Friday, 25 February 2022
Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, Acts 5:17
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous verses spoke of the multitudes who were bringing the sick out into the streets and others coming from surrounding cities, all to be healed. In this, healings were taking place, and it signifies that people were believing that healing was possible. When it came about, the message of the good news would be more readily accepted as well. As such, it would obviously cause consternation to the leaders. This verse now shows that is exactly what occurred, beginning with, “Then the high priest rose up.”
The word “Then” is probably better rendered as “But.” This is given in contrast to the healings. Many people came for healing, but that led to a negative effect on the high priest and other authorities. It seems as if Luke is purposefully stating this directly after the healings which would have caused the people to “rise up” from their beds (for example, see Mark 9:27 where the same word is used) upon being healed. And so, a sort of negative pun is being given. In their healing, the people were “rising up,” but this caused a rising up in anger by the jealous leaders of the people.
But more, the same word is also used of rebels in Acts 5:36, 37. And so another contrast is probably being inferred between the true leadership of the Lord and the rebellious leadership of the high priest against the Lord. Depending on when this occurred, this high priest could be Caiaphas, noted in John 11:49. He was already opposed to Christ and His message. If he is still the high priest, his rebelliousness against the Lord continues on now. Further, Luke next says, “and all those who were with him.”
When one understands that this is a rising up against the purposes of the Lord, which is exactly what is being described, the expression unites these people with the high priest as if they are a bunch of thugs thronging together in order to work their mischief. Of this group, Luke specifically notes it “is the sect of the Sadducees.”
Here is a new word in Scripture, hairesis, translated as “sect.” It is where our modern word “heresy” is derived from. It signifies a philosophical division of adherents. The word especially stresses the personal choice of those who adhere to the particular belief.
Today, the word heresy is used in a manner that is not seen in the New Testament. Rather, because the truth of Jesus Christ is fully expressed in the New Testament, a more definite meaning has arisen. There is the truth of God in Christ, and there are all other incorrect religious philosophies, defined as “heresies,” because they are opposed to God’s truth.
As far as the sect itself, it is those of the Sadducees. This was a group whose philosophies included a belief that there is no resurrection and that there are no angels or spirits (Acts 23:8). This group would find the work of the apostles especially troublesome because of this. The apostles’ main message was that they were sent on behalf of Jesus, who had risen from the dead. Further, they were specifically said to be healing people who had unclean spirits in verse 5:16. These Sadducees will be even more upset when an angel clearly works on behalf of the apostles in verse 5:19.
For now, it states that the high priest, along with these obviously frustrated Sadducees, “were filled with indignation.” The word is zelos. It signifies zeal, eagerness, enthusiasm, and also jealousy. It is this last word, jealousy, that drives them to be zealous against the message of the apostles.
They see the expansion of the church. They see the multitudes surely praising God for the healings they have personally experienced or witnessed, and so on. In this, their jealousy at their own inability to have the same effect on the people would lead to them enthusiastically wanting to end what they perceived as a great threat to their authority, and also to their obviously faulty doctrine.
Life application: Today, heresies need to be identified, and aberrant cults and unsound doctrines need to be highlighted. We are shown this by example (for example, see Galatians 2:11-21), and we are told this explicitly as well (such as in Ephesians 4:14 and elsewhere).
Therefore, it is not wrong – and indeed it is exactly correct – to call out those who are teaching unsound doctrines. But it is also true that when this occurs, those who are teaching these lies and distortions will not sit idly by and take it. They will be just like the high priest and the Sadducees, and they will rise in jealousy against those who speak the truth.
As this is so, those who see this occurring must decide who has the valid argument and the proper doctrine. How are they going to do this? Will it be by casting lots? Should they do it by deciding who is wearing the best clothes? Does a title (such as Dr., Rev., Apostle, and so on) indicate right doctrine? Is a person’s culture (such as being Jewish) an identifier that he knows more than someone of another culture?
What is it that will allow the one being presented with varying doctrines to decide which is wrong and which is right, or if both are wrong? The answer is, “Unless you already know the Bible and what it says on that particular issue, you cannot properly evaluate what is presented.”
Hence, you are directed to read this word, meditate on it, contemplate it, and then defend it. This is what God, in his word, asks you to do. He wants you to be prepared because Satan already is. And Satan has many followers who would gladly steal you away from what is proper. Be in the word! The Sadducees arose against the Lord’s designated apostles. Today, there are innumerable sects that are there to do the same against the truth of the word. Be prepared!
Lord God Almighty, please be with us as we face the many troubling characters who come stealthily into the church and present that which is false so that they can direct attention to themselves. Help us to be responsible and to know Your word, reading it and meditating on it constantly. Give us wisdom in this, O God. May it be so. Amen.