Acts 5

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Acts 5:1-2 Ananias, with Sapphira his wife...kept back part of the price

Neal A. Maxwell

"Consider three examples of how otherwise honorable people in the Church keep back a portion and thus prevent greater consecration (see Acts 5:1-4).

"A sister gives commendable, visible civic service. Yet even with her good image in the community, she remains a comparative stranger to Jesus' holy temples and His holy scriptures, two vital dimensions of discipleship. But she could have Christ's image in her countenance (see "Alma 5:14Alma 5:14).

"An honorable father, dutifully involved in the cares of his family, is less than kind and gentle with individual family members. He is a comparative stranger to Jesus' gentleness and kindness, which we are instructed to emulate, whereas a little more effort by this father would make a large difference.

"Consider the returned missionary, skills polished while serving an honorable mission, striving earnestly for success in his career. Busy, he ends up in a posture of some accommodation with the world. Thus he forgoes building up the kingdom first and instead builds up himself. A small course correction now would make a large, even destinational, difference for him later on.

"These deficiencies just illustrated are those of omission. Once the telestial sins are left behind and thenceforth avoided, the focus falls ever more upon the sins of omission. These omissions signify a lack of qualifying fully for the celestial kingdom (see Exodus 20:8, 12). Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions." (If Thou Endure It Well [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 50.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Illustrations involving economic consecration are relevant. When Ananias and Sapphira sold their possessions, they 'kept back part of the price' (see Acts 5:1-11). So many of us cling tenaciously to a particular 'part,' even treating our obsessions like possessions. Thus, whatever else we may have already given, the last portion is the hardest to yield. Granted, partial surrender is still commendable, but it resembles, more than faintly, the excuse, 'I gave at the office' (see James 1:7-8)." ("Consecrate Thy Performance," Ensign, May 2002, 36)

Acts 5:4 thou hast not lied unto men but unto God

"This story has always impressed upon me the importance of being honest with those who represent the Lord. When we lie to a bishop or stake president, we are, as Peter taught, lying to the Holy Ghost and to the Lord. I'm not suggesting that those who lie to their Church leaders will usually be struck dead, but there are serious consequences involved.

"It is especially serious to lie to a Church leader in order to enter the temple. Because of the sacred and special nature of the temple, the Lord is especially offended when those who are not worthy enter his holy house. There is no possible way to enter the temple unworthily and get away with it.

"A young couple named Karla and Eric were preparing for a temple marriage, but they didn't use good judgment and became more and more physical in their relationship. About two weeks before they were to go to the temple to be married, they had sexual intercourse. Their announcements had already been mailed, and they were going to see their bishops the following Sunday to receive their recommends.

"What would you do if you were in their place? It would be really embarrassing to cancel your temple wedding and notify everyone that you were going to be married civilly. Everyone would know that something was wrong. There would be pressure to lie about it and go to the temple anyway.

"This is just what Eric and Karla did. They rationalized that they could repent without telling their bishop and everything would be all right. Karla felt much stronger about lying about it than Eric did, but he finally went along with her.

"The temple is probably the most sacred place on earth. How do you think Eric and Karla felt in the temple as they made covenants concerning chastity and obedience and stipulated that they were worthy to be there? What do you think they felt like when the priesthood leader who married them congratulated them on keeping themselves clean and pure and worthy to be married in the temple? How would you feel as you looked around the marriage room and saw your close friends and family with smiles on their faces and knew that you were living a lie and were not really worthy to be there? What feelings do you think came to them as they knelt across that holy altar of God and were promised that they would be together forever if they were faithful to their covenants?

"That special marriage day should have been one of the happiest, most joyful days in their lives. Instead, it was the most miserable day they had ever experienced. Even today, they look back upon it with great pain and regret.

"For eight years they continued to live the lie, and each year when the bishop asked them if there had been any moral transgression in their lives that had not been confessed properly to a priesthood leader, they would lie again. Finally they could stand the guilt and the pain no longer, and they discussed with their bishop their immorality and dishonesty. After eight years of guilt and bickering about what to do, they began to make their marriage an eternal one-one that could be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

"They still have many regrets, however, because repentance is never as good or as easy as doing it right the first time. They can't change that miserable marriage day in the temple. They can't go back to the temple and be married again now that they are right with the Lord. They have lost the opportunity to have sweet and joyful memories of their wedding day. It would have been much easier, in the long run, to have been honest with the bishop and have put off their temple wedding until their lives were in order." (Allan K. Burgess, Teens, Temple Marriage, and Eternity [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988], 76.)

