Acts 4 and 5 on June 30th

Acts Bible study  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  51:15
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Chapter 4 then ends with another one of these passages. They had all things in common, we’ll read a little bit of this
Acts 4:32–34 ESV
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold
Again, this is very clearly lending financial assistance to the people in need who are believers. I mean, there's just no way to get around this. And it was significant, but, again, just like we talked about with Acts 2. Again, Acts 2 does not justify socialism and communism because it’s not opposed to private ownership. There’s nothing going on like that. They do sell what they own here and distribute it, again, to those in need. When we get into chapter 5, that’s the Ananias and Sapphira episode, again, I won’t read through all that either. But there's a line in it, remember what happens with Ananias and Sapphira’s story, where Ananias and Sapphira sell something and then they kept back for themselves some of the proceeds and only brought a part of it, and later laid it at the apostles feet. Again, this whole thing about laying it at the apostles feet that was brought up in chapter 4, the context is, the supposition is, the impression that you were creating was that you had, you’re bringing it all but they didn’t reveal that. And that's when Peter says, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie the Holy Spirit’ early on in chapter 5.
But catch what he said. ‘While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? After it was sold, was it not at your disposal?’ So right there in Acts chapter 5, again, you have proof that nobody has a problem with private property here. Even after it sold, the money is yours. This is voluntary giving. Again, you cannot use these passages to justify a political system that forbids private ownership of goods and the like. That’s just a misuse of the passage. But, again, look at what's going on there. There was not a needy person among them. Again, it would be great if we could say that about our churches. It would be suspiciously biblical if we were doing stuff like this. At the end of the chapter 4, one thing to go back to here, and this is going to foreshadow some things that are going to happen in Acts. We read that, again, it sort of narrows into one person, verse 36 in chapter 4,
Acts 4:36–37 ESV
Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Now I say this foreshadow’ s something because you’re going to see certain people pop up in the book of Acts. And they're going to be associated with certain places. In this case, it's Barnabas and he's from Cyprus. Why would Luke bother to tell you where any of these people are from? We’re going to see this with other Jewish characters. We’re going to see a mention of Samaria. We’re going to see mention of Cyprus again. We’re going to see mention of Crete. We’re going to get the Ethiopian eunuch. We’re going to get some of these geographic indicators, and when you run into one of these in the book of Acts, you should ask yourself, is that mentioned in Acts chapter 2? Remember when we talked about chapter 2, and I have the video on the website about how the nations that are named in Acts chapter 2 there at Pentecost, they move from east to west and it’s about a recapturing, a reclamation, of the nations that were disinherited at the Babel event, the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.
Deuteronomy 32:8 ESV
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
Well, guess what? Cyprus is not mentioned in Acts chapter 2. And so this is a way that Luke is using, again, under inspiration, to say, hey, Cyprus wasn't missed, okay? That's a land area that you can find, again, the specific piece of land back in the table of nations.
And so while I'm here describing what's going on the early church taking care of all their needs, there was this guy Barnabas. He was a Levite. He was a Jew, who happened to be from Cyprus, one of these places that could have been listed in Acts 2 but wasn't. We just want to make it clear that, yes, there were Jews there, too, and they're getting converted and they're discipling people and Cyprus is one of these nations, too, that's getting reclaimed, new ownership. Again, the Gospel, Jews came from that nation, as well. People were converted. They moved back, and in here Barnabas, who heard the Gospel and believed. He was from Cyprus. So it's a way for the writer to telegraph that the same thing that happened in Acts 2, where Jews had come and they heard about the Messiah. They saw a miraculous act there in Acts 2, and then they went back and they started to evangelize.
Tell, again, their countrymen, other Jews, they started to spread the Gospel and the news of what happened with this Jesus of Nazareth, and all this. Again, the process of using Jewish converts to, again, create these, I refer to them as cell groups, back in these places, because in each one of them, believers are going to start showing up. People are going to start believing, first the Jew, and it's going to spread to the non-Jewish occupants of those nations, and gradually, all of the nations that have been disinherited God has people in all of them. And some of them are listed in Acts 2. Others were not. Cyprus's an example, so Luke is sort of picking that one up and saying, hey, we didn’t forget about this place. And you’re going to have other place names in Acts that get mentioned. Again, there's a point to their being mentioned, again, is what I’m trying to say. So be on the lookout for that if you're reading ahead in the book of Acts. You’re going to see that. There are going to be a few real interesting ones that are very specifically noted. We know that the Gospels and Acts is selective.
