The Ministry of The Word of God

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


Acts 4:36-6:7

Key Verses: 6:2-4

“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’”


1.  Read 4:36-5:11. What did Barnabas do? How were Ananias and Sapphira

different? According to Peter, what was Ananias' sin? What happened to

him and his wife? Why was their sin so serious? What was the immediate

effect of these events? (11) What does it mean to fear God?

2.  Read 5:12-16. After this event how did the apostles reveal God's

love and power to the people? How did the work of God grow? What does

it mean that no one dared join them, yet more and more were added to

their number?

3.  Read 5:17-26. 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?

4.  Read 5:27-29. What accusation did the Sanhedrin bring against the

apostles? How did they respond? How could the apostles overcome

fear? How did they use the circumstances to preach Jesus? Read

5:30-32. What was the content and point of their message?

5.  Read 5:33-39. How did the Sanhedrin respond to Peter's challenge to

repent? Who was Gamaliel? What was his defense? Read 5:40-42. What

happened? What was the apostles' attitude toward suffering? Why?

6.  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 Verses: 6:2-4

“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’”

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 did not fear of God in their hearts. Most importantly, we

learn the apostles' uncompromising spirit while teaching the word of God.

First, "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 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. In 5:1-11 we learn

two things.

In the first place, Peter's uncompromising spirit (1-4). These

days many people do not take the Holy Spirit seriously. Many people

make use of the name of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their own

evil doings. Many people act indiscreetly with the illusion that if no

one sees them, no one knows, not even the Holy Spirit. 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 put it at the apostles' feet. 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 it all." It may sound

reasonable, but in effect Ananias lied. 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. It

was not a matter of money: 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.

In the second place, 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 wisdom..." (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.  She also lied. 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 same tragic end that Ananias and Sapphira experienced.

Second, the apostles' Bible teaching (12-42). Were the believers

discouraged by the event of Ananias and Sapphira? Look at verses

12-16. No! Rather, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and

performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people which

demonstrated the great love of God (12). 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. Many

people in high positions were eager to join them, despite peer pressure

(13). And a great number of ordinary people believed in the Lord and were

added to their number (14). Moreover, where there was earnest prayer

and Bible study, there was also a powerful healing ministry. Many bad

people were changed into good people (15-16). In this way, the word of

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

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, who 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 regardless of Satan's hindrance.

Meanwhile, police officers were sent by the Sanhedrin 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 the apostles 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 of God 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 could have quailed, what did 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. Look at 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 as it had

been the first time they appeared before the Sanhedrin (4:10). But now

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

invited the Sanhedrin members 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 gave the

examples of Theudas and Judas and said of the apostles, "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 the Sanhedrin members. They

had the apostles flogged, ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus,

and let them go (40).  Obviously, the apostles had been badly beaten

and threatened. But they were happy about their sufferings and never

stopped teaching. We learn two things from them.

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

history, many people suffered and died, not knowing why they suffered so

much. Peter also had hated suffering; he had 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. Now they rejoiced to suffer

for his name's sake. Look at 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.

Next, 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.

Let's think about why God commanded 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, even those 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).

Third, the decision to do no more business (6:1-7). As the church

grew bigger, 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. How did the apostles deal with this problem? Let's read 6:2-4. "So

the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not

be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to

wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known

to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility

over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of

the word.'" It was a golden time for the apostles to make a big business

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 Bible teachers, giving up the chance for big business. What was the

result? Look at 6:7. "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples

in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became

obedient to the faith."

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 success. They were heroic. They were true leaders of

the world. They were true men of God who devoted their lives to the

ministry of the word of God.  May God bless each of us to participate

in the ministry of the word of God.