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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verse 1. But a certain man. In the previous chapter, the historian had given an account of the eminent liberality and sincerity of the mass of early Christians, in being willing to give up their property to provide for the poor, and had mentioned the case of Barnabas as worthy of special attention. In this chapter he proceeds to mention a case, quite as striking, of insincerity and hypocrisy, and of the just judgment of God on those who were guilty of it. The case is a remarkable instance of the nature of hypocrisy, and goes to illustrate the art and cunning of the enemy of souls in attempting to corrupt the church, and to pervert the religion of the gospel. Hypocrisy consists in an attempt to imitate the people of God, or to assume the appearance of religion, in whatever form it may be manifested. In this case religion had been manifested by great self-denial and benevolence. The hypocrisy of Ananias consisted in attempting to imitate this appearance, and to impose in this way on the early Christians and on God.

With Sapphira his wife. With her concurrence, or consent. It was a matter of agreement between them, Acts 5:2,9.

Sold a possession. The word here used \~kthma\~ does not indicate whether this was land or some other property. In Acts 5:3, however, we learn that it was land that was sold; and the word here translated possession, is translated in the Syriac, Arabic, and the Latin Vulgate, land. The pretence for which this was sold was doubtless to have the appearance of religion. That it was sold could be easily known by the Christian society, but it might not be so easily known for how much it was sold. Hence the attempt to impose on the apostles. It is clear that they were not under obligation to sell their property. But having sold it for the purposes of religion, it became their duty, if they professed to devote the avails of it to God, to do it entirely, and without any reservation.

Verse 2. And kept back. The word here used means, properly, to separate, to part; and then it means to separate surreptitiously or clandestinely for our own use a part of public property, as taxes, etc. It is used ut three times in the New Testament, Acts 5:3; Titus 2:10, where it is rendered purloining. Here it means that they secretly kept back a part, while professedly devoting all to God.

His wife also being privy to it. His wife knowing it, and evidently concurring in it.

And laid it at the apostles' feet. This was evidently an act professedly of devoting all to God. Comp. Acts 4:37,; 5:8,9. That this was his profession, or pretence, is further implied in the fact that Peter charges him with having lied unto God, Acts 5:3,4.

{a} "brought a certain part" Acts 4:34,37

Verse 3. But Peter said, etc. Peter could have known this only by revelation. It was the manifest design of Ananias to deceive; nor was there any way of detecting him but by its being revealed to him by the Spirit of God. As it was an instance of enormous wickedness, and as it was very important to detect and punish the crime, it was made known to Peter directly by God.

Why hath Satan. Great deeds of wickedness in the Scripture are traced to the influence and temptation of Satan. Compare Luke 22:3; John 13:27. Especially is Satan called the father of lies, John 8:44,55. Comp. Genesis 3:1-5. As this was an act of falsehood, or an attempt to deceive, it is with great propriety traced to the influence of Satan. The sin of Ananias consisted in his yielding to the temptation. Nowhere in the Bible are men supposed to be free from guilt, from the fact that they have been tempted to commit it. God requires them to resist temptation; and if they yield to it, they must be punished.

Filled thine heart. A man's heart or mind is full of a thing when he is intent on it; when he is strongly impelled to it; or when he is fully occupied with it. The expression here means, that he was strongly impelled or excited by Satan to this crime.

To lie to. To attempt to deceive. The deception which he meant to practise was to keep back a part of the price, while he pretended to bring the whole of it; thus tempting God, and supposing that he could not detect the fraud.

The Holy Ghost. \~to pneuma to agion\~. The main inquiry here is, whether the apostle Peter intended to designate in this place the Third Person of the Trinity; or whether he meant to speak of God as God, without any reference to the distinction of persons; or to the Divine influence which inspired the apostles, without reference to the peculiar offices which are commonly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Or, in other words, is there a distinction here recognised between the Father and the Holy Spirit? That there is will be apparent from the following considerations:

(1.) If no such distinction is intended, it is remarkable that Peter did not use the usual and customary name of God. It does not appear why he guarded it so carefully as to denote that this offence was committed against the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of the Lord, Acts 5:9.

(2.) The name here used is the one employed in the Scriptures to designate the Third Person of the Trinity, as implying a distinction from the Father. See Matthew 3:16; 1:18,20; 3:11; 12:32; 28:19; Mark 1:8; Mark 3:29; 12:36; Luke 12:10; John 14:26; 7:39; 20:22; Acts 4:8; 5:32, etc.

(3.) Peter intended, doubtless, to designate an offence as committed particularly against the Person, or Influence, by which he and the other apostles were inspired. Ananias supposed that he could escape detection: and the offence was one, therefore, against the Inspirer of the apostles. Yet that was the Holy Ghost as distinct from the Father. See John 14:16,17,26; 15:26; 16:7-11; 20:22. Comp. Acts 5:32. The offence, therefore, beeing against Him who was sent by the Father, who was appointed to a particular work, clearly supposes that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father.

(4.) A farther incidental proof of this may be found in the fact that the sin here committed was one of peculiar magnitude; so great as to be deemed worthy of the immediate and signal vengeance of God. Yet the sin against the Holy Ghost is uniformly represented to be of this description. Comp. Matthew 12:31,32; Mark 3:28,29. As these sins evidently coincide in enormity, it is clear that the same class of sins is referred to in both places; or, in other words, the sin of Ananias was against the Third Person of the Trinity. Two remarks may be made here.

(1.) The Holy Ghost is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son; or, in other words, there is a distinction of some kind in the Divine Nature that may be denominated by the word person. This is clear from the fact that sin is said to have been committed against him; a sin which it was supposed could not be detected. Sin cannot be committed against an attribute of God, or an influence from God. We cannot lie unto an attribute, or against wisdom, or power, or goodness; nor can we lie unto an influence, merely, of the Most High. Sin is committed against a being, not against an attribute; and as a sin is here charged on Ananias against the Holy Ghost, it follows that the Holy Ghost has a personal existence; or there is such a distinction in the Divine Essence as that it may be proper to specify a sin as committed particularly against him. In the same way sin may be represented as committed peculiarly against the Father, when his name is blasphemed; when his dominion is denied; when his mercy in sending his Son is called in question. Sin may be represented as committed against the Son, when his atonement is denied, his Divinity assailed, his character derided, or his invitations slighted. And thus sin may be represented as committed against the Holy Ghost, when his office of renewing the heart, or sanctifying the soul, is called in question, or when his work is ascribed to some malign or other influence. See \\Mr 3:22-30\\. And as sin against the Son proves that he is in some sense distinct from the Father, so does sin against the Holy Ghost prove that in some sense he is distinct from the Father and the Son.

(2.) The Holy Ghost is Divine. This is proved, because he is represented here as being able to search the heart, and to detect insincerity and hypocrisy. Comp. Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Corinthians 2:10, "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God;" Revelation 2:23. And he is expressly called God. See Barnes "Acts 5:4".

{b} "filled thine heart" Luke 22:3
{1} "to lie", "to deceive"
{c} "to lie", Acts 5:9
{d} "keep back" Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:4

Verse 9. Whiles it remained. As long as it remained unsold. This place proves that there was an obligation imposed on the disciples to sell their property. They who did it, did it voluntarily; and it does not appear that it was done by all, or expected to be done by all.

