Acts 5

The Word Made Fresh

1But another man, Ananias, in agreement with his wife Sapphira, sold some property, 2and also with his wife’s knowledge kept some of the money and brought only part of it to the apostles.

3Peter asked him, “Why has Satan persuaded you to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the money you gained from the sale? 4As long as it was unsold it was your own, wasn’t it? 5And after it was sold, wasn’t that money at your disposal? How did it happen that you plotted in your heart to do this? You haven’t lied to us; you have lied to God.”

5Upon hearing this, Ananias fell down and died. Everyone who heard about it was very afraid. 6Some young men came forward and gathered up his body and carried him away and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife came, unaware of what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Did you and your husband sell your land for this price?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “That was the price.”

9Peter said, “Why did you plot together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Those who buried your husband are standing at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”

10She collapsed immediately and died at his feet. When the young men came in they carried her dead body out and buried her beside her husband. 11The whole church was afraid then, as was everyone who heard the story.

12The apostles did many signs and wonders among the people. They were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13No one else dared bother them, but all the people held them in high regard. 14Believers, both men and women in large numbers, were added to the Lord. 15People even carried the sick into the streets on cots and mats, hoping that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them when he walked by. 16A lot of people came from towns around Jerusalem. They brought the sick and others who were being tormented by unclean spirits, and all of them were healed.

17Then the high priest decided it was time to act. He and his fellow Sadducees were jealous. 18They arrested the apostles and imprisoned them. 19But an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors at night and brought them out, saying, 20“Go stand in the temple and tell the people all about this life.” 21When daylight returned the apostles entered the temple and continued their teaching.

The high priest and others arrived, and summoned the Council and all the elders of Israel, and sent guards to the prison to bring the disciples before them. 22But the guards didn’t find them in the prison, so they returned to give their report. They said, 23“The prison was locked tight, with guards standing at the doors, but when we went inside no one was there.”

24When the temple captain and chief priests heard this, they were completely confused and wondered what was happening. 25Then someone came and told them, “The men you imprisoned yesterday are in the temple teaching the people.” 26The captain went with the temple guards and brought them peacefully because they were afraid the people would stone them. 27They had the apostles stand before the council and the high priest confronted them. 28“We ordered you not to teach in this name, but here you are filling the city with your story. You seem determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”

29Peter and the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31But God lifted him up and proclaimed him to be both leader and savior so that he could grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 22We are eyewitnesses to all this, as is the Holy Spirit that God has given to everyone who obeys him.”

33They were furious when they heard this and wanted to have them killed. 34But a Pharisee in the council, Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up and ordered them to take the men outside. 35Then he said, “My fellow Israelites, think carefully what you want done to these men. 36Some time ago a fellow named Theudas claimed to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and his followers were scattered and disappeared. 37After him Judas the Galilean gathered a following at the time of the census, but he also died, and his followers were scattered. 38So, in the case before us, I tell you to stay away from these men and leave them alone. If what they are doing is of human origin it will fail. 39But if it is of God you won’t be able to stop them; you might even be found guilty of opposing God!”

40He convinced them, and they called the apostles back in, had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in Jesus’ name, and let them go. 41As they left the council they were glad that they had been considered worthy to be dishonored for the sake of the name, 42and every day without pause, in the temple and in people’s homes, they continued to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.


1-6: Given the heady atmosphere that enveloped the early Christian community, we should not be surprised that someone would contrive to be part of the excitement without really investing much of themselves. Such is the case with Ananias and Sapphira, who sold some property and brought the proceeds to Peter. Obviously, Ananias presented it proudly, claiming it to be the entire sale price. Peter, however, sees through the scheme and intuits that he is only bringing a small percentage of the sale price, publicly pretending to be making a huge sacrifice. Peter challenges him, and he drops dead. Great fear seizes them all, of course.

7-11: Sapphira arrives a few hours later to bask in the afterglow of the recognition she is sure they will receive, only to learn that their subterfuge has been discovered and her husband has died from the shock of the shame they must now face. She drops dead, too.

12-16: The apostles perform many healings, and their fame spreads so that more people are brought to believe in the power of the risen Christ. The scene described in these verses reminds us of the initial reception Jesus received in Galilee (for example, Matthew 4:24-25).

17-26: The high priest is not named, but is identified as a Sadducee, one of the religious parties that persecuted Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and so were particularly peeved at the disciples’ audacity in preaching what they think is nonsense. The apostles were arrested and put in prison. Somebody whom they later identified as an angel let them out, though, and told them to go preach in the temple, which they do. The next morning the Sanhedrin sends for them, but they are not found, of course. Then someone comes and tells them the apostles are preaching in the temple, so guards are sent to bring them, which they do (but carefully this time).

27-32: The high priest reminds them that they are under orders not to preach in the name of Jesus. Peter answers that they will do whatever God tells them to do (compare their defense at 4:19-20), accuses them of having Jesus killed, tells them Jesus has been raised from the dead, and that the Holy Spirit — the power behind the healings — is available to those who obey him.

33-39: All this, of course, sends them into a murderous rage. But there is a reasonable Pharisee in the group, Gamaliel, whom we will learn was one of Paul’s teachers (see Acts 22:3). Gamaliel gives sage advice with examples, and calms everybody down.

40-42: The apostles are flogged and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. They, however, are more energized than ever and continue to do just that.


Living a life of faith in Jesus can expose us to unexpected opposition. Times are a bit tamer now than then, but don’t be surprised if you are rejected by certain circles because of your faith.