Encountering Deception and Persecution

God works to protect and perpetuate the church.

Deception and unholy living within, and opposition and persecution from without, have always been dangers to the well-being of the Church. In this lesson, we see how the early Church at Jerusalem, with God’s help, dealt with an internal threat of deception and the external threat of persecution. When two deceivers who were members of the Christian community of faith in Jerusalem, conspired together to deceive the Apostles and the Church, God‘s judgment against them was swift. When severe persecution arose against the Apostles, God gave them deliverance from prison, and spiritually empowered them to withstand suffering for Christ with rejoicing.

GOLDEN TEXT: Acts 5:39  But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.


A. Dishonesty Exposed

Acts 4:34  Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

4:35  And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

4:36  And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

4:37  Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

5:1  But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

5:2  And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

…….Do you remember the scripture just above (ch. 4:35), especially the part “distribution was made according to their needs”? The fact that this couple deceived in hopes of gaining something from the church wrongfully, in spite of seeing so many recent miracles, definitely shows that their hearts and thoughts were tainted. Truth is, the only person deceived in the process of deception is the person telling the lie. How? Because it takes a deceived person to think they will eternally get away with a lie. Numbers 32:23 says; be sure, your sins will find you out. Our sins, not just the sin of deceit but all, will at some point expose our nature. They will tell on us!

5:3  But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

5:4  Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

…….The greatest mistake may not have necessarily been keeping back a part of the money, but the fact that they fully intended to receive of something they never fully gave to. How could anyone be so selfish and self centered we may wonder? It is due to an impure heart. This is the importance of seeking for purity and righteousness always, but definitely in the earliest stages of our walk with the Lord. If we are going to finish right, it works best if we start right. That is the result of having a strong foundation with God.

B. Dishonesty Punished

5:5  And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

5:6  And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

5:7  And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

5:8  And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

…….Peter gave the woman a chance to come clean prior to knowing the death of her husband, and she still remained committed the lie! There is no telling what else they may have conspired together in their alone times while planning this deed. For the church in its very beginning, it was important to expose all dishonesty and to see the result of it.

5:9  Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

5:10  Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

5:11  And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

…….This example of the operation of the church was key for “all being in one accord”. We they “all” indefinitely likeminded and in singleness of heart? No. But because the majority was, the deception could not manifest. Though this fast punishment looks harsh from the outside in, I fully trust that the Lord knew what He was doing by eliminating the deceivers early on. There is no telling what kind of havoc this couple could have created had they gotten away with this great lie! May we as followers of Christ let this be a concrete example of what happens to deceivers.


A. Signs, Wonders, and Unity

5:12  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.

…….It’s amazing that though the Jewish religious leaders hated the fact that the true gospel was being preaching and real conversion was being made, they continued to allow them for some time to meet in a common holy place. Though they hated it, the could not deny it!

5:13  And of the rest durst (wouldn’t dare) no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.

…….Because of the miracles performed and unity of the church, the other followers of Christ watched on from a distance with admiration.

5:14  And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

…….Those who remained on the outside still greatly respected the church. Because of this, people continued to be converted to the Lord. Through times of persecution and times of peace, the true church that is full of the Spirit and produces much spiritual fruit will continue to grow.

B. Miraculous Healings

5:15  (continuing vs. 12: And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;) 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.

5:16  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.

…….Because of the miracles that were performed by the Apostles, the community became flooded with people that had needs. The church became a hospital of Devine healings! Their faith was so stirred that just being in the shadows of Gods people was enough! No person left without being healed!

…….(From the book) Jesus Christ promised that He would build His church, and the councils of hell would not prevail (overpower) against it (Matthew 16:18). From the signs and wonders done by the apostles, and the rapid growth of the early church at Jerusalem, it was apparent that Christ was building the church. For almost two millennia since then, Christ has continued to build His church, and the councils of hell have not prevailed against it. We can be confident that Christ will continue building His church until He comes again to receive to Himself. The church, if we will have it to be so, is still Holy Spirit empowered by Christ for Christlike living and ministry.


A. Miraculous Deliverance

5:17  Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,

5:18  And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.

5:19  But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

5:20  Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

…….If you are called and chosen of the Lord, the enemy will not be able to silence you!

5:21  And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

5:22  But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,

5:23  Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.

5:24  Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.

5:25  Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

5:26  Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

…….This was probably the only time in history that the recapturing of jail breakers were taken without violence. Why? Because the church had grown so much and the officers feared the crowd would kill them! Evil men will fear a Spirit filled child of church!

B. Unstopped by Opposition

5:27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,

5:28  Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

5:29  Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

5:30  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

5:31  Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

5:32  And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

5:33  When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

5:34  Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

5:35  And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

5:36  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

5:37  After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

5:38  And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

5:39  But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

5:40  And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

5:41  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

5:42  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

…….This was only the beginnings of the church. Though the works of the enemy will always come against the church and its people, and though some will fall by the wayside while others die off, the gates of hell will never overtake it. The church will remain until the end of ages and God will always have a home for the hurting. We must remember that if hell is fighting, something is going right.

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