Based on Acts 5:12-16
Read Part 1
The death of Ananias and Sapphira play a role in how we understand this week’s passage too I believe. Even though there is a scene change, their death echoes through Jerusalem and causes a change in behavior by at least one class of people. There are two back-to-back verses in our short five-verse text that, at first glance, seem to conflict. Let’s see if we can figure out what is going on together.
12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The end of verse 12 gives us a little more context to the passage that precedes it. Not just Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:11), but Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) and all the other patron disciples (Acts 4:34-35) as well were likely bringing their gifts to Solomon’s Portico or Solomon’s Porch to give them at the regular, multiple, daily public worship services. When our text says, “And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.”, it doesn’t mean that they were living there. Solomon’s Porch is a public meeting place within the walled Temple complex. It is near the Temple itself and near the marketplace too. A lot of business was transacted in the Temple complex during this period. Think of Jesus driving out those who bought and sold. That the apostles are allowed to have their public meetings at Solomon’s Portico without disturbance implies how highly regarded they are initially. By saying, “And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.”, Luke is telling us that this is where they held their public meetings. We know from Acts 2 that this has been their daily practice from the beginning. Acts 2:36 says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” Attending the temple together in all likelihood means meeting together within the temple complex to be taught by the apostles and to worship God at the regular Jewish prayer intervals.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the influx of three thousand new disciples on that day meant they had outgrown the upper room. It had been their meeting place during the last days of Jesus’ life. They had returned there after His ascension (Acts 1:13). There are thousands of disciples now, probably tens of thousands, and multiple daily public worship services are likely required for two reasons. First, and we’ve discussed this, it was in keeping with the daily Jewish prayer practice to pray three times per day. This practice goes back at least 500 years to their captivity in ancient Babylon. Second, and this we haven’t touched on, is probably how they solve their space problem. There is nowhere for tens of thousands of people to gather regularly. But, if you hold multiple meetings a day throughout the week, people can come as their life permits or as their district is assigned. I tend to think personally that they are already divided into districts of some kind. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the leadership gifts of apostles, prophets, shepherds, evangelists, and teachers are already in full or partial function by now too. We do not know when the church’s government makes the full transition from Old Covenant to New, but certainly, they are already in need of additional leadership. The next chapter will see a new office created, the deacon. But prophets, pastors/shepherds, and teachers are already recognized in the Jewish church itself. A rabbi is a teacher. Jesus was called rabbi. Prophets should take no explanation at all. Pastor is used twice in Jeremiah to refer to the priests and Levites. It is a general designation, but its use is present in the Old Testament.
Solomon’s Porch is also where early Christians and their neighbors would initially bring their sick to be healed. Verse 12 opens with “(M)any signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles… in Solomon’s Portico.” This verse tells us that many miracles were being done right outside the Temple of God in Jerusalem. These miracles are being performed under the very noses of the priests, Levites, and other Jewish officials. The works of God are being done at the very heart of Israel in her capital, right outside her most prized monument. And they’ve seen this before too.
Look for Part 3 to “The Apostles’ Power To Heal Our Friends” tomorrow.
Blessings and may God be with you!