November 18, 2013

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

Topic #II: The Church in Jerusalem, Acts 2.1-8.3

            Subtopic D: Struggle from Within and Without (Acts 5.1-6.7)                   

Subtopic 2: The Sanhedrin and the apostles (5:12-42)              

 

Lesson II.D.2.a: The apostle's respected by people (2:12-16) 

 

 

Acts 5.12-16 (KJV)

 

12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.

13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

15 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.

16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.


 

Commentary

12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.

13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)


“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.” Notice that the apostles exercise the apostolic gifts. Gifts of healing and gifts of miracles were sign gifts which were given to the apostles. They did many signs among the people. “By the hands of the apostles” does not necessarily mean that these “signs and wonders” were done through the laying on of hands—and certainly does not mean that they were done through the power of the hands of the apostles. It simply means that God working through the apostles, wrought signs and wonders among the people.


During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He often laid hands upon the sick, and in Mark 16.18 He said of His disciples, “They shall lay hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.” However, verse 15 of our present chapter proved that the multitudes believed that their sick ones could be healed without the touch of the hands of the apostles, since they laid the sick on cots and couches in the streets in hopes that the shadow of Peter might pass over them.


The discipline in the church had put a fear on the people and stopped the revival, so that nobody for purely human reasons dared to unite with the new fellowship. However, the Church was held in high regard by the people. Only those who experienced a genuine work of God dared to unite with the Church; yet there were still great numbers who were being saved.

“Believers were being added to the Lord.” People heard and believed the Word preached by Peter and the other apostles and were added to the Lord’s Church day by day (Acts 2.47[1]). Rapid numerical growth was a phenomenon of the early Church. We know that by a.d. 300 there were millions of people in the Roman Empire who had turned to Christ.


“And they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.” The early Christians did not have their own building for worship. They usually met in the homes of the believers who had the necessary space, and sometimes they met in Solomon’s Porch, which bordered the east side of the vast temple area. Such meetings were important, since they were opportunities to confer with each other, and for instruction, prayer, and fellowship among the believers. In other words, they came to Solomon’s Porch to teach and be taught—and with one common purpose: to learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ and the things of God. Who were the “all”? They may have been the apostles, the apostles and their immediate following (born again believers), or possibly, the whole Christian community. If the latter is true, “the rest” (v.13) would be other interested spectators, the Jews who had not believed, who now hesitated to publicly identify themselves with the Christians because of what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira, even though “the people” in general “magnified them” (held them in high esteem). But verse 14 seems to be a contradiction, unless we suppose that “durst no man join himself to them” does not merely mean to join with them, but to join them in courageous public witness. In other words, they were willing to join the Christian community, but balked at making any public declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ.


“And of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” There was a terrible fear that fell on the community outside as well as upon the Church; upon the entire city, and upon the leaders of the people. That sudden and swift and awful judgment that befell Ananias and Sapphira was like the flaming sword God placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden and it kept people from associating with believers.


There was danger in being a Christian! There was real danger then; the danger of being put in jail, and perhaps of being killed. There have been dangers in every succeeding generation. Even today, in the Middle East, people are killed by those of the Muslim religion for having faith in Christ. But in the United States there appears to be no danger at all. Whether that state of affairs is due to the fact that most Americans classify themselves as Christians, or whether it is due to the fact that Christians are no longer dangerous is open to question. Most honest Christian would choose the latter explanation, and while they may rejoice that Christianity is not persecuted in our nation, they may regret that Christians have become so worldly that they are no longer dangerous.


There is, however, another danger that Christians are exposed to; the danger of being different. It is the danger so well-known by the child whose parents force her to wear clothes which are different from those worn by her friends. The Christian thinks differently about life and the universe than his materialistic friends. He behaves differently towards people of other races, colors, religions, criminals, and refugees. He has a different value for money. He goes to church, prays, and gives more than he can afford; he takes offence, without taking revenge. All these things make him different, and the danger to which he is exposed is not the danger of jail or physical hurt; it is the danger of the laugh. He breaks the pattern of the herd (or gang) and becomes the laughingstock of his crowd. That is a bitter punishment, even for a man.


15 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.


“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets.” It is obvious that there is a connection between the first part of verse 12 and verses 15 and 16. Also note the close parallel between Mark 6.56[2] and verses 15 and 16: and the healing power of Peter’s shadow and Paul’s handkerchiefs (Acts 19.12[3]).

 

“And laid them on beds and couches.” These words denote the softer couches of the rich and the less comfortable beds of the poor. They had not yet learned the full meaning of Christianity, but their admiration and respect for this new way of life was so great that they brought their sick ones into the streets on couches and cots, so that the shadow of Peter might fall on them as he passed by.


