Wednesday, 23 February 2022
so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Acts 5:15
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
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The previous verse noted how believers were increasingly added to the Lord. With that stated, it now says, “so that they brought the sick out into the streets.” The words seem to logically connect to verse 5:12 –
“And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people…so that they brought the sick out into the streets.”
As such, the words “so that they” would then be speaking of the people. It is the populace who would bring any person who was sick out into the streets, probably at the time they knew Peter would be going to the temple (Solomon’s Porch, noted in verse 5:12) or returning from it. With this thought in mind, it next says, “and laid them on beds and couches.”
The words in Greek are klinōn and krabattōn. The words are suitably described by Albert Barnes –
klinōn. “This word denotes usually the ‘soft’ and ‘valuable’ beds on which the rich commonly lay.”
krabatōn. “The coarse and hard couches on which the poor used to lie.”
The meaning then is that people of every social class, from the rich to the poor, understood that Peter was able to heal. It signifies a hopeful belief that his passing might bring the person to restoration. That is seen in the next words, saying, “that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.”
The translation is deficient. Rather, it reads, “that at the coming of Peter, even his shadow might overshadow some one of them” (YLT).
It is not that Peter’s shadow would pass by, but that as Peter came by, his shadow might come upon them. It is possible that this means that they hoped his shadow passing over them might heal them, and this is how it is generally taken. In Acts 19, a similarly unusual type of healing is noted –
“Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” Acts 19:11, 12
This more closely aligns with the thought of the people touching the hem of Jesus’ garment as is recorded in Matthew and Mark. There is physical contact.
As the physical contact is highlighted, and because of the way the words are written concerning Peter coming by, it very well may be a way of saying, “that at the coming of Peter, he might stop to heal them.” In the act of stopping, his shadow would thus be over them.
If this is the case, it is not the mere passing of the shadow, but the fact that Peter was willing to stop and be attentive to the sick. While he was there, his shadow (his presence) would be on them.
Whatever the actual meaning, the words do not in any way negate the notion of the other apostles also healing. The point is not that Peter is the only one who heals, but that the focus of the narrative is on him. As noted elsewhere, the focus is on Peter in the first twelve chapters of Acts, and then it moves to Paul in chapters 13-28.
In this, a point is being made about the transfer of the spiritual banner from Jew to Gentile, Peter being the apostle to the circumcision, and Paul being the apostle to the Gentiles. The accounts are given to show this movement away from Israel and to the Gentiles.
Life application: It is common for Pentecostals to claim all kinds of spiritual occurrences, including healings, by merely being around a particular area or person. Such a sensationalist approach is certainly based on verses from Acts, as if what happened through the apostles is still normative for the church today.
This is a poor way of arranging one’s theological position because the accounts in Acts prescribe nothing. They only describe what occurred, and when rightly considered, what is described is to make a point concerning what is going on in the greater picture of redemptive history.
In interpreting Acts already, many of the verses that describe various events are simply ignored by these same Pentecostals, as if the “good stuff” still applies today, but the “other things” don’t. This is a pick and choose theology that is not supported by the epistles.
As far as the epistles, they establish doctrine, they set the guidelines for conduct in the church, and the things they do not address (casting out demons, for example) means that those things are not to be considered as a part of Christian faith and practice. God has not left anything out of His word that we need to conduct affairs in the church, and He has not put things into His word that are superfluous. Rather, what is there is given for us to evaluate based on the context in which it is presented.
Be careful what you accept, be sure it is supported by the epistles (which are prescriptive for the church age), and be sound in your doctrine lest you get misdirected down many strange and unhealthy paths.
Heavenly Father, keep us from those who are unschooled in properly handling Your word. May we not get pulled down the wrong paths as we live out our lives. Instead, help us to think clearly on Your word, rightly applying its precepts to our lives. May it be so, to Your glory. Amen.