Based on Acts 5:12-16
Before we address the explosion of miracles at the end of this passage, let’s deal with the verses that stand out as a little conflicting. On the one hand, verse 13 says, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” The next verse says, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” If no one was joining them, how could multitudes be added? The commentaries don’t agree. Before I tell you what I think, I’ll let you know what a few others believe who agree. A plausible rendition put forward by a few noteworthy commentators, in my opinion, is that what is meant is that none of the other healers and teachers that were likely already present in the early church attempted to put themselves on the same level as the apostles. The “none of the rest dared join them” vs 13 refers to the apostles in their unique ministry. That is undoubtedly plausible.
My theory is that the “none of the rest dared join them” is related to the previous event, the death of Ananias and Sapphira. I think that what was occurring was that the early church was gaining adherents in the upper classes, people with money and power, and prestige. Barnabas is one of these. The other patron disciples with extra houses and lands available to sell are probably among this class of people. Ananias and Sapphira are too. I think the “none of the rest dared join them” means there are no more wealthy patrons coming onboard for the moment. Up until Ananias and Sapphira, it has all been roses. Once they are struck down, people like them cease to be so quick to come in. There appears to be salvation in the early church, but also judgment too for the first time.
The presence of God in his holiness has this effect. Ananias and Sapphira, like their Old Testament counterparts Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), did not honor the Lord as holy when they drew near. Both made the mistake of believing that because God is a God of salvation to those who draw near, he cannot be a God of judgment to them too. I don’t know that we won’t see all four of these in eternity. I tend to think we will. Which of us is ready to throw the first stone at them? I’m certainly not. I’ve committed both these sins. I have offered in my early zeal unauthorized worship to God. I also haven’t always given fully and freely from the right motives.
There are sins that lead to death. In the civil realm, they are sins like murder, for instance. But, as Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 11, and even Herod’s death in Acts 12 bear witness, there is also a sin that directly leads to death from the Lord’s hand. In 1 Corinthians 11, we do not assume those that took the Lord’s table unworthily perished eternally (another sin I’ve committed). They were disciplined for the same reason as Ananias and Sapphira, and Nadab and Abihu. They drew near to the Lord but did not treat Him as holy, and for it they were made examples. 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Of course Paul is referring to the Old Testament when he wrote that passage, but I think we can say that the historical passages in the New Testament bear this same purpose.
Look for Part 5 to “The Apostles’ Power To Heal Our Friends” tomorrow.
May God be with you!