The Ministry of The Word of God

by Dr. Samuel Lee   09/10/2000     0 reads


Acts 4:36-6:7

Key Verse 5:20

“‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”


1. Read 4:36-5:2. How did the believers deal with material things? What

did Ananias and his wife do, and why did they do it? Contrast

Ananias and Barnabas.

2. Read 5:3-11. According to Peter, what was Ananias' sin? (3,4) What

happened to him and his wife? How did Sapphira prove to be a poor

coworker? Why was their sin so serious?

3. What was the immediate effect of these events? (11) What does it

mean to fear God? What difference does it make?

4. Read verses 12-16. How did the apostles feel about this event? Where

and why did the believers meet? How does Luke describe the mighty

work of God among them?

5. Read verses 17-26. How did Satan attack? How did God help his

servants? What does this reveal about God's mission for his church?

What did the apostles do?  (21) What happened? (22-26) What can we

learn from them?

6. Read verses 27-29. How could the apostles overcome fear? How did

they use circumstances to preach Jesus? Read verses 30-32. What was

the content and point of their message?

7. Read verses 33-40. How did the Sanhedrin respond to Peter's

challenge to repent? What was Gamaliel's point? What happened? Read

verses 41-42. What was the apostles' attitude toward suffering?


8. Read 6:1-7. What problem arose as the church grew? How did the

apostles deal with it? What can we learn here from them?



Acts 4:36-6:7

Key Verse 5:20

“‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’”

In chapters 3 and 4 Luke recorded how Peter and John emerged as

victors, and how the believers made a giant leap in number and grew

stronger in the grace of Jesus, despite the threats of the Jewish

rulers. But the church of Jesus had to grow more, until it could fill

the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today's passage deals

with a couple who had no fear of God in their hearts. Most importantly,

in today's passage we learn the apostles' uncompromising spirit while

teaching the word of God.

I. "You have lied to the Holy Spirit" (4:36-5:11)

The early Christians were filled with the grace and spirit of

Jesus.  They were free indeed in Jesus. Where the spirit of Jesus was,

there was true freedom (2Co 3:17). No one was stingy. Everyone was

generous.  Everyone was filled with joy.  There was a man named Joseph,

a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, meaning Son of

Encouragement. He sold a field he owned and brought the money and put

it at the apostles' feet (4:36). They say that money is the testing

stone of one's faith. In light of this saying, Barnabas was a true man

of faith. There was another man named Ananias. In contrast to Barnabas,

he was a fake Christian; he was a man of discouragement to all who were

in the early work and history of God.

The story about the couple Ananias and Sapphira is so serious that

many Bible scholars skip over their story, being afraid to comment on

it. From a human point of view, it was indeed a baffling event. But the

apostles were very clear about how to deal with this event. Here we

learn two things.

First, Peter's uncompromising spirit (1-4). These days many people make

use of the name of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their evil

doings. They act indiscreetly with the illusion that no one can see the

Holy Spirit with their eyes. Ananias is the first example in the New

Testament in committing such a sin. Ananias sold a piece of property

and kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and

lied to Peter that he had brought all of it. Probably he said to

himself, "I want recognition! It'll be okay if I hide some for my kids

and give the rest to the apostles as though I gave all of it." Ananias

and Sapphira brought a big amount of money to support the newly growing

movement. Because of their contribution, the church leaders could have

said, "Thank you, thank you!" It is hard for any church leader not to

compliment rich people like Ananias and Sapphira.

What did Peter do with them? Peter rebuked Ananias. Look at verse

3.  "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your

heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself

some of the money you received for the land.'" Ananias was smart. But

in the spiritual world, his act of self-deception could not be

tolerated. The money was at his disposal before and after he sold the

land. Even if he had not contributed any of it, it would not have

mattered. What mattered was his self-deception. In self-deception he

lied to God's servants. But it was lying to himself, as well as to the

Holy Spirit. Not only so, but also he opened the gate of the fortress

of the early church of Jesus for Satan to come in. This is the reason

Peter rebuked him severely. What Ananias did was not even to be

considered in the church of Jesus. So Peter said to him in verse 4b,

"What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men

but to God." Humanly speaking, Peter could not rebuke him. But he

rebuked him, anyway. Thus he did not compromise with a rich man.

