“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand [take a stand] in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach” (Acts 5:19-21a ESV). Here we have words sent directly from the throne of God and delivered by an angel. Preachers and teachers today should take note! The world needs to hear “the words of this life,” not “Seven steps to debt destruction” or “Daniel: the Key to the Book of Revelation.”
Following the incident of Ananias and Sapphira being caught out lying (Acts 4:34-37 and 5:1-11), I pick up the record in chapter 5. “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (verse 11). This is the first usage of the word “church” to describe the group of believers in the resurrected Christ.
“And many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles” (Acts 5:12). I must note that God’s Word is clear that “the hands of the apostles” were a God-given part of receiving spiritual blessing and featured in many incidents in the book of Acts. “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (verse 14). This is healing evangelism at work, and history records its constant principle, especially since the Azusa Street revival in 1906.
“The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (Acts 5:16). The Pentecostal movement has always wanted see those days again, when “they were all healed,” but obviously they are not there yet. Often just a few are healed and we think it is a miracle rather than a regular occurrence.
The high priest yet again got upset with the success of these Jesus followers (he was “filled with jealousy” verse 17), just like many do today when they don’t see results in their own services. So for the second time he put Peter and John into prison, and maybe the rest of the apostles also. But a high priest is no match for God. An angel was dispatched to open the prison doors, take the apostles outside the prison, and lock the prison doors behind them (verse 23). Then the angel gave the apostles these marvelous words, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5:20).
The “words of this Life” does not refer to the Apostles’ Creed or the Articles of Faith of your fellowship. A number of translations capitalise the word “Life” to indicate that it was the resurrection life of Christ resident in the apostles since the Day of Pentecost that they were to speak about. The apostles had demonstrated they had the authority of the name of Jesus, they had the constant presence of the Comforter within, they were learning what it meant when Jesus said, “you in me and I in you” (John 14:20 ESV).
The apostles also knew that decisions for Christ didn’t cut it; they, the apostles, had been commanded to “make disciples [the word means ‘learners’] of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20); make them, mark them, mature them (read both verses). The people in Jerusalem knew it was not a case of “easy believism” to follow Christ, because after the Ananias and Sapphira incident and the following miracles, “none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them, but the people held them in high regard and praised and made much of them” (Acts 5:13 AMP). There was a cultural and religious price to pay to be a believer in the resurrection of Jesus, just as there is today in Muslim-controlled countries. I remind you of the teaching by Jesus on the bread of life, and “after this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66).
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:
Beautiful words, wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words of life. (Philip Bliss, 1874).
“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). What an example for today’s church to follow!
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