And after it was sold, etc. Even after the property was sold, and Ananias had the money, still there was no obligation on him to de- vote it in this way. He had the disposal of it still. The apostle mentions this to show him that his offence was peculiarly aggravated. He was not compelled to sell his property; and he had not even the poor pretence that he was obliged to dispose of it, and was tempted to withhold it for his own use. It was all his, and might have been retained if he had chosen.

Thou hast not lied unto men. Unto men only; or, it is not your main and chief offence that you have attempted to deceive men. It is true that Ananias had attempted to deceive the apostles, and it is true also that this was a crime; but still, the principal magnitude of the offence was that he had attempted to deceive God. So small was his crime as committed against men, that it was lost sight of by the apostles; and the great, crowning sin of attempting to deceive God was brought fully into view. Thus David also saw his sin as committed against God to be so enormous, that he lost sight of it as an offence to man, and said, "Against thee, thee ONLY, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," Psalms 51:4.

But unto God. It has been particularly and eminently against God. This is true, because

(1.) he had professedly devoted it to God. The act, therefore, had express and direct reference to him.

(2.) It was an attempt to deceive him. It implied the belief of Ananias that God would not detect the crime, or see the motives of the heart.

(3.) It is the prerogative of God to judge Of sincerity and hypocrisy; and this was a case, therefore, which came under his special notice. Comp. Psalms 139:1-4. The word God here is evidently used in its plain and obvious sense, as denoting the supreme Divinity; and the use of the word here shows that the Holy Ghost is Divine; and the whole passage demonstrates, therefore, one of the important doctrines of the Christian religion, that the Holy Ghost is distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet is Divine.

{e} "unto God" Psalms 139:4

Verse 5. An Ananias hearing these words, etc. Seeing that his guilt was known; and being charged with the enormous crime of attempting to deceive God. he had not expected to be thus exposed; and it is clear that the exposure and the charge came upon him unexpectedly and terribly, like a bolt of thunder.

Fell down. Greek, Having fallen down.

Gave up the ghost. This is an unhappy translation. The original means simply, he expired, or he died. See Barnes "Matthew 27:50". This remarkable fact may be accounted for in this way:

(1.) It is evidently to be regarded as a judgment of God for the sin of Ananias and his wife. It was not the act of Peter, but of God; and was clearly designed to show his abhorrence of this sin. See Barnes "Acts 5:11".

(2.) Though it was the act of God, yet it does not follow that it was not in connexion with the usual laws by which he governs men, or that he did not make use of natural means to do it. The sin was one of great aggravation. It was suddenly and unexpectedly detected. The fact that it was known--the solemn charge that he had lied unto God --struck him with horror, His conscience would reprove him for the enormity of his crime, and overwhelm him at the memory of his act of wickedness. These circumstances may be sufficient to account for this remarkable event. It has occurred in other cases that the consciousness of crime, or the fact of being suddenly detected, has given such a shock to the frame that it has never recovered from it. The effect commonly is that the memory of guilt preys secretly and silently upon the frame, until, worn out with the want of rest and peace, it sinks exhausted into the grave. But there have not been wanting instances where the shock has been so great as to destroy the vital powers at once, and plunge the wretched man, like Ananias, into eternity. It is not at all improbable that the shock in the case of Ananias was so great as at once to take his life.

Great fear came, etc. Such a striking and awful judgment on insincerity and hypocrisy was fitted to excite awful emotions among the people. Sudden death always does it; but sudden death in immediate connexion with crime is fitted much more deeply to affect the mind.

{f} "these words" Acts 5:10,11
{*} "gave up the ghost" "died"
{a} "great fear" Psalms 64:9

Verse 6. And the young men. The youth of the congregation; very probably young men who were in attendance as servants, or those whose business it was to attend on the congregation, and perform various offices when Christians celebrated their worship, (Mosheim.) The word used here sometimes denotes a servant. It is used also Acts 5:10, to denote soldiers, as they were commonly enlisted of the vigorous and young. The fact that they took up Ananias voluntarily, implies that they were accustomed to perform offices of servitude to the congregation.

Wound him up. It was the usual custom with the Jews to wind the body up in many folds of linen before it was buried; commonly also with spices, to preserve it from putrefaction. See Barnes "John 11:44". It may be asked why he was so soon buried; and especially why he was hurried away without giving information to his wife. In reply to this, it may be remarked,

(1.) that it does not appear from the narrative that it was known that Sapphira was privy to the transaction, or was near at hand, or even that he had a wife. Ananias came himself and offered the money; and the judgment fell at once on him.

(2.) It was customary among the ancient Persians to bury the body almost immediately after death, (Jahn;) and it seems probable that the Jews, when the body was not embalmed, imitated the custom. It would also appear that this was an ancient custom among the Jews. See Genesis 23:19; 25:9; 35:29; 48:7; 1 Kings 13:30. Different nations differ in their customs in burying the dead; and there is no impropriety in committing a body soon after death to the tomb.

(3.) There might have been some danger of an excitement and tumult in regard to this scene, if the corpse had not soon been removed; and as no valuable purpose could be answered by delaying the burial, the body was decently committed to the dust.

{b} "wound him" John 19:40

Verse 7. And it was about the space, etc. As Sapphira had been no less guilty than her husband, so it was ordered, in the Providence of God, that the same judgment should come upon both.

Verse 8. For so much. That is, for the sum which Ananias had presented. This was true, that this sum had been received for it; but it was also true that a larger sum had been received. It is as really a falsehood to deceive in this manner, as it would have been to have affirmed that they received much more than they actually did for the land. Falsehood consists in making an erroneous representation of a thing in any way for the purpose of deceiving. And this species is much more common than an open and bold lie, declaring what is in no sense true.

{+} "answered" "Said"

Verse 9. Agreed together. Conspired, or laid a plan. From this, it seems that Sapphira was as guilty as her husband.

To tempt. To try; to endeavour to impose on, or to deceive; that is, to act as if the Spirit of the Lord could not detect the crime. They did this by trying to see whether the Spirit of God could detect hypocrisy.

At the door. Are near at hand. They had not yet returned. The dead were buried without the walls of cities; and this space of three hours, it seems, had elapsed before they returned from the burial.

Shall carry thee out. This passage shows that it was by Divine interposition or judgment that their lives were taken. The judgment was in immediate connexion with their crime, and was designed as an expression of the Divine displeasure.

If it be asked here, why Ananias and Sapphira were punished in this severe and awful manner, an answer may be found in the following considerations:

(1.) This was an atrocious crime; a deep and dreadful act of iniquity. It was committed knowingly, and without excuse, Acts 5:4. It was important that sudden and exemplary punishment should follow it, because the society of Christians was just then organized, and it was designed that it should be a pure society, and be regarded as a body of holy men. Much was gained by making this impression on the people, that sin could not be allowed in this new community, but would be detected and punished.

(2.) God has often, in a most solemn manner, showed his abhorrence of hypocrisy and insincerity. By awful declarations and fearful judgments he has declared his displeasure at it. In a particular manner no small part of the preaching of the Saviour was employed in detecting the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and denouncing heavy judgments on them. See Matthew 23 throughout, for the most sublime and awful denunciation of hypocrisy anywhere to be found. Compare Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Timothy 4:2; Job 8:13; 13:16; 15:34; 20:5; 36:13; Matthew 7:5; Luke 11:44. In the very beginning of the Christian church, therefore, it was important, by a decided and awful act, to impress upon the church and the world the danger and guilt of hypocrisy. Well did the Saviour know that it would be one of the most insidious and deadly foes to the purity of the church; and at its very threshold, therefore, he set up this solemn warning to guard it; and laid the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira in the path of every hypocrite that would enter the church. If they enter and are destroyed, they cannot plead that they were not fully warned. If they practise iniquity in the church, they cannot plead ignorance of the fact that God intends to detect and punish them.