The material in here is selective. It’s not exhaustive, so the question that should always be in your mind is, why is that guy getting mentioned? Why is that place getting mentioned? And in a number of these cases, it has to do with, again, this Deuteronomy 32 worldview thinking, linking these places back to the events of Pentecost because of Jews getting converted and then spreading the gospel. Now the last thing I want to hit on is in Acts 5. We dipped into Acts 5 with Ananias and Sapphira. We know that story pretty well, I think, so I'm going to skip down from that and I'm going to highlight a couple verses in Acts 5:12. This is right after Ananias, of course you know, has died and his wife Sapphira, again, also lies and she’s struck dead. Again, we know that story. But right after it happens, we read this.
Acts 5:12–21 ESV
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Now here's the question. When, it's really not a question. I’m going to make a statement here. The early believers, what do they actually do? Now we know that they take care of each other. There are people who own things, the property. They sell it. They meet needs. No one had any need, that kind of thing. They look out for each other financially. They pray together. They go from house to house. They have fellowship, that kind of thing. Have you noticed in Acts so far that they don’t have church? If you look at the places where they go, Solomon's portico here, and the reference to the temple, and earlier, we've had the apostles going to the temple, they're not going to the temple to have church. Why are they going to the temple? Because that's where the lost people are, okay?
That's where their countrymen are. That's where they're going to meet Jews who need the Messiah, who need to be saved. They don’t actually have church. And I’ve brought this up before, but what if church wasn't a time or a place? Again, it would suspiciously look like the book of Acts. Yeah, they gathered together in their houses. They get together regularly. They did the things we associate with church. They did that stuff. They listened to the apostles. The apostles taught them, but when they actually meet at a building, they don't meet there to have a service. They meet there to evangelize. It’s just really ironic and, again, reading through it, again, I was struck by it. We typically, the way we look at church and the way that the church is sort of described, granted, it's 2000 years ago.
It’s new. I get all that, but I can't help thinking we are just 180° from what's gone on here. We think of evangelism as inviting an unsaved person to church. I’m not saying anything is wrong with that, but if we were living back in this period, you gather together to learn Scripture and you go to places where you know you will run into people who need what you have. That was just what they did. So there is no place that’s church. There is no time for church. Even when Paul goes to Gentile territories, think about it, they don't have a temple there. They have their own sort of temples and he goes to these places and he witnesses. But you never read in the book of Acts, for instance, that anybody's building a building, that anybody has a set time to do anything. When he starts churches, what that means is he wins people. He evangelizes people. He converts people, and then he'll appoint out of that group, he’ll appoint people that have some maturity to oversee the flock, then he’ll move on to the next place. But again, it just lacks the sort of organization, again, that we associate with it. I’m not saying that's necessarily bad, but I'm also not saying it's necessarily good either.
