Acts 5:13 – No One Else Dared Join Them

The first few chapters indicates that there was remarkable growth in Jerusalem after Pentecost.  But in Acts 5:13, Luke tells us “none of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” Even those within the church were greatly afraid.

AnaniasFor insiders, Spencer points out two factors which may have enhanced the fear of the church. Ananias and Sapphira were not outsiders who joined the church without fully understanding what they were getting into. These were part of the group who were “of one mind” in 4:32 and had decided to sell property to help the community. If these full members of the community were caught in a sin worthy of death, what of the rest of the group?

Second Spencer, draws a parallel to the shame of Adam and Eve. Ananias and Sapphira are the first of the new community to sin and be judged with death (75). While we know Jesus’ death atoned for sin, the earliest community had not worked out all of the implications of the death and resurrection and were quite seriously living with expectant hope in the return of the Lord almost immediately. They are the first “new covenant believers” to die, therefore any member of the community is in danger of not surviving to the return of Jesus.

Perhaps this is a result of the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:11 says not only was the whole church greatly afraid, but anyone who heard about the deaths was also afraid. For outsiders, the deaths meant the Jesus movement dealt with infractions quite seriously indeed! It is likely the rumors of the untimely deaths of Ananias and Sapphira but a damper on evangelism, and no outsiders dared join them, although v. 14 says “more believers were added.”

Craig Keener understands the fear in 5:11 more positively, since fear is often a response to God’s work in Luke and Acts. He gives several examples both in Acts and other literature of the positive nature of “fear falling” on a person. But not all his data supports a positive response: Acts 19:17 indicates fear came on both Jews and Greeks in Ephesus as a result of the beating of the Sons of Sceva and the name of Jesus was extolled (μεγαλύνω, the same word as Acts 5:13). The people who were afraid were outsiders and the result is they spoke highly of God, but the text does not say they became disciples.

In fact, in Acts 5:13, Luke chooses a verb (κολλάω, kollao) which as the sense of clinging to something very closely. For example, dust clings to a cloak (Luke 10:11) or a man to his wife (Matt 19:5) or a man to a prostitute (1 Cor 6:9). The connection is of a very close, intimate relationship.  Luke uses the term in Acts 17:34 to describe individuals who become disciples of Paul. The word appears in 1 Macc 3:2 with the same sense as the brothers of Judas Maccabees join their father to fight for Israel.

In Acts, it seems to me people outside of the apostolic community respected the apostles, but they were increasingly less likely to join in their community. Why? Perhaps they did not want to suffer the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, but it is also possible the growing popularity of the apostles inevitably would lead to confrontation with the Temple aristocracy. Keener suggests this fear may have even prevented other Christians from joining the apostolic community (2:1199).

There were other followers of Jesus who did not sell possessions to support the poor or go up to Solomon’s Portico to preach and teach. These were respectful but afraid of the community led by Peter and John and may have wanted to avoid confrontation with the authorities. Could one “accept Jesus as Messiah and Savior” without joining Peter’s community? Possibly, since Stephen and Philip seem to consciously expand the movement away from the Temple to the Hellenistic synagogue and later to the Samaritans.

Bibliography: F. Scott Spencer, “Scared to Death: The Rhetoric of Fear in the ‘Tragedy’ of Ananias and Sapphira.” Pages 63-80 in Reading Acts Today. London: T&T Clark, 2011.

20 thoughts on “Acts 5:13 – No One Else Dared Join Them

  1. Dear Brother Phillip, Thank you praying for you, please pray for me. your Brother Babu.

  2. The death of Ananias and Sapphira were deaths that created great shock and fear in the community. “Ananias, how is that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” Acts 5:3. They were guilty of lying and hearts were filled with evil and temptations. Many individuals feared the same fate as Ananias and Sapphire. The deaths of them both revealed the great power of God and gave the community a reason to fear the power of God. This chapter encourages individuals to be active in giving and being honest with oneself and to others. We are called to give abundantly and to live a life pleasing and honoring to God. A life that is the same behind a closed and open door. “This can be seen in the church’s breaking of bread, selling their property and possessions and distributing them to anyone who had a need, and breaking bread from house to house and receiving food with joy and sincerity of heart” (Jipp 49).

