Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 2 * BOOK 18
ACTS CHAPTER 5 – TIMELINE
Let’s turn to Acts Chapter 5. Recently, I was going through one of my old teaching Bibles, and an article fell out that I had copied out of a book written by William R. Newell. Those of you who like to read might want to take down the title and author. Newell was a great and famous Bible teacher in the Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit areas back in the 1920’s and 30’s. In this book which is titled “Paul Versus Peter” you will find on page ten that he writes this: “Is it not strange that 16 or 17 Chapters of the Book of Acts (if we include Chapter 9 and of course that is where Saul is converted), is given to that apostle who was not one of the original twelve. He was not converted until long after Pentecost. Must there not be a deep reason for this? And what is the reason? One thing is certainly evident already, and that is we Gentiles have a relation to Paul that we do not have to the other apostles. Exactly what that is we must prayerfully seek to discover.” And that says it in a nutshell. I’ve read that to sort of settle folk down who think I make too much of the Apostle Paul. And I also make a point of separating Peter and Paul. But to me it’s the only way you can understand Scripture. You see, until you can separate the ministries of those two men you are going to be like most of the rest of Christendom and that is total confusion. And that is the reason for the confusion. We have to get to the place that we can see that in all of these early Chapters of Acts Peter is constantly ministering to the Jew.
By inspiration, we are told in many places, that Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles and that he is the example for the Gentiles. (I Timothy 1:16 and Philippians 3:17) I told the class before we started that I was anxious to get to Chapter 9 and the conversion of Saul so we can see more obviously these vast differences. But it’s just amazing that folks can’t understand that as Peter is the Apostle to the Jew, God is going to lay out so clearly that Paul is the Apostle of the Gentiles. Now those are two different groups of people, and two different doctrines, but the same God. Everything is all fitting together as we showed you in the last lesson. But nevertheless we have to understand that Peter is still under the Covenant program that began with Abraham. And all through Christ’s earthly ministry, why was He ministering to the Jew? To prove to them that He was The King coming in fulfillment of that Abrahamic Covenant. Gentiles weren’t involved in that (Matthew 10:5 also Matthew 15:24 and Romans 15:8) until The King was in place and then they could flow into it as Isaiah says. Then they would flow to Jerusalem. It was a valid offer to the Nation of Israel, but that didn’t happen because of the rejection of The Messiah, and the dispersion of the Jew after the stoning of Stephen.
In Chapter 5, I’m going to make the statement which I hope doesn’t make folks angry, because I’ve said often enough on this program that I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. And if you don’t agree with me I won’t call you a heretic and vice versa. Just because I’m a little different don’t call me a heretic, because I’m still blood bought. I’m still a firm believer in the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ, and that is what’s fundamental to all of this. But for now let’s review just the closing verses in Chapter 4 and then into Chapter 5. I maintain this is not Church ground or the Body of Christ as the Church. This is the Jerusalem assembly, primarily Jewish believers of the fact that Jesus was The Christ. There has been no mention yet of a Salvation based on His shed blood, on His death, burial, and Resurrection. It’s only on Who He was. He was the promised Messiah. Now the closing verses of Chapter 4.
“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet (the Twelve): and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
None of that is Church language. I’ve always maintained as long as I’ve been teaching, how long could a pastor keep his congregation under his wing if he would ask them to cash in all their property and bring him the money? Well he wouldn’t last to Monday morning, not if he has intelligent people. But you see this is what they were doing, and there was nothing amiss. It was expected. If Chapter 5, telling about the death of Ananias and Sapphira, is Church ground then there wouldn’t be a believer left on this earth. Because the minute they committed the sin of even lying, what happened? They were gone. How many believers haven’t done much worse than this, and they’re not gone. Why? Well we are under a whole different set of circumstances. But here this is approaching the Kingdom. I didn’t make this point in the last several Chapters, and I should have. The reason they are so willing to sell their property and turn it into cash and bring it to the apostles’ feet is because they knew that as soon as The King would set up the Kingdom they wouldn’t have to worry about houses and land. In the Kingdom there will be no poverty, everyone would have everything. And so this was their prospect, they were looking for the Kingdom just over the horizon. Remember, according to Psalms Chapter 2 and the Old Testament program, not long after they would reject The Messiah, then would come the wrath and vexation, and then would come The King. Well with that in view they were not worried about keeping their property. So they gladly sold and brought the money to the apostles, because the more the apostles could preach the Kingdom the more Jews would be brought in as believers and then they would have The King and Kingdom.