Second, the fear of God (5-11). Look at verse 5. "When Ananias heard

this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what

had happened." Again, verse 11 says, "Great fear seized the whole

church and all who heard about these events." In these verses, the word

"fear" means the fear of God. By the coming of the Holy Spirit, the

fear of God came upon them. The fear of God is the best medicine for

fearful people. Let's experiment on ourselves with this truth. Now,

please say, "I fear God." Then you can experience the peace of God,

because when you have the fear of God in your heart, the Holy Spirit

comes upon you. On the other hand, if you say, "I don't fear God. I can

sin freely," you will experience indomitable fear within you, because

when you have no fear of God, evil spirits come upon you (Ro.8:15).

When Adam feared God, he was happy all the time. But when he did not

fear God, being influenced by Satan's lie, he became fearful--so

fearful that to him, his beautiful wife looked burdensome. These days

many people have no fear of God; they commit sin freely. As a result,

they are paralyzed by fear and don't know what to do with their fear

problem. They must learn how to fear God, for, "The fear of the Lord is

the beginning of knowledge..." (Pr 9:10).

Peter also rebuked Ananias' wife Sapphira because she had tested the

Holy Spirit. When Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and

Ananias got for the land?" she said, "Yes, that is the price." She

should have helped her husband not to lie. But she did not fulfill her

mission as a suitable helper. Peter rebuked her, saying, "How could you

agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?" (9a) At the moment Peter rebuked

her, the feet of the men who buried her husband were at the door to

carry her out, also (9b). Lying to God is not a light matter. Those who

have a habit of lying to God will finally experience the tragic end

Ananias and Sapphira experienced.

 II. The apostles' Bible teaching (12-42)

Were the apostles discouraged by the event of Ananias and Sapphira?

No!  Rather, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and performed many

miraculous signs and wonders among the people. These early Christians

had no church building. So they met together to hear the word and pray

in the spacious open place surrounding Solomon's Colonnade. When they

prayed and listened to the word of life, there was a great work of

God.  Firstly, many people in high positions were eager to join,

despite peer pressure (13). And a great number of ordinary people

believed in the Lord and were added to their number (14). In this way,

the word of God gained power and began to spread to the whole world.

Secondly, there was a great healing work. Of course, healing the sick

is not a monopoly of the church of Jesus: it has been done by many

people of other religions. However, in verses 12-16, Luke says that

where there was earnest prayer and Bible study, there was a powerful

healing ministry.  And many bad people were changed into good people.

Where there was the work of the Holy Spirit, there was also the work

of Satan. Out of their jealousy, the Jewish rulers arrested the

apostles and put them in the public jail. The apostles were helpless to

do anything. But God was with them; God brought them out of the jail

through his angel and said in verse 20, "Go, stand in the temple

courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life." This

verse tells us that the ultimate mission of the church of Jesus is to

teach the word of God.

Meanwhile, police officers were sent by the Sanhedrin council to

bring the apostles from the jail to their courtroom. On arriving at the

jail, the officers did not find them there. So they came back and

reported, "We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing

at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside" (23).

What were the apostles doing after the angel brought them out of the

jail?  Look at verse 21. "At daybreak they entered the temple courts,

as they had been told, and began to teach the people." Also, look at

verse 25. "Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail

are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.'" It is amazing

to see that they did not go to get some sleep or to eat breakfast, even

though they had suffered overnight in the jail. It is amazing to see

that they were teaching the word in the temple courts where, of all

places, their enemies could see them. They did not worry about what

might well happen to them at any moment. In this event, we can see in

them a clear picture of a man of mission. They were fearless. They were

filled with strength (25), and they gave the word of life to all

people, as they had been commissioned.

Again, the apostles were brought to appear before the Sanhedrin to

be questioned by the high priest. He said, "We gave you strict orders

not to teach in this name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your

teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." At

this moment when their hearts quailed, what could the apostles say?