  3. I believe that the fear of the people in Acts is very relevant to today. The community appreciated and respected what the Apostles did and how they suffered for what they believed in. However, this caused a sense of fear in the people making them cautious to join such a movement. In America, we have the freedom to believe what we want and be open about it. In other countries, this isn’t always the case. Many people are persecuted for believing in anything that is against their culture which creates fear in the community. This fear causes them to abstain from believing in anything else or practicing any other religion. I believe this example is somewhat similar to the way the community reacts in Acts. They react in fear, not fear of God, but fear that if they take after the Apostles, that they will be persecuted or that they will suffer. I don’t think it makes them lesser Christians if they don’t take risks to share the Gospel and proclaim their faith, but Matthew 5:10 tells us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The community was also fearful because of Ananias and Saphira being killed after being caught in their sins. If I saw someone killed right in front of me after they sinned, I would be a little cautious as well. This may have caused them to fear to repent for their sins because of what it led to for Ananias and Saphira. Peter says that “now is the time for the people to respond and repent so that they may experience the covenantal and messianic blessings and not be removed from God’s people” (Jipp 54).

    • VanderLaan, great job on your discussion post this week. I really liked how you tried to put yourself in the shoes of those living during the time of Peter’s community. Living in America it is so easy to say one is a Christian and proclaim his faith because even if he does suffer persecution it will be to some extent of getting made fun of for it. However, those in Peter’s day suffered persecution to the point of being beaten and death (Acts 5:39). Thinking of that word ‘death’ right now I sit back and wonder whether or not I would actually be strong enough to join Peter’s community. That’s a sad truth. I can even take it a step farther than this. If I was not willing to join Peter’s community would I have at least been able to believe and preach on my own such as Stephen? I do not know because even he was beaten to death (Acts 7:60).
      As I continue writing this I am trying to think of what I can do to become a God-fearing individual who is willing to suffer persecution such as Peter and Stephen did. A connection I am seeing is both men were filled with the Holy Spirit and allowed the Holy Spirit to move through them (Jipp, 2018) (Acts 7:55). Although I am filled with the Holy Spirit I wonder how much I let Him work through my life on a daily basis. Is it to the degree that Peter and Stephen did? Absolutely not. I know this because I do not get words from God or get touched by the Holy Spirit the way they did such as during Pentecost or the time of Stephen’s death. However, that does not mean I am stuck where I am. The most amazing thing about God is I can try harder every day to allow the Holy Spirit to move through me and hopefully then I will no longer be afraid of extreme persecution regarding my faith. I need to overcome this fear because “…all who desire to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).”

      • I’m not in this class but I love how you called her “Vanderlaan” because you didn’t know her first name.

  4. The fear of death by following the name of Jesus isn’t just a biblical concept but a concept that we see today especially in communist and middle east Islamic ran countries. In Acts 5:5 and Acts 5:10 we see the death of first Ananias and second his wife and Sapphira for disobedience and ungratefulness. Something that I never really thought of before is the those who wanted to follow Christ but didn’t want to follow Peter and his community/ministry. This would be similar to the idea of today that there are many people who have their faith and hope trusted in Jesus Christ but aren’t apart of any church or ministry. It’s interesting to me that Peter urged the believers to sell all their things. If a pastor said that today, I would almost guarantee he’d have a lot of empty seats the next Sunday. Lastly, what interests me the most is that death and the fear of death is what was the first thing that was associated with Christ for a lot of people from the outside living in this time period.

  5. The fear of people in Acts five is very similar to the fear that many people have today. For anyone questioning to join the church seeing or hearing about these deaths would be a turn away. They might now fear that if they sin they will also breath their last. In America this fear is not quite death but rejection. If someone professes to believe but then sins and gets caught will they be rejected by the church. It is clearly seen in Acts 5 that God is telling the people of the church that they need to be all in, they need to take up their cross and not be wishy-washy about belief and being apart of the church.

  6. people might turn away because they are scared that that might happen to them. In Ananias and Sapphira’s case, they were not all in. They kept some of the money from the sale of their land for themselves because they did not want to give it all up. Ananias and Sapphira were the first examples of consequences for not being all in. They were believers who knew what was expected of them, but then they did the opposite and did not follow through. This was important for the people in the church during that time to see what the consequence would be.

