To Speak or Not to Speak – Bearing Witness in Acts 5

God’s power is once again evident in the opening of Acts 5 with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Remember, Luke didn’t use chapter divisions and while this is a different story his theme is the same – God is accomplishing his purposes in a very visible way despite opposition.

  • Chapter 1 – Jesus comissioning them and his ascension into heaven.
  • Chapter 2 – The wind, the fire, the tongues in opposition to the naysayers and those who had killed Jesus.
  • Chapter 3 – Healing a man crippled for over 40 years and opposition by Jewish authorities.
  • Chapter 4 – Healing a crippled man and speaking through uneducated men in opposition by the Jewish authorities.
  • Chapter 5 – Solidarity of the community opposed by Ananias and Sapphira. God’s healing and message opposed by the temple authorities.

For the text of Chapter 5 click here.

Peter’s words in 5:9 are important and key to understanding how the story of Ananias and Sapphira fits the broader context of this passage – “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Bottom line is God is to be respected and not to be trifled with. He will accomplish his purpose his way and no one can withstand him.

In the verses that follow 5:12-16 tells us that the apostles were highly regarded among the people and then 5:17 says that the high priest and his associates were filled with jealousy. The apostles are thrown into jail and during the night an angel of the Lord released them. The angel tells them, “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” This is in direct violation of the orders from the Jewish authorities in 4:18. The NIV has 4:18 say “not to speak” and 5:20 to has “and tell the people.” Even though the NIV doesn’t reflect this, Luke uses the same word in both verses. It is a clear distinction that God’s command is in direct opposition to the religious authorities. When Peter is confronted by the authorities in chapter 4 and 5 he tells them the same thing – that he will obey God over man every time (4:19-20 & 5:29). Peter also uses a word we heard in chapter 2 – that they are witnesses of these events, which also has to do with telling someone about something.

The result? They are flogged and again ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus (5:40). Do you think they learned their lesson? Discipline normally hopes to associate a negative outcome with a particular action. The Jewish leaders wanted them to learn that preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name results in pain and would surely discourage them from doing that again. What was their reaction? Acts 5:41 – they went on their way rejoicing! How can you rejoice amidst this kind of treatment and pain? How can you rejoice when your back is torn ragged and the social shame that you experienced is so intense? Some of you have found yourselves in the midst of pain and suffering and still found the strength and resolve to rejoice! In the coming chapters we will see that these Christians were willing to take far more than a beating for Christ. They will even lose their lives for the priviledge of proclaiming the message of the Christ.

What cost are we willing to pay to proclaim the message of Jesus? In a world of political correctness that says exclusivism is not an option we bear the message of the one who says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” Jesus says he is ultimate truth in a world that is trying to hard to reject truth. Are we willing to tell others the truth that is found in Jesus even if it costs us something? In a world that threatens us with socially unacceptable labels if we stand for Jesus, maybe we too could use to pray the prayer these believers prayed in Acts 4:29 – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

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