10 July 2019Acts 5:27-32
God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. (vs. 31-32)
Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176
The apostles had been arrested the previous day because the high priest and his council were jealous of their success, and they have now been re-arrested after release by an angel overnight and having returned to the temple to continue their teaching. The charge is clearly stated in verse 28, that they had been given strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus, “yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood upon us”. See 4:18-20 for the previous warning they refer to, noting how at the time it was given the apostles had declared that they would not comply. Verse 13-16 describe well how they had indeed “filled Jerusalem”, gaining much respect and great numbers of converts as well as healing many. Chapter 5 does not specify the content of their teaching but the claim that they held the Jewish leaders culpable for Jesus’s crucifixion is earlier evident in the words “whom you crucified” (4:10) and is now reinforced in their response in verse 30 to the current charge.
The turn of phrase there, “whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree”, is significant because of Deuteronomy 21:23 which required the corpse of an executed criminal to be hung on a tree for a day by way of example, “for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse”. In Peter’s view the Jewish religious authorities, in handing Jesus over to the Romans for execution by crucifixion, were plainly confirming they believed Jesus to be under God’s curse.
As ever in Acts, the apostles quickly turn the focus of their message onto God’s raising Jesus from the dead, and more particularly here on the exaltation to God’s right hand, the position of chief representative or “Leader”. But also here he is called “Saviour” – the noun is rarely used in the New Testament until the short late letters towards its end – in order to emphasise the availability of repentance and forgiveness even to these men who were most directly guilty of the judicial murder of Jesus.
Verse 32 would seem to suggest that only those who have received the Holy Spirit, in other words who have repented and been forgiven according to Acts 2:38, can truly make give effective testimony regarding Jesus.
- Christians, even in supposedly liberal societies, are sometimes instructed that they must not proclaim their faith by word or gesture, for example in their workplace. How do you think they should respond?
- The last sentence in the Background notes above suggests that one way the Holy Spirit witnesses to the truth about Jesus is by inspiring believers to speak out. Can you think of other ways in which the Holy Spirit makes such witness?