    • When I copy and pasted the original post, it missed part of it. Here is the post again:
      The fear in Acts 5 is very relevant to that fear today. When first reading about these deaths, people might turn away because they are scared that that might happen to them. In Ananias and Sapphira’s case, they were not all in. They kept some of the money from the sale of their land for themselves because they did not want to give it all up. Ananias and Sapphira were the first examples of consequences for not being all in. They were believers who knew what was expected of them, but then they did the opposite and did not follow through. This was important for the people in the church during that time to see what the consequence would be.

  7. The death of Ananias and Sapphira stirred up great fear among those in the early church. After all, the only miracles that the apostles had previously done were beneficial to the church and those who we a part of it. This is the first example of the apostles being used by God to bring judgment down on a member of the Body. The other members of the community had never seen this before and were mostly shocked at their ability to do so. Furthermore, the reasons for their actions could have been misconstrued by those in the community. Was it their action of holding back money that brought on their deaths? Or was it lying to the Holy Spirit? And what is the difference between lying to the Holy Spirit and lying on its own? These questions undoubtedly created confusion among the new community and certainly made some wonder what other sins would be punished by death. Dr. Long brings up an interesting thought when he regards that Ananias and Sapphira were the first to die from that community, opening the door for other believers to not survive until Jesus’ return. This was of great concern for the new believers. They truly believed that Jesus was returning very soon and that they would playing an important part in the establishment of the new kingdom on earth. If they were to die before then, how would they help? It is important to note that there is most likely still much fear surrounding the idea of resurrection in this time. With all this uncertainty, the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira marked a time of nervousness and fear among the new community.

  8. It seemed like death was the go- to answer for conflicts or crimes of severe nature during the early church season. We see this continue in Acts 7 with the stoning of Stephen. The Pharisees also used stoning (which I assume would ultimately lead to death) as a way to show their religious superiority against a sinful woman (John 8). So it was not uncommon, for what seems like drastic measures in the 21st century, for death to be the consequence of Ananias and Sapphira’s inappropriate religious action.

    I agree that the fear of ‘what-if’ played a crucial role in distracting people from being fully committed to the early church and what it stood for. Dr. Long stated that the early community of believers “simply met the needs of the people”. This practice of communal living and surviving was not secluded to Judaism or the Ancient world (Long 27). The suggestion for new believers to live a simplistic life by Peter ,may be said to show his desire for them to be in genuine community and dependent on God for provision. Not only were they meet others needs, but they were being built up in their service to God.

    The story in Acts 4:32-5:16 asks at what cost should disciples be sacrificing to show their commitment to the Messiah and the universal gospel message? Is it enough to give most of yourself/possession for the work of the ministry or are you simply called to trust and obey?

  9. The simple answer for the reason no one joined Paul and the other apostles was because of their fear. I think the reason for their fear is rather complex. I would agree with you, that they likely didn’t join them because of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. These people didn’t want to do something wrong and be punished unto death because of it. If I were in their shoes, I might overthink it. I would think that I would unintentionally do some little sin and be killed because of it. This might be a thought process for them too.

    Another reason may stem from a verse in the previous chapter. In Acts 4:18 the religious rulers threatened Peter and told him not to preach in the name of Jesus anymore. These people who didn’t join the apostles in the portico knew that the apostles would likely preach in the name of Jesus to the people. Though these fearing people may have agreed with the message they were giving, they didn’t want to risk their lives because of it.

    I think you make a great point that these people were expecting the Lord to return within their lifetime. This could further make them want to preserve their life for fear of missing out on His return. If they preach in the name of Jesus and die, they may have thought they would miss out on this return.

  10. It could also be considered that individuals during this time in the development of the church were overall afraid of death. This situation appears, after the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, that if the individuals chose to be believers but did not follow the rules they would die, but if they did choose to follow Jesus and be saved, they would potentially be killed by the rulers of the time. This could be seen as a “lose-lose” situation. It can easily be understood why nonbelievers would be hesitant to fully commit to following the preaching of the apostles in risk of dying in multiple scenarios. The remaining question is if a believer can accept the truth of Jesus and the everlasting life that comes through accepting His gift of life and not dwell in the community of believers and grow in their knowledge and lifestyle of living like Jesus.

    It could be possible for believers to accept Jesus as their Savior and not follow Peter and the other apostles, but that would be a form of hypocrisy in not boldly proclaiming the gospel and not fully accepting the teachings of Jesus when he was alive. Although, it is taught that believers simply need to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ in their hearts to be saved (Romans 10:9). This would mean that believers who not need to follow Peter’s community and their teachings to gain salvation and knowledge, as Catholicism would teach, but believer should desire to learn more about Christ and for them to also understand and know the love and salvation that come through Jesus.