(3.) The apostles were just then establishing their authority. They claimed to be under the influence of inspiration. To establish that, it was necessary to show that they could know the views and motives of those who became connected with the church. If easily imposed on, it would go far to destroy their authority and their claim to infallibility. If they showed that they could detect hypocrisy, even where most artfully concealed, it would establish the Divine authority of their message. At the commencement of their work, therefore, they gave this decisive and most awful proof that they were under the guidance of an infallible Teacher.

(4.) This case does not stand alone in the New Testament. It is clear from other instances that the apostles had the power of punishing sinners, and that a violation of the commands of Christ was attended by sudden and fearful judgments. See 1 Corinthians 11:30. See the case of Elymas the sorcerer, in Acts 13:8-11.

(5.) Neither does this event stand alone in the history of the world Acts of judgment sometimes occur as sudden and decided, in the Providence of God, as in this case. The profane man, the drunkard, the profligate is sometimes as suddenly stricken down as in this instance. Cases have not been uncommon where the blasphemer has been smitten in death with the curse on his lips; and God often thus comes forth in judgment to slay the wicked, and to show that there is a God that reigns in the earth. This narrative cannot be objected to as improbable until all such eases are disposed of; nor can this infliction be regarded as unjust, until all the instances where men die by remorse of conscience, or by the direct judgment of heaven, are proved to be unjust also.

In view of this narrative, we may remark,

(1.) that God searches the heart, and knows the purposes of the soul. Comp. Psalms 139.

(2.) God judges the motives of men. It is not so much the external act, as it is the views and feelings by which it is prompted, that determines the character of the act.

(3.) God will bring forth sin that man may not be able to detect; or that may elude human justice. The day is coming when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and God will reward every man according as his works shall be.

(4.) Fraud and hypocrisy will be detected. They are often revealed in this life. The Providence of God often lays them open to human view, and overwhelms the soul in shame at the guilt which was long concealed. But if not in this life, yet the day is coming when they will be disclosed, and the sinner shall stand revealed to an assembling universe.

(5.) We have here an illustration of the powers of conscience. If such was its overwhelming effect here, what will it be when all the crimes of the life shall be disclosed in the day of judgment, and when the soul shall sink to the woes of hell. Through eternity the conscience shall do its office; and these terrible inflictions shall go on from age to age, for ever and ever, in the dark world of hell.

(6.) We see here the guilt of attempting to impose on God in regard to property. There is no subject in which men are more liable to hypocrisy; none in which they are more apt to keep back a part. Christians professedly devote all that they have to God. They profess to believe that God has a right to the silver and the gold, and the cattle on a thousand hills, Psalms 50:10. Their property, as well as their bodies and their spirits, they have devoted to him; and profess to desire to employ it as he shall direct and please. And yet, is it not clear that the sin of Ananias has not ceased in the church? How many professing Christians there are who give nothing really to God; who contribute nothing for the poor and needy; who give nothing, or next to nothing, to any purposes of benevolence; who would devote "millions" for their own gratification, and their families, but not a penny for "tribute" to God. The case of Ananias is to all such a case of most fearful warning. And on no point should Christians more faithfully examine themselves than in regard to the professed devotion of their property to God. If God punished this sin in the beginning of the Christian church, he will do it still in its progress; and in nothing have professed Christians more to fear the wrath of God than on this very subject.

(7.) Sinners should fear and tremble before God. He holds their breath in his hands, he can cut them down in an instant. The bold blasphemer, the unjust, the liar, the scoffer, he can destroy in a moment, and sink them in all the woes of hell. Nor have they security that he will not do it. The profane man has no evidence that he will live to finish the curse which he has begun; nor the drunkard, that he will again become sober; nor the seducer, that God will not arrest him in his act of wickedness, and send him down to hell! The sinner walks over his grave, and over hell! In an instant he may die, and be summoned to the judgment-seat of God! How awful it is to sin in a world like this; and how fearful the doom which must soon overtake the ungodly.

{c} "agreed together" Acts 5:2; Psalms 50:18
{+} "tempt" "try"

Verse 10. No Barnes text on this verse.

{d} "fell she down" Acts 5:5
{&} "straitway" "immediately"
{+} "ghost" "expired"

Verse 11. No Barnes text on this verse.

{a} "great fear" Acts 2:43

Verse 12. And by the hands, etc. By the apostles. This verse should be read in connexion with Acts 5:15, to which it belongs.

Signs and wonders. See Barnes "Acts 2:43". Miracles. See Barnes " :".

With one accord. With one mind, or intention. See Barnes "Acts 1:14".

In Solomon's porch. See Barnes " :". They were doubtless there for the purpose of worship. It does not mean that they were there constantly, but at the regular periods of worship. Probably they had two designs in this; one was to join in the public worship of God in the usual manner with the people, for they did not design to leave the temple-service; the other was that they might have opportunity to preach to the people assembled there. In the presence of the great multitudes who came up to worship, they had an opportunity of making known the doctrines of Jesus, and of confirming them by miracles, the reality of which could not be denied, and which could not be resisted, as proofs that Jesus was the Messiah.

{b} "many signs" Acts 4:30; Romans 15:19; Hebrews 2:4
{*} "one accord" "consent"

Verse 13. And of the rest. Different interpretations have been given of this expression. Lightfoot supposes that by the rest are meant the remainder of the one hundred and twenty disciples of whom Ananias had been one; and that they feared to put themselves on an equality with the apostles. But this interpretation seems to be far- fetched. Kuin”el supposes that by the rest are meant those who had not already joined with the apostles, whether Christians or Jews, and that they were deterred by the fate of Ananias. Priceeus, Morns, Rosenmiiller, Schleusner, etc., suppose that by the rest are meant the rich men, or the men of authority and influence among the Jews, of whom Ananias was one, and that they were deterred from it by the fate of Ananias. This is by far the most probable opinion, because

(1.) there is an evident contrast between them and the people: the rest, i.e. the others of the rich and great, feared to join with them; but the people, the common people, magnified them.

(2.) The fate of Ananias was fitted to have this effect on the rich and great.

(3.) Similar instances had occurred before, that the great, though they believed on Jesus, yet were afraid to come forth publicly and profess him before men. See John 12:42,43; 5:44.

(4.) The phrase the rest denotes sometimes that which is more excellent, or which is superior in value or importance to something else. See Luke 12:26.

Join himself. Become united to, or associated with. The rich and the great then, as now, stood aloof from them, and were deterred by fear or shame from professing attachment to the Lord Jesus.

But the people. The mass of the people; the body of the nation.

Magnified them. Honoured them; regarded them with reverence and fear.

{c} "and of the rest" John 12:42
{d} "but the people" Acts 4:21

Verse 14. And believers. This is the name by which Christians were designated, because one of the main things that distinguished them was that they believed that Jesus was the Christ. It is also an incidental proof that none should join themselves to the church who are not believers, i.e. who do not profess to be Christians in heart and in life.

