Acts 5 Apostles Must Obey God

Tod Kennedy, September 5, 1999

Application or “So what?” from Acts 5

  1. God is sovereign and holy; we had better not try to con him. We must be honest and genuine in our relationship with him; anything else will bring unhappiness and possible divine discipline.
  2. Grace giving to God ought to be voluntary, given with no strings attached, motivated by appreciation to God, and given only to please the God and serve him.
  3. Supernatural spiritual gifts had a purpose—to authenticate the apostles’ ministry—and when that was accomplished God withdrew those gifts; God does not give those gifts today.
  4. Mental attitude sins will frustrate us and make us miserable. Not only that, but they will lead us to make bad decisions that will hurt others and us.
  5. We ought to continue our God given ministry, no matter what opposition we encounter.
  6. We must learn when to obey human authority and also when to say, “that is wrong, I must obey the Word of God.”
  7. We have the wonderful privilege to suffer rebuke, rejection, and pain because we are believers in Christ and serve him.

Summary Outline

  1. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit about their giving. Peter called their bluff; he knew that both had lied to God. God executed both by employing the sin unto death. As one would expect, the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira got people’s—believers’ and unbelievers’—attention.  They will now be more careful how they relate to God. God used this incident to alert the young church to his authority and their responsibility (Acts 5.1-11).
  2. The apostles got the attention of the people from Jerusalem and surrounding cities through the supernatural sign gifts so that more and more people became believers in Christ (Acts 5.12-16). We draw attention to the gospel by our grace mental attitude, by how we treat people, by how we live under pressure and prosperity, by what we talk about, by how we do our job, and by how clear we present the gospel.
  3. The religious leadership again demonstrated their mental attitude sins of jealousy by immediately arresting the apostles (Acts 5.17-18).
  4. The Angel of the Lord secretly broke the Apostles out of jail—no broken doors or bent bars or strange noises—and commanded them to take their stand in the temple and boldly present eternal life through Christ. The temple police and  religious leaders could not figure out what had happened (Acts 5.19-24).
  5. A report came in that the apostles were in the temple area teaching the people. Upon hearing this the officers brought them in for questioning. The officers had to be careful lest the crowd of people  turn on them for arresting the apostles (Acts 5.25-28).
  6. The apostles went right to the point when they answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Then they wasted no time in telling their antagonists that Jesus, whom the religious leaders had killed, was alive, was honored by God, was the Prince and Savior, and had authority over Israel and over sin. They further reiterated that they and the Holy Spirit, whom God had given to them, had witnessed these wonderful things (Acts 5.29-32).
  7. Gamaliel used some common sense; he told the group of self righteous, jealous, and irritated Jews that they should calm down. If the new movement were a human and not a divine movement, then it would come to nothing just as Theudas and his band and Judas and his band;  if what the apostles were doing was directed by God, then by attacking the apostles the religious leaders would be attacking God  (Acts 5.34-39).
  8. The authorities flogged the apostles and again forbade them to preach Jesus Christ. The apostles, of course, went right back to witnessing and teaching about Christ. They considered it an honor to have suffered  because they spoke about Jesus Christ and the resurrection (Acts 5.40-42).

Doctrine Summaries, Definitions, and Descriptions

  1. The sin unto death is the final stage of divine discipline administered by God to a believer because of sin. This discipline is mentioned only a few times; the sins in those cases were seeking information from a medium, lying to the Holy Spirit, and consistently participating in communion with unconfessed sin in the life; there are probably other sins and patterns of sinning that bring on the sin unto death (1 Samuel 28.7; 1 Chronicles 10.13-14; Acts 5.1-10; 1 Corinthians 11.27-30; 1 John 5.16).
  2. God disciplines believers (divine discipline) in order to bring about right thinking and right living; he wants to protect, correct, train and bless us. God begins with warning (Revelation 3.19-20), then proceeds to punishment if the warning is ignored (Hebrews 12.5-11), and in certain cases he removes the believer from temporal life—the sin unto death (Acts 5.1-10; 1 John 5.16).
  3. Suffering and testing refer to pain, pressure, circumstances, ideas, or people that challenge the believer to live God’s plan in the present evil world system. There are two main categories of suffering and testing: undeserved and deserved. Undeserved suffering and testing is the most prominent category for the believer. All suffering and testing, even divine discipline, is designed for blessing (2 Corinthians 4.16-17; 1 Peter 1.6-9; 1 Peter 4.1-2; 1 Peter 4.12-16; Hebrews 12.7-11).
  4. Authority is the right to rule and make decisions. Divine authority and human authority ought not to contradict each other. God is the absolute authority and the source of all legitimate human authority (Psalm 135.6). God has created the universe (John 1.1-4; Colossians 1.16) and his authority maintains the consistent function of the universe (Colossians 1.17).  God’s authority establishes human freedom; human freedom requires responsibility; responsibility protects human freedom and restrains human authority (Romans 13.1-6; 1 Peter 2.13-17). God has instituted human authority in order to 1) protect free will, 2) protect the human race from self destruction, 3) give order to life, 4) maintain peace, 5) allow the gospel and doctrine to spread and influence people, and 6) support the believers’ witness by their authority orientation in a rebellious world. He has expressed his authority in His written Word and through Jesus Christ, the living Word (Hebrews 1.1-2; Hebrews 4.12; 2 Timothy 3.16).  Believers have the responsibility to obey human authority except where that authority contradicts God’s authority as expressed in his Word (Daniel 6.4-17; Acts 4.19-20; Acts 5.29).  Believers are under the authority of the laws of their nation; we are to obey them. The exception is that when the laws contradict Scripture, we must obey the Scripture instead of the human laws. Peter and John state this in Acts 4.19-20; Peter records the principle in 1 Peter 2.11-23. Daniel faced this same kind of challenge in Daniel 6.4-17. When we choose for God instead of the human law, we honor God and his plan and at the same time help our country by presenting God’s truth.  If we are arrested or harassed we must take the consequences, all the while continuing to learn the Word of God, living by the Holy Spirit, living by faith, and applying the Word of God to life. We have recently studied principles related to these concepts in the doctrines of Human Freedom and Spiritual Freedom, Divine Institutions, Divine Establishment, and Authority.
  5. Mental attitude sins are thought sins; the other two categories of sin are sins of the tongue and action sins. We can commit mental attitude sins without anyone knowing about it, but God knows. Mental attitude sins are the root of the other sins. Common mental attitude sins are worry, judging others, pride, jealousy, hatred, envy, worldliness, plotting evil, and self-righteousness (Proverbs 23.7; Proverbs 6.16-18; Matthew 7.1-2; Romans 12.1-2; 2 Corinthians 10.5; James 4.1-6).
  6. Grace giving occurs when a believer who is walking by the Holy Spirit and in fellowship with God willingly gives to the Lord from his material possessions without any desire for human praise (2 Corinthians 8.1-5; 1 Corinthians 9.6-8).