“Go, Stand, Speak” (Acts 5:12ff)
Mighty Acts Among the Multitudes (verses 12-16)
Solomon’s portico was a regular place of meeting for the early Christians in Jerusalem. From the very beginning, the primary, regular, corporate life of the church was characterized by the assembling together. Because of God’s judgment on Ananias and Sapphira, there was both a fear among those inside and outside the church, as well as a desire to be joined to His people. What was alarming, causing them to keep themselves at a distance, was also appealing to others, leading them to come and know the Savior and then be joined to the church. It’s important to note that they first believed in the Lord, and were then added to the church, rather than the reverse. We belong to the church of Christ because we first belong to Christ.
Peter in particular was recognized as a man of God, and people were convinced that the power of God would heal through him. The miracles that the apostles were enabled to perform were corroborating displays of the truth of their testimony about Jesus. These very miracles and signs, along with the many conversions, were answers to the prayers of the early church (e.g. Acts 4:29-30).
Restrained, Released, Resolved (verses 17-32)
All of the attention the apostles were getting, the mighty deeds being performed by them, and their powerful preaching (after they had already been told not to preach Christ), all led the zealous Jews to irate jealousy. They hoped that by jailing the Apostles, they might silence them, but their efforts were proven powerless when the angel led them freely through the prison gates. God commands them to go, stand, and speak in the temple, the very thing that the Sanhedrin had forbidden (4:18).
The the Jewish leaders were called to lead Israel in righteousness, but they instead stood guilty before God for slaying His chosen One. However, despite their hatred of Christianity and of Christ, Peter emphasizes that Christianity is not the contradiction of Judaism—it is its fulfillment (v30). Yet, although Peter brings the accusation against them for crucifying the Son, He also assures them that the One they crucified has been exalted to the place of authority to now grant forgiveness even to those who killed him! Far from being a threat to the Jewish nation, Peter is announcing that Jesus is actually the great hope of Israel!
- Jealousy is not difficult to define, since we are all acquainted with the temptation toward it: someone else gets the attention we crave, some else’s child receives the compliments, someone else experiences success in their business, etc. Are there any areas of jealousy in your life? How should the gospel instruct us when we are prone toward jealousy?
Worldly Wisdom and Continued Witness (verses 33-42)
The response of the Jews to the hope Peter is setting before them seems unfathomable: intense anger with the intention of killing the apostles. Gamaliel, a mature and respected Pharisee, cautions the political elites. He suggests that rebellions led by those who are supported only by human authority will implode and collapse, but if God is authoring it, they will not be able to stop what is happening. Representing the heart and attitude of many Jews, Gamaliel didn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, or that He was raised from the dead, or that salvation is offered through Him, or in His deity. His appeal was not an appeal to the truth, but rather a default to indecision—a pragmatic passivity. Gamaliel assumed that Jesus would prove to be a fraudulent imposter, just like the two examples he cited. His counsel was mere worldly wisdom, wanting to find safe middle ground with regard to Christ.
Gamaliel’s worldly counsel was taken, but before releasing the apostles, they beat them. It was meant to be a serious lesson to offenders in an attempt to silence them. But their efforts were counter productive, and the apostles even rejoiced in the opportunity to suffer for Him. In deliberate disobedience to the Jewish leaders, and in direct obedience to Jesus, they kept on preaching Jesus as the Christ.
- It is striking to see the obedience of the apostles to the Lord’s commands, even when it meant going against the commands of the Jewish leaders. When do you find it most difficult to obey Jesus’ commands when it goes against the current of our culture? What encouragement can we find from this account to do His will, even when it goes against the will of those around us?