Acts 5-6

Thursday Evening Bible Study

September 13, 2007


The church has been birthed. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers and things began to take off. There are now over five thousand believers in the church. God is doing miracles. People are coming to the Lord.

Yet with any good work, as long as it involves humans, there will be a day when things go wrong.

When Moses set up the tabernacle, Nadab and Abihu took things into their own hands and ended up toasted (Lev. 10)

When Israel first came into the promised land, Achan thought he could get away with taking things he shouldn’t have touched, and his compromise led to defeat for the nation (Josh. 7)

We’re going to see the first of many problems hitting the church.

The last chapter ended with a description of how the believers in the early church were so generous in giving to the church, including a man named Barnabas who sold a piece of property and gave it to the church … (Acts 4:34-37)

Acts 5

:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira

:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.

AnaniasAnanias – “whom Jehovah has graciously given”

SapphiraSappheire – “a sapphire”

This husband and wife have a piece of property and they too sell their property like Barnabas did.

:2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

kept backnosphizomai – divide; embezzle, it’s translated “pilfer” in Tit. 2:10.

:3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?

Satan filled your heart to lie – Peter isn’t saying that Ananias is possessed and Satan is inside him. He is saying that this purpose of Satan to lie to the Holy Spirit is what has filled Ananias’ heart.

We do not believe that a believer can be demon-possessed.

(1 John 4:4 KJV) Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
(1 Cor 10:21 NKJV) You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.

But though Satan can’t control or possess you as a believer, he can influence you.

It’s a sad fact that some of the meanest people in the world are not unbelievers, but believers.


Expect problems

Some folks are quite shocked to find out that there are problems within the church. Over the years we’ve had a boatload of problems right here at Calvary Chapel of Fullerton.
We come to know Jesus and find His grace and mercy, and think that church must be a place where everyone walks in the Spirit and always does the right thing.
The truth is, that just ain’t the case.
Safe Driver
A woman in her eighties was determined she would keep driving. Naturally her family was concerned about her slower reflexes. She would go out at night alone, so they were disturbed about her safety. They told her about muggings, kidnappings, and carjackings. They thought that it would keep her at home. But it didn’t; Instead, she went out and bought a gun - a .38 special. She didn’t know a thing about handling a gun, but she loaded it up and shoved it in her purse. She decided she would use it if someone gave her problems; Well, she was walking out of this store during the Christmas season with her packages. She looks over and sees these three guys in the car and they’re slammin’ the door. She thinks, “This is my moment:” So she reaches in her purse, pulls out her gun, walks right up to the car window and says, “Get out of my car! Get away from behind that steering wheel! You guys, move!” Three guys got out and ran in three different directions; By now a crowd had gathered and they were staring at her and smiling. She was feeling pretty proud of herself. So she put her gun in her purse and got her keys out and the keys didn’t fit. It wasn’t her car.
Whenever two humans get together, we can expect that there will be problems. What’s surprising for some of us it to find that sometimes the problem is with … ME.

:4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."

Doctrinal note: In verse 3 Peter says he lied to the Holy Spirit. In verse 4 Peter says he lied to God. Peter is making the Holy Spirit equal with God.



The problem was not that they kept some of their money. The problem was that they were pretending to be something they weren’t. They were pretending to give everything but were keeping some for themselves.  We call this “hypocrisy”.
George MacDonald wrote, “Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not.”
Warren Wiersbe writes, When I was pastoring my first church, the Lord led us to build a new sanctuary. We were not a wealthy congregation, so our plans had to be modest. At one point in the planning, I suggested to the architect that perhaps we could build a simple edifice with a more elaborate facade at the front to make it look more like an expensive church. “Absolutely not!” he replied. “A church stands for truth and honesty, and any church I design will not have a facade! A building should tell the truth and not pretend to be what it isn’t.” Years later, I ran across this poem, which is a sermon in itself: They build the front just like St. Mark’s, Or like Westminster Abbey; And then, as if to cheat the Lord, They make the back parts shabby.

:5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.

:6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

Middle Eastern burial customs – bury the body quick before it starts to stink. He’s already dead and buried before his wife even knows about it.

:7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

:8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much."


Tell the truth before you get caught

Peter could have told her first about what had happened to her husband. It’s possible that she would have admitted her sin then.
But instead Peter leaves her in the dark to see if she will on her own admit to what she had done.
Sometimes we are afraid of admitting the truth because of the consequences and the truth doesn’t come out until we get caught in our lie.
God would prefer that we learn to live in truth.