Gordon B. Hinckley

"In our time, those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies." ("We Believe in Being Honest," Ensign, Oct. 1990, 2)

Spencer W. Kimball

"And in our own day the Lord promised his bishops and other appointees: '. . . to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God.' (D&C 46:27.) And, again, '. . . and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.' (Ibid., 132:52.) Men's thoughts and lives are engraved on their faces." (Conference Report, October 1962, Afternoon Meeting 57.)

Acts 5:6 the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out

"That the church had its public servants or deacons, from its first foundation, there can be no doubt, since no association can exist without its servants; and least of all such associations as the first Christian churches. Those young men who carried out the corpses of Ananias and his wife, were undoubtedly the deacons of the church at Jerusalem, who were attending on the apostles and executing their commands." (Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, 34)

Acts 5:11 great fear came upon all the church

The question is raised, "why was the Lord so harsh in destroying Ananias and Sapphira?" "Why weren't they shown any Christ-like mercy as was the adulterous woman (Jn. 8:3-11)?" "Was their sin really that bad?" The answer can be found in the Old Testament. We remember the man who was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath day. He was brought before Moses for punishment. The word of the Lord came to Moses, 'The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp' (Numb. 15:35). This punishment did not come from Moses but from the Lord. From our perspective, his punishment seems terribly harsh and unforgiving. But there must be a reason. His story is very similar to that of Ananias and helps us to understand why the Lord's punishments are, at times, so strict.

While some members discount the Old Testament because of stories like this. There is much to learn from them. The Law of Moses was a new law for the children of Israel. After giving this law, the Lord was very harsh in punishing violators. This, in effect, showed all the children of Israel that he was serious about these new commandments. The law could not be ignored or disregarded without grave consequences, 'the soul that doeth ought presumptuously...shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, his soul shall utterly be cut off' (Numb. 15:30-31).

The same principle applied to Ananias. The Lord had just introduced the law of consecration. Barnabas had come to the apostles and given all his possessions (Acts 4:36-37). This was how the new and greater law was supposed to work. Ananias greatest sin was that he violated the law of consecration. He was like the Sabbath-breaker. His sin could not be tolerated because other members could follow his wicked footsteps and undermine the principle of consecration-and so he was made an example. His punishment was not to be after death, it was to be immediate, and the result was that 'great fear came upon all the church.' This is precisely what the Lord had in mind.

We must remember that the Lord has a "pay now or pay later" policy toward unrepentant sin. Rarely in the scriptures does he exact the "pay now" portion of the plan, but when he does the consequences can be tragic. If the Lord is this strict when he exacts his immediate punishment, what does that tell us about what we can expect from his "pay later" policy? The scriptures tell us that we can expect to suffer 'even as I; Which suffering caused my self, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit' (DC 19:17-18). Of this type of pain, Alma records, 'I was racked with eternal torment...I was tormented with the pains of hell...the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body' (Alma 36:12-15).

"This story is harsh and dramatic. Its lesson is frightening. And it is unusual, for seldom does God strike one dead for hypocrisy. It is, however, accurate and descriptive, symbolic, if you will, of the spiritual death and alienation from things of righteousness that surely shall be for all who follow such a course." (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 33.)

John H. Vandenberg

"Barnabas' example indicates a wholesome state of mind. Without reservation he sold his land and gave the full amount, in honesty, he simply and truthfully did what was in his mind and heart.

"But the state of mind of Ananias and his wife Sapphira was the thinking: 'yes, we believe, we want to belong but we will only go part way. Peter will not know the difference, so we will hold back some for ourselves.' They simply rationalized that it is all right to be dishonest as long as no one knows. Honesty cannot be compromised; it requires the full and free consent of the mind. People who pursue the course of Ananias and Sapphira, while they may not die as suddenly, will just as surely receive the same reward, unless they repent." (Conference Report, April 1967, First Day-Morning Meeting 17.)

