Acts 5:23

Sgt York’s (and my!) Hero.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” Acts 5:23

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).

It was just seen that the officers who were sent to retrieve the apostles from prison returned and reported. Their report is now given, beginning with, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely.”

This is the same word used in verse 5:21, indicating the actual place of imprisonment, such as a dungeon. There is probably a main building, and then within the building are individual cells, possibly with chains, and the cells were kept secure with doors or bars. It is the same word used to describe Paul’s incarceration in Acts 16 –

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” Acts 16:25, 26

As can be seen, there were both chains and doors in this place. There are at least doors where the apostles were being kept, and those doors were securely shut when the officers arrived. Concerning the doors, the Greek reads “in all security.” If there were locks, they were untampered with. If there were bolts, they were in place. All of the measures that would be proper to lock up the apostles had been taken, and they had not been manipulated or removed. And more, it next notes, “the guards standing outside before the doors.”

Not only had every physical measure remained secure, but the guards were completely unaware of any change in the status of the occupants of the cell. They had been taken in, the guards had been posted, and they remained stationed just where they were posted. All is as it was when the apostles were ushered in. And yet, the officers next exclaim, “but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”

This would have been a complete shock to all. The dungeons may have been a part of a building made by hands, but they very well may have been cut directly into the earth, like a cave. From there, doors would be set. Either way, the utter impossibility of getting out of such a place, especially in just a few hours, would be obvious. And yet, the dungeon where they had been was empty.

This means that the apostles had been supernaturally transported out of the prison, or that the guards had gone into a type of supernatural blindness (as occurred in Genesis 19:11 and 2 Kings 6:18). If the guards were in a trancelike state, they could have been manipulated into allowing the apostles out without even knowing it.

Either way, the hand of God was upon what occurred, and the apostles were not where they had been placed only a few hours before.

Life application: Psalm 147, a psalm already cited in the Acts commentary over other points that have occurred, also speaks of the event found in this passage, saying, “The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.”

How this event in Acts occurred is less important than the fact that it did occur. The Lord validated His ability to set the prisoners free from an otherwise impossible situation. It is unlikely that this was a life-threatening incarceration where the men may have faced execution. Rather, it more likely was a one-night stay in the local jail awaiting a trial that would have led to some type of minor punishment, at best.

And yet, the Lord intervened in order to show that He is willing to release His people from their bonds when He sees fit. At other times, He will allow His people to remain in jail, to be punished, or even to be executed – such as with John the Baptist or James the brother of John (see Acts 12:2).

Because the Lord acted as He did in this instance and not in others, we should ask, “Why now? Why at this time?” The answer seems to be that He was confirming to the leaders that He is in control, that the message of Jesus that the apostles proclaim is true, and that they must come to Him in order to be right with God.

In this, it is a dual-edged sword. They can either be cut to the heart and accept Jesus, being saved through Him, or they will be cut off from Him. Their failure to acknowledge His miracles, which further validate the message of Christ, will witness against them. God is at work! He is doing things to bring people either to repentance or to judgment. With His word now written, it stands as the ultimate tool for either.

Let us use this precious word to convict hearts, to witness to the truth, and to lead people to the gospel of Jesus. But this cannot happen if we do not share it with others. May we be wise and responsible in this most urgent of matters.

Lord God, You are great and Your ways are perfect. Everything You do has purpose and is carefully laid out so that the most beneficial avenue is available for people to come to You. And yet, how many take another path into perdition! Help us to be a part of keeping people from that sad end. Use us to get the message out now. Amen.