Acts 5 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Acts 5)

Verse 1

[1] But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

But a certain man named Ananias — It is certain, not a believer, for all that believed were of one heart and of one soul: probably not baptized; but intending now to offer himself for baptism.

Verse 2

[2] And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

And bringing a certain part — As if it had been the whole: perhaps saying it was so.

Verse 3

[3] But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

To lie to the Holy Ghost — Who is in us.

And to keep back — Here was the first instance of it. This was the first attempt to bring propriety of goods into the Christian Church.

Verse 4

[4] Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

While it remained, did it not remain thine? — It is true, whosoever among the Christians (not one excepted) had houses or lands, sold them, and laid the price at the feet of the apostles. But it was in his own choice to be a Christian or not: and consequently either to sell his land, or keep it.

And when it was sold, was it not in thy power? — For it does not appear that he professed himself a Christian when he sold it.

Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? — So profanely to dissemble on so solemn an occasion? Thou hast not lied to men only, but to God also. Hence the Godhead of the Holy Ghost evidently appears: since lying to him, Acts 5:3, is lying to God.

Verse 5

[5] And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

And Ananias fell down and expired — And this severity was not only just, considering that complication of vain glory, covetousness, fraud, and impiety, which this action contained: but it was also wise and gracious, as it would effectually deter any others from following his example. It was likewise a convincing proof of the upright conduct of the apostles, in managing the sums with which they were intrusted; and in general of their Divine mission. For none can imagine that Peter would have had the assurance to pronounce, and much less the power to execute such a sentence, if he had been guilty himself of a fraud of the same kind; or had been belying the Holy Ghost in the whole of his pretensions to be under his immediate direction.

Verse 7

[7] And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

About the space of three hours — How precious a space! The woman had a longer time for repentance.

Verse 8

[8] And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

If ye sold the land for so much — Naming the sum.

Verse 10

[10] Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

The Church — This is the first time it is mentioned: and here is a native specimen of a New Testament Church; which is a company of men, called by the Gospel, grafted into Christ by baptism, animated by love, united by all kind of fellowship, and disciplined by the death of Ananias and Sapphira.

Verse 12

[12] And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.

And they were all — All the believers.

Verse 13

[13] And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

None of the rest — No formalists or hypocrites, durst join themselves - In an outward show only, like Ananias and Sapphira.

Verse 14

[14] And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

But so much the more were true believers added, because unbelievers kept at a distance.

Verse 17

[17] Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,

The high priest — and the sect of the Sadducees - A goodly company for the priest! He, and these deniers of any angel or resurrection, were filled with zeal - Angry, bitter, persecuting zeal.

Verse 20

[20] Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

The words of this — That is, these words of life: words which show the way to life everlasting.

Verse 23

[23] Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

We found the prison shut — The angel probably had shut the doors again.

Verse 24

[24] Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.

They doubted what this should be — They were even at their wits' end. The world, in persecuting the children of God, entangle themselves in numberless difficulties.

Verse 28

[28] Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.

Did not we strictly command you, not to teach? — See the poor cunning of the enemies of the Gospel. They make laws and interdicts at their pleasure, which those who obey God cannot but break; and then take occasion thereby to censure and punish the innocent, as guilty.

Ye would bring the blood of this man upon us — An artful and invidious word. The apostles did not desire to accuse any man. They simply declared the naked truth.

Verse 29

[29] Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Then Peter — In the name of all the apostles, said - He does not now give them the titles of honour, which he did before, Acts 4:8; but enters directly upon the subject, and justifies what he had done. This is, as it were, a continuation of that discourse, but with an increase of severity.

Verse 30

[30] The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

Hath raised up Jesus — Of the seed of David, according to the promises made to our fathers.

Verse 31

[31] Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Him hath God exalted — From the grave to heaven; to give repentance - Whereby Jesus is received as a Prince; and forgiveness of sins - Whereby he is received as a Saviour. Hence some infer, that repentance and faith are as mere gifts as remission of sins. Not so: for man co-operates in the former, but not in the latter. God alone forgives sins.

Verse 32

[32] And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

And also the Holy Ghost — A much greater witness.

Verse 34

[34] Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

But a certain Pharisee — And as such believing the resurrection of the dead; a doctor, or teacher of the law - That is, a scribe, and indeed one of the highest rank; had in honour by all the people - Except the Sadducees; rising up in the council - So God can raise defenders of his servants, whensoever and wheresoever he pleases.

Verse 36

[36] For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

Before these days — He prudently mentions the facts first, and then makes the inference.

Verse 38

[38] And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

Let them alone — In a cause which is manifestly good, we should immediately join. In a cause, on the other hand, which is manifestly evil, we should immediately oppose. But in a sudden, new, doubtful occurrence, this advice is eminently useful.

If this counsel or this work — He seems to correct himself, as if it were some sudden work, rather than a counsel or design. And so it was. For the apostles had no counsel, plan, or design of their own; but were mere instruments in the hand of God, working just as he led them from day to day.

Verse 41

[41] And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

Rejoicing — to suffer shame - This is a sure mark of the truth, joy in affliction, such is true, deep, pure.

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