What is the Meaning of Acts 5.12-42

“Apostolic Healings and Fallout”

Acts 5:12-42

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Remember: Peter heals a man crippled from birth (3:1-8). The people witness this (3:9-10) and Peter responds to the people with his second sermon (3:11-26). Peter and John are arrested (4:1-4). They then appear before the Sanhedrin where Peter makes his defense (4:5-12). The Sanhedrin debate what to do with them (4:13-17) and they decide to release them (4:19-22).

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So we have a pattern here:

  • Peter heals (3:1-8)
  • Arrest (4:1-4)
  • Appearance before the Sanhedrin (4:5-12)
  • Release (4:19-22)

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We find a parallel to this in chapter 5:12-42

  • Apostles heal (5:12-42)
  • Arrest (5:17-24)
  • Appearance before the Sanhedrin (5:25-40)
  • Release (5:40)

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The point is found in the difference. It is very likely that Luke wanted to show his readership (Theophilus) that not only is Peter authoritative, but the other apostles as well.

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The scene is Solomon’s Portico, once again (Acts 3:11; 5:12).

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Last time they were here, it began the cycle that we have looked at: where they heal a man, there’s a speech, they are arrested and examined before the Sanhedrin and released.

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Once again there are signs and wonders. You remember, they pray for boldness and for signs and wonders. Here is where their prayers answered.

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Acts 5:13-14. How are we supposed to understand that “none of the rest dared join them” but that “believers were increasingly added to the Lord.”

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  • Bruce: the death of Ananias scared off all but the totally committed.
  • Stott: On the one hand, no-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people (13). This might just mean that the opposition lacked the courage to ‘join in disputation with them’, but the context suggests simply that they preferred to keep aloof rather than to associate with them. On the other hand, more and more people, both men and women, having no such fears, believed in the Lord and were added to their number (14). ‘On the one hand an awestruck reserve’, as Haenchen puts it, and ‘on the other great missionary successes’. This paradoxical situation has often recurred since then. The presence of the living God, whether manifest through preaching or miracles or both, is alarming to some and appealing to others. Some are frightened away, while others are drawn to faith.[1]
  • Marshall: unbelieving [‘rest’; Luke 8:10; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13; 5:6] Jews kept away from [‘did not join’] the Christians and left them alone. They may have been frightened lest half-hearted allegiance would lead to judgment. But if fear kept them away, they nevertheless could not help praising them as they were impressed by what they did.[2]

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The miracles: Acts 5:15-16

Who: Peter/shadow

Where: streets, on beds and couches

Recipients: multitude from surrounding cities

Ailments healed: sick, demon possessed.

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What follows in the rest of this chapter is the Jewish authorities’ response to the ministry of the apostles.

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There are five main actions that the authorities take.

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  • They put the apostles in jail (Acts 5:17–21a)
  • The Jewish Council calls for the apostles (Acts 5:21b–27a)
  • The Council questions them about their disobedience to Acts 4:17-18 (Acts 5:27b–32)
  • The Council wants to kill the apostles (Acts 5:33–39)
  • The Council takes Gamaliel’s advice not to kill the apostles (Acts 5:40–42)

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#1 They put the apostles in jail (Acts 5:17–21a)

The high priest and the Sadducees put all the apostles in jail. But during the night, an angel (ironically, the Sadducees, who imprisoned them, don’t believe in angels) opens the prison doors and tells the apostles to go back to the Temple and preach (to do the very thing that they have done to get in prison in the first place). And they did so.

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This is the first deliverance from prison. It will happen again in chapter Acts 12:6-19; 16:25-34.

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#2 The Jewish Council calls for the apostles (Acts 5:21b–27a)

In the morning, the opposition gets together to discuss what to do with the continued disobedience of the apostles. However, they are unable to find the 12. They quietly rearrest them when they find them in the Temple, out of fear for their own lives.

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This gives the impression that the unbelieving opposition is miffed over the powerful angel-backed community of the followers of Christ.

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#3 The Council questions them about their disobedience to Acts 4:17-18 (Acts 5:27b–32)

Now, the apostles questioned about their disobedience to Acts 4:17-18. Remember, the apostles of that time said they were going to disobey (4:19).

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Their testimony is that the apostles have done quite a good job at evangelizing. And you remember how the apostles would cast guilt on the Jewish authorities for the death of Jesus (e.g., Acts 2:36; 4:10)… This is interesting in light of Matthew 27:25.

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Second, they were determined to lay the guilt for “this man’s blood” on them, the Jewish leaders.[3]

probably guilt before the people, per v.26

Peter reiterates what he did back in Acts 4:19-20. Peter continues his address in verses 30-32. Peter reaffirms their guilt in the death of Jesus, but that the God of Abraham and the fathers raised Jesus from the dead.

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Jesus was raised and exalted and this grants Israel opportunity for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Peter appeals to the need for two witnesses (Deut. 19:15): the Holy Spirit and the apostles.

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The reader comes away with the impression that Peter and the apostles are doing God’s will.

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#4 The Council wants to kill the apostles (Acts 5:33–39)

Council wanted to kill the apostles, but this idea is successfully counteracted by Gamaliel (Paul’s teacher [Acts 22:3]; grandson of Hillel). This man was greatly respected by the people.

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In his speech, he counsels them, in effect, not to kill them, but to leave them alone because if their plan is only of human will, it will be overthrown. But if it is God’s will, it cannot be overthrown. And he uses two examples: Theudas and Judas. Since they’re ministries were not of God, but of man, they were overthrown.

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  • Whatever is of man will be overthrown
    • Theudas
    • Judas
  • Whatever is of God, cannot be overthrown
  • Therefore, let them alone.

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Even though this is a logical fallacy (false dilemma; limited alternatives[4]), it serves to emphasize the point once again that the ministry of Peter and the apostles is most certainly of God, since it is from such a respected source. For it has not been overthrown. Those in opposition are confounded.

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#5 The Council takes Gamaliel’s advice not to kill the apostles (Acts 5:40–42)

Lastly, the Council takes Gamaliel’s advice. Instead of killing them, they beat them and command them once again not to speak in the name of Jesus. But instead of causing fear, the beating caused them to rejoice that they had been found worthy of persecution. And not only is the beating ineffective, the command is not effective either (Acts 5:42).

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We can see this section beginning with the end of chapter 4 when the apostles are praying. The point is likely that for those who are filled by the Holy Spirit and praying, any persecution and opposition is ultimately ineffective, whether it be imprisonment were beating. Human commands against the will of God and human attempts at opposing God’s will will not be accomplished and will in the end be frustrated and God alone be seen as victor.

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from What is the Meaning of Acts 5.12-42

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  1. John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 112-13.

  2. I. Howard Marshall, vol. 5, Acts: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 122.

  3. John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 168.

  4. there certainly have been movements of men not “overthrown”!

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