Truth is the key to growing up.

(Eph 4:15 NKJV) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up …

The church is supposed to be a place of truth.

(1 Tim 3:15b NKJV)  … the pillar and ground of the truth.

God wants truth on the inside.

(Psa 51:6 NKJV) Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts…

This is the opposite of hypocrisy. 

The expression “face the music” is said to have originated in Japan.  According to the story, one man in the imperial orchestra couldn’t play a note. Being a person of great influence and wealth, he had demanded that he be given a place in the group because he wanted to “perform” before the emperor.  The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra, even though he couldn’t read music.  He was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, he’d raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers.  He would go through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound.  This deception continued for two years.

Then a new conductor took over.  He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player personally.  One by one they performed in his presence.  Then came the flutist’s turn.  He was frantic with worry, so he pretended to be sick.  However, the doctor who was ordered to examine him declared that he was perfectly well.  The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly he had to confess that he was a fake. He was unable to “face the music.”

In his book Living the Christian Life, George Duncan told of a remark made at the funeral of Fred Mitchell, chairman of the China Inland Mission.  One of the speakers said this:  “You never caught Fred Mitchell off his guard because he never needed to be on it.” Duncan called that statement “one of the most remarkable tributes I ever heard paid to any Christian.”

:9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

It seems that Peter has an idea of what the Lord is going to do and he expects her to keel over and die as well.

:10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.

:11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

Would you join a church where you tell a lie and drop dead? You’d want to be real careful about joining a church like this…

:12-16 A powerful church

:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch.

Solomon’s Porch seems to have been one of the places where the early church hung out in the Temple. It was where the people had initially gathered after the lame man was healed and Peter explained what happened (Acts 3:11). It was a meeting place in the outer court along the eastern wall.

:13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.

:14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

On one hand, there was a general reluctance among the unbelievers to get too close to the Christians (vs.13). And yet there more and more people coming to the Lord (vs.14).

:15 so that 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.

This can almost sound superstitious, but there is a sense in which God will meet people where they’re at. With Jesus, the people had this notion that if they could touch the hem of His garment, they would be healed.

(Mat 9:21 NKJV) For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."

(Mat 14:36 NKJV) and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.

:16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Amazing, powerful miracles were happening in these early days.

:17-26 Imprisoned and released

:17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,

The high priest was a Sadducee, and they did not believe in a resurrection. They didn’t appreciate the fact that Peter and the apostles were claiming that Jesus rose from the dead.

:18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

Remember that when Peter and John healed the lame man (Acts 3), they got into trouble because they were giving Jesus the credit for the miracle. The Sanhedrin had “sternly warned” them to not talk anymore about Jesus. It’s possible that this time all twelve apostles are put into prison.

:19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,

They get a little help from their friends.

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

:21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.

The apostles were quick to obey what this angel was telling them to do. They went back to the temple and taught.

But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

:22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported,

:23 saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!"

The guards were guarding empty, locked prison cells.

:24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.

wondereddiaporeo – to be entirely at loss, to be in perplexity

:25 So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!"

:26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.

The officers were nice about gathering up the apostles. The officers were afraid that the people would stone them if they were too rough.

:27-32 On trial again

:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them,

:28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

this name – the high priest can’t even bring himself to mention the name of Jesus.

It sounds as if the high priest is worried about a public backlash against them for having Jesus put to death. Peter has made it quite clear in his messages that the leaders as well as all the people did have a hand in it.

:29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.

Obey God - We mentioned this principle last week as well (Acts 4:19-20).


Obey God

They were commanded to obey their leaders, but they have chosen to disobey because they felt God wanted them to keep preaching about Jesus.
Most of the time it is important that believers learn to obey the government and those in authority over them (Rom. 13).
But there are going to be times when you are faced with the fact that obeying the government is going to make you disobey God.
You are going to be faced with a choice.
When you choose to obey God, understand that there may be consequences. You may not get a pat on the back for doing the right thing.

:30 "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

whom you murdered – Peter doesn’t compromise his message. He still reminds them they had a hand in it.

:31 "Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

:32 "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."

Remember that the coming of the Holy Spirit was to empower the church to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). We see it continuing to happen.

The Holy Spirit is “witnessing” about Jesus by working miracles through the church.

:33-42 Gamaliel’s advice

:33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.

:34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.

