Acts 5 Commentary

Opposition from Jewish leaders (5:17-42)

A sizable portion of the population of Jerusalem was now Christian (cf. 2:41,47; 4:4,16,17; 5:14,16,28). And the more the church grew, the more jealous and angry the Sadducees became. Again they brought the apostles before the Sanhedrin, though God showed he could rescue them at any time, should he so desire (17-21a). The apostles knew that, because of their widespread popular support, they could have successfully resisted arrest, but they chose not to. Instead they trusted in the overruling power of the sovereign God whom they served (21b-26).

The Sadducees in particular were angry; for they, being the high priestly party, were the ones whom the apostles blamed for the death of Jesus (27-28; cf. 4:6,10; 5:17). Also this new movement was based on a belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection, something that the Sadducees believed could not happen but

 

that the apostles repeatedly claimed they had witnessed. The apostles refused to alter their message, but assured the Sanhedrin that forgiveness was available to the repentant (29-32).

Though the Sadducee majority in the Sanhedrin would gladly have killed the apostles, a respected Pharisee teacher named Gamaliel persuaded the Sanhedrin not to. The Pharisees were pleased to see so many believing in the resurrection, for it gave support to their belief against the Sadducees’. They regarded the Christians as sincerely religious Jews who, though unusually enthusiastic, were orthodox enough to attend the temple daily to preach and pray (see 2:46; 3:1; 5:12,25,42). Gamaliel advised against opposing the new movement, in case it was from God. If it was not, it would collapse anyway (33-39).

Acting on Gamaliel’s advice, the Sanhedrin released the apostles. But the Sadducees gained some satisfaction by having the apostles beaten for disobeying a previous Sanhedrin command (40; cf. 4:17; 5:28). This was the first time that Christians suffered physical punishment for their faith in Jesus, but they rejoiced through it all (41-42).

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