There is a Big Battle raging between the temple authorities & the apostles who are the divinely appointed witnesses to the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ. Between the temple & the new building project that God is engaged in - his new temple – which focuses on Jesus, and now his church.
In the Bible, the church isn’t a building – the church is the gathering of the people of God. And God dwells within it, and it is served by his people – priests, within that new temple.
God will do everything in his power to protect that new temple & show the danger in our attitude of treating the church lightly. He will do whatever it takes to keep his church growing.
Internal Attack (Acts 5:1-11)
Satan’s second strategy was to attack the church, the dwelling place, the holy place of God from within involving Ananias & Sapphira, after the first plan of attack from outside in Acts 4. The church of God has their hearts filled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31) in contrast with the hearts of Ananias & Sapphira filled by Satan.
In the church, the sale of capital was voluntary and the percentage of giving was discretionary. While it remained unsold, it remained your own. Even after it was sold, it was at your disposal. There is no compulsion and no prescription.
The phrase: “kept back for himself” speaks of embezzlement. The lie to the apostles displays a disdain for their authority. But worse still, it is a lie (Ac 5:3) to the Holy Spirit, to God - “put the Lord to the test” (Acts 5:9).
This is a very serious thing that is taking place: the yeast of immorality seeking to take root in the life of the church, as the spirit of divisiveness seeks to work its way in to this new community, this new temple that God is building.
There are 3 times in the Old Testament where people just fall down dead, independent of anyone coming near them: Uzziah (2 Samuel 6), Korah (Numbers 16) and Abihu (Leviticus 10). In every case, they die as a consequence of an inappropriate, sinful attitude towards God & his holy dwelling place.
What is our attitude to the church? Self-serving? Divisive? Dismissive as weak, undisciplined, powerless?
Or do we honour one another as the new temple of God where God dwells?
God’s Spirit is dwelling among his people and it’s a holy thing, and a pure thing. There is a proper sense of reverence, awe and indeed fear because the people of God is where the living God now dwells.
External Attack (Acts 5:12-42)
The trial of Acts 5 is very like the trial of Acts 4.
The first difference is that the opposition gets violent.
What is it that that Peter says that produced this passionate, hate-filled response on the behalf of the rulers?
First of all, Peter makes clear that his and the apostles’ allegiance now lies with God, and not with the rulers anymore (Acts 5:29).
But God’s allegiance has transferred as well (Acts 5:30, 31). God has raised Jesus form the dead, and has exalted him, seated him now on a throne next to his in heaven.
Even the Holy Spirit has given his allegiance (Acts 5:32).
All the way through the opening 5 chapters, it is to demonstrate where God is at work & where God is no longer at work. God is no longer at work through this temple establishment because the centre has moved from the temple to the apostolic preaching of the Gospel.
The very thing the temple stood for was forgiveness of sins. The very ministry that the priests & the Pharisees & the scribes were to have was to have one of forgiveness of sins. And yet these Pharisees have become so tied up with their own position of leadership – so self-important, so self-righteous – that when true righteousness is offered to them, and forgiveness: well, they hate it, and they turn away.
The temple authorities and leaders should have embraced this new movement that was taking root. Instead they violently opposed it.
The second difference in this trial is that God cannot be opposed.
God is sovereign over everything that is going on and will not be opposed.
The authorities having done their utmost by exercising all of their authority and all their power, yet Jerusalem is now filled with this teaching (Acts 5:28).
The apostles continue to do what they are supposed to do in teaching obedience to Christ even though they were severely beaten and given a death threat. And yet, they rejoice! (Acts 5:41, 42). Why?
Because they have such a high view of the suffering of Jesus Christ – they know that he suffered on their behalf, and that indeed he set an example for them to follow, so that for them to take up their cross and follow him – is not a failure. Rather in many respects it’s a success.
They think of it as an honour to be dishonoured. They think of it as a means of grace to be disgraced for Jesus.
This is a perspective that will keep us from avoiding suffering when we know it should come our way. It’s a perspective that will keep you going in the midst of suffering.
Internal Controversy (Acts 6:1-7)
Again as they encounter internal controversy involving widows being neglected as well as external opposition, the apostles have one driving priority: they want to see the word of God proclaimed to a lost world who needs to hear it.
God is in charge, and he will care for his people, and he will achieve his purposes because God cannot be opposed, however violent the opposition.