Acts 5:15 that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them

When we think of miraculous healings, we think of formal priesthood administrations, including the anointing with consecrated oil, the laying on of hands, and the exercise of faith by both parties. However, of these three elements, only one is absolutely necessary-the exercise of sufficient faith. Was there something magic about Peter's shadow? Of course not. Neither is there anything magic about consecrated oil or the laying on of hands. But faith is another story; it truly works the Lord's magic. Seemingly, great apostles and prophets can bolster faith to such a degree that miracles can be wrought by less than traditional means. Although faith in Christ is the power, the recipient's trust and respect for Peter made miracles happen. Elder Holland described this bolstering power as "faith in Peter's faith."

Jeffrey R. Holland

"Faith in Peter's faith brought the sick into the streets on their beds of affliction 'that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.' (Acts 5:15.) One wonders if there is a single written line in any other record that stands as a greater monument to the faith and power of one mortal man bearing the holy priesthood of God." (However Long and Hard the Road [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 97.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"Healings come by the power of faith; there is no healing virtue or power in any item of clothing, or other object, whether owned by Paul or Jesus or anyone. But rites and objects may be used to help increase faith. 'When a man works by faith,' the Prophet said, 'he works by mental exertion instead of physical force.' (Lectures on Faith, p. 61.) ... In this connection there are occasions when ordinances or performances or objects may be used to help center the mental faculties of a person on those things which will cause faith to increase.

"Thus Jesus used spittle and clay to anoint the eyes of a blind man, not that there was any healing power in the mud paste spread on the sightless eyes, but the physical act aided the mental labor out of which faith grew. (Commentary I, pp. 379-380.) The same principle is seen in the healing of the woman who touched Jesus' garments (Commentary I, pp. 317-319), in the dead being raised by touching the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-21), and in the very ordinance of administering to the sick through the formalities of anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

"Similar miracles to those wrought through Paul have occurred in this dispensation. On that memorable July 22, 1839, at Montrose, Iowa, for instance, when the Prophet healed the sick in great numbers, he took a silk handkerchief from his pocket, gave it to Wilford Woodruff, and told him to go and use it in the healing of two children of a nonmember of the Church. Elder Woodruff, as instructed, used the handkerchief in wiping the faces of the sick children and they were healed. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, pp. 270-271.)." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:169.)

Acts 5:29 We ought to obey God rather than men

"That's what we mean by standing for something. Peter stood for a testimony concerning the risen Christ, and without the least bit of fear on his part, defied the very council that had condemned and put Jesus to death...Great men and women in every age have always stood for something." (Our Slogan by Doris Dalby, Improvement Era, 1933, Vol. Xxxvi. January, 1933. No. 3)

Jeffrey R. Holland

"With his own sense of urgency, Peter aggressively defied the injunction not to teach in the name of Christ, and returned again and again to the temple, where his safety was never secure. President Kimball pictures him there in the House of the Lord, 'the number one man in all the world,' stretching to his full height and speaking with power to those who could imprison him, flog him, even take his life from him. With 'courage superior and integrity supreme' (Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 244), Peter testified plainly, 'We ought to obey God rather than men. . . . We are his witnesses of these things.' (Acts 5:29, 32.) Imprisoned and beaten, forbidden to speak, Peter was as irrepressible as Daniel of old. He and his brethren rejoiced that they were 'counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.' (Acts 5:41-42.)" (However Long and Hard the Road [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 97.)

Jeffrey R. Holland

"[Speaking of Peter's denial of Christ] Well, if Peter's story were to have ended there, with him cursing and swearing and saying, 'I know not the man' (Matt. 26:74), surely his would be among the most pathetic in all scripture.

"But Peter came back.

"He squared his shoulders and stiffened his resolve and made up for lost ground. He gave stirring leadership to a frightened little band of Church members. He preached such a moving sermon on the day of Pentecost that three thousand in the audience applied for baptism. Days later five thousand heard him and were baptized. With John, he healed the lame man at the gate of the temple. Faith in Peter's faith brought the sick into the streets on their beds of affliction 'that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.' (Acts 5:15.) He fearlessly spoke for his brethren when they were arraigned before the Sanhedrin and when they were cast into prison. He entertained angels and received the vision that led to carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. He became in every sense the rock Christ promised he would be. Of such a life Elder Hinckley said:

'I pray that you may draw comfort and resolution from the example of Peter who, though he had walked daily with Jesus, in an hour of extremity denied both the Lord and the testimony which he carried in his own heart. But he rose above this, and became a mighty defender and a powerful advocate. So too, there is a way for you to turn about, and ... [build] the kingdom of God.' (Ensign, May 1979, p. 67.)

