Lesson 13: Multitudes Added to the Lord/ All Apostles Arrested/ The Council Persuaded by Gamaliel
Thanks for coming! Please enjoy your study. If you have your New Testament in place we will start by reading Act 5:12 - 16. Let's read:
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. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 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 beads and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 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 headed everyone.
The Holy Spirit continued to confirm the word by many signs and wonders, according to v. 12. The parenthesis that includes the last part of v. 12 and all of v. 13-14 gives us some interesting information. The disciples continued to meet in and use Solomon's porch. I get the impression from v. 13 that the disciples and perhaps others showed even greater respect and awe to the apostles than before. Verse 14 shows the church was still growing. Women, as converts, are mentioned here for the first time, although they were implied before. Their mention here could mean the percentage of women being baptized had increased.
believers were the more added to the Lord...
The disciplinary action taken by the Holy Spirit with respect to Ananias and Sapphire did not lesson the number of converts. Elders in the Lord's church today do not possess the Holy Spirit in such baptismal measure as the apostles did. They cannot do wonders and signs as the apostles did. Yet, they are charged with the responsibility of taking care of the church of God - see I Timothy 3:5. Proper discipline is constructive, and promotes the growth of the church. Verses 15-16 gives us a hint with respect to the wonders and signs mentioned in v. 12. Notice in v. 16 many come from cities and villages round about Jerusalem. This carries with it the implication the church is spreading from Jerusalem. Possibly the nucleus of congregations were established in these towns. This agrees with what Jesus had told the eleven apostles in Act 1:8. The church would spread from Jerusalem to Judea. This prophecy was being fulfilled according to v. 16. The remaining 25 verses in this chapter tell us how the high priest and those Sadducees were becoming more and more indignant as the church continued to grow. Let's read v. 17-18,
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, and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
The high priest was apparently Annas, the same one mentioned in v. 6 of Chapter 4. He was the presiding officer of the Sanhedrin. Annas served in this office for life and was accepted by the Jews as the rightful high priest. However, the Roman authorities appointed a political high priest, to suit them. Thus, the title was used by more than one person at a time. Caiaphas, who held the political office, was the son-in-law of Annas. They were both Sadducees. Notice the Sadducees were provoked or filled with indignation. It was this irrate group who arrested the apostles and put them in jail. The common prisons must have been the same cells where Peter and John were detained before. Like the last time, they were put in prison for detention until the next day, not to be punished. This must have had a negative psychological effect on hundreds or even thousands of the less courageous brethren, especially new converts. This is what the Sadducees were hoping, I'm sure. Let's read v. 19-20 and the first sentence in v. 21.
But the angel of the Lord by the night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.
The word angel used in v. 19 is a little mysterious. There are four more similar acts done by angels before we complete the book of Acts. The word angel comes from a Greek word meaning messenger. We are not told anything, with reference to bodily form of the angel. I would assume this angel was similar to the two men who stood by the apostles, in white apparel, when Jesus ascended in Acts 1:10. This angel, opened the prisons doors. Notice doors is plural. We do not know how many cells this represents. The words,
Brought them forth
means they were guided or directed by the angel. Verse 20 is the message given to the apostles: Go, stand, and speak. They were to stand in the temple, speak to the people. Notice what they were to speak,
All the words of this life. That means exactly the opposite to
Speak henceforth to no man in this name.
You can see, angels and councils don't always agree. They obeyed the angel. The Revised Version says:
Who did they teach? Did those priests have a night shift? Somebody was there because it says, they taught. Let's continue our reading, v. 21 - 24,
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. But when the offices 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. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priest heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
I would assume the council and senate of the children of Israel are the same thing. The council came together. Can't you just see those officers walking up to those empty cells. Can you imagine the excitement this generated? We learn something else here: there were guards or keepers by those prison doors. How did the angel handle that? If those apostles could speak languages they never learned, I believe the Holy Spirit could handle a simple problem like getting around a few guards. What about Annas and the captain? I'll bet they were about ready to hang some of the guards and officers. Notice the last part ofv. 24.
they doubted of them where unto this would grow Verse 25, let's read,
Then came one and told the, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
That's exactly what the angel had instructed, right? But, that message must have perked up some ears. Verse 26;
Then went the captain with the officers and brought them without violence; for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
Apparently the apostles had attracted a crowd by the time this took place that morning. I get the impression in v. 26 the captain and his officers were very courteous to these 12 men in the manner in which they directed and brought them to the council room. Now v. 27, let's read;
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council.
