Paint by Doug Kallerson. Sligo, Ireland.
Saturday, 12 March 2022
And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. Acts 5:32
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 words here must be kept in relation to what was just said since verse 5:29 in order to be rightly understood. Taken together, they say, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.’”
With this context remembered, the words can be more clearly understood. They begin with, “And we are His witnesses.” This is the purpose of the apostles. They are “sent ones” who testify to everything that they saw concerning Jesus. This is an important point because it is an office that only existed in those who were personally involved in what occurred in His ministry. Paul is the only exception to this as is carefully explained by him in 1 Corinthians 15.
It was the condition specifically given when deciding upon the replacement for Judas –
“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” Acts 1:21, 22
With this understood, they continue by saying that they are witnesses “to these things.” This refers to what is given in the previous verses cited above –
God raised up Jesus.
Israel’s leaders, representative of Israel, murdered Him by hanging Him on a tree.
God has exalted Him to (or by) His right hand to be Prince and Savior.
Repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sin is available through this.
It is the gospel message – Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, Christ rose again. Calling on the Lord Jesus (meaning He is God because He is at the right hand of God, the position of power and authority) brings salvation. From there, Peter and the apostles next say, “and so also is the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead and the One who inspired God’s prophets to write out Scripture, is a witness to the workings of God in Christ –
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
The visual, audible coming of the Holy Spirit upon these men also provided a supporting witness to their testimony. That witness continues again in their ability to properly convey the meaning of Scripture, of their healing of the sick, and so on. The acts of the apostles are another part of the witness of the Holy Spirit, testifying to the fact that Jesus is the Christ. With this understood, the apostles next say of the Holy Spirit, “whom God has given.”
The Holy Spirit is God, giving of Himself. It is not unlike God giving of Himself in Christ. Christ was given for the sin of the world, but that forgiveness is only applied to those who appropriate it through belief. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is given by God to humanity, but this only comes to those who appropriate the offering, and that only occurs for “to those who obey Him.”
The word the apostles use, which is translated as “obey,” is the one introduced in verse 5:29 (cited above). It is the word, peitharcheó. As previously noted, it comes from two words signifying “persuade” and “what comes first.” Thus, it signifies being obedient to the higher authority.
One must decide who he will obey. The apostles clearly state that they will be obedient to Christ, the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, rather than to those appointed to administer that law. Israel was given the law, only Israel. And so, this precept pertains only to Israel in the sense that they must put aside the law and come to the One who fulfilled it. And yet, the precept also applies to any who voluntarily place themselves under this law. To understand this, Paul refers to circumcision, the identifying mark of those who have so placed themselves under the law.
One cannot claim obedience to the law and not be circumcised, because it is a precept of the law. The precept applied to any part of the law, but Paul uses it as the premier example of choosing the law over grace. The result of doing so is clearly stated by him –
“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5:2-6
Israel was given the law and they were under the law. To “obey” Christ for them was to follow the higher authority of Christ. A person who is not of Israel and who follows the law has failed to follow the higher authority of Christ. Either way, they do not have the Spirit, and they remain at enmity with God. This is the significance of the apostles’ words to the leaders of Israel.
The council will give their response, and the narrative will continue showing the failure of Israel to come to Christ. Eventually, the transfer of the spiritual banner will go from Jew to Gentile, from Israel to the church. This is because Israel is represented by this council. God isn’t overriding His own words found in the law. Instead, He is showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and the law is then annulled through His work.
Life application: The words of this verse speak of the witness of the Holy Spirit. As noted, the Holy Spirit witnesses through His word. He is given to those “who obey Him.” It must be understood that because the apostles personally saw the work of Christ and were witnesses of it, there are no longer apostles today. Nor is there any need for them.
The books of the Bible were completed before all of the apostles had died, being written by them, or those who were approved by them (such as Luke) to accurately report what was done by Christ and the apostles. As such, the Holy Spirit now witnesses to us only through His word. There is no need for believers to perform miraculous signs, nor the like.
The word is written, and it calls for faith to accept what it says. This is the premise for believers today. God has spoken, the Holy Spirit – through His word – witnesses to us of the work of Christ, and we are expected to believe it and accept that He is the Christ of God. In this, the Holy Spirit is given as a seal and a guarantee of our future redemption (Ephesians 1:13, 14).
Be of sound mind, believe what God has done, and be saved through the cleansing power of God’s Anointed, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The message is so simple, and it is all-sufficient for us to be saved. What more do we need, O God, to have the sure and unfailing faith that will carry us through the dark and distressing world? We have all we need, and we are so grateful for it! Thank You for the witness of the word, given to us by inspiration from You. Amen.