Were the more added. The effect of all things was to increase the number of converts. Their persecutions, their preaching, and the judgment of God, all tended to impress the minds of the people, and to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ. Comp. Acts 4:4. Though the judgment of God had the effect of deterring hypocrites from entering the church, though it produced awe and caution, yet still the number of true converts was increased. An effort to keep the church pure by wholesome discipline, by cutting off unworthy members, however rich or honoured, so far from weakening its true strength, has a tendency greatly to increase its numbers as well as its purity. Men will not seek to enter a corrupt church; or regard it as worth any thought to be connected with a society that does not endeavour to be pure.

Multitudes. Comp. Acts 4:4.

{e} "multitudes, both men and women" Acts 2:47

Verse 15. Insomuch. So that. This should be connected with Acts 5:12. Many miracles were wrought by the apostles, insomuch, etc.

They brought forth. The people, or the friends of the sick, brought them forth.

Beds. \~klinwn\~. This word denotes usually the soft and valuable beds on which the rich commonly lay. And it means that the rich, as well as the poor, were laid in the path of Peter and the other apostles.

Couches. \~krabbatwn\~. The coarse and hard couches on which the poor used to lie, Mark 2:4,9,11,12; 6:55; John 5:8-12; Acts 9:33.

The shadow of Peter. That is, they were laid in the path so that the shadow of Peter, as he walked, might pass over them. Perhaps the sun was near setting, and the lengthened shadow of Peter might be thrown afar across the way. They were not able to approach him on account of the crowd; and they imagined that if they could any how come under his influence, they might be healed. The sacred writer does not say, however, that any were healed in this way; nor that they were commanded to do this. He simply states the impression which was on the minds of the people that it might be. Whether they were healed by this, it is left for us merely to conjecture. An instance somewhat similar is recorded in Acts 19:12, where it is expressly said, that the sick were healed by contact with handkerchiefs and aprons that were brought from the body of Paul. Comp. also Matthew 9:21,22, where the woman said respecting Jesus, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole."

Might overshadow. That his shadow might pass over them. Though there is no evidence that any were healed in this way, yet it shows the full belief of the people that Peter had the power of working miracles. Peter was supposed by them to be eminently endowed with this power, because it was by him that the lame man in the temple had been healed, Acts 3:4-6, and because he had been most prominent in his addresses to the people. The persons who are specified in this verse were those who dwelt at Jerusalem.

{1} "into the streets" "in every street"

Verse 16. There came also, etc. Attracted by the fame of Peter's miracles, as the people formerly had been by the miracles of the Lord Jesus.

Vexed. Troubled, afflicted, or tormented.

Unclean spirits. Possessed with devils; called unclean because they prompted to sin and impurity of life. See Barnes " :".

And they were healed. Of these persons it is expressly affirmed that they were healed. Of those who were so laid as that the shadow of Peter might pass over them, there is no such affirmation.

{a} "bringing sick folks" Mark 16:17,18; John 14:12
{b} "and they were healed" James 5:16

Verse 17. Then the High Priest. Probably Caiaphas. Comp. John 11:49. It seems from this place that he belonged to the sect of the Sadducees. It is certain that he had signalized himself by opposition to the Lord Jesus and to his cause, constantly.

Rose up. This expression is sometimes redundant, and at others it means simply to begin to do a thing, or to resolve to do it. Comp. Luke 15:18.

And all they that were with him. That is, all they that coincided with him in doctrine or opinion; or, in other words, that portion of the sanhedrim that was composed of Sadducees. There was a strong party of Sadducees in the sanhedrim; and perhaps at this time it was so strong a majority as to be able to control its decisions. Comp. Acts 23:6.

Which is the sect. The word translated sect here is that from which we have derived our word heresy. It means simply sect, or party, and is not used in a bad sense, as implying reproach, or even error. The idea which we attach to it of error, and of denying fundamental doctrines in religion, is one that does not occur in the New Testament.

Sadducees. See Barnes "Matthew 3:7". The main doctrine of this sect was the denial of the resurrection of the dead. The reason why they were particularly opposed to the apostles, rather than the Pharisees, was that the apostles dwelt much on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which, if true, completely overthrew their doctrine. All the converts, therefore, that were made to Christianity, tended to diminish their numbers and influence; and also to establish the belief of the Pharisees in the doctrine of the resurrection. So long, therefore, as the effect of the labours of the apostles was to establish one of the main doctrines of the Pharisees, and to confute the Sadducees, so long we may suppose that the Pharisees would either favour them or be silent; and so long the Sadducees would be opposed to them, and enraged against them. One sect will often see with composure the progress of another that it really hates, if it will humble a rival. Even opposition to the gospel will sometimes be silent, provided the spread of religion will tend to humble and mortify those against whom we may be opposed.

Were filled with indignation. Greek, Zeal. The word denotes any kind of fervour or warmth, and may be applied to any warm or violent affection of the mind, either envy, wrath, zeal, or love, Acts 13:45; John 2:17; Romans 10:2; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 11:2. Here it probably includes envy and wrath. They were envious at the success of the apostles; at the number of converts that were made to a doctrine that they hated; they were envious that the Pharisees were deriving such an accession of strength to their doctrine of the resurrection; and they were indignant that they regarded so little their authority, and disobeyed the solemn injunction of the sanhedrim. Compare Acts 4:18-21.

{c} "and were filled" Acts 4:1,2
{1} "indignation" "envy"

Verse 18. The common prison. The public prison; or the prison for the keeping of common and notorious offenders.

{d} "common prison" Acts 12:5-7; 16:23-27

Verse 19. But the angel of the Lord. This does not denote any particular angel, but simply an angel. The article is not used in the original. The word angel denotes, properly, a messenger, and particularly it is applied to the pure spirits that are sent to this world on errands of mercy. See Barnes "Matthew 1:20". The case here was evidently a miracle. An angel was employed for this special purpose; and the design might have been,

(1.) to reprove the Jewish rulers, and to convince them of their guilt in resisting the gospel of God;

(2.) to convince the apostles more firmly of the protection and approbation of God;

(3.) to encourage them more and more in their work, and in the faithful discharge of their high duty; and,

(4.) to give the people a new and impressive proof of the truth of the message which they bore. That they were imprisoned would be known to the people. That they were made as secure as possible was also known. When, therefore, the next morning, before they could have been tried or acquitted, they were found again in the temple, delivering the same message still, it was a new and striking proof that they were sent by God.

Verse 20. In the temple. In a public and conspicuous place. In this way there would be a most striking exhibition of their boldness; a proof that God had delivered them; and a manifestation of their purpose to obey God rather than man.

All the words. All the doctrines. Comp. John 6:68, "Thou hast the words of eternal life."

Of this life. Pertaining to life, to the eternal life which they taught through the resurrection and life of Jesus. The word life is used sometimes to express the whole of religion, as opposed to the spiritual death of sin. See John 1:4; 3:36. Their deliverance from prison was not that they might be idle, and escape to a place of safety. Again they were to engage at once in the toils and perils which they had just before encountered. God delivers us from danger sometimes, that we may plunge into new dangers; he preserves us from calamity, that we may be tried in some new furnace of affliction; and he calls us to encounter trials simply because he demands it, and as an expression of gratitude to him for his gracious interposition.

{e} "all the words" Exodus 24:3
{f} "of this life" John 6:63,68; 17:8

Verse 21. Early in the morning. Greek, At the break of day. Comp. Luke 24:1; John 8:2.

Called the council together. The sanhedrim, or the great council of the nation. This was clearly for the purpose of trying the apostles for disregarding their commandments.

