Bible Study (Acts 5:21-42) – Wednesday November 15, 2023

In the second part of Acts 5:21, Luke describes how the Caiaphas the high priest and his fellow Sadducees called for a council gathering, the full council of elders. As they assembled, they sent for the imprisoned apostles to be brought to appear before them. The servants quickly returned empty-handed, reporting that the heavily guarded and locked prison no longer contained the apostles. This stunning news greatly perplexed the religious leaders, wondering how there could have been such a flagrant breach of security. As they sat in disbelief, a messenger appeared announcing that the apostles were close by, teaching the people right in the temple! The captain of the temple and his officers quickly went and retrieved the apostles, careful not to use force, lest the people stone them.

When the apostles were set before the council, the high priest led an interrogation of them, declaring that they had forbid the apostles from teaching in Jesus’ name, and yet the apostles had filled the entirety of Jerusalem with exactly what had been forbidden! Further, Ananias alleged that the apostles were determined to blame the priests as responsible for the death of Jesus, a blame that the priests thoroughly resisted. To this allegation, Peter (speaking on behalf of all the apostles) replied that it was necessary for them to listen to and obey God rather than what these priests had instructed them to do.

Following on the theme of obedience, Peter then explained WHAT this God who must be obeyed had done. The God of their fathers, the same God of both the apostles and the religious leaders, had raised Jesus back to life from the dead after the religious leaders had evilly murdered on the shameful, cursed place of a tree. Despite their hope that heaven wouldn’t receive such a cursed person, God reversed their plan, exalting Jesus at His right hand as Leader and Savior. What a vindication of Jesus and His claims, and what a perilous condition this put the religious leaders in. Peter’s statement intentionally equated Jesus with Yahweh as God. Furthermore, Jesus had been exalted to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins. What a gracious offer to such murderous men, if they would but turn in repentance and faith, acknowledging the true identity of Jesus! Peter declared that the apostles are testifying of all these recent events, led by the ultimate guarantor of these truths … the Holy Spirit. Those who hear and believe the gospel, turning from their sin to believe that Jesus is Lord, are given the Spirit of Christ as a gift.

When the Sanhedrin responded with unmitigated rage, desirous to kill the apostles, a well-respected teacher of the law from the Pharisees, Gamaliel, stopped the interrogation to stand to give his counsel to the group while the apostles waited outside. He cautioned them to not act rashly but rather to take time and consider the matter. To explain why he was warning them, Gamaliel provided 2 examples of other insurrectionists (Theudas and Judas) who had attracted followers for a short period of time but then were executed with their teachings and followers then dwindling away to nothing. Gamaliel supposed that the same thing would occur with the dead Jesus, His teachings, and His followers. Of course, he failed to recognize that the followers of Jesus continued to gather and increase numerically after His death … because Jesus was no longer dead: Jesus is alive! However, Gamaliel was wise enough to realize that this movement could potentially be of God, and so he advised the other men that if that were the case, then it would be impossible to stop this new Christian movement.

The council of elders were largely persuaded by Gamaliel’s counsel. They summoned the apostles and had them flogged instead of pursuing death sentences for them. The apostles were then permitted to leave, threatened again to cease their teaching completely. As they left the presence of the council, they continually rejoiced at the realization that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor on account of Jesus’ name. And with reinvigorated boldness, these beaten men continued to teach and preach (in both the public and private sphere of life) that Jesus is Lord, the promised Messiah, the long-expected Messiah of Jewish expectation. They continued to obey God rather than men!

You can listen to this teaching on Acts 5:21-5:42 by clicking on the following link: Joy In Suffering