The guards marched these 12 in. In the last pan ofv. 27 it indicates the high priest began his examination before the council. You would have expected the high priest to ask about how they got out of prison but this was not mentioned. Any answer they gave could have been embarrassing to the captain of the temple, it was not mentioned. And, it very well could be, the council members were not aware of what had happened for v. 24 mentions only the high priest, the captain, and the chief priests. This point is not certain. Verse 28 is the high priest's examining remark.
Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
This statement is equivalent to charging them with contempt of court. They were told before not to teach in the name of Jesus. They have violated the court order. You will note, or course, only Peter and John were before the council before. Thus, the violation applies only to Peter and John and their influence. This may account for the fact, in v. 29, that Peter is mentioned as one of the spokesmen for the group. The question was probably addressed to him. The word "behold" expresses shock or surprise. The charge,
ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine
tells us that the Sadducees were very aware of the apostles activity and furthermore the zeal of the apostles is affirmed to us by their enemies. The had been very busy teaching, and the teaching has its effect. The last charge;
[you] intend to bring this man's blood upon us
is a rephrasing of Peter's statement before the council on the former occasion. He said,
by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, who God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (Acts 4" 10)
The statement of the high priest about bringing Jesus' blood upon them gives you and insight into his thinking. But it couldn't be denied; they had insisted Pilate kill Jesus. They were responsible. Matt. 27:1 says,
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took council against Jesus to put him to death...
The last statement of the high priest in v. 28 is intended to imply that Jesus' death was justified and further, it was calculated to excite feelings of anger in the councilmen. Notice in v. 29 the other apostles gave answers too. Let's read their statement. Verse 29, let's read;
We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with this right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things' and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The first part of their statement is the same as was used before the council the first time. The council claimed to derive its power from God under the Law of Moses. These apostles are saying: the council is not following the instruction of God. If they were as informed as they claim to be, they would recognize that Jesus was the Christ, whom God had promised to raise up. Notice in v. 30, the apostles do not back down on the charge about bringing Jesus' blood upon the council. Rather, they reaffirm the charge is true. They say that God exalted this Jesus, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins in v. 31. This is not a specific quotation from the prophets, but a summary in substance of the promises in the Old Testament. Now to clinch the argument, v. 32, they oppose the council, head-on, affirming they are witnesses of these things. Now a question; To whom does God give the Holy Ghost? (v. 32) the answer is to them that obey him.
they were cut to the heart
according to v. 33. What does that mean? The apostles had preached essentially the same thing on Pentecost that they here affirmed before the council. They told the crowd on Pentecost;
ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Acts 2:23
They were pricked in their heart, i.e. the 3000. They were willing to admit and face up to the consequences. This council in v. 33
were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
Notice how the same message affects different persons! Jesus had taught the apostles in the parable of the sower, that different men have different hearts, which he compared to different soils. (Luke 8) Some in the council wanted to KILL THEM! They were willing to do whatever it took! Who cares about conscience? Compromise conscience! I want it my way! Have you experienced that attitude? On the other hand some must have been passive. Sometimes people are very rational, they consider the case on it's merit; they can put their finger on reality anywhere it exists. Then they say, "I know it's wrong, BUT...but, the crowd is doing it." Everybody else is doing it. Have you heard that kind of reasoning? When my children and students used to give me that old line, I would tell them: If everybody's doing it, that's probably a pretty good reason why you shouldn't. This council is composed of 70 - 72 men. Experienced, educated men; men looked up to and accepted as leaders, by the Jewish people. Now, do you believe every man in that group was a one-track thinker? Did they all have selfish motives? 70 men? Some didn't hesitate, KILL 'EM! But, there just had to be, some in that crowd, who saw the lame man healed. Some were there on Pentecost, they put guards around Jesus' tomb, they MUST have known Jesus arose from the dead, they had seen the miracles of Jesus. If these 12 were killed by this mob, or even if the politicked the Roman governor of Judea into doing it for them, as they did with Jesus; then it would be because some were passive. That is, they went along with the crowd. Pilate did it. Can you see how important it is to take a stand? Verse 34 tells us of just one such level-headed man. His name was Gamaliel.
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.