And all the senate. Greek, Eldership. Probably these were not a part of the sanhedrim, but were men of age and experience, who (in Acts 4:8; 25:15) are called elders of the Jews, and who were present for the sake of counsel and advice in a case of emergency.

{g} "the high priest" Acts 4:5,6

Verse 22. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 23. Found we shut. It had not been broken open; and there was therefore clear proof that they had been delivered by the interposition of God. Nor could they have been released by the guard, for they were keeping watch, as if unconscious that anything had happened, and the officers had the only means of entering the prison.

Verse 24. The captain of the temple. See Barnes "Acts 4:1".

Doubted of them. They were in perplexity about these things. The word rendered doubted denotes that state of anxiety which arises when a man has lost his way, or when he does not know what to do to escape from a difficulty. See Luke 9:7.

Whereunto this would grow. What this would be; or what would be the result or end of these events. For,

(1.) their authority was disregarded;

(2.) God had opposed them by a miracle;

(3.) the doctrines of the apostles were gaining ground;

(4.) Their efforts to oppose themhad been in vain. They need not have doubted; but sinners are not disposed to be convinced of the truth of religion.

{h} "and captain of the temple" Acts 4:1
{*} "this would grow" "what this would become"

Verse 25. No notes from Barnes on this verse.

Verse 26. Without violence. Not by force; not by binding them. Comp. Matthew 27:22. The command of the sanhedrim was sufficient to secure their presence, as they did not intend to refuse to answer for any alleged violation of the laws. Besides, their going before the council would give them another noble opportunity to bear witness to the truth of the gospel. Christians, when charged with a violation of the laws of the land, should not refuse to answer. Acts 25:11, "If I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die." It is a part of our religion to yield obedience to all the just laws of the land, and to evince respect for all that are in authority, Romans 13:1-7.

For they feared the people. The people were favourable to the apostles. If violence had been attempted, or they had been taken in a cruel and forcible manner, the consequence would have been a tumult and bloodshed. In this way, also, the apostles showed that they were not disposed to excite tumult. Opposition by them would have excited commotion; and though they would have been rescued, yet they resolved to show that they were not obstinate, contumacious, or rebellious, but were disposed, as far as it could be done with a clear conscience, to yield obedience to the laws of the land.

{a} "for they feared" Matthew 21:26

Verse 27. No notes from Barnes on this verse.

Verse 28. Straitly command you. Did we not command you with a threat? Acts 4:17,18,21.

In this name. In the name of Jesus.

Ye have filled Jerusalem. This, though not so designed, was an honourable tribute to the zeal and fidelity of the apostles. When Christians are arraigned or persecuted, it is well if the only charge which their enemies can bring against them is that they have been distinguished for zeal and success in propagating their religion. See 1 Peter 4:16, "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." Also Acts 5:13-15.

Intend to bring this man's blood upon us. To bring one's blood upon another is a phrase denoting to hold or to prove him guilty of murdering the innocent. The expression here charges them with designing to prove that they had put Jesus to death when he was innocent; to convince the people of this, and thus to enrage them against the sanhedrim; and also to prove that they were guilty, and were exposed to the Divine vengeance for having put the Messiah to death. Comp. Acts 2:23,36; 3:15; 7:52. That the apostles did intend to charge them with being guilty of murder, is clear; but it is observable that on this occasion they had said nothing of this; and it is further observable that they did not charge it on them except in their presence. See the places just referred to. They took no pains to spread this among the people, except as the people were necessary to the crime of the rulers, Acts 2:23,36. Their consciences were not at ease, and the remembrance of the death of Jesus would occur to them at once at the sight of the apostles.

{b} "straitly command" Acts 4:18
{c} "this man's blood" Matthew 27:25; Acts 2:23,36; 3:15; 7:52

Verse 29. We ought to obey, etc. See Barnes "Acts 4:19"

{d} "ought to obey" Acts 4:19

Verse 30. Raised up Jesus. This refers to his resurrection.

Hanged on a tree. That is, on the cross, Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24; Acts 10:39; 13:29. This is the amount of Peter's defence. He begins with the great principle, (Acts 5:29,) which they could not gainsay, that God ought to be obeyed rather than man. He then proceeds to state that they were convinced that God had raised up Jesus from the dead. And as they had such decisive evidence of that, and were commanded by the authority of the Lord Jesus to be witnesses of that, and had constant evidence that God had done it, they were not at liberty to be silent. They were bound to obey God rather than the sanhedrim, and to make known eerywhere the fact that the Lord Jesus was risen. The remark that God had raised up Jesus, whom they had slain, does not seem to have been made to irritate or to reproach them, but mainly to identify the person that had been raised. It was also a confirmation of the truth and reality of the miracle. Of his death they had no doubt, for they had been at pains to certify it, John 19:31-34. It is certain, however, that Peter did not shrink from charging on them their guilt; nor was he at any pains to soften or mitigate the severe charge that they had murdered their own Messiah.

{e} "hanged" Galatians 3:13
{*} "tree" "Cross"

Verse 31. Him hath God exalted. See Barnes "Acts 2:33".

To be a Prince. \~archgon\~, See Barnes "Acts 3:16". In that place he is called "the Prince of life." Here it means that he is actually in the exercise of the office of a Prince or a King, at the right hand of his Father. The title Prince, or King, was one which was well known as applied to the Messiah. It denotes that he has dominion and power, especially the power which is needful to give repentance and the pardon of sins.

A Saviour. See Barnes "Matthew 1:21".

To give repentance. The word repentance here is equivalent to reformation, and a change of life. The expression here does not differ from what is said in Acts 3:26.

To Israel. This word properly denotes the Jews; but his office was not to be confined to the Jews. Other passages show that it would be also extended to the Gentiles. The reasons why the Jews are particularly specified here are, probably,

(1.) because the Messiah was long promised to the Jewish people, and his first work was there; and,

(2,) because Peter was addressing Jews, and was particularly desirous of leading them to'repentance.

Forgiveness of sins. Pardon of sin; the act which can be performed by God only, Mark 2:7.

If it be asked in what sense the Lord Jesus gives repentance, or how his exaltation is connected with it, we may answer,

(1.) His exaltation is evidence that his work was accepted, and thus a foundation is laid by which repentance is available, and may be connected with pardon. Unless there was some way of forgiveness, sorrow for sin would be of no value, even if exercised. The relentings of a culprit condemned for murder would be of no avail, unless the executive can consistently pardon him; nor would relentings in hell be of avail, for there is no promise of forgiveness. But Jesus Christ by his death has laid a foundation by which repentance may be accepted.

(2.) He is entrusted with all power in heaven and earth with reference to this, to apply his work to men; or, in other words, to bring them to repentance. See John 17:2; Matthew 28:18.

(3.) His exaltation is immediately connected with the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, by whose influence men are brought to repentance, John 16:7-11. The Spirit is represented as being sent by him as well as by the Father, John 15:26; 16:7.

(4.) Jesus has power in this state of exaltation over all things that can affect the mind. He sends his ministers; he directs the events of sickness or disappointment, of health or prosperity, that will influence the heart. There is no doubt that he can so recall the sins of the past life, and refresh the memory, as to overwhelm the soul in the consciousness of guilt. Thus also he can appeal to man by his goodness, and by a sense of his mercies; and especially he can so present a view of his life and death as to affect the heart, and show the evil of the past life of the sinner. Knowing the heart, he knows all the avenues by which it can be approached; and in an instant he can overwhelm the soul with the remembrance of crime.

