The Paradox of Purity (Acts 5:12-16) | Jared Betts

Maturing into Christ the Head

Our text today is really an extension of our account last week. After God purified His church by killing Ananias and Sapphira for their deception, Luke tells us that:

“Great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.”[1]

Just as God used Pharaoh to demonstrate His power among the nations, He used Ananias and Sapphira to display His purity and His desire for it among His people. As He says:

“By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.”[2]

Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good.[3] His grace instructs us to deny ungodliness, and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.[4] We are to be Holy as He is Holy, which is done by not being conformed to the former lusts which were ours in are ignorance when we were walking according to the course of this world and living in the futility of our darkened minds indulging in the lust of our sinful thoughts and desires, but by being transformed by the renewing of our minds.[5]

We are to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and let His word richly dwell in us, and wash and cleanse so that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect.[6] We are new creatures, who are day by day, being renewed into the image of the One who created us.[7] One whose likeness is the epitome of righteousness, and holiness of the truth.[8]

            After recording for us God’s dealing with sin in the midst of His people, Luke takes us to Solomon’s portico, which was a large porch arrayed with columns along the eastside of the temple. There the Apostle’s continued give witness to the resurrection of Jesus with many signs and wonders. Jesus continued to work through them proving His vitality. There the church gathered, and Luke describes the body of believers as being with one accord.

Luke employs a unique Greek word here, which he has used several times so far in Acts when describing the church. He used it in Acts 1:14 when describing the church being “with one mind”as they devoted themselves to prayer. We see it again in Acts 2:46 when he detailed the life of the church saying:

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

We very briefly saw it in Acts 4:24 after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin and reported to the rest of the body everything that had happened to them, Luke says:

“And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord…”

We see it now as the people of God are all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.

            The word itself simply means unanimously. The church moved as one. As one source says, this word:

“Helps us understand the uniqueness of the Christian community. Homothumadon is a compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison”. The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ’s church.”[9]

What is Christ doing among us as a church? He is working to see that we all “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”[10] What is Jesus? Jesus is pure, therefore, anyone that has their hope fixed on Him seeks to purify themselves.[11] As the Scripture says, “We are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head.”[12] We are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.[13] A holy temple, is what we are.[14] We are the body of Christ.[15]

Among such a body God displays both His purity and His power. We see this here, and we see the impact it has upon the ever-watching world.


The Paradox of Purity

The impact is somewhat paradoxical. A paradox being a seeming contradiction. There are two things that occur when God’s power and purity is evident among His body which appear to contradict one another.

The first thing we see is certainly problematic for pragmatic people who think it is the churches job to be attractive to unbelievers so that they might be enticed to come among it. We see that God’s desire for a pure church, and His execution in brining it to pass, made it so that none of the rest dared to associate with them. We should understand none of the rest to be the ever-watching non-believing world that was informed of the demise of Ananias and Sapphira.

To associate conveys being glued or cemented together. Dared speaks of lacking the courage to do something such as when Jesus put to shame the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes after their ridiculous questions which were intended to trap Him in a statement. Mark says that “after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.”[16] They did not dare to do so. The purity of the church made it so that non-believers did not have the courage to join themselves to the gathering of believers.

May we never forget that the church is not a building that we are supposed to fill by whatever means possible. The church, by definition is a gathering of people who have been called out of their homes and into the public sphere. The church of Christ in particular is a body of believers built by Jesus, for Jesus.[17] It is a body of blood bought people whose chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It is a body of people whose greatest priority is not to please people, but God.

He has, as the Scripture declares, “Called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” so that we might proclaim the excellencies of Him.[18] We are the called of Jesus Christ.[19] God has called us into fellowship with His Son.[20] We are called as saints, which means we are sacred to God.[21] We are holy and distinct from the world. We are set apart from it and to God and for God. As Jesus says, “You are not of the world…I chose you out of the world.”[22] He says that we are not of the world even as He is not of this world.[23] As 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says, “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 states of you who are in Christ that:

“God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A pure church acts as a natural repellent to the unregenerate, and that is okay. What does the Scripture say? We are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who perishing:

“To the one and aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”[24]

What does Jesus say of us who are His? He says, “You are the salt of the earth.”[25] He says, “You are the light of the world.”[26]

When Jesus calls us salt, He is not speaking of salt as a flavor enhancer. Salt in the Scripture is understood as a preservative. Before refrigeration it was the primary means of preserving meat from putrefying. If salt, therefore, loses its desired preserving property it is completely useless. It cannot regain that property and whatever it was preserving is ruined. As Jesus says:

“It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”[27]

Christians are the salt of the earth, which implies the rottenness of the earth. It is decaying in sin. Our purpose as salt is to preserve it from naturally rotting. One of the chief means by which we act as salt is through the proclamation of the gospel message.