  11. I have never experienced fear or anxiety when going to a church service or being around Christians, because I have grown up going to church all my life. I know what to expect and understand most of the Bible stories, but for someone looking at the church from the outside, I am sure it might look a little strange. Especially when it comes to communion, miraculous healings, and words in songs that do not make a lot of sense, because of the Biblical story in it. For someone who has not grown up going to church, I am sure there is fear and even anxiety when going to a service for the first time.

    The reason I bring this up is because I think the people in verse 13 were outsiders scared or fearful of what the early Church was doing. People are fearful of things they do not know and things that are not everyday occurrences. It wasn’t everyday that people were being healed by someone’s shadow (5:15), nor was it everyday that people who were a “part of the early church” (Ananias and Sapphira) fall over dead. Miraculous signs were occuring and I believe the people who did not grow up around the church were overwhelmed and frightened seeing these things. They did not dare join them, because if Ananias and Sapphira who were a part of the church fell over dead, then the question is will we suffer the same end?

    It amazes me, all the signs and wonders that were done. The Holy Spirit was definitely moving in the early church. Peter was so in tune with the Spirit that he knew when people were not telling the truth and was able to correct, because God was working through him (5:3). I think this passage just goes to show that some will follow and some will be fearful. God is doing a work and the Holy Spirit is evident in the lives of those who truly follow him.

    • I really liked reading your post in regard to this article! Looking back to when I first accepted Christ in my heart, I was very fearful of what was to come. I remember my first time going to church and being so afraid to do communion because it was something new – I actually let my fear overcome me and I ended up not doing communion that day. Being fearful in this context to me was my way of protecting me from something new in my life. I was afraid of trying something and having it not be beneficial. I quickly learned that being fearful was not the answer.

      Looking at how much the Holy Spirit was moving in the early church was really motivating because I think the Holy Spirit is working just as much today. The Holy Spirit has guided me away from being fearful and brought me to a time where I can be diligent and obedient with what the Lord has in store for me.

  12. The fear that is presented in Acts 5 is still very relevant in todays world. People that live in the countries of the Middle East that want to or do follow Jesus live in the fear that they as well might be killed for following Him. During the time of Acts 5, hearing that they were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit would be a reason to turn away from Jesus because people could not commit to living an all-in lifestyle. With Ananias and Sapphira keeping some of the money from the sale of their land and then lying to the Holy Spirit struck them dead even though they knew how they needed to live to be a servant. This tragic event was an important event for the people of the church to see because it showed them the true consequences of what could happen if they disobeyed. The interesting thing to me is that early on the following of Jesus was associated with death if you were to not sell everything. This is interesting to me because when we accept Jesus, we will have eternal life which does not give us a reason to be scared of death. But after hearing of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, this was a turn off which is why people did not want to join Peter.

  13. In Acts 5, we are presented with the impact of fear and we can definitely see how much fear still impacts people in today’s world as well. For example, fear or uncertainty of a first time church go-er is very common. Just the thought of not knowing anything biblically, or simply not knowing what to even expect is what I have experienced in my own life as well. I grew up in the church all my life, so I never came across this type of fear within the church, but I have brought friends to church and I have experienced what they are feeling like before they go, just because of not knowing what it is going to be like. That is just one common example in today’s world, but there are people in a lot of different areas around the world who are not even able to have the opportunity to go to church and have a relationship with Jesus because of what would happen to them. During Acts 5, we learn that Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and ended up dead because of it is very impactful for not only that time period, but also today. The fact that you have to be all in with your relationship with Jesus is very important because it can ultimately lead to death, just like it did back in these times as well.

  14. When I first read the story of Ananias and Sapphira I thought that it seemed a bit extreme for God to strike down two people who had voluntarily given to the community, although I now see why, I can see why the people felt fear and uncertainty as a result of hearing about this. They must have questioned whether it was the act of withholding some of the money from God, or whether it was the fact that they lied to him that ultimately led to them being struck down, which would have left them even more uncertain and confused. Also, at this point the had been accustomed to the disciples using their gifts from God to benefit them and others, and this was the first time that they would have seen something bad be done through the disciples. The idea that the early believers thought that Jesus was going to come down from heaven almost immediately is also a very interesting one, and just highlights the confusion and struggle these early believers must have been going through.

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