It was proper that the power of pardon should be lodged with the same Being that has the power of producing repentance. Because,

(1.) the one appropriately follows the other.

(2.) They are parts of the same great work, the work which the Saviour came to do, to remove sin with all its effects from the human soul. This power of pardon Jesus exercised when he was on the earth; and this he can now dispense in the heavens, Mark 2:9-11.

And from this we may learn,

(1.) that Jesus Christ is Divine. It is a dictate of natural religion that none can forgive sins against God, but God himself. None can pardon but the Being who has been offended. And this is also the dictate of the Bible. The power of pardoning sin is one that God claims as his prerogative; and it is clear that it can appertain to no other. See Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9; Psalms 130:4. Yet Jesus Christ exercised this power when on earth; gave evidence that the exercise of that power was one that was acceptable to God by working a miracle, and removing the consequences of sin with which God had visited the sinner, (Matthew 9:6;) and exercises it still in heaven. He must, therefore, be Divine.

(2.) The sinner is dependent on him for the exercise of repentance and forgiveness.

(3.) The proud sinner must be humbled at his feet. He must be willing to come and receive eternal life at his hands. No step is more humUiating than this for proud and hardened men; and there is none which they are more reluctant to do. We always shrink from coming into the presence of one whom we have offended; we are extremely reluctant to confess a fault; but it must be done, or the soul must be lost for ever.

(4.) Christ has power to pardon the greatest offender. He is exalted for this purpose; and he is fitted to his work. Even his murderers he could pardon; and no sinner need fear that he who is a Prince and a Saviour at the right hand of God is unable to pardon every sin. To him we may come with confidence; and when pressed with the consciousness of the blackest crimes, and when we must feel that we deserve eternal death, we may confidently roll all on his arm.

{f} "exalted" Philippians 2:9
{g} "a Prince" Isaiah 9:6
{h} "Saviour" Matthew 1:21

Verse 32. And we are his witnesses. For this purpose they had been appointed, Acts 1:8,21,22; 2:32; 3:15; Luke 24:48.

Of these things. Particularly of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and of the events which had followed it. Perhaps, however, he meant to include everything pertaining to the life, teachings, and death of the Lord Jesus.

And so is also, etc. The descent of the Holy Ghost to endow them with remarkable gifts, (Acts 2:1-4,) to awaken and convert such a multitude, (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14,) was an unanswerable attestation of the truth of these doctrines, and of the Christian religion. So manifest and decided was the presence of God attending them, that they could have no doubt that what they said was true; and so open and public was this attestation, that it was an evidence to all the people of the truth of their doctrine.

{a} "witnesses" Luke 24:48
{*} "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit"
{b} "whom God hath given" Acts 2:4

Verse 33. When they heard that. That which the apostle Peter had said; to wit, that they were guilty of murder; that Jesus was raised up; and that he stir lived as the Messiah.

They were cut to the heart. The word used here properly denotes to cut with a saw; and as applied to the mind, it means, to be agitated with rage and indignation, as if wrath should seize upon the mind as a saw does upon wood, and tear it violently, or agitate it severely. It is commonly used in connexion with the heart; and means that the heart is violently agitated, and rent with rage. See Acts 7:54. It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. The reasons why they were thus indignant were, doubtless,

(1.) because the apostles had disregarded their command;

(2.) because they charged them with murder;

(3.) because they affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, and thus tended to overthrow the sect of the Sadducees. The effect of the doctrines of the gospel is, often, to make men enraged.

Took counsel. The word rendered took counsel denotes, commonly, to will; then, to deliberate; and, sometimes, to decree, or to determine. It doubtless implies here that their minds were made up to do it; but probably the formal decree was not passed to put them to death.

{c} "they were cut" Acts 7:54
{+} "slay" "Kill"

Verse 34. Then stood there up one. He rose, as is usual in deliberative assemblies, to speak.

In the council. In the sanhedrim, Acts 4:15.

A Pharisee. The high priest and those who had been most active in opposing the apostles were Sadducees. The Pharisees were opposed to them particularly on the doctrine in regard to which the apostles were so strenuous, the resurrection of the dead. See Barnes "Matthew 3:7". Comp. Acts 23:6.

Gamaliel. This name was very common among the Jews. Dr. Lightfoot says, that this man was the teacher of Paul, (Acts 22:3,) the son of the Simon who took the Saviour in his arms, (Luke 2) and the grandson of the famous Hillel, and was known among the Jews by the title of Rabban Gamaliel the elder. There were other men of this name, who were also eminent among the Jews. This man is said to have died eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem; and he died as he had lived, a Pharisee. There is not the least evidence that he was a friend of the Christian religion; but he was evidently a man of far more liberal views than the other members of the sanhedrim.

A doctor of the law. That is, a teacher of the Jewish law; one whose province it was to interpret the laws of Moses, and probably to preserve and transmit the traditional laws of the Jews. See Barnes "Matthew 15:3". So celebrated was he, that Saul of Tarsus went to Jerusalem to receive the benefit of his instructions, Acts 22:3.

Had in reputation among all the people. Honoured by all the people. His advice was likely, therefore, to be respected.

To put the apostles forth. This was done doubtless, because, if the apostles had been suffered to remain, it was apprehended that they would take fresh courage, and be confirmed in their purposes. It was customary, besides, when they deliberated, to command those accused to retire, Acts 4:15.

A little space. A little time, Luke 22:58.

{d} "a doctor of the law" Acts 22:3
{&} "a little space" "To send the apostles our for a short time"

Verse 35. No Barnes text on this verse.

{*} "touching" "with respect to"

Verse 36. For before these days. The advice of Gamaliel was to suffer these men to go on. The arguments by which he enforced his advice were,

(1.) that there were cases or precedents in point, (Acts 5:36,37;) and,

(2.) that if it should turn out to be of God, it would be a solemn affair to be involved in the consequences of opposing him. How long before those days this transaction occurred cannot now be determined, as it is not certain to what case Gamaliel refers.

Rose up. That is, commenced or excited an insurrection.

Theudas, This was a name quite common among the Jews. Of this man nothing more is known than is here recorded. Josephus (Antiq. b. xx. chap. v.) mentions one Theudas, in the time of Fadus the procurator of Judea, in the reign of the emperor Claudius, (A.D. 45 or 46,) who persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with him, and follow him to the river Jordan. He told them he was a prophet, and that he would divide the river, and lead them over. Fadus, however, came suddenly upon them, and slew many of them. Theudas was taken alive, and conveyed to Jerusalem, and there beheaded. But this occurred at least ten or fifteen years after this discourse of Gamaliel. Many efforts have been made to reconcile Luke and Josephus, on the supposition that they refer to the same man. Lightfoot supposed that Josephus had made an error in chronology. But there is no reason to suppose that there is reference to the same event; and the fact that Josephus has not recorded the insurrection referred to by Gamaliel, does not militate at all against the account in the Acts. For

(1.) Luke, for anything that appears to the contrary, is quite as credible an historian as Josephus.

(2.) The name Theudas was a common name among the Jews; and there is no improbability that there were two leaders of an insurrection of this name. If it is improbable, the improbability would affect Josephus's credit as much as that of Luke.

(3.) It is altogether improbable that Gamaliel should refer to a case which was not well authenticated; and that Luke should record a speech of this kind unless it was delivered, when it would be so easy to detect the error.