GamalielGamaliel – “my recompenser is God”;  He was one of the great Jewish religious scholars of all time. In fact, prior to the death of Gamaliel, when a teacher taught, he sat, and his students stood, but when Gamaliel died, they said, “the glory of the law ceased, and purity and Pharisaism died”, and from that time, students no longer stood while being taught the law. One of his most famous students was the apostle Paul (Acts 22:3) This was a man who was respected so much among his peers that if he wasn’t already at this time, he would eventually become the “president” of the Sanhedrin. When Gamaliel speaks, people listen.

:35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

:36 "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

We don’t know much about this fellow Theudas. Gamaliel’s point is that after the fellow was killed, the group eventually dissolved. It seems he expects that these followers of Jesus will eventually just go away.

:37 "After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.

JudasHis revolt (about A.D. 6) is described by the Jewish historian Josephus (“Antiquities of the Jews”, Book XVIII, 1:1); The followers of this Judas became the “Zealots.” Judas too was killed, his followers were scattered.

:38 "And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;

:39 "but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest you even be found to fight against God."


Letting God work.

There is a decent principal here to pay attention to, but also to be careful to balance.
Sometimes the correct course of action is to let something go and see if it lasts.
This will be a good thing for the apostles, because their lives would be spared.
There is some practical wisdom to Gamaliel’s advice – he’s trying to keep the apostles from becoming martyrs and possibly becoming even more influential in their death.
But sometimes the attitude of “just let it go” is not always a healthy one. When faced with something evil, the thing to do is to take a stand.
The saying goes, “All it takes for evil to increase is for good men to do nothing”. This was the attitude that allowed Hitler to rise to power in Germany, people not speaking up and resisting him.
The story goes that a big storm was on the horizon, and the police cars went through the small farming community to warn the citizens to head for high ground. Farmer Bill heard the warning, but decided that he was just going to stay put and trust God. When the rain began to fall, and the water began to rise, the firemen came by in a boat, offering to evacuate Farmer Bill, but he said, “No, I’m going to stay put and trust God.” Finally, as Bill had to climb out onto his roof to get away from the raging flood, a helicopter came by offering assistance, but Farmer Bill stayed put. When Bill got to heaven, he was kind of ticked off at God. He said to God, “How come you didn’t rescue me from the flood when I trusted you!” God gently replied, “Bill, I sent a police car, a rescue boat, and a helicopter. What did you expect?”
Sometimes the thing God wants us to do is to take action.

:40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Even though they agree with Gamaliel, they still have the apostles beaten, probably because they disobeyed their earlier order.

:41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Jesus had said to them,

(Mat 5:10-12 NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

For many of us we just don’t get it. Why would someone be “rejoicing” over being beaten and threatened?
The apostles seem to realize that they are a part of something that God is doing.  They are doing what Jesus says to do – rejoice.
Why is it we don’t understand how to rejoice like this?
Peter would later write,
(1 Pet 4:12-14 NKJV) Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; {13} but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. {14} If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

I wonder if part of the rejoicing came from knowing they were doing the right thing. Part of the rejoicing came from the work of the Spirit of God on them.

:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

They continue to not stop talking about Jesus both in the temple as well as at home.

Acts 6

:1-7 Seven Deacons

:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

Note: At this time in the church, there is still much being done in “common”. This means that there is some sort of food distribution going on, whether to the whole church or just to the widows.

The early church took seriously the job of taking care of widows. Widows had a difficult time financially.

A problem has appeared in the church between two groups of people. Keep in mind that at this time all the members of the church are Jews.

The “Hebrews” are the Jews primarily living in Israel, who speak Hebrew, and who are careful to hold to Jewish culture.

The “Hellenists” (KJV – “Grecians”) were the Jews who were either living or had grown up in other parts of the world, who spoke Greek, and who had adopted the Greek culture.

Apparently the “Hellenists” felt that their widows were being cheated at dinner time.

:2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

servediakoneo – to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon; this is where the word “deacon” comes from.

tablestrapeza – a table; an eating place; the table or stand of a money changer

The idea of serving tables might be like a waiter handing out food. It could also carry the idea of distributing funds to support the widows.

Either way, the idea is aimed at meeting the needs of these gals.



It’s not that the apostles were too important to do something lowly like serving food.
But as things began to grow in the church, it became evident that the apostles had too much to do. They needed help.
Moses ran into this same trouble after bringing the nation out of Egypt. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro showed up, he noticed a problem developing for Moses and the people.  The people would show up to ask Moses a question and end up standing in line all day.