The greatest issue we face as humanity is the problem of sin in our hearts. Sin not only brings about destruction, it incurs the wrath of a just God. Since sin is rooted and produced in the heart of man, no external reform is capable of dealing with the issue we face. God is the only being who can remove wretched hearts of stone and give living hearts of flesh.[28] He does this by making those who were dead in sin alive by the power of His gospel.[29]

He gave His Son who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf that we might become God’s righteousness in Him.[30] He shines the glorious light of Christ into the hearts of men and women.[31] He draws people to see and believe the work of His Son on the cross.[32] He transfers them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.[33]

Again, we act as salt when we faithfully proclaim the message we have been commissioned to.[34] The other means by which we act as salt on this rotting earth is by living lives consistent with the gospel message proclaimed. It is by simply growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ by pursuing and loving His righteousness and hating the sin in our lives we once loved. Preservation occurs merely by sacrificially living our lives to the glory of God.

This does not mean you do not need to teach the gospel, nor should you walk away thinking Christianity is contagious. What is meant by this is that your testimony as a Christian is enough to temporarily stop the rot of some sin at certain points, which is often experienced in the workplace when a believer walks into a group of unbelievers. If they are discussing something immoral the conversation often immediately ceases to exist. As salt keeps meat from rotting, the presence of a Christian is able to keep the rot of sin contained for a time.

            It should be a sobering thought when we consider that our testimony’s as individual Christians, as well as a body of believers, either suppresses decay or incites it. The question is, are we a purifying influence on people, or a putrefying one?

We as salt retard evil, and we as light reveal it. We are well aware of fallen man’s reaction to the Light of Christ. Jesus says that:

“Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”[35] 

It, therefore, should not surprise us that as a church strives to be pure just as Christ is pure that the unbelieving world will dare not associate with them.

It is important to note that the church in pursuit of purity was neither sanctimonious to the world nor pharisaical and hypocritical. They consistently practiced what they preached, and though people dared not associate with them they still held them in high esteem. It is no surprise they were held in high esteem when we consider the words of a second century philosopher as he described the life of the early church saying:

“Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking, have found the truth. For they know and trust God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From Him they received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, and which they observe in the hope and expectation of the world to come.

For this reason they do not commit adultery or immorality; they do not bear false witness, or embezzle, nor do they covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and do good to those who are their neighbors. Whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man. Whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they in turn do not do; and they do not eat food sacrificed to idols.

Those who oppress them they exhort and make their friends. They do good to their enemies. Their wives, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in hope of recompense that is to come in another world.

As for their bondmen and bondwomen, and their children, if there are any, they persuade them to become Christians; and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.

They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphan from the person who does them violence. He who has gives to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in God.

When one of their poor passes away from the world, each provides for his burial according to his ability. If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.

If they find poverty in their midst, and they do not have spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities. They observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah, living honestly and soberly as the Lord their God ordered them. Every morning and every hour they praise and thank God for His goodness to them; and for their food and drink they offer thanksgiving.

If any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and thank God, and escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby. When a child is born to one of them, they praise God. If it dies in infancy, they thank God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. But if one of them dies in his iniquity or in his sins, they grieve bitterly and sorrow as over one who is about to meet his doom.

Such, O King, is the commandment given to the Christians, and such is their conduct.”[36]

They were with one accord. They were of one heart and one soul. They were authentic. They were living consistently with what they professed to believe. The paradoxical result was that:

14 All the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.”

This growth certainly had to do with God manifesting His power through many signs and wonders at the hands of the apostles. As Luke records, the body of believers grew:

15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.” 

We should not walk away from this text believing that Peter’s shadow actually healed people. Nowhere in the text does it tell us that people were healed by doing this. This statement serves to convey the legitimacy of the Apostles ability to heal. People were so certain of it, and so desperate for it, that they hoped that the mere casting of Peter’s shadow upon them would alleviate their malady.

