Series 45


STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 5:17-39

When reading Acts 5:17-39 we see that these verses contain some important lessons for anyone engaged in God’s service. Before considering these, notice that one of Luke’s favourite words is “filled” – compare Acts 4:31; Acts 5:17; Acts 5:28. How wonderful to be filled with the Holy Spirit! How awful to have Satan filling our hearts! How dangerous it may be to be filled with indignation! How glorious to be filled with the knowledge of Christ and His saving power.


1. Whenever God is truly working, the Devil will also be at work

Look at verses 17-18. We read again that these bold servants of the Lord Jesus experienced tremendous persecution; but what we want to notice particularly is that behind their persecution was the Devil himself. A great work of God was going on, so the Devil was on the warpath, as he always is when God works. If God is doing something, look out for Satan! It’s a fact that the more determined we are to pray, to preach the gospel and to glorify God, the more we shall have to face the Devil and the more we shall need grace to overcome his subtle and devastating work. So do not be dismayed if he is giving you a bad time as you serve the Lord. There are some Christians who do not have to worry about the Devil because they are lukewarm and half-hearted; and there are some churches that the Devil does not worry much because they are not getting on with the job. Be assured, though, that we need not be overcome by the Devil. By prayer and with heavenly wisdom we may be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37); and as we resist Satan he will flee from us (James 4:7).


2. It is always safe to trust God when we are doing His will

Just see what verses 18-19 tell us. We may be put into prison. There are thousands of Christians in prison today, simply because they are Christians and have sought to be faithful to the Lord. But God is still able to perform miracles. In this case heavenly visitors came down at His command and broke open the prison doors; just as God sent one of His angels to release Peter from prison (Acts 12:5-16). The important thing when we are ‘in prison’ is to trust the Lord – look up Psalm 37:5-6. One missionary who was threatened by a gunman said, ‘You cannot fire that shot until the God whom I serve gives you permission!’ It was something like that with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel 3:16-18). Sometimes the trial of our faith brings more glory to God and more blessing to ourselves and to others than if we were not tried, so God lets us suffer for a while (Philippians 1:12). It is always safe to trust God! Paul and Silas proved this – look up Acts 16:19-36.


3. We may still believe in and rejoice in the ministry of angels

Verses 19-21 tell us how, in this case, the angels were “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). But although the angels have a wonderful ministry entrusted to them, we have a far greater ministry. The angels await God’s orders and are ready to do His will, but are not entrusted with the immense privilege of preaching the gospel to sinners. That ministry is given to us, and what a rare privilege it is for a believer to go to an unbeliever and speak about the Lord Jesus who is able and willing to save all who will put their trust in Him!


4. We should obey God rather than men

It is easy to read these words in verse 29, but it must have taken a great deal of courage for these men to say this. How bold Peter and the others were! In spite of threats of imprisonment, and worse, they were determined to go on preaching the gospel – because the Lord had commissioned them to do just that. While they were forbidding Peter to preach, Peter was preaching to them! If only we had a little more of his courage, tenacity and concern for the lost!


5. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him

Notice this principle in verse 32:

  1. 1. When an unbeliever repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, God gives him the Holy Spirit. In other words, when we obey the gospel the Holy Spirit is given to us (Acts 2:37-39).
  2. 2. When we, as believers, surrender to the Lord in complete obedience, He fills us and empowers us with the Holy Spirit. The measure in which God can fill us and empower us with the Holy Spirit depends on the measure of our obedience.


6. To be effective witnesses for the Lord of Glory we must know the partnership of the Holy Spirit

In verse 32 Peter said, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit”. This surely is the great lesson of the book of Acts. A witness is someone who shows forth Christ and talks about Him. A witness is a demonstration of Christ, a sample of the grace of God, a living human illustration of what God can do with a man or a woman. We must surrender to the Lord all that we are and have; but we must receive from the Lord all that He offers to us in the person and power of the Holy Spirit.


7. When God initiates a work He will prosper and complete it: it cannot be overthrown

We learn this from verses 38 and 39 – and what comfort these verses bring to us! We are reminded of our Lord’s words in Matthew 16:18. People tell us that the Church is failing, and that it will not last much longer. What stupidity! The Lord will not fail, and He is the builder – all will be well (Philippians 1:6)!