Because for us, too many Christians that church has become a time and a place during the week, and in a very short time and a place that you don't frequent that often. And you begin to associate that event, that time and place with the word church. And you’re not going to find that in the New Testament. When you read the word church in New Testament, it's about people. It's about believers. Again, it’s not a time and place and, again, I’m not recognizing or recommending, hey, let’s just go back to the Stone Age here and do this the sort of thing. But in a way, I think it's nice, it would be a good idea if people would remember what this word really is in New Testament theology. It's never a place and it's never a set time. Believers do meet to commemorate certain things, to celebrate the resurrection, all that sort of thing. They don't have the luxury of doing things the way we do. And to be honest with you, I think that has worked to our detriment. I really believe it has worked to our detriment. We've redefined a concept that’s about people and our definition now is a building and a set time during the week, and I don't think it's a good thing. It doesn’t have to be worked against us but I just can't help thinking that it has. So, again, I was struck reading throughout Chapter 5 about this, again, just what they were doing, what it was like. And to sort of wrap up here, I don’t want to read the whole passage, but that was kind of the last thing I wanted to really get at. In verse 28, again, there’s a mention of the name and, again, in verse 41 about teaching and preaching in the name, the name of Jesus. And so, we end up with the chapter, again, with this notion, this association of Jesus with this concept, again, this person, again, this authority that has accrued to them. So at the end of the chapter, we read this,
Acts 5:40–41 ESV
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
40 and when they had called in the apostles [They re-arrest them, they were going to kill them and Gamilial, the teacher was one of the ones who taught Paul, sort of talks them in off the ledge, and says look, take care of what you do to these men. If it’s of God, you’re never going to be able to defeat this. So they call them back in again in verse 40 and they beat them, and charge them never to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. And they left the presence of the council.]41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Again, in the company of Jews, there is no mistake what you’re talking about. You're using Old Testament language for God. Now you’re using it for Jesus and the context could not be clearer. So, again, I don’t want you to think these are just esoteric points of biblical theology. They might feel like it at times but I'm telling you these things and I want to alert your senses to them because, again, when you hear stuff about, oh, New Testament so fuzzy about Jesus about who he was. We just can't know. We’re just not sure. Here we have this data or that data. We saw this thing on TV and there were all these questions. The people who make TV shows, what they really need to do is to start reading the text and thinking about what's being said the New Testament against the backdrop of the old. And the ambiguity, there’s just not a whole lot of ambiguity on this point, at least about how their thinking about Jesus. He is the name. He is the name that they just suffered for. He is the name, and when you said that in a room full Jews, everybody knows what you’re talking about.
Okay, I'm got a couple of questions for you in Acts 5, part of it that you skipped over. Can you just talk a little bit it about it, about your thoughts, about him holding back back some of his money for himself and then he died. Can you elaborate a little bit more about that?
I think he’s judged for deception, not for the fact that it was his own. Because Peter says that even after you sold it, the money is still at your disposal. You can do with it what you want. Why is it you've contrived this deed in your heart, as if God wasn’t going to know. I do think there is this sense, again, because it's three times in 4 or 5 about this laying it at the apostle’s feet. And so there's this pattern established that when people who, there’s going to be people in the group who know, oh, Ananias and Sapphira, they’re fairly well-off, have property, whatever. When they bring money and lay it at the apostle’s feet, the assumption is going to be that they've sold something and they've given it all. When they've not, and I look at what Peter says, look, you could have just told us. It’s ok.
It's still at your disposal. It’s your property. It’s your money. But for you to create the impression or to not clarify what you're doing, and again, it's an act of deception. That was a serious matter, lying to the Holy Spirit and things like that. I do think God used the incident as an object lesson. Again, if you go back to the Old Testament, there are instances like this where people are judged and it becomes a matter of life and death for deception, for what I guess in Old Testament parlance would be kind of a high-handed sin, something done pre-meditatively, it's a sin against God. And so I do think that that's part of the logic here of why God would do this, again to have their minds hearken back to, look, what's happening here, what's happening here is not a lesser version of what happened in the Old Testament. It’s the same God.
But didn’t Jesus die for that sin? Why is the punishment carried out after?
I think it’s a judgment. I don’t think it has anything to do with whether the atonement was effective or not, or something like that. John talks about the fact that there is a sin unto death, that sort of thing, that God can decide this is the best way to handle the matter. If you're going to do these high-handed sins, these sins with premeditation, God can choose to deal with it another way. But even as John says later, there is this concept of a sin unto death. In other words, the sin unto death is not like a checklist of the ones that the people get killed for. It's not like that. It's that you're going to hit a certain point where God decides you're not going to have a further opportunity to repent and be useful again and your Christian life is not going to be what it should be because you’re time on earth is up now.
