Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
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.
And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
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.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
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.
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
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.
And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
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.
And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
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.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
7-11. Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much—naming the sum.
And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
9. How is it that ye have agreed together—(See on Ac 5:2).
to tempt the Spirit—try 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!
Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
10. buried her by her husband—The later Jews buried before sunset of the day of death.
And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
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.
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
Ac 5:12-26. The Progress of the New Cause Leads to the Arrest of the Apostles—They Are Miraculously Delivered from Prison, Resume Their Teaching, but Allow Themselves to Be Conducted before the Samhedrim.
12. Solomon's Porch—(See on Joh 10:23).
And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
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.
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
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.
There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
17-23. sect of the Sadducees—See on Ac 4:1 for the reason why this is specified.
And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
19. by night—the same night.
Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
20. all the words of this life—beautiful expression for that Life in the Risen One which was the burden of their preaching!
And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
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.
But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
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).
Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
24-26. they doubted—"were in perplexity."
Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
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!
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
Ac 5:27-42. Second Appearance and Testimony before the Samhedrim—Its Rage Calmed by Gamaliel—Being 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!
Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
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).
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
29, 30. Then Peter, &c.—(See on Ac 2:22, and Ac 3:13, &c.).
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
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!
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
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.
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
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.
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
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].
And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
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.
For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
37. Judas of Galilee—(See on Lu 2:2, and Lu 13:1-3) [Josephus, Antiquities, 13.1.1].
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
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).
But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
40-42. beaten them—for disobeying their orders (compare Lu 23:16).
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
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.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
42. in every house—in private. (See on Ac 2:46).
ceased not to preach Jesus Christ—that is, Jesus (to be the) Christ.