(Exo 18:17-18 NKJV) So Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you do is not good. {18} "Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.

In the end, Moses ended up developing a group of seventy elders to help him take care of the nation.

As a group grows, the way of doing things needs to continually change. You can’t keep having the same people doing the same things. There is a need for delegation.

This is a place I’m trying to grow in with our church. I find that I’ve created some ways of doing things that requires everyone to have to ask me about things. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have total control over everyone’s lives and everything that happens in our church (just kidding). I’m having to learn how to delegate.

D.L. Moody used to say that it was better to put ten men to work than to try to do the work of ten men.

:3 "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

I find it interesting that the apostles ask the church to pick these men out. Their qualifications were:

Good reputation. Full of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom.

:4 "but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

These are the same two disciplines we all should be careful to do.

Having your priorities straight.


Spiritual balance

Prayer and God’s Word
Whether you’re a Billy Graham or a brand new Christian, you need to be developing in the spiritual disciplines of praying and studying God’s Word.

:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

Stephen – we’ll see more about Stephen right away. God will be doing miracles through Stephen. He will also be known as a great preacher. He will be the first martyr.

Philip – he’ll be a big time evangelist we’ll see in Acts 8.  In Acts 8, Philip’s chapter, we see Philip going north to Samaria, where a huge revival breaks out in his ministry as an evangelist (Acts 8:5-13). Philip would also be the one used to lead the Ethiopian Eunuch to the Lord. (Acts 8:26-39)

NicolasNicolas wasn’t even born a Jew, but converted to Judaism.

We don’t know anything for sure about the rest of these men, but some of the accounts of church history record some of these men going on to be leaders of various churches around the world.

In actuality, all the names here are Greek names, and it leads us to believe that each one of these men were of the group of “Greeks”.

Now the Greeks wouldn’t be complaining anymore. They couldn’t feel cheated.

It’s interesting to see how God used these men in an incredible way.

Either the church decided to have its very best men be used as lowly waiters, or, these men learned how to minister by starting at the bottom.


Faithful serving

The Bible tells us that the church is like a “body” and everyone in the church is like a part of the body. We all have design. We all have a function to serve. Our function isn’t going to be something we hate to do, but something we’re actually designed to do.
Ultimately, a mature, growing Christian will be doing more and more the things he has been designed for – using his natural talents, his experience, his spiritual gifting.
But along the way, we need to learn that first we are all “servants”, “deacons”.

A servant doesn’t just do what he wants to do, he does what his master needs him to do.

I believe that it’s important as believers to have a healthy balance of “lowly serving” with “special gifting”.

A person who never uses their special gifts is foolish – why did God give you these gifts if you’re not using them.

A person who never does the “lowly serving” (doing whatever is needed at the moment) will lack humility and I believe will be a person who is self-willed instead of learning to be God-lead.

Jesus gave us the example to follow as He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13). “Lowly serving” produces humility and it also refreshes those around you by washing their feet.

I think the place to start in the church is by doing the things that need to be done:
(Luke 16:10-12 NKJV) "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. {11} "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12} "And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?

It might be helping out in Sunday School. It might be helping out with the “Jesus Café” on Thursday nights. It might be helping to tidy up the meeting room after church.

Look at the fellows that are now my assistant pastors.

After I first got to know Dave Dunagan, he started off at Calvary Anaheim playing bass in the band and then eventually helping me lead on Sunday nights in front of a small group. When we started the church, he and Laurie agreed to help us start the church, but assumed it was just going to be the four of us in their living room.

Greg Senecal first got involved in the church helping out with Children’s Worship.

Caleb Beller also got his start serving the church in the Children’s ministry and has taught elementary kids, Jr. High kids, then the College Group and on and on…

:6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Sharing ministry leads to multiplication.

priests – some have suggested that the tearing of the veil in the temple might have had an influence on the priests (Mat. 27:51).

:8-15 Steven

:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

:9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.

Freedmen – descendants of men freed from slavery, from the various places mentioned in the verse. They had their own synagogue in Jerusalem. It’s possible that Saul of Tarsus (later known as Paul the apostle) was spending time with these fellows since Tarsus is part of the province of Cilicia.

:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

Stephen was quite the debater.

:11 Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God."

:12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.

He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin.

:13 They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;

:14 "for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us."

:15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

There was something special in Stephen’s face. We’ll pick up the story next week when Stephen delivers his defense before the Sanhedrin.