine heart—so criminally entertaining his suggestion? Compare Ac 5:4, "why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" And see Joh 13:2, 27.

to lie to the Holy Ghost—to men under His supernatural illumination.

4. While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?—from which we see how purely voluntary were all these sacrifices for the support of the infant community.

not lied to men but God—to men so entirely the instruments of the directing Spirit that the lie was rather told to Him: language clearly implying both the distinct personality and the proper divinity of the Holy Ghost.

5. Ananias … gave up the ghost … great fear came on all that heard these things—on those without the Christian circle; who, instead of disparaging the followers of the Lord Jesus, as they might otherwise have done on the discovery of such hypocrisy, were awed at the manifest presence of Divinity among them, and the mysterious power of throwing off such corrupt matter which rested upon the young Church.

6. the young men—some of the younger and more active members of the church, not as office-bearers, nor coming forward now for the first time, but who probably had already volunteered their services in making subordinate arrangements. In every thriving Christian community such volunteers may be expected, and will be found eminently useful.

7-11. Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much—naming the sum.

9. How is it that ye have agreed together—(See on Ac 5:2).

to tempt the Spirittry whether they could escape detection by that omniscient Spirit of whose supernatural presence with the apostles they had had such full evidence.

feet of them that buried thy husband are at the door—How awfully graphic!

10. buried her by her husband—The later Jews buried before sunset of the day of death.

11. And great fear came upon all the church, &c.—This effect on the Christian community itself was the chief design of so startling a judgment; which had its counterpart, as the sin itself had, in Achan (Jos 7:1-26), while the time—at the commencement of a new career—was similar.

Ac 5:12-26. The Progress of the New Cause Leads to the Arrest of the ApostlesThey Are Miraculously Delivered from Prison, Resume Their Teaching, but Allow Themselves to Be Conducted before the Sanhedrin.

12. Solomon's Porch—(See on Joh 10:23).

13-16. of the rest durst no man join himself, &c.—Of the unconverted none ventured, after what had taken place, to profess discipleship; but yet their number continually increased.

15. into the streets—"in every street."

on beds and couches—The words denote the softer couches of the rich and the meaner cribs of the poor [Bengel].

shadow of Peter … might overshadow some of them—Compare Ac 19:12; Lu 8:46. So Elisha. Now the predicted greatness of Peter (Mt 16:18), as the directing spirit of the early Church, was at its height.

17-23. sect of the Sadducees—See on Ac 4:1 for the reason why this is specified.

19. by night—the same night.

20. all the words of this life—beautiful expression for that Life in the Risen One which was the burden of their preaching!

21. entered into the temple, &c.—How self-possessed! the indwelling Spirit raising them above fear.

called … all the senate, &c.—an unusually general convention, though hastily summoned.

23. the prison … shut … keepers … before the doors, but … no man within—the reverse of the miracle in Ac 16:26; a similar contrast to that of the nets at the miraculous draughts of fishes (Lu 5:6; Joh 21:11).

24-26. they doubted—"were in perplexity."

26. without violence, for they feared, &c.—hardened ecclesiastics, all unawed by the miraculous tokens of God's presence with the apostles, and the fear of the mob only before their eyes!

Ac 5:27-42. Second Appearance and Testimony before the SanhedrinIts Rage Calmed by GamalielBeing Dismissed, They Depart Rejoicing, and Continue Their Preaching.

27, 28. ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine—noble testimony to the success of their preaching, and (for the reason mentioned on Ac 4:4) to the truth of their testimony, from reluctant lips!

28. intend to bring this man's blood upon us—They avoid naming Him whom Peter gloried in holding up [Bengel]. In speaking thus, they seem to betray a disagreeable recollection of their own recent imprecation, His blood be upon us," &c. (Mt 27:25), and of the traitor's words as he threw down the money, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood" (Mt 27:4).

29, 30. Then Peter, &c.—(See on Ac 2:22, and Ac 3:13, &c.).

31. Prince and a Saviour—the first word expressing that Royalty which all Israel looked for in Messiah, the second the Saving character of it which they had utterly lost sight of. Each of these features in our Lord's work enters into the other, and both make one glorious whole (compare Ac 3:15; Heb 2:10).

to give—dispensing as a "Prince."

repentance and remission of sins—as a "Saviour"; "repentance" embracing all that change which issues in the faith which secures "forgiveness" (compare Ac 2:38; 20:21). How gloriously is Christ here exhibited; not, as in other places, as the Medium, but as the Dispenser of all spiritual blessings!

32, 33. we are his witnesses … and the Holy Ghost—They as competent human witnesses to facts, and the Holy Ghost as attesting them by undeniable miracles.

33. cut to the heart and took—"were taking."

counsel to slay them—How different this feeling and the effect of it from that "pricking of the heart" which drew from the first converts on the day of Pentecost the cry, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Ac 2:37). The words used in the two places are strikingly different.

34. Then stood up … Gamaliel—in all probability one of that name celebrated in the Jewish writings for his wisdom, the son of Simeon (possibly the same who took the infant Saviour in his arms, Lu 2:25-35), and grandson of Hillel, another celebrated rabbi. He died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem [Lightfoot].

35-39. Theudas—not the same with a deceiver of that name whom Josephus mentions as heading an insurrection some twelve years after this [Antiquities, 20.5.1], but some other of whom he makes no mention. Such insurrections were frequent.

37. Judas of Galilee—(See on Lu 2:2, and Lu 13:1-3) [Josephus, Antiquities, 13.1.1].

38. if … of men, it will come to naught—This neutral policy was true wisdom, in the then temper of the council. But individual neutrality is hostility to Christ, as He Himself teaches (Lu 11:23).

40-42. beaten them—for disobeying their orders (compare Lu 23:16).

41. departed … rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name—"thought worthy by God to be dishonored by man" (Mt 5:12; 1Pe 4:14, 16) [Webster and Wilkinson]. This was their first taste of persecution, and it felt sweet for His sake whose disciples they were.

42. in every house—in private. (See on Ac 2:46).

ceased not to preach Jesus Christ—that is, Jesus (to be the) Christ.

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