Journey through the New TestamentBook of Acts with me. The plan is simple. Read ONE chapter a day. Blog or journal 5* things you learned that you previously didn't know and ask 5* questions about the chapter that you'll ponder all week. Let's go!
** You'll probably learn way more than 5 things and have more than 5 questions about each chapter. That's totally fine. The more the merrier!
QUESTION 1: Were Ananias and Sapphira genuine followers of Jesus Christ who gave in to the temptation of the devil, or were they never “in Christ”, thereby revealing the true nature of their (lack of) faith through their action?
QUESTION 2: When verse 11 says, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” Was this a reverent kind of fear that resulted in greater worship and respect for the Holy Spirit or was it the kind of fear that made some people opt out of being part of the Church? We’re told how many people were added to the Lord, but were there some who “slipped out the backdoor” as a result of what happened? (As if often the case in our Churches today when a tough message on sin is preached?)
QUESTION 3: When verse 15 says, “…they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.” Does this imply that Peter’s shadow actually healed people or is this just the author’s way of expressing how desperate the crowds had become? Is verse 15 connected with the ending of verse 16 where it says, “…and they were healed?”, thereby indicating that Peter’s shadow DID heal people, as did Paul’s handkerchiefs in Acts 19:11-12?
QUESTION 4: If Gamaliel had enough sensitivity to what God was doing in the Church to give such brilliant advice in verse 33-39, might this be an indication that he at some point later turned to faith in Jesus (considering also that his star student, Paul would later become an apostle of Jesus)?
QUESTION 5: In verse 42, the apostles returned to the temple to preach Jesus as the Christ. This was the very place where, earlier they had been warned TWICE and flogged once; and this was the very message they had been strongly warned TWICE not to preach. What happened when the religious leaders saw (or were told) the apostles were back at the same location doing exactly what they had been told not to do? Did the religious leaders allow them to continue to meet in the temple as a way of following through on Gamaliel’s counsel, hoping the movement would simply dissipate? How did they react when instead of “coming to nothing”, the Church increased in size?
WHAT I LEARNED
INSIGHT 1: Ananias and Sapphira’s sin wasn’t that they withheld their money from the Church. It was theirs to have and theirs to keep (v.4). Their great sin was their premeditated lie. They knowingly plotted to mislead the Church as if to test whether the Holy Spirit could see what they had done in secret. Peter says as much in verse 9 when he speaks to Sapphira, “Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?”
INSIGHT 2: The early months/years of the Church was a dangerous time to test the power of the Holy Spirit because Christ was building his Church through the Holy Spirit and bearing witness to His name through the Holy Spirit. To allow sin to go unchecked would tarnish the witness of the Church and it would potentially spread like a cancer in the community, hence why it had to be “checked” rather abruptly by the Holy Spirit (verse 5, 10). “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” - Galatians 5:19
INSIGHT 3: An event like this (the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira) would ordinarily turn people away from joining the Church; which is partly what verse 11 and 13 seems to suggest; “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things…. Yet none of the rest dared join them…” But verse 14 brings to light the truth of how Jesus grows HIS Church. In spite of how terrifying it may have seemed to be a part of this new movement, “…believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women”. Dealing with sin and speaking directly against sin in the Church will turn some people away, however, God will always continue to draw to Himself through His Holy Spirit those whom He has called to eternal life (and they will come).
INSIGHT 4: The Holy Spirit was so profoundly active in Peter’s life that even those who brushed shoulders (“…shadow of Peter”) with him experienced the healing power of God! (v.15). When we spend ample amount of time in the presence of God, His manifest power and presence will “rub off” on people who spend time wit us.
INSIGHT 5: The gathering of multitudes from the surrounding cities (v.16) seeking healing and freedom from tormenting spirits is a fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
INSIGHT 6: The Sadducees are back at it again in verse 17. For the second time (Acts 4:1), these men oppose the Gospel and put the apostles in prison. Whereas in the earlier account they were greatly annoyed because the apostles spoke about the man (Jesus) they murdered, here they are just plain jealous of the movement’s growth.
INSIGHT 7: There is great irony in the High Priest’s statement in verse 27-28 about the apostle’s intention to “…bring this Man’s blood on us” considering that in places like Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 11:18, Luke 22:2, this same high priest along with the leading priests and Jewish leaders were hell-bent of killing Jesus!
INSIGHT 8: Considering the setting and his audience, Peter’s mini-sermon in verse 29-32 is the boldest sermon ever preached. It is also a clear answer to the Church’s prayer for boldness in Acts 4:29.
INSIGHT 9: The Sadducees and the high priest are an obstinate bunch in that after affirming the wisdom of Gamaliel’s counsel, they not only have the apostle beaten, but they pretty much maintain their stance that the Gospel is not to be preached (v.40).
INSIGHT 10: While the disciples were being beaten for being Jesus’ witnesses, Jesus’ words in Luke 6:22-23 must have been ringing in their minds, evidenced by the fact that in verse 41, they were, “…rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”
INSIGHT 11: It was quite daring of the apostles that after being warned TWICE and flogged once, they returned to the very location where they had just experienced persecution! “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (v.42)
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.