And God can do that, again to teach whatever lesson or maybe no one will really know. In this case, it's very public and based on what Peter says, the message is telegraphed that God is the one who is actually directly judging the people who are involved at this point. So I don't think that the atonement guarantees that God does not judge, God does not chasten. And even to the point of death, his people, he didn’t do that in the Old Testament. Believers and unbelievers, but believers, too, they suffer when they sin. It doesn’t mean that their salvation is reversed. I’m going to kick you out of my family now. It just means your time here is over. It’s not going to get any better. It’s not going to get any worse, either. Your time is over and sin has to be judged or else it looks like there's no consequence to your actions.
most Christians are under the impression that Jesus died for our sins and here you got a case of a micro-judgment, where a man was punished and a woman to death.
I think it's harsh, too, but there's nothing in the account that says that…
I don’t even know what these micro-judgments are so I don’t do them. I don’t want to take my last breath.
Well I think that’s the point. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corintians 5, where he talks about delivering, in that case the person living in incest with his, with the woman who wasn't, well, it's an odd situation. They were related and he’s shacking up with this woman who’s not his wife. And he says deliver that, if the person doesn’t repent, deliver that person unto Satan. Well, again, what it means is that it’s that's the holy ground concept where just as in the Old Testament Israel was holy ground. Everything around them was under the dominion of hostile divine beings called shedem, demons in Deuteronomy 32:17. There’s holy ground and there’s unholy ground. Well in the New Testament, holy ground is believers because that's where the presence of God now dwells. It doesn’t just dwell in one spot or temple. We are the temple. And so, to be handed over to Satan is essentially to be put out of the community.
If this is the way you want to live then you need to be around those people and where that's embraced, that's acceptable. But it's not going to be acceptable here, because this is the place where the Spirit of God is, with us. And so, you’re going to be put out there. Now that's not a sin unto death, but actually, you could look at that and say, well good grief. That guy there’s sort of being treated like a unbeliever and he was. Paul doesn't go that far because, in the second letter to the Corinthians, he talks about this guy coming back, and when he renders his verdict, it’s the expressed wish that this guy would repent and come to his senses and that's what happens. But that I think actually goes further than this account, even though you have death, because there’s nothing in this account about Ananias and Sapphira, that they didn’t really believe, or even if they believe, God’s not going to accept them anymore. Their salvation was lost. You don’t get any of that language. But you do get a physical judgment that's pretty harsh. And, again, I think it does hearken back to the Old Testament. Again, this is a community of Jews and when something like this happens, when Peter says, you have lied to God, you’ve lied to the Holy Spirit, and then they just drop over dead, again, that's going to ring some bells. We’re dealing with the same God now that they were dealing with back then. This person Jesus, again, what we're all about here is a thing to be taken just as seriously as it was taken back in the Old Testament. So I think that's the messaging. It’s a rough way to create continuity back to the Old Testament, but it does accomplish that, among other things it accomplishes, too.
another one. Acts 5:16
Acts 5:16 ESV
The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
the people were gathered bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits. Can you elaborate on the unclean spirits, supernatural things?
the unclean spirits is a, you’ll see it in the Gospels, And in some cases, the unclean spirits is used in parallel with other language that sort of identifies it where you’ve got demonic entities. Again, it's a little odd because the way the New Testament uses some of this terminology, especially a word like demon, is not the way the Old Testament does. There’s something of a terminological disconnect here that, we could spend some time on that. but in the context of the Gospels when you have unclean spirits mentioned, there are a couple of occasions where in the wider context, you’re going to get a reference to Satan or demons or something like that. So it was a known term for an evil spirit, so it's not like unclean doesn't mean there’s something it's not unclean like, the spirit must have eaten pork so now it’s ceremonially unclean or something like that. It's not unclean and in a ritual sense. It's a reference to the evil nature of that being. It’s not unique to the New Testament either. You’’ see unclean spirits and evil spirits and whatnot in other Jewish literature, too. So it's not a phrase that was coined here in Luke or anywhere else, or here in Acts or anywhere else, any of the Gospels
next time I want to get up to Peter’s, not Peter’s, Stephen’s sermon because I want to do Stephen’s sermon. It begins really, that the story of Stephen begins in chapter 6 and goes all through a Chapter 7. So I think next time we’ll probably hit 6 and 7 because the bulk of it is his sermon. So there were some things in the sermon that I want to hit on.
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