Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Fifty: Acts 5 - Persecution   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
Story

Chapter Fifty:

Acts 5 - Persecution

                      THE NEW TESTAMENT

                         BIBLE STORY

                          Part Two

                      THE BOOK OF ACTS 
                             AND
                      RELATED EPISTLES

                      ACTS chapter Five 


ATTITUDE OF DECEPTION

     Here at the start of the New Testament Church of God it was
a time of explosive growth in the area of Jerusalem, and it was a
time for those who could give to indeed give to help in a
physical way the thousands of new converts, many from far outside
Jerusalem and even Palestine. For as we have seen many were
staying on in the city of Jerusalem to fellowship and learn more
from the apostles of Jesus, the truths of God's word. 
     In the context of all this needed "giving" and service to
fellow believers their was  a man by the name of Ananias, with a
wife called Sapphirah. They had certain possessions they could
sell to help out members of the Church of God. And they did sell
that possession. We are not told what the possession was, and it
really does not matter. But both Ananias and his wife Sapphirah
undertook a spiritual and physical deception. They want to be
known as being among the very generous ones who were selling
things and giving the money to the apostles, so in turn that
money could be used to help the brethren that needed help.  
     They came with the money and gave it to the apostles,
telling them that it was ALL the money that they had received
from selling their possession. This was NOT true, as they were
holding back some of the money for themselves. 
     
     Peter, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, was given
inspired revelation that this couple were lying about the money
they were giving being all the money from the sale of their
possession. 

     "Why have you lied, " said Peter to Ananias, "Why have you
     allowed Satan to come into your heart to fill you with this
     deceptive plan for vain glory, while you lie about giving us
     all the money you have received?"

     Was Ananias and Sapphirah NOT allowed to retain some of the
money, or even all of it, if they chose? Was it an apostolic rule
that people with possession should sell them and give all the
money received from the sale to the apostles? NO, not at all!
     Peter went on to say to Ananias, "Was not the possession
yours to do with as you desired? Did we command you to sell it?
And even after you sold it, was not the money yours to do with as
you willed? Yes, it was."
     Serving the brethren with physical goods and money at this
special time was VOLUNTARY, no one was forcing or demanding
anyone to do anything with their possessions. 
     "You have lied to the Holy Spirit Ananias, " Peter went on
to say, "You have not lied to men but to God," Peter finished
with those words and we are told that Ananias hearing those words
fell down and died. He was carried out and buried. It was soon
known to all in Jerusalem what had happened and as you can
imagine, great respectful fear came upon all who heard it.

     About three hours later, and Sapphirah came in to see Peter.
She had no idea what had happened to her husband. 

     Peter said to her:

     "Did you sell your possession for the amount of money you
     gave us?" 
     "Yes," answered Sapphirah, "We sold our possession and gave
     all of the money we received from it to you apostles."
     "You and your husband have lied," Peter declared raising
     his voice in righteous indignation, "You obviously both
     agreed to lie about this matter, and to test the very Spirit
     of the Lord! Well, the feet of those who carried your dead
     husband out of here a little while back to bury him for his
     lie, are right at the door and shall carry you out." 

     Then Sapphirah also immediately fell down dead at Peter's
feet. the men came in and indeed found her dead and carried her
out and buried her next to her husband.

     We are told again that great respectful fear came upon all
who heard about this matter and to what had taken place (Acts
5:1-11)

     The Spirit of God was moving in those days in ways that have
not been repeated since. It was a time of super-natural power
from God. We also note that the context of this event proves
beyond question that not one person was commanded or forced into
giving money to this special fund need for the brethren. It was
all done out of a ready heart and mind, as the person or persons
willed and determined. They were given full freedom to give to
this, shall we call it, "poor fund' or "special needs fund" for
the brethren in need. They had full freedom to not give, neither
God nor the apostles were demanding anything from anyone to
support the "needy brethren" fund. And to try and use that
situation to bring some kind of glory to yourself, among the
brethren, with deceptions and lies, the Lord was not going to
allow for one moment. 
     God was not allowing it those kinds of things to take place
at that time and history of the Church of God. That does not mean
to say God is still dealing out such penalties for deceptions and
lies in the Church of God. The somewhat sober truth is that such
deceptions and lies, and cover-ups, have taken place in the
Church of God in our modern era, and the Eternal has NOT stopped
it with such dramatic power. God deals with people and His family
of children in different ways at different times. Sometimes He
allows lies and deceptions in His Church to go unchecked for a
time. But the truth eventually comes to light and then it becomes
a TEST for what the people of God will do about it. Sadly,
many fall and stumble and are willing to be corrupted, in fact it
can be the majority who go this way. Then in such a circumstance
the faithful righteous have to move out and away from the cancer
of sin and Satan's mind-set.

MORE SIGNS AND WONDERS

     The apostles were continuing to perform many miraculous
signs and wonders among the people. For some reason not fully
explained many of the Christian believers were meeting at
Solomon's porch, an area of the Temple. Others who were not
believers did not dare to join them, or try to disturb their
meetings, those none-believers had very high regards for them.
Each day more and more people (crowds of men and women is
the way it is recorded) came to the saving knowledge and true way
of the Lord God.
     So powerful were the working miracles of the apostles that
people were brought out on the streets on mats and sleeping bag
type beds, just so the very shadow of Peter passing over them
would heal them. Crowds came in from towns and villages around
Jerusalem, bring their sick and those possessed by evil demon
spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:12-16)

