Acts 5.29-32

In response to the high priest’s question in v.28 the apostles reply with this:

“We must obey God rather than people. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him”.

(Acts 5.29.32, NET)

The response is so good, isn’t it?

The apostles make abundantly clear that their priority is to obey God first and foremost (v.29, 32). Then they clearly and simply present the Gospel as the major motivating factor behind their preaching and teaching. They say that man is sinful and in need of a Saviour and Jesus died because of this (whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree). Using the specific example of the council’s role in the crucifixion, tied to the prophetic imagery of Deuteronomy 21.22-23, would have made this point crystal clear to the apostle’s audience. Jesus was then raised (God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior) and now as a result of this man has the opportunity for forgiveness and salvation (to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins).

Very simply, the apostles were obeying God and preaching in the name of Jesus because of the Gospel, the truths of the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for those who hear and believe.

As with innumerable things in our lives, the Gospel gives us a why.

Why were the apostles comfortable being questioned and interrogated here?

Why do we love, forgive, seek justice, offer mercy, and find grace?

Why do we know that even in our darkest hour things will be ok?

Why do we have an inner strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow, despite what may be going on around us?

The Gospel.

The Good News of God in Jesus that despite the fact that we are sinful and fallen and broken, Jesus died to pay the price our sin deserves and to offer you forgiveness and salvation.

Acts 5.21-28

Picture the scene: the religious leaders of a religious city have some dissident preachers arrested and thrown in prison. The next morning they gather to discuss and decide what to do (v.21). To their shock the prisoners are gone yet nothing looks amiss at the prison (vv.22-23). There is confusion and a genuine lack of understanding as to how this has all happened (v.24). News reaches this council of leaders that their prisoners are standing in their own space, the temple, and still preaching (v.25). The council set off to bring them in again, but this time without force and harassment in case anyone stands up for these miraculous escapees (v.26). Then, they level a fascinating accusation:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!”

(Acts 5.28, NET, emphasis added)

The fact that they had filled Jerusalem with [their] teaching was beyond doubt. Then, interestingly, the high priest speaking for the council says that the apostles [intended] to bring this man’s blood on [them]!

Was the goal of their peaching to induce guilt? Did the apostles want to make the religious leaders feel utterly terrible about the part they played in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus? Is this what is meant by having His blood on them?

Or, were they seeking to have the religious leaders, those entrusted with the guardianship of the Old Testament Scriptures (a body of text that testifies in every nook and cranny about Jesus’ coming) come to faith in Him? Is this what the high priest means by “…you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!”?

Perhaps it is both. Perhaps from the perspective of the religious leaders it was felt that the preaching of the apostles was nothing more than an attempt at insurrection. Rather, it was a testimony to the resurrection. A continuing witness not to insurrection, but resurrection. It can be so interesting to see how different perspectives on the preaching of the Gospel can view such a seminal event. I love what David Guzik wrote on this:

“The high priest no doubt meant that the apostles intended to hold the Jewish leaders responsible, in some measure, for the execution of Jesus (as in Acts 2:23). Yet, we know that the apostles must have desired for the high priest and the other Jewish leaders to come to faith in Jesus, even as some other priests did (Acts 6:7). For certain, the apostles wanted to bring the covering, cleansing blood of Jesus upon the high priest and others in the council”.

(Enduring Word)

Today then, take a moment and think about how you think about the cross of Christ and its preaching. How does it make you feel?

Read 1 Corinthians 1.18-31 and see how different perspectives on the cross show themselves in our lives.

Acts 5.17-21

Most often when we see people making a positive difference for Jesus in the pages of Scripture, those who push back against it are not far behind. In Acts 5.17-18 we see that the high priest and the Sadducees have the apostles arrested and thrown in prison. Changing the status quo, changing the religious landscape of a place so focused on religious rhythms and routines was always going to have consequences.

Then, ironically for the Sadducees that don’t believe they exist, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out. Another miraculous and supernatural occurrence in the story of the apostles and another very clear reason why:

“Go and stand in the temple courts and proclaim to the people all the words of this life.”

(Acts 5.20, NET)

Freed from prison to preach the words of life found in Jesus. Of course, hearing this and seeing its miraculous circumstances the apostles go to the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

It can be tempting to read passages like this in Scripture and assume that this is God’s modus operandi, His standard way of operating. We can wrongly read about it happening to the apostles that established the church and assume that we too will be delivered from all harm, incarceration, persecution, or illness. What was done to establish the movement and the church is not necessarily what is always done. Yes, God has the power to deliver us from anything He chooses; danger, imprisonment, disease, persecution, or illness. Simply because we see it happening here in Acts doesn’t mean it will happen every time for us. Take the example of the apostles and Gospel writers themselves:

“· Matthew was beheaded with a sword.

· Mark died in Alexandria after being dragged through the streets of the city.

· Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.

· John died a natural death, but they unsuccessfully tried to boil him in oil.

· Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.

· James was beheaded in Jerusalem.

· James the Less was thrown from a height then beaten with clubs.

· Philip was hanged.

· Bartholomew was whipped and beaten until death.

· Andrew was crucified and preached at the top of his voice to his persecutors until he died.

· Thomas was run through with a spear.

· Jude was killed with the arrows of an executioner.

· Matthias was stoned and then beheaded – as was Barnabas.

· Paul was beheaded in Rome.”

(Enduring Word)

The safety and comfort of the apostles was not the reason for their deliverance here in Acts 5, and neither is our safety and comfort the reason we are delivered in Jesus. Yes, we should hope to see God work powerfully and miraculously in our own lives, but should never be disappointed if He chooses not to. As the lives and times of the apostles show, sometimes there is the miracle, sometimes there is not. Choosing to trust the wise and loving God behind them regardless is what we should do.

Acts 5.12-16

In Acts 4.30 we see the believers praying that signs and wonders will be performed through the name of…Jesus. Today in 5.12-16 we see those prayers being answered:

Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high honour. More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets, and put them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them. A crowd of people from the towns around Jerusalem also came together, bringing the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits. They were all being healed”.

(NET)

We read that many miraculous signs and wonders came about and that this created a buzz among the people. More than creating an exciting environment that people wanted to be a part of, we see that more and more believers in the Lord were added to their number. Seeing the supernatural has stirred them to believe in the source of the power. When we see miracles in Scripture there is always a reason, there is always a ‘why‘ to the wonder.

People are so sure that there is something supernatural happening within this group that they believe that simply the shadow of Peter falling on some of them would heal them. In their minds, to be overcome and overshadowed by Peter’s shadow was to experience the presence of God and therefore be healed.

This remarkable and amazing time of Divine healing is establishing the new movement, reaffirming the faith of those present, and drawing new believers to the truth. The apostles, though, rather than taking the adulation that being a conduit for supernatural events can bring, knew where the power for healing and miracles came from (3.12, 4.30) and no doubt used each and every opportunity to proclaim the truths of Jesus.