(4.) Josephus has recorded many instances of insurrection and revolt. He has represented the country as in an unsettled state, and by no means professes to give an account of all that occurred. Thus he says, (Antiq. xvii. x.  4,) that there were "at this time ten thousand other disorders in Judea;" and (&8) that "Judea was full of robberies." When this Theudas lived cannot be ascertained; but as Gamaliel mentions him before Judas of Galilee, it is probable that he lived not far from the time that our Saviour was born--at a time when many false prophets appeared, claiming to be the Messiah.

Boasting himself to be somebody. Claiming to be an eminent prophet probably, or the Messiah.

Obeyed him. The word used here is the one commonly used to denote belief. As many as believed on him, or gave credit to his pretensions.

{1} "these days" "In the third year before the account called A. D."
{2} "obeyed" "believed"

Verse 37. Judas of Galilee. Josephus has given an account of this man, (Antiq. b. xvii. chap. x.  5,) and calls him a Galilean. He afterwards calls him a Gualonite, and says he was of the city of Gamala, (Antiq. xviii, i. 1.) In this place, he says that the revolt took place under Cyrenius, a Roman senator, who came into "Syria to be judge of that nation, and to take account of their substance." "Moreover," says he, "Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money." "Yet Judas taking with him Saddouk, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty," etc. This revolt, he says, was the commencement of the series of revolts and calamities that terminated in the destruction of the city, temple, and nation.

In the days of the taxing. Or, rather, the enrolling, or the census. Josephus says, it was designed to take an account of their substance. Comp. Luke 2:1,2.

{*} "taxing" "enrollment"
{a} "he also perished" Luke 13:1,2
{b} "let them alone" Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 8:10; Matthew 15:13

Verse 38. Refrain from these men. Cease to oppose them, or to threaten them. The reason why he advised this, he immediately adds: that if it were of men, it would come to nought; if of God, they could not overthrow it.

This counsel. This plan, or purpose. If the apostles had originated it for the purposes of imposture.

It will come to nought. Gamaliel inferred that from the two instances which he specified. They had been suppressed without the interference of the sanhedrim; and he inferred that this would also die away if it was a human device. It will be remembered that this is the mere advice of Gamaliel, who was not inspired; and that this opinion should not be adduced to guide us, except as it was an instance of great shrewdness and prudence. It is, doubtless, right to oppose error in the proper way and with the proper temper--not with arms, or vituperation, or with the civil power, but with argument and kind entreaty. But the sentiment of Gamaliel is full of wisdom in regard to error. For,

(1.) the very way to exalt error into notice, and to confirm men in it, is to oppose it in a harsh, authoritative, and unkind manner.

(2.) Error, if left alone, will often die away itself. The interest of men in it will often cease as soon as it ceases to be opposed; and having nothing to fan the flame, it will expire. It is not so with truth.

(3.) In this respect the remark may be the Christian religion. It has stood too long, and in too many circumstances of prosperity and adversity, to be of men. It has been subjected to all trials from its pretended friends and real foes; and it still lives as vigorous and flourishing as ever. Other kingdoms have changed; empires have risen and fallen since Gamaliel spoke this; systems of opinion and belief have had their day, and expired; but the preservation of the Christian religion, unchanged through so many revolutions, and in so many fiery trials, shows that it is not of men, but of God. The argument for the Divine origin of the Christian religion from its perpetuity, is one that can be applied to no other system that has been, or that now exists. For Christianity has been opposed in every form. It confers no temporal conquests, and appeals to no base and strong native passions. Mohammedanism is supported by the sword and the state; paganism relies on the arm of the civil power and the terrors of superstition, and is sustained by all the corrupt passions of men; atheism and infidelity have been short-lived, varying in their forms--dying today, and tomorrow starting up in a new form--never organized, consolidated, or pure, and never tending to promote the peace or happiness of men. Christianity, without arms or human power, has lived, holding its steady and triumphant movements among men, regardless alike of the opposition of its foes, and of the treachery of its pretended friends. If the opinion of Gamaliel was just, it is from God; and the Jews particularly should regard as important an argument derived from the opinion of one of the wisest of their ancient Rabbins.

{b} "let them alone" Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 8:10; Matthew 15:13

Verse 39. But if it be of God. If God is the Author of this religion. From this it seems that Gamaliel supposed that it was at least possible that this religion was Divine. He evinced a far more candid mind than did the rest of the Jews; but still it does not appear that he was entirely convinced. The arguments which could not but stagger the Jewish sanhedrim, were those drawn from the resurrection of Jesus, the miracle on the day of Pentecost, the healing of the lame man in the temple, and the release of the apostles from the prison.

Ye can not overthrow it. Because

(1) God has almighty power, and can execute his purposes;

(2.) because he is unchanging, and will not be diverted from his plans, Job 23:13,14. The plan which God forms must be accomplished. All the devices of man are feebleness when opposed to him, and he can dash them in pieces in an instant. The prediction of Gamaliel has been fulfilled. Men have opposed Christianity in every way, but in vain. They have reviled it; have persecuted it; have resorted to argument and to ridicule, to fire, and fagot, and sword; they have called in the aid of science; but all has been in vain. The more it has been crushed, the more it has risen, and still exists with as much life and power as ever. The preservation of this religion amidst so much and so varied opposition, proves that it is of God. No severer trial can await it than it has already experienced; and as it has survived so many storms and trials, we have every evidence that, according to the predictions, it is destined to live, and to fill the world. See Barnes "Matthew 16:18"; Isaiah 54:17; 55:11; Daniel 4:35.

Lest. That is, if you continue to oppose it, you may be found to have been opposing God.

Haply. Perhaps. In the Greek this is lest at any time; that is, at some future time, when too late to retract your doings, etc.

Ye be found. It shall appear that you have been opposing God.

Even to fight against God. Greek, \~yeomacoi\~. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. To fight against God is to oppose him, or to maintain an attitude of hostility against him. It is an attitude that is most fearful in its character, and will most certainly be attended with an overthrow. No condition can be more awful than such an opposition to the Almighty; no overthrow more terrible than that which must follow such opposition. Comp. Acts 9:5; 23:9. Opposition to the gospel, in the Scriptures, is uniformly regarded as opposition to God, Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23. Men may be said to fight against God in the following ways, or on the following subjects:

(1.) When they oppose his gospel, its preaching, its plans, its influence among men; when they endeavour to prevent its spread, or to withdraw their families and friends from its influence.

(2.) When they oppose the doctrines of the Bible. When they become angry that the real truths of religion are preached; and suffer themselves to be irritated and excited, by an unwillingness that those doctrines should be true, and should be presented to men. Yet this is no uncommon thing. Men by nature do not love those doctrines, and they are often indignant that they are preached. Some of the most angry feelings which men ever have arise from this source; and man can never find peace until he is willing that God's truth should exert its influence on his own soul, and rejoice that it is believed and loved by others.

(3.) Men oppose the law of God. It seems to them too stern and harsh. It condemns them; and they are unwilling that it should be applied to them. There is nothing which a sinner likes less than he does the pure and holy law of God.

(4.) Sinners fight against the providence of God. When he afflicts them, they rebel. When he takes away their health, or property, or friends, they murmur. They esteem him harsh and cruel; and, instead of finding peace by submission, they greatly aggravate their sufferings, and infuse a mixture of wormwood and gall into the cup, by murmuring and repining. There is no peace in affliction but in the feeling that God is right. And until this belief is cherished, the wicked will be like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt, Isaiah 57:20. Such opposition to God is as wicked as it is foolish. The Lord gave, and has a right to remove our comforts; and we should be still, and know that he is God.

