Monday, 21 February 2022
Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. Acts 5:13
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The previous verse noted that “they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.” This was probably a general statement that when the people met, any who were free at the moment were in a state of agreement and contentedly came together. Now, another difficult set of words is given by Luke, beginning with, “Yet none of the rest dared join them.”
Who this is referring to is not at all agreed upon. If “them” is referring to the apostles, then some think that the other disciples feared to be closely associated with them lest they should wind up like Ananias and Sapphira. But this would not align well with the fact that they are said to be in one accord elsewhere. That implies that they were all like-minded and without any sort of fear.
Vincent’s Word Studies says this refers to unbelievers and then aligns that with Ananias, thus indicating he was never a true believer. As such, the rest of the unbelievers would not join the church under false pretenses because they were scared they might suffer his fate. This is possible, but the vague nature of Luke’s words makes this view suspect. If this were the case, he could have stated it directly, leaving no room for such intense speculation.
Some see this as any who had not yet joined with the apostles, whether believers or unbelievers, having been shied away from any open union with them, especially while in the public area, because of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. This is possible, and it would alleviate any contradiction in the next verses.
Another possibility is that this is referring to non-believing Jews in general who may have sympathized with the work and message of the apostles, but they were afraid of openly aligning with them – either because of the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, or because of fear of others who would then spurn them. If this final view is correct, it is not at all unlike what is said about this same type of individual in the book of John –
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42, 43
One of the two latter options seems to be more in line with the general tenor of the attitude of the people. There is also no contradictory sense to be found with the coming verses. Despite a group standing off from aligning with the apostles, Luke next notes that this didn’t mean they weren’t regarded in a most respectable light, saying, “but the people esteemed them highly.”
Here, the same term is used as in verse 5:12. Many signs and wonders were done among the people, and the people esteemed them highly. This refers to the population in general. There was nothing among them that said, “This is just a crazy cult,” or “These people are deviants and miscreants,” or any other such thing. Rather, there was an understanding that they were doing nothing wrong, and that they were – in fact – worthy of note and even high respect.
Life application: The words of this, and the surrounding verses, can be a bit challenging to determine exactly who Luke is referring to. But the overall idea is clear. The apostles and disciples were surrounded by people who held them in esteem, even if some of them were reticent to join with them for one of several possible reasons.
There is nothing contradictory in these two thoughts, and there are many modern parallels to consider what the ministry was like. One of the most obvious is that of the Billy Graham Crusades. Whether you agree with his method, style, doctrine, or other aspects of his ministry, it is quite clear that he was highly regarded by almost all the people.
He brought many to Christ through his ministry, and yet, there were many who respected him highly who would not dare to join him. This included Jews who were afraid of being shunned by their own synagogues and families, Muslims who had the same fears, and so on. There was a great respect for the man, and there was a great admiration for his message.
In looking at the parallels between Acts 5 and Billy Graham’s ministry, it helps us to maybe see a little more clearly the intent of Luke’s otherwise difficult words. The main point being that the word of the Lord, the gospel, was being preached and people were choosing to accept it or reject it, but those who conveyed it carried themselves in such a favorable light that it allowed the message to be the main deciding point. The messengers themselves did nothing to alienate the general populace from making a decision about the content of the message.
Let us apply this to our own lives by being above reproach in our conduct. Then, when we share the gospel, the decision to accept or reject the message will be based on the message itself and on the personal choice of the hearer. May our personal character not interfere with getting the message across.
Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom to live our lives in such a manner that others will see our conduct and not find anything in it by which the name of Jesus is diminished in their eyes. Rather, may our lives be of the caliber that people will want to know why we possess the hope we profess and want to hear the wonderful story of what You have done in the giving of Jesus. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.