Acts 5 (5 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.  Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The Descendants of Adam

1This is the list of the descendants of Adam. (When God created human beings, he made them like himself. 2He created them male and female, blessed them, and named them “Humanity”.) 3When Adam was 130 years old, he had a son who was like him, and he named him Seth. 4After that, Adam lived another 800 years. He had other children 5and died at the age of 930.

6When Seth was 105, he had a son, Enosh, 7and then lived another 807 years. He had other children 8and died at the age of 912.

9When Enosh was ninety, he had a son, Kenan, 10and then lived another 815 years. He had other children 11and died at the age of 905.

12When Kenan was seventy, he had a son, Mahalalel, 13and then lived another 840 years. He had other children 14and died at the age of 910.

15When Mahalalel was 65, he had a son, Jared, 16and then lived another 830 years. He had other children 17and died at the age of 895.

18When Jared was 162, he had a son, Enoch, 19and then lived another 800 years. He had other children 20and died at the age of 962.

21When Enoch was 65, he had a son, Methuselah. 22After that, Enoch lived in fellowship with God for 300 years and had other children. 23He lived to be 365 years old. 24He spent his life in fellowship with God, and then he disappeared, because God took him away.

25When Methuselah was 187, he had a son, Lamech, 26and then lived another 782 years. He had other children 27and died at the age of 969.

28When Lamech was 182, he had a son, 29and said, “From the very ground on which the LORD put a curse, this child will bring us relief from all our hard work”; so he named him Noah. 30Lamech lived another 595 years. He had other children 31and died at the age of 777.

32After Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The Sermon on the Mount

5.1—7.29

1Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where he sat down. His disciples gathered round him, 2and he began to teach them:

True Happiness

3“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor;

the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

4Happy are those who mourn;

God will comfort them!

5Happy are those who are humble;

they will receive what God has promised!

6Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires;

God will satisfy them fully!

7Happy are those who are merciful to others;

God will be merciful to them!

8Happy are the pure in heart;

they will see God!

9Happy are those who work for peace;

God will call them his children!

10Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires;

the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

11“Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.

Salt and Light

13“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.

14“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.

Teaching about the Law

17“Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. 18Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with — not until the end of all things. 19So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven. 20I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.

Teaching about Anger

21“You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, whoever calls his brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Council, and whoever calls his brother a worthless fool will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. 23So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.

25“If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute with him while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, he will hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. 26There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine.

Teaching about Adultery

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. 29So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than for your whole body to go to hell.

Teaching about Divorce

31“It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.’ 32But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife, for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also.

Teaching about Vows

33“You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ 34But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ — anything else you say comes from the Evil One.

Teaching about Revenge

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres. 42When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.

Love for Enemies

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48You must be perfect — just as your Father in heaven is perfect!

1At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem. 2When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them.

3Almost at once Tattenai, governor of West Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow-officials came to Jerusalem and demanded: “Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?” 4They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping to build the Temple. 5But God was watching over the Jewish leaders, and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Darius and receive a reply. 6This is the report that they sent to the emperor:

7“To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace.

8“Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily.

9“We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it. 10We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are.

11“They answered, ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel. 12But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia. 13Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt. 14He restored the gold and silver temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Cyrus handed these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah. 15The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before. 16So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but the Temple is still not finished.’

17“Now, if it please Your Majesty, let a search be made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter.”

Ananias and Sapphira

1But there was a man named Ananias, who with his wife Sapphira sold some property that belonged to them. 2But with his wife's agreement he kept part of the money for himself and handed the rest over to the apostles. 3Peter said to him, “Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? 4Before you sold the property, it belonged to you; and after you sold it, the money was yours. Why, then, did you decide to do such a thing? You have not lied to human beings — you have lied to God!” 5As soon as Ananias heard this, he fell down dead; and all who heard about it were terrified. 6The young men came in, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, was this the full amount you and your husband received for your property?”

“Yes,” she answered, “the full amount.”

