Study Notes on Acts 5:17 – 5 :42
A Message God Will Not Allow to be Silenced

A) The Opposition of the Sadducees

Opposition Based on Pride

“Pride is based on the mistake that the power is ours or that we in our own strength fulfilled the conditions to get it. But in fact the power is God’s, and if we fulfilled any conditions to get it—like faith or prayer or purity—it was not we but the grace of God in us (1 Corinthians 15:1).” John Piper

“What we need in this matter are strong doses of conviction about the inability of sinful man and the all-sufficiency of sovereign grace. This is the antidote to pride.” John Piper

Opposition Based on Jealousy (5:17)

Jealousy is the anger and the resentment that someone has what you don’t, and generally comes from two things

  1. lovelessness (1 Cor 13:4): if you love another person, you will rejoice if God gives them power, even if he doesn’t give it to you.
  2. faithlessness: if you have faith in the sovereign grace of God to give power according to his own divine wisdom, then you will praise him for the times and ways of his outpouring, not question him and resent his choices

Opposition Through Accusations of False Teaching (5:27,28)

The Sadducees denied the resurrection, and hence were not open to the apostles teaching that Jesus was raised from the dead (Acts 4:1-2)

One way to discredit the miracles witnessing to the resurrection was to accuse the apostles of false teaching

“This does not mean that charges of false doctrine are unimportant. It just means that even if your doctrine is right, you will probably be charged with false teaching, because this is one way of discrediting your experience of power” John Piper

Opposition Through Physical Power (5:18)

The Sadducees used their physical power to persecute the apostles – while (on this occasion) the apostles were delivered by God’s spiritual power.

Other than violence, perhaps the most common forms are ostracism and slander.

“If I am threatened by another person’s experience of God’s power, and yet I have no true experience of that power myself to counter with, one great temptation is to try to vindicate myself by holding the other person at a distance and slandering him with half-truths and exaggerations and innuendos and sarcasm and falsehoods.” John Piper

The Irony of the Situation

  • the guards are guarding an empty cell (v23)
  • the Sadducees are ready to judge prisoners they do not have (v22)
  • all while the apostles are teaching in the temple (v25)

B) The Faithfulness of the Apostles

Upon release the apostles went early to the temple in the morning (5:21)

Civil Disobedience in the Name of God

There is much scripture telling us to obey the God established human authorities (Rom 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2,13,14).

But our duty is to honour God first:

  • The midwives in Egypt did not kill the male babies (Exodus 1:17,21)
  • Rehab hid the Israelite spies and withstood the questioning authorities (Joshua 2:4)
  • Against the king’s command, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not bow their knees to the image of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:18, 25)
  • Daniel refused to cease from praying three times a day, even though doing so was in direct violation of the law (Daniel 6:10,21,22)

Civil Disobedience must be carried out:

  • On scriptural authority, the apostles had clear commands to preach the gospel (e.g. Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8)
  • With humility – we are representing Christ in our actions

The Bravery of the Apostles

Deliverance is not promised in every case:

  • Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:58)
  • the apostle James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:1)
  • Pauls was imprisoned for two years and ultimately killed by the Roman authorities

The Apostles Message of Life

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Acts 5:20

They were speaking the words of:

  • Fullness of life now (John 10:10)
  • Eternal life (John 3:16)
  • Resurrected life (Phil 3:20,21)

The message was worth the persecution!

C) The Wisdom of Gamaliel

“if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”” Acts 38b, 39

“Gamaliel then gave his advice to the council: stay neutral and find out whether God was in this movement or not. This appeared to be wise counsel, but actually it was not. No one can be neutral about Christ. To delay making a decision is to court disaster. God had given every evidence through signs and miracles that He was at work, and there was no reason to put off a decision.” Warren Weirsbe