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Bible: What Does Acts 5:13-42 Teach Us About Apostolic Preaching and Jewish Antagonism?

Updated on November 6, 2016

The Apostle Peter

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The Apostle John

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Requirement for Entrance into Kingdom


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Acts 5:13-42: Apostolic Preaching/Jewish Antagonism

Luke continues to present a pattern of similar reactions to similar occurrences in similar locations.

The chart from Acts 2-5 (in the table capsule accompanying the Acts 5:1-12 hub) shows this structure.

While the apostles acquire great esteem among the people, not many of the latter join the apostle’s company for fear of excommunication (v. 13).

Still, “multitudes” believe in Christ (“increasingly added to the Lord”), and vast numbers from throughout the region experience healings of various sorts—some in rather strange ways (vv. 14-16).

[Peter’s shadow passing by heals people? With God, nothing is impossible].

Jewish Opposition

Apostolic popularity with the ordinary people increases, but so does opposition from the Jewish elite; this time, the envious Sadducees take center stage as the apostles’ antagonists, arresting and imprisoning them (vv. 17-18).

The Lord, however, wills that the gospel should continue to spread; therefore, He sends an angel late at night to release them from the public jail, so that they could preach in the temple early the next day (vv. 19-21a).

Unaware of this nighttime escape, the entire Jewish leadership assembles, purposing to question the apostles (v. 21b).

When the officers report the defendants’ miraculous absence from their jail cell, the Jews are not a little perturbed (vv. 22-24).

Further investigation reveals that Peter, John, and other apostles are busy proclaiming the gospel in the temple again; the high priest therefore sends the captain and his soldiers to retrieve them quietly (vv. 25-26).

[The “military” feared the crowds, for the latter supported the apostles].

Once more, Peter and others stand before the authorities to answer for their civil disobedience to the earlier directive (vv. 27-28a; cf. 4:18).

The high priest believes the apostles are nothing more than rabble-rousers (v. 28b).

Spokesman Peter reiterates the substance of his earlier retort, maintaining their obligation to give obedience to God as preeminent (v. 29).

The apostle, however, does not stop there.

While boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, he pointedly accuses the Jewish leadership of murdering the Lord by crucifixion (v. 30).

Not only did God raise Jesus, Peter goes on to assert, but He has also seated Him at the place of honor in Heaven—that is, the Father’s right hand—where He is prepared “to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (v. 31).

[At this point, God is still offering to establish the Messianic Kingdom with that generation; Jewish repentance continues as the only unfulfilled condition.]

Peter’s concluding words affirm two facts and imply a third, respectively:

(1) The apostles are God’s witnesses to the Resurrection;

(2) The Holy Spirit, Who indwells and controls them as obedient believers, also testifies to this truth; and

(3) The Jewish leadership do not have the Holy Spirit, for they continually disobey God (v. 32).

These comments raise the hackles of the Jews, causing them to lose self-control; they even begin to devise plans to murder the apostles (v. 33).

The apostle Paul’s (still referred to as Saul at this point; he is not introduced until 7:58) teacher, the Pharisee Gamaliel, quiets the assembly through his commanding presence, and puts the apostles outside the confab (v. 34; cf. 22:3).

[Paul may have been present in this group of leaders]. [In his Bible dictionary, Merrill Unger writes a perceptive column about Gamaliel (388)].

The Sanhedrin

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Jewish Leadership


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Gamaliel's Address

In his address to his brethren, Gamaliel stresses caution as they deliberate upon the apostles’ fate (v. 35), offering two recent historical examples of other rebels—Theudas with his four hundred (v. 36), and Judas of Galilee with his multitude (v. 37; see Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 216 for more details)—who were eventually killed and their followers scattered.

Surmising that the apostles represent just another in a series of failed attempts to acquire freedom, the old Pharisee advises his colleagues not to bother them, reasoning that if their movement originated with men (as he suspects it did), it would founder.

However, he does leave open the possibility, however slight, that the Almighty might have commissioned their group; therefore, he counsels laissez-faire treatment “lest you even be found to fight against God” (vv. 38-39).

[It is amazing that the Jewish leadership still completely disregards the miracles—one of which that they themselves acknowledged (cf. 4:16)—as proof that the apostles represent God; Gamaliel responded positively to some of the light given, but not nearly enough.]

The Pharisees' Orders to the Apostles

Putting forth a united façade under Gamaliel, the Jews command the apostles to be beaten; before finally releasing them, the leadership warns John and Peter again not to continue their preaching (v. 40).

The apostles leave the interrogation rejoicing, understanding the privilege afforded them of suffering shame for Jesus’ sake (v. 41; cf. 1 Pet. 4:13-16).

The next day they return to their teaching and preaching ministry, spreading the word throughout the city (v. 42).

© 2013 glynch1

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