And little did they know that it would all come to nothing. Now that should also give you a little insight. Why do you suppose that every place that Paul went among his Gentile congregations that he would always take up a collection? For the poor at Jerusalem who had sold everything, but since Christ hadn’t returned, the kitty had run dry. And where did it leave them? Destitute. But God in His mercy still reckoned with the fact that they had done all of that in obedience and so God takes care of them then with the offerings from Paul’s Gentile converts. Now does that all make sense? I hope so. And so here again we come into Chapter 5 and Peter is still dealing with these Jewish believers there in Jerusalem.
BUT a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,” Just like Barnabas did, but they made their big mistake. verse 2:
“And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it (she knew what was being done), and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
But Peter said, `Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?'”
“Whiles it remained, was it not thine own (in other words it was up to you. You didn’t have to bring it all, but why did you lie and say that you had when you hadn’t)? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Now that wasn’t all that big a deal. I dare say the average believer tells a bigger lie than that at least once in his life time. And if this is Church ground then we would all be gone. That is if you are going to say this is part of the Church, and use it as an example. But this is a better example of the circumstances in the Kingdom. We know that death is possible in the Kingdom. Not very likely, but if someone commits a horrendous act of rebellion against The King, that is his potential fate, he will be suddenly taken off the scene. So I prefer to think that this is what these Jewish believers had to understand. That they were getting ready to come under the authority of The King Who is going to rule with an iron hand. You don’t fool Him. You don’t even so much tell a white lie to Him, for if you do you are going to be out of here. And so this is really the lesson for these Jews. They were now coming under a set of circumstances where their King was going to rule with absolute power and knowledge. You wouldn’t be able to hide anything from Him. You all know the account of what happened. Verse 6.
“And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, `Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?’ and she said, `Yea, for so much.’ Then Peter said unto her, `How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt (or test) the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out (now that’s shocking isn’t it? That would be enough to shake up any group of people).’ Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost; and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church (or assembly as I like to refer to the Jewish believers), and upon as many as heard these things.”
“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;…”
Now come back with me again to Acts 1:8, so we don’t lose sight of what I have been trying to bring out. This is when The Lord was speaking to the eleven disciples just before He ascended. And remember what He told them.
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
They were to receive power. What kind of power? Miracle working power. They were to be an extension of Christ’s earthly ministry. Every thing that He and the Twelve had performed in those three years, Peter and the eleven were to continue, because they are dealing with the same people. They’re dealing with the Nation of Israel, and trying to convince the nation that Jesus was Who He said He was. And He was still going to fulfill His promises if they would just simply believe. Now verse 12 again:
“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord [where? In the church down on First and Grand? No, but rather] in Solomon’s porch…)”
And where’s Solomon’s porch? In the Temple. They’re still meeting in the Temple; still taking their sacrifices; they haven’t stopped Judaistic rituals. The only thing that’s been added to it is now they have believed that Jesus was Whom He said He was.
“(…And of the rest [of Judaism] durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)”
I’m thankful for the archaeologists. They are finding more and more evidence that there were thousands of these first and second century Jews who were still practicing their Judaism, but had embraced Jesus of Nazareth as The Messiah. And that’s what they are uncovering. Now they were not Gentile adherents of Paul’s Gospel of Grace, but rather they were Jewish believers who were still believing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now I’ll have to explain that. For the first three or four years after I began teaching, I was never comfortable teaching the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts, and I would just skim over them. And then one day I stopped in at my parents’ house for a morning cup of coffee, and on Mom’s coffee table was one of those little booklets from the old radio program called “The Radio Bible Class.” It’s now called The Day of Discovery. Anyway, one of their guest preachers from time to time throughout the year, was a gentleman by the name of Paul VanGorder. And the title of his little booklet was “Which Gospel When?” I was just bug-eyed at that, and said, “Mom could I have this little booklet?” She said, “Yes, I’m through with it.” I took that little book home with me, and it was a compilation of his one month of four Radio Bible Class sermonettes. In those four lessons he laid out that during Christ’s earthly ministry it was the Gospel of the Kingdom. Not the Gospel of Grace. When Paul comes on the scene, then it goes to the Gospel of the Grace of God. And that just totally changed my whole concept of Scripture.
