Chapters five and six demonstrate that, even in the early Church, sinful people are always the greatest hindrance to the ministry. In chapter five Luke recorded one such scandal. Some people apparently had made large donations to the community through the sale of private land (Barnabas, Acts 4:36-37), resulting in public praise. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira desired the public recognition, but they wanted their money as well. So they devised a plan to make a large donation, saying it was 100% of the sale proceeds, while keeping some of it for themselves. In a great act of power, the Holy Spirit gave Peter insight into what they had done and killed them immediately (Acts 5:1-10). This caused three results (Acts 5:11-16). First, the entire church was gripped with fear of sin. Second, those outside the church were afraid to get too close to the believers, maybe for fear they too would be “struck by lightning.” Third, many came to faith in Jesus because of the power exhibited in that situation and the other miracles the apostles were doing. This was no mere show; God’s power was visibly at work among the believers, and people crowded around them for healing the same way they had done to Jesus just three or four years earlier.
As more people joined this new movement, the religious leaders arrested the apostles again (Acts 5:17-26). This time they were miraculously released overnight, and they went back to the Temple the next day to preach. This caused confusion when the Sanhedrin ordered them from the jail to stand trial, because they were no longer there. Instead, they had to arrest the apostles again. This time Peter was blunt: “WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN PEOPLE” (Acts 5:29). Interestingly, it was a sage named Gamaliel (the apostle Paul’s early mentor, Acts 22:3) who offered this warning: “If this is just a human thing, it will come to nothing, but if it truly is from God, we do not want to be on the wrong side of it” (Acts 5:34-39). Momentarily convinced, they released the apostles again, this time with a beating, and threatened them. However, this only drove the men harder to preach and honor Jesus.