("A Robe, a Ring, and a Fatted Calf," Ensign, Aug. 1985, 68)

Acts 5:30 Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree

"The New Testament also alludes to the cross of Jesus as a tree. (See Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24.) Some have noticed that the Greek word used in these passages is the same as that used for the tree of life in the Septuagint, different from the usual New Testament word for tree. According to a number of sources, some early Christians thought of the cross as a tree of life. Later sources likewise relate the cross to the tree of life, as in some hymns attributed to St. Ephraem the Syrian:

'The tree of life is the cross which gave a radiant life to our race. On the top of Golgotha Christ distributed life to men. And henceforth he further promised us the pledge of eternal life.

'Our Savior typified his body in the tree, the one from which Adam did not taste because he sinned.'

"Even a spare sampling of writings from the early Church Fathers shows their awareness of the power of the symbol of the tree of life in ancient Christianity. The Instructions of Commodianus, for example, states in chapter 35 that 'by this tree of death we are born to the life to come; ... therefore, pluck believingly the fruits of life.'" (C. Wilfred Griggs, "The Tree of Life in Ancient Cultures," Ensign, June 1988, 27)

Acts 5:33 they were cut to the heart

The word of the Lord is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). When it cuts, the wounds are often deep and painful. These wounds will inevitably produce one of two responses, either spiritual healing or spiritual death. In the case of the chief priests, the Lord's spiritual surgery only produced the murderous plots of the spiritually dead.

Neal A. Maxwell

"...when truth 'cutteth ... to the very center' (1 Ne. 16:2), this may signal that spiritual surgery is underway, painfully severing pride from the soul. (Ensign, November 1987, p. 31.)

"There is kindness in this pain, for as truth, the Lord's laser, cuts through to all but the hardest of hearts, so the healing light of the gospel is let in. The outer encrustations of evil can make us so insensitive that only the cuts 'to the very center' have any hope of bringing the desired response!" (Things As They Really Are, p. 79.)

"Most of us don't like to be cut to the center [see 1 Ne. 16:2], and when the gospel standards cut us it hurts. The tendency is to deal with the pain by rejecting further surgery. (For the Power Is in Them...: Mormon Musings, p. 49.)

Acts 5:34 A Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people

"The grandson of the famous rabbi Hillel and famous in his own right, Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin and a distinguished scholar of the Jewish law during the time when the early church was first getting underway. Paul states that he was 'brought up at the feet' of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), an idiomatic expression meaning that he was tutored by the famous master of the law. Gamaliel had a reputation for being tolerant and kindhearted, emphasizing the humanistic considerations of the law, relaxing the demands of Sabbath observance so they were not so rigorous, and encouraging more humane treatment of the woman in divorce laws." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 245)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Not only are there intriguing truths only partially disclosed in holy scriptures, in terms of their implications, but there are also some individuals about whom we would especially desire to know more and about whom one day we shall. Gamaliel the Pharisee was such an individual; he was a much-respected doctor of the law (see Acts 5:34). Paul had been one of his pupils (see Acts 22:3). Gamaliel used his influence on one occasion in the Sanhedrin to give appropriate counsel which benefited the work of the Lord.

"...Did Gamaliel have any spiritual promptings which caused him to call for fair play for the Apostles? Did he later affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ? We do not now know. But the wisdom of Gamaliel was surely significant: 'Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.'

"Significantly, Gamaliel named two other leaders. Theudas had had about four hundred followers and was slain. Theudas's followers were scattered and 'brought to nought.' There was apparently a 'Judas of Galilee' who drew many people away after him. He also perished and his followers were dispersed. Jesus' followers were scattered 'like sheep' after he was slain (see Mark 14:27). But instead of being 'brought to nought' Jesus' work grew, just as Gamaliel had indicated it would do 'if it be of God.'

"Just as there were men like Theudas and Judas of Galilee who made it more difficult in a way for some to recognize who Jesus of Nazareth really was, so there were others in the time of Joseph Smith whose religious movements, by and large, came to naught." (Sermons Not Spoken [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 75-76.)

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

Joseph Fielding Smith

"'But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.'

"So I would say to all. Refrain from the spirit of condemnation and bitterness against the work of Joseph Smith. If it be of man, it must assuredly fail. If it be of God you cannot destroy it, and it is a terrible thing to be found fighting against God! I am not speaking on this occasion with intention of argument, but merely to bear witness to what I know to be the truth." (The Restoration of All Things [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 88.)