THE APOSTLES IMPRISONED

     With all that was happening by the hands of the apostles of
Jesus, the High Priest and the sect of the Sadducees, were filled
with much indignation against them. They sent out the Temple
guards and with the authority they had, the apostles were cast
into the common prison of the Jews. But God sent an angel to open
up the prison doors, and to bring them out. The angel said to
them, "Go stand in the Temple and speak to the people
all the words of this life and truths of the Almighty."
     They were in the Temple early the next morning doing as the
angel had told them. The same morning the High Priest, and those
with him called for the Jewish Sanhedrin council (a body of
chosen men to govern many of the physical and spiritual matters
of the Jews) and the Senate or wise elders of Israel, came
together in order to bring the apostles before them, to answer
why they were continuing to teach in the name of Jesus,
as High Priest and elders had told them not to do so.
     The Temple guards went to bring the apostles before this
body of Jewish leaders, but of course the apostles were not in
the prison. The guards said to the council, "The prison looked
very normal, the doors shut in a locked and safe way, the prison
guards standing outside the prison doors. But when we opened the
doors, we found not one man inside."
     The High Priest, captain of the Temple, and council were all
perplexed and wondered where all these happenings would end
up...just what on earth was going on they questioned among
themselves. Then someone arrived to tell them that the apostles
were out in the Temple teaching the people. The Temple guards
were again sent out to arrest the apostles but in a manner that
would cause no alarm or disturbance, for by now the council was
afraid the people would turn on them in a violent way if they
mistreated the apostles in any physical way.
     The apostles were again standing before the Jewish council.
"Did not we tell you not to preach in this man Jesus' name,"
declared the High Priest with some anger in his voice. "Instead,
you have filled all Jerusalem with your teachings about Jesus,
the one you claim was the Messiah, and you intend to blame us for
His death!
     The apostles answered through Peter:

     "We must obey God before we obey any man's authority. The
     God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you
     killed Him by crucifying Him. Then God took Him back to
     heaven and put Him at His right hand as Prince and Savior.
     He has done all this to give the people of Israel an
     opportunity to turn from sin and turn to serving Him in
     spirit and in truth, and so sins could be forgiven. We are
     witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, which
     is given to all that will obey Him."

     Well at hearing these words the council was so furious that
they decided to kill all the apostles. But one of their members,
a Pharisees by the name of Gamaliel , an expert on Jewish
religious law, and very well respected among all the people, had
a different perspective on all that was taking place,. He ordered
that the apostles be taken out of the council room for a while.
Then he addressed his colleagues with these words:

     "Men of Israel, you better take care on what you are
     planning to do with these apostles of this Jesus man. Some
     time ago there was that Theudas fellow, who claimed to be
     someone great.  About four hundred others followed him, but
     he was killed and his followers all went their separate
     ways. The whole movement dissolved and came to nothing.
     After him, at the time of the census taking there came along

     the Judas of Galilee. He got some people to follow him, but
     he was killed also and all his followers were scattered. His
     movement amounted to nothing.
     So my advice is, leave these men alone, do no harm to them.
     If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their
     own steam and will-power, it will come to nothing. But if it
     is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You will be
     seen by many as fighting against God Himself."

     This is an interesting thought from Gamaliel. It has, or
shall I say, can have, indeed truth to it. We know that in this
particular case he was correct. We know this work of the apostles
WAS FROM God, and it would have not come to nothing even if all
the apostles had been killed. But we need to remember that these
words from Gamaliel are not for EVERY SITUATION, they are not a
catch all, perfect thought, for all and everything that comes
along in the world of mankind. Not all human movements are from
God, in fact it is probably safe to say that MOST religious or
secular "movements" are not from God, that He really has little
if anything to do with them, one way or the other. The facts are
that many human movements (some even against the laws and ways of
the Lord) do increase and do become large, and God is not with or
behind such movements. Some of those movements of men get so
strong and large that they influence the laws of Governments. An
example would be the movements of the "gay and lesbian groups" to
bring in Government laws to support "same sex marriages." The
same can be said for the "abortionists" who have gained enough
strength to have Governments enact "abortion on demand" laws.

     In this case Gamaliel was correct, but his wise words for
this situation at the time of the early months of the New
Testament Church of God, does NOT apply to ALL cases of men's
work in all circumstances, in all of human history. Many
movements of mankind, that were only from men, have not been
overthrown. Human history makes this very vivid. Of course if it
is from God and you try to fight against it you are indeed then
fighting against the Almighty, and will never win.

     The council thought Gamaliel spoke well and they accepted
his judgment. Probably God was in the minds of those men to make
that decision, for it was not the will of the Lord that His
apostles should die at that time.

     The council did have the men "flogged" - a type of whipping.
They had the freedom under Roman rule to so flog people as
punishment for whatever wrongs the Jewish council deemed was
wrong. It would seem the apostles did not appeal but took this
flogging in stride, as part of suffering for the righteousness of
God, no doubt thinking about what Jesus went through for being
nothing but good and perfectly righteous.
     Sometimes a Christian just has to stand and take it as it
comes. This is not always what to do, and it is not always what
God expects us to do, for we shall see later in the book
of Acts that Paul sometimes fled from physical harm. But
sometimes he stood and took the beating from others for teaching
the truths of God. We have Paul in the latter chapters of Acts
appealing to the high authority of Rome, being a Roman citizen he
had the right to so appeal the harsh treatment the Jewish leaders
were wanting to place on him. So running, appealing, or standing
to "take it all" is an individual matter for individual
situations, as guided by the Holy Spirit and the physical
circumstances you are in. In the situation before us in Acts, the
apostles stood and took what the Jewish council gave them - a
flogging.

     Once more the council ordered them not to speak in the name
of Jesus, and then let them go. The apostles left the high
council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy by God to suffer
dishonor in a physical way for the name of Jesus.

     Every day the apostles continued to teach and preach in
their homes and in the Temple about Jesus the Christ (Acts
5:17-42).

                ..............................

TO BE CONTINUED


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