Bible study: When we're persecuted because of our faith it's a great time to share it

Acts 5:29–42


The focal passage for this lesson picks up the theme of persecution that Luke shared earlier in the chapter. The popularity of the apostles resulted in opposition from the Sadducees. The Jewish religious leaders arrested the apostles and placed them in the public jail (v. 18). An angel of the Lord opened the doors,  led the disciples out of the jail and commanded them to “tell the people all about this life” in the temple compound.

Once again, the disciples were brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court. The Jewish authorities responsible for Jesus’ death claimed the disciples were “determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” — that is, Jesus’ death.

Angry response (29–33)

In response to the persecution, Peter and the apostles responded with a gospel message. First, they appealed to a higher court — the court of God. “We must obey God.” The exalted Jesus possessed more authority than the Jewish high court in the minds of the apostles. The apostles reiterated what happened to Jesus at the hands of the Jewish leaders, but first they highlighted the message of the Resurrection. “The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus” after His murderers hung Jesus on a tree.

Peter’s accusation of murder angered the Jewish leadership. After his bold accusation, Peter preached the gospel to them. God exalted or raised Jesus from the dead and established Him as Ruler and Savior for the purpose of granting repentance and forgiveness. In the Old Testament, two witnesses were required to establish a fact in a court of law. Peter cited the witness of the apostles and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Wise counsel (34–39)

Gamaliel, a respected leader within the Sanhedrin, demanded that the apostles be removed from the official proceedings to enable the Jewish leadership to discuss the issues.

He admonished his fellow Jewish leaders to “be careful” in sentencing the apostles. He reminded his fellow elders of events associated with two men who attempted to incite rebellion.

Theudas and 400 men revolted during a tax census, and perhaps around the same time, Judas the Galilean also led a revolt against their Roman overlords. Both were killed. They learned it may not be best to mess with Roman authority. What are the dangers of working against God?

Grateful suffering (40–42)

The religious leaders saw wisdom in Gamaliel’s proposal, but they flogged the apostles and told them “not to speak in the name of Jesus.” Upon release, the disciples rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer on behalf of the Name.

The disciples practiced what later came to be known as passive resistance. They refused to obey the ruling of the Jewish court and continued to proclaim the gospel daily at the temple compound as well as from house to house. How do we bring honor to Jesus when facing personal opposition due to exalting the name of Jesus?


This lesson was written by Mark Rathel, professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Fla., and originally published by The Baptist Paper. This study is based on the Explore the Bible curriculum from Lifeway Christian Resources.