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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Lesson

(Acts 5:12-16)


The Progress of the Gospel.

12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.   13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.   14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)   15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.   16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

      We have here an account of the progress of the gospel, notwithstanding this terrible judgment inflicted upon two hypocrites.

      I. Here is a general account of the miracles which the apostles wrought (v. 12): By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people, many miracles of mercy for one of judgment. Now the gospel power returned to its proper channel, which is that of mercy and grace. God had come out of his place to punish, but now returns to his place, to his mercy-seat again. The miracles they wrought proved their divine mission. They were not a few, but many, of divers kinds and often repeated; they were signs and wonders, such wonders as were confessedly signs of a divine presence and power. They were not done in a corner, but among the people, who were at liberty to enquire into them, and, if there had been any fraud or collusion in them, would have discovered it.

      II. We are here told what were the effects of these miracles which the apostles wrought.

      1. The church was hereby kept together, and confirmed in its adherence both to the apostles and to one another: They of the church were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. (1.) They met in the temple, in the open place that was called Solomon's porch. It was strange that the rulers of the temple suffered them to keep their meeting there. But God inclined their hearts to tolerate them there awhile, for the more convenient spreading of the gospel; and those who permitted buyers and sellers could not for shame prohibit such preachers and healers there. They all met in public worship; so early was the institution of religious assemblies observed in the church, which must by no means be forsaken or let fall, for in them a profession of religion is kept up. (2.) They were there with one accord, unanimous in their doctrine, worship, and discipline; and there was no discontent nor murmuring about the death of Ananias and Sapphira, as there was against Moses and Aaron about the death of Korah and his company: You have killed the people of the Lord, Num. xvi. 41. The separation of hypocrites, by distinguishing judgments, should make the sincere cleave so much the closer to each other and to the gospel ministry.

      2. It gained the apostles, who were the prime ministers in Christ's kingdom, very great respect. (1.) The other ministers kept their distance: Of the rest of their company durst no man join himself to them, as their equal or an associate with them; though others of them were endued with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues, yet none of them at this time did such signs and wonders as the apostles did: and therefore they acknowledged their superiority, and in every thing yielded to them. (2.) All the people magnified them, and had them in great veneration, spoke of them with respect, and represented them as the favourites of Heaven, and unspeakable blessings to this earth. Though the chief priests vilified them, and did all they could to make them contemptible, this did not hinder the people from magnifying them, who saw the thing in a true light. Observe, The apostles were far from magnifying themselves; they transmitted the glory of all they did very carefully and faithfully to Christ, and yet the people magnified them; for those that humble themselves shall be exalted, and those honoured that honour God only.

      3. The church increased in number (v. 14): Believers were the more added to the Lord, and no doubt joined themselves to the church, when they saw that God was in it of a truth, even multitudes both of men and women. They were so far from being deterred by the example that was made of Ananias and Sapphira that they were rather invited by it into a society that kept such a strict discipline. Observe, (1.) Believers are added to the Lord Jesus, joined to him, and so joined to his mystical body, from which nothing can separate us and cut us off, but that which separates us and cuts us off from Christ. Many have been brought to the Lord, and yet there is room for others to be added to him, added to the number of those that are united to him; and additions will still be making till the mystery of God shall be finished, and the number of the elect accomplished. (2.) Notice is taken of the conversion of women as well as men; more notice than generally was in the Jewish church, in which they neither received the sign of circumcision nor were obliged to attend the solemn feasts; and the court of the women was one of the outer courts of the temple. But, as among those that followed Christ while he was upon earth, so among those that believed on him after he went to heaven, great notice was taken of the good women.

      4. The apostles had abundance of patients, and gained abundance of reputation both to themselves and their doctrine by the cure of them all, v. 15, 16. So many signs and wonders were wrought by the apostles that all manner of people put in for the benefit of them, both in city and country, and had it. (1.) In the city: They brought forth their sick into the streets; for it is probable that the priests would not suffer them to bring them into the temple to Solomon's porch, and the apostles had not leisure to go to the houses of them all. And they laid them on beds and couches (because they were so weak that they could neither go nor stand), that at the least the shadow of Peter, passing by, might overshadow some of them, though it could not reach them all; and, it should seem, it had the desired effect, as the woman's touch of the hem of Christ's garment had; and in this, among other things, that word of Christ was fulfilled, Greater works than these shall you do. God expresses his care of his people, by his being their shade on their right hand; and the benign influences of Christ as a king are compared to the shadow of a great rock. Peter comes between them and the sun, and so heals them, cuts them off from a dependence upon creature sufficiency as insufficient, that they may expect help only from that Spirit of grace with whom he was filled. And, if such miracles were wrought by Peter's shadow, we have reason to think they were so by the other apostles, as by the handkerchiefs from Paul's body (ch. xix. 12), no doubt both being with an actual intention in the minds of the apostles thus to heal; so that it is absurd to infer hence a healing virtue in the relics of saints that are dead and gone; we read not of any cured by the relics of Christ himself, after he was gone, as certainly we should if there had been any such thing. (2.) In the country towns: Multitudes came to Jerusalem from the cities round about, bringing sick folks that were afflicted in body, and those that were vexed with unclean spirits, that were troubled in mind, and they were healed every one; distempered bodies and distempered minds were set to rights. Thus opportunity was given to the apostles, both to convince people's judgments by these miracles of the heavenly origin of the doctrine they preached, and also to engage people's affections both to them and it, by giving them a specimen of its beneficial tendency to the welfare of this lower world.