Commentary: Acts 5

Chapter Five Outline:

I. Witness in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7)
<A-J in Chapters One through Four>
K. Ananias and Sapphira’s Lie (5:1-11)
L. Acts from Above (5:12-16)
M. Actions of Angry Leaders (5:17-42)

Summary [Chapter 5]:

The Messianic believers still worshipped in the courts of the Temple (mostly associated with Solomon’s Porch on the east side of the Temple plaza) and shared what they had with each other. Some sold property and then gave the proceeds to the apostles to distribute it as there was a need. These heartfelt acts of giving became marks of the followers of Jesus, and others began to mimic the giving, though not always for honest reasons, or with an honest heart. One such couple, Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of land but kept some of the money back for themselves. When presenting the money to the disciples they evidently lied about the amount they were giving, making a show of the gift. Ananias died on the spot before the apostles. When his wife came shortly after, she also lied about the amount of money and fell over dead and was buried alongside her husband. News of the event made all of the believers carefully consider their hearts, and began a long journey of the need to constantly renew their walk with God. This internal situation was but the first challenge or test to the fledgling movement. Because the group continued to gain in strength, the Temple leadership decided they needed to take action and imprison some of the Messianic leaders. While awaiting the hearing, an angel opened the cell and told the Messianic leaders to go back and preach in the Temple courts, so they left the cell and returned to the work. The High Priest was informed about the “escape” and had them brought into the council chamber for an immediate hearing. The Messianic leaders explained their message, and refused to refrain from preaching it. Fearing the response of the crowds and listening to some of the more moderate voices in the chamber, the Temple leadership allowed them to leave, and they continued to spread the message daily.

Chapter Five

5:18 “common prison” or in Greek, demosiosis refers to public, or belonging to the people. “Prison” or in Greek Teresis, refers to a place of keeping. Jewish prisons in the book of acts were used to keep persons awaiting trial or execution (Acts 4:3; Acts 5:18,21,23). Acts 22:19 shows prisons being used for imprisonment and some forms of punishment. Paul himself testifies in Acts 22:4, “ And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.” Roman prisons were used to control behavior by imprisoning the offender (Matthew 18:30). They were used as punishment for minor lawbreakers (Matthew 11:2 Acts 16:26). Acts 23:25; 24:27 indicates that prisons were part of government main offices. The Caesarea prison in Herod’s judgment hall is an example of a prison where Paul was kept for two years. For more about prisons, see note on Acts 16:23. 5:21 “senate”: literally the Sanhedrin chamber. The location of the chamber during this period (when construction on the Temple precincts was ongoing) is uncertain. During an examination of the area beneath the southern end of the Ancient Temple mount in Jerusalem (below the present Al Aqsa Mosque) an inscription was found that contained the Hebrew term “zaqenim” (Elders). As a result, many scholars believe the Sanhedrin council was located between the two sets of Hulda Gates in the base of the southern porch of the Temple by the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. It is possible the council was not yet meeting there in this case, and may have been nearer the Temple building proper adjacent to the Chamber of the Hearth.