This is how God works. I had no more than finished reading it, when someone gave me a copy by Sir Robert Anderson of a book titled the “Silence of God.” I’ve made reference to that book before on this program, and if you get a chance, read it. Now Sir Robert Anderson does the same thing. He just lays out so clearly that in the Four Gospel accounts and the early Chapters of Acts, it’s the Gospel of the Kingdom. And that’s what Jesus called it over and over. And then when you get into Paul’s letters you never see that term again. Why? The Gospel of the Kingdom faded off the scene, and the Gospel of Grace took its place. And that’s just exactly what William R. Newell also wrote. So all of this evidence just kept piling up, and finally I decided this is where it’s at. So all of a sudden the whole thing started to make sense. That’s when you come from the Jewish program, the Gospel of the Kingdom, based on the Covenants and based on Christ’s earthly ministry. and Israel continues to reject it, then God turns to the Gentiles with that other apostle which will be introduced in Chapter 9. But here in this Chapter we are still dealing with the Twelve, who are ministering to the Nation of Israel. Now verse 14:
“(And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)” And now verse 15, and if this isn’t a repeat of the Four Gospels then I don’t know what is.
“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” That was the Jewish program.
“There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem (we’re not talking about Cairo, Athens or Rome; this is Jerusalem), bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed (how many?) every one.”
“Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,”
You know religious people haven’t changed. There is nothing that upsets religious people more than to hear the truth. I’ve learned that over the years. Religious people do not want the truth. They want their religion. And some of you have shared with me that you have tried to go back to some of your religious church members and they won’t listen to you. Why not? They don’t want to be bothered. I’m comfortable, leave me alone. The world is full of religion. For example, take the Hindu religion. They say the same thing – leave us alone. I don’t care what religion it is they will have that same stock answer, “Leave me alone, I’m comfortable, I think I’ll make it.” But then we like to come back and say, “Wouldn’t you like to know that you’ll make it?” That’s the difference! Verse 18:
“And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth,…”
I’ve always asked this question ever since I read Sir Robert Anderson’s book, the “Silence of God.” He made the point: Do you know of a single account in Church history that angels came down and delivered God’s people? In Church history? No. Now I’m not saying that God isn’t a God of miracles, don’t misunderstand me. I know that God can still answer prayer and God can still perform the miraculous. But I’m talking about the kind of miracles that Israel experienced. Angels coming in and opening prison doors. Earthquakes that could be so controlled that it would release all the prisoners who were in stocks and not kill any of them. Now that’s the supernatural that I’m talking about. That doesn’t happen any more. And it’s not going to happen until God begins once again to deal with the Nation of Israel. But here we have such a supernatural intervention in the affairs of men, that an angel comes in and opens the prisons doors and let’s the apostle out. And you all know the account of how the rulers were greatly disturbed and wondered how these things happened. Now they’ve got to do something to stop it. Now verse 27:
“And when they had brought them (the Twelve); they set them before the council (religious leaders of Israel): and the high priest asked them,”
“Saying, `Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name (do you see there’s no mention of the shed blood, or His death, burial and Resurrection, but only His Name. I’ve stressed over the years when you are to recognize a name, what is attached to it? The position. And in this case with Jesus, when they heard this Name, they were suddenly to know that here was the One Who had performed all of these miracles, Who had claimed to be the promised Messiah, The King, and this was what His Name was to imply. And that is all they are stressing: Who He was)? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.'”
Well indeed, what had they done? They had murdered Him. Didn’t they have a right to have vengeance taken on them? And I think the Nation of Israel has suffered for it ever since.
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, `We ought to obey God rather than men, The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.'”
That throws a curve at some people. What does that sound like? Like they killed Him first, and then hung Him up on a tree. Now why does Peter use that kind of language? In Deuteronomy 21:18-23, if there was a rebellious son in Israel, and he was so wicked that the parents couldn’t do anything with him, they were to turn him over to the authorities and say here is a rebellious son, he’s a drunkard, and we can do nothing with him. Then the Jewish authorities would order him to be stoned. But it didn’t stop there. To make him a public spectacle so that people would get the lesson, they would then hang that corpse on a pole. The end of verse 23 reads. “(for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)” Peter is bringing that picture to the Nation of Israel. That this is what they had really done with their Christ. They had considered Him like a rebellious drunkard, wicked son. And they killed Him and hung Him on a tree. Now we know that in actuality He became that on our behalf. “He who knew no sin became sin for us.” If you go into Hebrews 13, you will find that the Crucifixion was awful. We have glamorized it with our jewelry, the golden Crosses and all of that, but the Crucifixion was not beautiful. It was accursed, because God laid on Him the sins of the whole human race.
But here, Peter says, “Whom you slew and hanged on a tree,” to show the degradation of His death. Not that He Himself was guilty of any of that, but that He became the innocent Lamb of God on Whom all the guilt of a sinful world was laid. Remember Isaiah 52 says that of anyone who ever lived, He was more marred as He hung on the Cross than anyone who had ever lived.