9So Peter said to her, “Why did you and your husband decide to put the Lord's Spirit to the test? The men who buried your husband are now at the door, and they will carry you out too!” 10At once she fell down at his feet and died. The young men came in and saw that she was dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11The whole church and all the others who heard of this were terrified.

Miracles and Wonders

12Many miracles and wonders were being performed among the people by the apostles. All the believers met together in Solomon's Porch. 13Nobody outside the group dared to join them, even though the people spoke highly of them. 14But more and more people were added to the group — a crowd of men and women who believed in the Lord. 15As a result of what the apostles were doing, sick people were carried out into the streets and placed on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16And crowds of people came in from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were ill or who had evil spirits in them; and they were all healed.

The Apostles are Persecuted

17Then the High Priest and all his companions, members of the local party of the Sadducees, became extremely jealous of the apostles; so they decided to take action. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But that night an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates, led the apostles out, and said to them, 20“Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new life.” 21The apostles obeyed, and at dawn they entered the Temple and started teaching.

The High Priest and his companions called together all the Jewish elders for a full meeting of the Council; then they sent orders to the prison to have the apostles brought before them. 22But when the officials arrived, they did not find the apostles in prison, so they returned to the Council and reported, 23“When we arrived at the jail, we found it locked up tight and all the guards on watch at the gates; but when we opened the gates, we found no one inside!” 24When the chief priests and the officer in charge of the temple guards heard this, they wondered what had happened to the apostles. 25Then a man came in and said to them, “Listen! The men you put in prison are in the Temple teaching the people!” 26So the officer went off with his men and brought the apostles back. They did not use force, however, because they were afraid that the people might stone them.

27They brought the apostles in, made them stand before the Council, and the High Priest questioned them. 28“We gave you strict orders not to teach in the name of this man,” he said; “but see what you have done! You have spread your teaching all over Jerusalem, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God, not men. 30The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. 31God raised him to his right-hand side as Leader and Saviour, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. 32We are witnesses to these things — we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him.”

33When the members of the Council heard this, they were so furious that they wanted to have the apostles put to death. 34But one of them, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was a teacher of the Law and was highly respected by all the people, stood up in the Council. He ordered the apostles to be taken out for a while, 35and then he said to the Council, “Fellow-Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. 36You remember that Theudas appeared some time ago, claiming to be somebody great, and about 400 men joined him. But he was killed, all his followers were scattered, and his movement died out. 37After that, Judas the Galilean appeared during the time of the census; he drew a crowd after him, but he also was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38And so in this case, I tell you, do not take any action against these men. Leave them alone! If what they have planned and done is of human origin, it will disappear, 39but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them. You could find yourselves fighting against God!”

The Council followed Gamaliel's advice. 40They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. 41As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. 42And every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued to teach and preach the Good News about Jesus the Messiah.

Reflect

Reflect on Acts 5

The first part of this chapter contains one of the most troubling stories in Acts. Believers named Ananias and Sapphira are drawn to the new Church, and along with many others sell land and donate the proceeds. But they lie, saying they've given everything when they've kept some for themselves. Judgement falls on them and they die.

At one level, this story speaks of the importance of holiness in the life of the people of God. There are other stories in the Old Testament of similar things happening (Leviticus 10.1–2, 2 Samuel 6.1–8, 2 Chronicles 26.16–20). In this case, what matters is not ritual uncleanness but lies. Ananias and Sapphira were free to give as much as they wanted, but they wanted to seem as though they had given more.

At another level, the story is about the importance of integrity. We may not go as far as Ananias and Sapphira, but the temptation to seem better than we are is one we all face. And perhaps it was made harder for them to be honest because – in the first excitement of the new Church, when everyone was full of enthusiasm – to be a little more cautious and reserved in their giving would have made them stand out. Perhaps people would have questioned their commitment, or even doubted whether they were real Christians.

Ananias and Sapphira did wrong and suffered for it. But perhaps in today's Church, we can help each other live better by being more accepting of each other and more honest about our own failings, so that it's easier to tell the truth.

Pray

Pray

God, help me to tell the truth about who I am to others, and help me to make it easier for others to tell the truth to me.

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