- Acts 3:1-6:7
One day Peter and John healed a crippled beggar outside one of the gates of the temple court. The man got and leaped and jumped around, praising GOD. Everyone recognized the man and were amazed at what happened to him. A crowd gathered there as people realized what happened, and Peter told them that it was by the name of Jesus that the man had been healed. He preached the gospel, telling them to repent and turn back to GOD to receive forgiveness for crucifying Jesus, GOD’s Anointed.
The priests and captain of the temple guard along with the Sadducees came up while Peter and John were speaking to the crowd. They seized Peter and John and put them in jail until the next day, because it was evening. They were upset because Peter and John were preaching the resurrection of the dead as well as Jesus of Nazareth. (Recall that the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, even though Jesus had obviously been raised Himself proving its truth.) Many of the crowd believed and became Christians, and the size of the church grew to about 5,000 men.
The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met with the high priest and other important Jews. They threatened Peter and John not to speak in the name of Jesus any longer, and they let them go because all the people were praising GOD over the miracle. Peter and John told them that they should judge whether it was right to obey men rather than GOD, but as for themselves, they could not help but tell what they had seen and heard.
Peter and John went back to the church and reported what had happened, and they together prayed aloud, praising GOD. They asked GOD to look upon the threats that the Jews had given to them and give them boldness to speak the gospel, and to continue performing great and wonderful miracles through the name of Jesus. When they finished praying these things, the house where they were was shaken. GOD answered them, and they all went out preaching boldly.
During this time everyone was unified and they shared their possessions with one another such that no one was in need. People sold property, homes, and goods and gave the money to the apostles to distribute as there was need. Unfortunately one couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property, as other Christians had been doing, and they kept part of the money for themselves, but planned that they would pretend that they were giving the entire amount to the apostles. They were seeking the praise of men as opposed to that of GOD.
When Ananias brought the money and gave it, Peter asked him why he had decided to lie to the Holy Spirit, and Ananias fell down dead. Later on, Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened with Ananias. Peter asked if they had sold the property for the amount that Ananias had said, and she said yes, so Peter confronted her and she fell down dead as well. Great fear came upon the church as a result of these things.
During these days the Christians met together in an area of the temple called Solomon’s Colonnade (or Solomon’s Porch). Although people highly respected them, many were afraid to join them for fear of the Jewish leaders. The apostles performed great miracles there and many sick and demon-possessed were brought so that they could be healed. Then the high priest and other Sadducees arrested the apostles and threw them in jail. During the night, an angel opened the doors and told them to go stand in the temple courts and preach the message of this new life.
The next morning the Jewish leaders went to get the apostles out to talk with them, but they found the guards standing at the entrance and the prison doors shut, but no one was inside. They found the apostles preaching Jesus in the temple courts, as the angel had told them to do, so they brought them before the Jewish high court. Peter and the apostles told them that they had to obey GOD rather than men, so they were going to keep on preaching Jesus. They were furious and wanted to put them to death, but a Pharisee named Gamaliel advised them to let the apostles go and see what became of their work, lest they all be found to be fighting against GOD. So they agreed, flogged the apostles and let them go.
The apostles rejoiced in the fact they had been counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name. Every day they taught and preached Jesus in the temple and in homes throughout the city.
Later, a certain group of Christian widows complained to the apostles that they weren’t receiving any food from the daily distribution that was being supplied. The apostles told the church to select seven good men to handle waiting on tables for the food, so that they could continue to focus on the mission which they had been given of preaching and teaching Jesus. One of these seven men who was selected was Stephen. He would become the first Christian to die because of his beliefs and defense of his faith.