The Apostles Imprisoned: Acts 5:12-41
“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Acts 5:42
Thank you for staying on this journey through Acts with me.
Whatever in life it is that doesn’t kill us definitely makes us stronger. Experiences can either break us or build us into better people. Obstacles are meant to be overcome. And that’s exactly what happened with the apostles and the rest of the church in the latter part of Acts chapter 5.
They faced hardships, imprisonment, and death, but they remained undeterred in their unwavering commitment to Christ. It didn’t break them, but it helped build them up and strengthen the church in number and in heart.
The Bible says, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico” (Acts 5:12). It’s important to note that the signs and wonders that were being done after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were done by the apostles.
When I visited a Pentecostal denomination several years ago before I became a member of the Lord’s church, I heard the teaching that if a person had faith in Christ, they should be able to lay hands on sick people and they get well. I figured that I had faith so I wasn’t going to let anyone be sick around me if I had power within me to heal them. So I tried the laying on of hands and praying that I saw them doing at that congregation whenI got home on a family member who had a headache. And, to my dismay, it didn’t work.
It doesn’t work when other people try it, either. No matter how much they try to pop off the illusion that they can, it is not true for today. It’s a rip off if someone says that they can. We do not live in an age of miraculous signs and wonders like what was present in the apostles’ and Jesus’ day.
Those miraculous signs and wonders were done so that people might believe. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe'” (John 4:48). “God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will” (Heb. 2:4). Miraculous signs and wonders were done as a testament to Christ and the salvation that He offers.
We don’t need them as a testament to His salvation any more because we have the revealed, written Word of God now. John said that “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
Think about it: if there was some person still walking on this earth who could heal people of sickness by laying their hands on them, everyone in the world would be flocking to them and taking their loved ones, like many did to the apostles (5:15-16). That’s not happening today because there is no one like that living any more and we are not living in an age of miraculous signs and wonders.
The religious leaders (the high priest and Sadducees) were upset once again at the commotion that the apostles were causing among the people. The Sadducees were particularly at odds with the apostles’ teachings about Christ because they didn’t believe in a resurrection of the dead (Luke 20:27). “They were filled with indignation” at the apostles preaching the resurrected Christ (Acts 5:17).
So they imprisoned all of them, but the Lord sent an angel to open the doors of the prison and set them free so that they could continue to preach (Acts 5:18-20). The apostles did what the angel commanded them to do and they went and stood in the temple and preached – a direct contrast to what the religious leaders commanded them (Acts 5:28).
The apostles gave a great response to the high priest when he said to them, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And, look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us” (Acts 5:28).
“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men'” (Acts 5:29). They refused to be silent and stood right before the high priest and Sadducees and continued to preach the gospel of Christ. And they didn’t change their message, either; they relentlessly taught repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:30-33).
And just like the religious leaders did to Jesus, they began plotting to kill the apostles (Acts 5:33). What the apostles were preaching threatened everything that they lived for and taught themselves – that there was no resurrection.
It’s amazing how when people are threatened by you, they will do everything they can to hurt you in order to silence, diminish, and destroy your existence.
I don’t know why people can’t just be great together. You be the best you, I’ll be the best me, and we can coexist without tearing one another down. Just because you disagree with a person or don’t like them for some reason is no reason to abuse them, to try to crush their hopes, or to destroy their lives.
The Pharisee Gamaliel understood that idea. He calmed down the other leaders’ fury, explaining to them how if the apostles weren’t from God, their followings would scatter and come to nothing just like the followings of Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:34-40).
Gamaliel said, “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
Though they agreed with him, they still physically punished the apostles and told them not to speak in the name of Jesus before letting them go (Acts 5:40).
Notice the apostles’ attitudes when they left the prison after being flogged:
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:41-42).
Peter could rightly say “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled'” (1 Pet. 3:14). He also said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). Peter, and the apostles, knew about suffering. And they rejoiced that they could have a part in the sufferings of Christ.
Paul said that everyone who wants to live godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). So, we as Christians will suffer for our faith. Some days will be harder than others, but with the Lord on our side, we take comfort and have joy even in the midst of persecution and extreme pressure that seeks to destroy our homes, our relationships, our esteem, our dignity, our jobs, and even our entire lives.
Like the apostles’ unwavering faith in God, nothing can stop us as ambassadors for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The enemy cannot win. In fact, the enemy has already lost. Satan is defeated.
We have the victory. The apostles understood that. That’s why they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as Christ. And, I won’t either.
And like the apostles, you, too, can choose to obey God rather than men. Obey that same gospel message that the apostles preached in the New Testament: repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins. Believe that Jesus is the Christ, repent of your sins, confess that He is Lord, be baptized, and live a faithful life in His service.
The Lord stands ready to save. Will you obey Him?
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” – Isaiah 59:1
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