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Chapter V

The Sin and Punishment of Ananias and Sapphira

SummaryThe Deceit and Death of Ananias. Of Sapphira. The Increase of the Church. The Signs and Wonders. The Rage of the High Priest and the Sadducees. The Imprisonment of the Apostles. The Prison Doors Opened. Teaching in the Temple. Again Arrested and Threatened. Their Bold Answer. The Resolve of the Sanhedrim to Slay Them. The Wise Counsel of Gamaliel. The Apostles Beaten and Let Go.

1. But. Amid the peace, grace and abounding liberality of the church there was one dark spot. The sin and fate of Ananias and his wife must be recorded.

2. Kept back part of the price. Like many others, of their own accord they sold a possession for the benefit of the church. They were not compelled to sell it, or when sold to give the money, or to give all. Their sin was not withholding a part, but lying about it. (1) They gave from the wrong motives, not 434for the Lord, but for human praise. (2) There was hypocrisy and falsehood. His wife being privy to it. Hence equally guilty. There was a guilty conspiracy between them. Brought a certain part. Pretending it was all. His was a deliberate, public lie.

3, 4. To lie to the Holy Ghost. The sin is here pointed out. The lie was not to men, but to God. The apostles were moved by the Holy Spirit. These verses show clearly that the sin was hypocrisy and deception in the name of religion. These verses also show that the gifts of goods were purely voluntary.

5. Ananias … gave up the ghost. Fell down and expired. There was a visible judgment upon him for his great sin. It was inflicted by the Holy Spirit through Peter, and shows how hypocrisy is regarded by the Lord.

6. The young men arose, wound him up. Wrapped his mantle tightly around him. Carried him out. Of the place of meeting and out of the city for burial. It was common, in the warm climate of Palestine, to bury on the day of death. Severe examples occurred at the outset of both Dispensations. Note the case of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1, 2) and the sin of Achan (Josh. 7:16–25).

7. His wife … came in. To the place of assembly, not having heard of her husband's fate, but full of his spirit.

8, 9. Whether ye sold the land for so much? Naming the amount offered by Ananias. Instead of the confession that would have saved her, she persisted in the lie agreed upon, died as he had died, and was buried in the same tomb.

10. The young men came in. It had required three hours to carry Ananias out of the city to the tomb and return. The gloomy incident occurred and is recorded for a wise purpose: to teach the church in the outset that even if we can deceive men, we cannot hope to deceive God. It is an example.

11. Great fear came upon all the church. Not of outward enemies, but of so sinning as to invoke the punishment of God. It was a salutary fear. 435

12–14. By the hands of the apostles were many signs. Note that no one thus far has miraculous power but the apostles. The gift of miracles was not general. When it was imparted to others, we learn how it was imparted. All with one accord in Solomon's porch. The apostles, in order to preach. See 3:11. The brethren also with them.

13. Of the rest. Of their enemies. That the phrase does not include all who were not Christians is shown by what follows in verse 14. Multitudes of converts were constantly made.

14. Both men and women. This is one of a number of instances in which women are named in early church history. As remarked elsewhere, at first the converts were mainly men. Now there are also women.

15, 16. They brought forth the sick into the streets. The fame of the miracles, and especially of Peter's, caused this to be done. It is not said that the shadow of Peter falling on them did any good, but the people supposed it might. The object is to show the great favor of the apostles with the people. It was a time, however, when multitudes of miracles were wrought.

17. Then the high priest rose up. Was stirred to action. Annas is, no doubt, meant. See note on 4:6. His sect, the Sadducees, co-operated with him. They were determined to stop the preaching of the resurrection. See note on 4:1.

18. Put them in the common prison. In the city jail, among malefactors. “The 'common prison,' corresponding to our jail, consists of a single room in the governor's cellar, with a floor of earth, and one small window, where all manner of people, from the murderer to the insolent debtor, are promiscuously crowded together. The only furniture consists of a bench, always occupied by the strongest; the rest lie on the floor, or stand. We have visited prisons of this kind where we could only stand a few moments upon the threshold on account of the foul air. The keepers remain outside of the door (Acts 5:23), but the prisoners are not bound.—Van Lenneps.

19. The angel of the Lord … opened. The language would apply, if the doors were opened by any providential agency, but the messenger was probably a celestial one.

20. Go, stand and speak in the temple. They were to return at once to their interrupted work. 436It would give a powerful impulse for the imprisoned preachers to be at their place and work the next morning. This life. The eternal life denied by the Sadducees.

21. Called the council. The Sanhedrim, for the trial of the apostles, supposing them still in prison. All the senate. Many think that a body of elders and other influential leaders were called to assist in the deliberations.

23. The prison truly found we shut. All was as usual and the guards before the doors, but the prisoners gone.

25. Then came one and told them. The mystery was explained by the word that, as usual, the apostles were preaching in the temple.

26. Brought them without violence. The favor of the people for the apostles was so shown that they feared a tumult.

27, 28. The high priest asked them. As president. He charges (1) that they had disregarded the authority of the Sanhedrim; (2) they had filled Jerusalem with their doctrine; (3) they would work up the people to indignation against the rulers for condemning Christ.

29–32. Peter's defence asserts (1) that God must be obeyed rather than earthly rulers; (2) God raised up Jesus whom they hanged on the cross; (3) exalted him to his right hand; (4) to be a Prince and Savior, to grant Israel the opportunity to repent, and to obtain forgiveness; (5) that they were witnesses of these 437facts, and so was the Holy Spirit. Given to them that obey Him. The Holy Spirit is given only to those who have submitted to the Lord (Acts 2:28 and John 7:38, 39). It dwells only in the obedient heart.

33. Cut to the heart. Convulsed with rage, not sorrow. Took counsel to slay them. Concerning the expediency of putting them to death.

34. A Pharisee, named Gamaliel. Observe that it is a Pharisee that opposes violence. Gamaliel was the most distinguished Jewish rabbi of this time. His fame is preserved in the Talmud. He was a grandson of Hillel, a still more famous teacher. Paul was his pupil (Acts 22:3).

35–39. Ye men of Israel, take heed. Gamaliel's temperate and wise speech advises (1) deliberation; (2) if they were impostors their movement would come to nought like that of other impostors, if let alone; (3) but if of God, it could not be overthrown. Theudas. Some leader, only mentioned here, probably raising a commotion in the disturbances that followed the death of Herod the Great. Judas of Galilee. A zealot who had opposed the payment of tribute not many years before, in a.d. 8, and was overthrown and slain. He is named by Josephus.

40. To him they agreed. He carried the Sanhedrim with him. Called the apostles, and beaten them. While rejecting the punishment of death, they decided to scourge them for disobedience. Scourging was often inflicted even by the rulers of the synagogues. The scourging was on the bare back, and bloody and cruel. 438

41. Rejoicing. This was their first experience of physical torture for Christ, but not the last, and it gave them joy to suffer for one who had suffered for them. One of the features of the early church was the welcome given to shame, suffering and martyrdom endured for Christ's sake.

42. Daily in the temple. Undeterred by suffering and threats, they still preached the cross in the most public place in Jerusalem, as well as from house to house. 438

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