The lead-in for today’s first story is important. At the end of chapter 4, when owners of lands and houses sold them and brought the proceeds… to distribute to each as any had need, we learn that Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas… sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
This foreshadows the entrance of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. They also sold a piece or property, but with his wife’s knowledge Ananias brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Listen to Peter’s three questions and consider what crime was committed. Listen closely to what happens to Ananias and his wife, and who caused it. And pay attention especially to what happens next: great fear, signs and wonders, everyone held them in high esteem… You can debate whether there is something consequential between Peter’s confrontation with Ananias and more than ever believers were added to the Lord…
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him…and filled with jealousy they arrested the Apostles and put them in the public prison. Consider where we are now: Jesus’ trial was held in secret; so was Peter and John’s earlier encounter with the Sadducees. Now comes a public stand. The Apostles’ confidence emerges against a backdrop of rage, confusion, and violence. Listen to their response to the council. Listen also to Gamaliel, the Pharisee held in honor by all the people, who makes a most faithful, and reasonable, assessment of the situation.
In chapter 6 we’re allowed to witness a disagreement within the young church. Luke tells us that a complaint arose because of unfairness in the daily widows’ distribution, which the Apostles delegated to other disciples. At least two important details emerge: Luke’s observation that following this, the word of God continued to increase, and the introduction of Stephen, whose story will fill the rest of our reading.
Stephen’s arrest and trial are both a climax and a turning point for this first act. The conclusion to Stephen’s story feels inevitable; and afterwards nothing will be the same.
Our verse for this week is Romans 3:23: For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.
Acts 5 through 7. Now let’s read it!
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,