“That at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Notice that it doesn’t say that the shadow of Peter healed any of them, or that it did not. But let us not deny the accuracy of the story by denying the truth of something that is not affirmed. The phrase “the shadow of Peter” is a purely Eastern phrase; and in the Eastern lands today people will try to escape from the shadow of a man because there is supposed to be an evil influence in it, and they will try to come into the shadow of another who they suppose has an influence for good. This is purely an Eastern peculiarity, but in it we can see what these people thought of Peter. Such people thought they would be healed if put into his shadow. It’s a revelation of what these people thought of the power of the Christian Church. They were afraid but they knew that purity was at the heart of the fierce fire that scorched and blasted sin. The world always knows it. At the heart of the fire there is not only purity, but blessing. The world is keenly conscious that the only real healing is the healing of purity and holiness, however much they may argue to the contrary. As they carried the sick out into the streets and laid them there, their doing so was evidence of the impression made upon them by the little company of pure souls in whose presence no lie could live.


A similar incident occurred during the ministry of Jesus. The woman with the hemorrhage touched the garments of Jesus so that she could be healed (Mark 5.25[4]). The same thing happened to Paul at Ephesus. Some of the people carried handkerchiefs and aprons from Paul’s body to heal those with diseases (Acts 19.122).


Peter is named here and the other apostles are not. We may assume Peter was the most prominent figure among the apostles, and certainly on many occasions he was the spokesman for the group; but we are not to suppose that the others did not do many mighty works. I don’t have the slightest doubt that they wrought miracles just as Peter did.


Peter himself was not the healing power, but rather the instrument through which God worked. He was God’s servant, and God worked mighty miracles through him.


16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.


“There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem.” The word “city” is commonly used in the Scriptures even when referring to a very small community such as Nazareth (Matt 2.23), the city of Nain (Luke 7.11), and Arimathea (Luke 23.51). There were many such cities round about Jerusalem, and the people came from those neighboring communities to hear the apostles and to bring their sick loved ones to be healed.


“And them which were vexed with unclean spirits.” Jesus gave His disciples the power to remove “Unclean spirits” from the bodies of those afflicted (Matt. 10.1). They were demons, fallen angels (Rev. 12.3) who are designated that because of their vile wickedness. They frequently live inside unbelievers, particularly those who vent their wicked nature.


“And they were healed every one.” May I compare this to modern faith healing? Modern faith healers never heal all the people who come to them. Have you ever noticed that? The disciples could because they had the sign gifts. No one in the church since then has had those gifts. People were healed, every one of them. They emptied the hospitals. This was the power of the early church.


We must remember at that time there was no written New Testament. The Church is built on Jesus Christ—He is the Cornerstone—and the apostles were witnesses to Christ. The sign gifts were given to them to demonstrate the fact that they spoke with God’s authority. Today we have a written New Testament as our authority.


There was actual healing of multitudes of sick people. You may recall the Prayer of Acts 4.29, 30[5], in which Peter prayed for the power to heal. His prayer was certainly answered. See how careful Luke the physician is. We can detect the influence of the physician in all his writings. He drew attention to various kinds of sickness. There was bodily and mental healing, healing for the bodies of the sick, healing for the minds of the demon-possessed; and every one of them was healed. Gifts were bestowed upon some in the Church, and they exercised them for the glory of God. There is no case recorded where healing was made dependent upon a certain kind of faith, or even upon an attitude of faith on the part of the person who was sick. It is only when the church is cleansed and pure that she is ready to be an instrument of His healing, whether it be of spirit or mind or body. The Church pure is the Church powerful. Go back over her history and see how true that is. It has always been so. But the Spirit filled Church is the pure Church. The only power equal to the task of making a Church pure is that of the indwelling Spirit of God. The obedient Church is the Spirit-filled Church.


All the great principles revealed concerning the Church are also true of the individual. It is the pure man who is the strong man. It is the Spirit-filled man who is the pure man. It is the man who is obedient to the light he has received who is the Spirit-filled man.


Someone may ask, “Why don’t we have men in our churches today with such power as those men in the early church had? I believe the answer to that question is found in 1 Corinthians 13.10: “BUT WHEN THAT WHICH IS PERFECT IS COME, THEN THAT WHICH IS IN PART SHALL BE DONE AWAY.” During the transition period the Church did not have the written Word of God like we have it today. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word” (Rom 10.17). “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1.17). In the transition period, God gave special signs, wonders, and miracles to assure the people that Jesus was truly the Christ, “that Prophet” of which Moses spoke; but since the written Word was given and the “perfect law of liberty” is come, we no longer need signs and wonders, because all of the Scriptures are ours. We have God’s Word, and we believe it simply because it’s God’s Word, and It gives us all that we need: “ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD, AND IS PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS: THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE PERFECT, THOROUGHLY FURNISHED UNTO ALL GOOD WORKS” (2 TIM. 3.16, 17)



[1] Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

[2] And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.

[3] So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

[4] And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

[5] And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 

Make a Free Website with Yola.