Gamaliel saw it was time to deliberate. We do not know whether the 12 men were kept in a group or separated. Can you imagine the thoughts and anguish of these 12 men as the moments passed and the officers kept them secure? They didn't know whether they would live another day or not. They were well aware of the fact that it had been only 12 hours or less from the time Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, until he was on the cross. Would they die? They must have been aware that some in the council were agitating for their death. The Holy Spirit had directed the apostles' speech and directed them. If their time had been courageous this time and had acted in good faith, with nothing to be ashamed of OK, let's see what Gamaliel had to say, v. 35 -39;
Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days arose 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 naught. 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. And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone: for it this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow ill; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
Did you notice in v. 34 that Gamaliel was a Pharisee? The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of life and life after death. Remember, it was the Sadducees that brought these men before the council. Do you get Gamaliel's argument? Be cautious, don't go off half cocked. He saw the envy in the council. His advice was:
take heed to yourselves what ye intended to do as touching these men.
That is, don't act radically. Get all the facts, act only on the facts, don't act on prejudice and envy. You see, the council didn't have the power or authority to kill these men anyhow. Only the Romans had that power. Gamaliel referred to a couple historical examples, Judas of Galilee and Theudas, with whom the council was, no doubt, knowledgeable. Verse 38-39 Gamaliel expressed and undecided and unprejudiced view:
if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. They were still sensitive enough to know that what Gamaliel said was true. It also gave them a way to save face and appear to be broad minded like Gamaliel. They liked that! They also liked the thought that these apostles might meet their fate by a run-in with the Roman Government or in some other way. v. 40 says,
And to him they agreed.
What it Gamaliel had not acted? What if he had been passive? What if he had went along with the crowd? I trust you see what valuable lessons the Bible teaches us. I trust how you can see, how these lessons are needed in out lives, in our community, in our nation, in our world, today. It might be pointed out, in passing , this man Gamaliel was a teacher of the apostle Paul, whom we shall meet later in this book. Now, these Sadducees, and the more radical element of this council were still burning, steaming, and stewing. Their hearts were that kind of soil. Now, that doesn't mean they couldn't change. Just as soils can change with time and cultivation, so can the hearts of men. The final action the council took is recorded in the rest of v. 40,
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.
Notice, this time they went a step further than the council went with Peter and John. They whipped or beat the 12 apostles. They gave them another court order and let them go. May I make a point here? These apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were baptized with the Holy Ghost. Yet, these powers were not used to lessen their own pain. These powers were not used to force Christianity upon their enemies. These powers were never used but for one purpose: that purpose was to confirm the WORD, and establish the kingdom. When the Bible was completed and the church was firmly established the point was made. The miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit ceased; just as Jesus had finished his work according the John 17:4 and God had ended his work in Genesis 2:2. This does not mean God is dead! God is with us today! God is just NOT working the kind of work today that He worked in Genesis. This does not mean that Christ is not with us today. Jesus said, you will remember, at the end of the great commission in Matt. 28:20;
and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
Jesus had not quit, he is just as much alive as ever. Hebrews 4:15 points out He is touched by the feeling of our infirmities. But he has finished his work of establishing the kingdom. The miraculous work of the Holy Spirit ceased with eh had finished that work. The Bible will now furnish a man to every good work, (see II Timothy 3:16-17). It was prophesied by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13:10
when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
Now, that does not mean the Holy Spirit is not with us today. He dwells in baptized believers, remember Acts 2:38? In I Corinthians 6:19 it says;
your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.
The fact that miracles have ceased today does not mean the Holy Spirit is not capable of acting miraculously today. It's just that THAT phase of his work is completed. The word has been confirmed. Hebrew 2:3-4 essentially says this very thing. Thus, the apostles were men just as we are. However, they were assisted by the Holy Spirit in ways that we are not assisted because we do not need that assistance. Notice in v. 41,
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Can you imagine that? Beaten with, we don't know how many stripes, they rejoiced. Oh! They had pain. You better believe it, it hurt. But, the sting of that whip was temporary and momentary. They would have dies, with the same attitude, had it been required. This life is God's proving ground. The life after, can be an eternity of bliss. If we understand this, we can rejoice right in the face of pain, discouragement, and bereavement. We will suffer shame for His name willingly. Verse 42 tells us how the apostles complied with that order of the council.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased NOT to teach and preach Jesus.
Thus, the Holy Spirit got the message to those apostles and disciples and to us: Christianity grants no immunities for pain and the threats of this life. The message is clear, you must obey God regardless of conflicts with government, society and group pressures.