(5.) Sinners fight against God when they resist the influences of his Spirit; when they oppose serious thoughts; when they seek evil or gay companions and pleasures rather than submit to God; and when they resist all the entreaties of their friends to become Christians. All these may be the appeals which God is making to men to be prepared to meet him. And yet it is common for sinners thus to stifle conviction, and refuse even to think of their eternal welfare. Nothing can be an act of more direct and deliberate wickedness and folly than this. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit none can be saved; and to resist his influences is to put away the only prospect of eternal life. To do it, is to do it over the grave; not knowing that another hour or day may be granted; and not knowing that, if life is prolonged, the Spirit will ever strive again with the heart.

In view of this verse we may remark,

(1.) that the path of wisdom is to submit at once to all the requirements of God. Without this, we must expect conflicts with him, and perils and ruin. No man can be opposed to God without endangering himself every minute.

(2.) Submission to God should be entire. It should extend to every doctrine and demand; every law, and every act of the Almighty. In all his requirements, and in all afflictions, we should submit to him, and thus only shall we find peace.

(3.) Infidels and scoffers will gain nothing by opposing God. They have thus far been thwarted and unsuccessful; and they will be still. None of their plans have succeeded; and the hope of destroying the Christian religion, after the efforts of almost two thousand years, must be vain, and will recoil with tremendous vengeance on those who make them.

{c} "if it be of God" Job 34:29; 1 Corinthians 1:25
{*} "haply" "Perhaps"
{d} "fight against God" Acts 9:5; 23:9

Verse 40. And to him they agreed. Greek, They were persuaded by him; or they trusted to him. They agreed only so far as their design of putting them to death was concerned. They abandoned that design. But they did not comply with his advice to let them entirely alone.

And beaten them. The usual amount of lashes which were inflicted on offenders was thirty-nine, 2 Corinthians 11:24. Beating, or whipping, was a common mode of punishing minor offences among the Jews. It was expressly foretold by the Saviour that the apostles would be subjected to this, Matthew 10:17. The reason why they did not adopt the advice of Gamaliel altogether, doubtless was, that if they did, they feared that their authority would be despised by the people. They had commanded them not to preach; they had threatened them, (Acts 4:18; 5:28;) they had imprisoned them, (Acts 5:18;) and now, if they suffered them to go without even the appearance of punishment, their authority, they feared, would be despised by the nation, and it would be supposed that the apostles had triumphed over the sanhedrim. It is probable, also, that they were so indignant, that they could not suffer them to go without the gratification of subjecting them to the public odium of a whipping. Men, if they cannot accomplish their full purposes of malignity against the gospel, will take up with even some petty annoyance and malignity, rather than let it alone.

{a} "beaten them" Matthew 10:17
{b} "commanded" Acts 4:18

Verse 41. Rejoicing. Nothing to most men would seem more disgraceful than a public whipping. It is a punishment inflicted usually not so much because it gives pain, as because it is esteemed to be attended with disgrace. The Jewish rulers, doubtless, desired that the apostles might be so affected with the sense of this disgrace as to be unwilling to appear again in public, or to preach the gospel any more. Yet in this they were disappointed. The effect was just the reverse. If it be asked why they rejoiced in this manner, we may reply,

(1.) because they were permitted thus to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. He had been scourged and reviled, and they were glad that they were permitted to be treated as he was. Comp. Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 4:13, "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings."

(2.) Because, by this, they had evidence that they were the friends and followers of Christ. It was clear they were engaged in the same cause that he was; enduring the same sufferings; and striving to advance the same interests. As they loved the cause, therefore they would rejoice in enduring even the shame and sufferings which the cause of necessity involved. The kingdom of the Redeemer was an object so transcendantly important, that for it they were willing to endure all the afflictions and disgrace which it might involve.

(3.) They had been told to expect this; it was a part of their enterprise. They had been warned of these things, and they now rejoiced that they had this evidence that they were engaged in the cause of truth, Matthew 5:11,12; 10:17,22; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; James 1:2.

(4.) Religion appears to a Christian so excellent and lovely, that he is willing, for its sake, to endure trial, and persecution, and death. With all this, it is infinite gain; and we should be willing to endure these trials, if, by them, we may gain a crown of glory. Comp. Mark 10:30.

(5.) Christians are the professed friends of Christ. We showy attachment for friends by being willing to suffer for them; to bear contempt and reproach on their account; and to share their persecutions, sorrows, and calamities.

(6.) The apostles were engaged in a cause of innocence, truth, and benevolence. They had done nothing of which to be ashamed; and they rejoiced, therefore, in a conscience void of offence, and in the consciousness of integrity and benevolence. When other men disgrace themselves by harsh, or vile, or opprobrious language or conduct towards us, we should not feel that the disgrace belongs to us. It is theirs; and we should not be ashamed or distressed, though their rage should fall on us. See 1 Peter 4:14-16.

Counted worthy. Esteemed to be deserving. That is, esteemed fit for it by the sanhedrim. It does not mean that God esteemed them worthy, but that the Jewish council judged them fit to suffer shame in this cause. They evinced so much zeal and determination of purpose, that they were judged fit objects to be treated as the Lord Jesus had himself been.

To suffer shame. To be dishonoured or disgraced in the estimation of the Jewish rulers. The particular disgrace to which reference is made here was whipping. To various other kinds of shame they were also exposed. They were persecuted, reviled, and finally put to death. Here we may remark, that a profession of the Christian religion has been in all ages esteemed by many to be a disgrace. The reasons are,

(1.) that Jesus is himself despised;

(2.) that his precepts are opposed to the gaiety and follies of the world;

(3.) that it attacks that on which the men of the world pride themselves--rank, wealth, fashion;

(4.) that it requires a spirit which the world esteems mean and grovelling-- meekness, humility, self-denial, patience, forgiveness of injuries; and,

(5.) that it requires duties--prayer, praise, seriousness, benevolence-which the men of the world despise. All these things the world esteem degrading and mean; and hence they endeavour to subject those who practise them to disgrace. The kinds of disgrace to which Christians have been subjected are too numerous to be mentioned here. In former times they were subjected to the loss of property, of reputation, and to all the shame of public punishment, and to the terrors of the dungeon, the stake, or the rack. One main design of persecution was to select a kind of punishment so disgraceful as to deter others from professing religion. Disgrace even yet may attend it. It may subject one to the ridicule of friends--of even a father, mother, or brother. Christians hear their opinions abused; their names vilified; their Bible travestied; the name of their God profaned, and of their Redeemer blasphemed. Their feelings are often wantonly and rudely torn by the cutting sarcasm, or the bitter sneer. Books and songs revile them; their peculiarities are made the occasion of indecent merriment on the stage and in novels; and in this way they are still subjected to shame for the name of Jesus. Every one who becomes a Christian should remember that this is a part of his inheritance, and should not esteem it dishonourable to be treated as his Master was before him, John 15:18-20; Matthew 10:25.

For his name. For attachment to him. See Barnes "Acts 2:46".

{c} "rejoicing" Matthew 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:13-16

Verse 42. And daily. Comp. 2 Timothy 4:2. See Barnes "Acts 2:46".

{d} "daily in the temple" 2 Timothy 4:2

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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 5". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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