They said, "We must obey God rather than men!" They feared God. So they

did not fear the threats of the interrogators.

It is amazing to see that the apostles began to witness Jesus to the

Jewish rulers in the courtroom. Read verses 30-32. "The God of our

fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him

on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior

that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are

witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has

given to those who obey him." Their witness to Jesus was the same, but

now they stressed repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. The

apostles invited them to repent.

When the Jewish rulers heard this message, they were furious and

wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher

of the law, who was honored by all the people, spoke up. He quoted the

examples of Theudas and Judas and said, "If their purpose or activity

is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not

be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting

against God" (35-39). His speech persuaded them. They called the

apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak

in the name of Jesus, and let them go (40). Obviously, the apostles had

been badly beaten up and threatened.  But they were happy about their

sufferings and never stopped teaching. We learn two things from them.

First, the apostles had a right attitude toward suffering. In history,

many people suffered and died, not knowing why they suffered so much.

Peter also hated suffering; he wanted an easy and glorious life without

suffering, by virtue of Jesus (Mk 9:5). Later he came to know that

there are two kinds of suffering: the suffering that comes after

committing sin, and suffering for doing good (1Pe 2:20). God gave man

suffering as the means to grow in God. This is God's truth. So we must

accept this truth about suffering. Otherwise, we become like animals.

It is amazing to see that the apostles had learned the true meaning

of suffering through the crucifixion of Jesus. Finally they rejoiced to

suffer for his name's sake. Read verse 41. "The apostles left the

Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering

disgrace for the Name." Beating, threats and disgrace because of Jesus'

name did not make them bitter. Rather, they rejoiced because they had

been counted worthy of suffering for his name. The early apostles were

truly great men of God, and their attitude toward suffering was

glorious. Later Peter said to the early Christians who were under fiery

persecutions, "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of

Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1Pe

4:13). To our surprise, the desire to participate in the suffering of

Jesus our Lord is nothing but the beginning point of Christian life.

Second, they suffered endlessly to teach the word of God. Look at verse

42. "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they

never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the

Christ." At that time, it was illegal to teach people in Jesus' name.

And they were under immense pressure from the Jewish rulers. But they

did not stop teaching the Word.

At this time, we must think about why God commands them to teach the

word (20). It is because the word of God is the word of life. Jesus

taught the word of God to the people in season and out of season.

During the time of his ministry on earth, Jesus taught the word of God

to all kinds of people, who wanted something else more than the word of

life (Jn 6:60). Jesus taught the word even during the Passover week,

bracing himself for his upcoming crucifixion (Lk 22:47, Mk 14:43). It

was to give them the word of life. Paul realized this importance and

said, "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season" (2Ti

4:2a). Peter realized this importance also and said, "For 'All men are

like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the

grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands

forever'" (1Pe 1:24,25).

III. The decision to do no more business (6:1-7)

As the church grew, business also grew bigger. As business grew, the

number of complaints among the people also grew. Among the early

Christians there were two kinds of people--native Jews who spoke

Aramaic, and Greek-speaking Jews.  Greek-speaking Jewish women

complained that they had received an unfair distribution of food

compared with the native Jews. It was a golden chance for the apostles

to make a big success. But to our surprise, they decided to hand the

business over to other people so that they might give more attention to

prayer and the ministry of the word. What impractical people they

were!  But one thing was very clear. They made a clear decision of

faith to remain as evangelists, giving up the chance for big business.

What a great decision it was! They were men of faith and of

uncompromising spirit. They did not want to neglect the ministry of the

word of God because of business. So they chose seven men to take over

their business of food (5).

We are living in a democratic society. Democracy seems to be an

ideology to get mutual benefits by means of compromise. But in this

passage we learn the apostles' uncompromising spirit while teaching the

Word. They didn't compromise with a rich man. They didn't compromise

with worldly rulers. They didn't compromise with the chance to make a

big business. They were heroic. They were true leaders of the world.

They were true men of God who obeyed the Lord's command when he said,

"Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message

of this new life."