People were laid on cots and pallets. The former speaks of small beds or couches which were often used among the rich, and the latter refers to straw mattresses commonly used among the poor. People from all classes of life sought physical restoration. They all understood that among the church they and their loved ones could find salvation from their sickness, and disease, and infirmities by God’s power at the hands of His Apostles. Afterall, the Apostle’s prayer to the Lord prior to this was that He would be the One that extended His hand to heal, and to perform signs and wonders through the name of His holy servant Jesus.[37] As Luke says:

14 All the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.”


Gospel Consistent Lives

Now we understand that the gift of healing went away when the apostles did. No one has the ability to do that today. This is not to say that God does not heal people today. He very well can and will if it is according to His sovereign purposes, and we are told to pray for those who are sick.

The point I wish us to see is that people understood that among the church they were able to be made whole by the power of God. The question is, if the delegated power of healing is no longer for today is God’s power to make people whole still manifested among His people? The answer is, yes!

God’s great power is shown in us as He takes us miserable and wretched sinners and conforms us to the image of Christ. It is Him sanctifying us so that we might share in His holiness and resemble His Son.[38] He has begun a good work in us which He will perfect until the coming of Christ.[39] He is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure.[40] The progressive purity of His church is the proof of His power. His renewing day by day a creature He has called out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

It was J.C. Ryle that made this rather lengthy, but fitting observation. Ryle said:

“Our lives will always be doing good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read…You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape…I believe there is more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause the chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never-ending excuse for remaining as they are. – ‘I cannot see the use of so much religion’, said an irreligious tradesman not long ago; ‘I observe that some of my customers are always talking about the gospel, and faith, and election, and the blessed promises, and so forth; and yet these very people think nothing of cheating me of pence and half-pence, when they have an opportunity. Now, if religious persons can do such things, I do not see what good there is in religion.’ – I grieve to be obliged to write such things, but I fear that Christ’s name is too often blasphemed because of the lives of Christians. Let us take heed lest the blood of souls should be required at our hands. From murder of souls by inconsistency and loose walking, good Lord, deliver us! Oh, for the sake of others, if for no other reason, let us strive to be holy.”[41]

As Jesus says:

13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”[42]

May we not render ourselves useless for the cause of Christ. May we lead lives consistent with the gospel we profess to believe. We profess to believe that Christ has saved us from sins penalty, and that He has saved us from sins power. We profess that He has made us new creatures which He is conforming to Himself and will one day glorify by saving us completely from sins presence. For a person to not pursue holiness of life, but live comfortably as the old man or woman, is a failure to conform to Christ and a betrayal of their profession that Christ has called them to Himself and made them new. Their life inevitably undermines the gospels power and message and calls into questions Christ’s ability to save.

The question is, do our lives display the power of His resurrection? Do they demonstrate to the people around us who are currently being ravaged by sins power and presence, and destined to be forever ruined for its penalty, that there is salvation for all who cling to Christ in faith? Do our lives not only prove to people that they can be saved from sins penalty and that they can be assured that one day God will save them from its very presence, but that they can be liberated from sins power over them? In other words, do we walk in the newness of life? Do our lives show that there truly is a newness of life to be had in Christ? Do they cry out that there is true healing for the spiritual maladies of man? Do we live lives radically transformed by the gospels power and message? Do we lead lives consistent with the gospel?

Like the Apostle Paul, may we count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of truly knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection.[43] May we live as people who have been united with Christ in His death, and in His burial, and above all in His resurrection. May we lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.[44] May we be the salt of this earth and the light of this world as we walk in the newness of life in Him.[45]


[1] Acts 5:11

[2] Leviticus 10:3

[3] Titus 2:14

[4] Titus 2:12

[5] Romans 12:1; Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19; 1 Peter 1:14-16

[6] 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 5:25-27; Romans 12:2

[7] 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:9

[8] Ephesians 4:24

[9] G3661 – homothymadon – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb95) (blueletterbible.org)

[10] Ephesians 4:13

[11] 1 John 3:3

[12] Ephesians 4:15

[13] Ephesians 2:22

[14] 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21

[15] Ephesians 1:23

[16] Mark 12:34

[17] Matthew 16:18; John 10:14-16

[18] 1 Peter 2:9

[19] Romans 1:6

[20] 1 Corinthians 1:9

[21] Romans 1:7

[22] John 15:19

[23] John 17:14,16

[24] 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

[25] Matthew 5:13a

[26] Matthew 5:14

[27] Matthew 5:13b

[28] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[29] Romans 1:16

[30] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[31] 2 Corinthians 4:6

[32] John 6:44, 65

[33] Colossians 1:13

[34] Matthew 28:18-20

[35] John 3:20

[36] The Apology of Aristides; Translated by Rendel Harris (1893)

[37] Acts 4:30

[38] Hebrews 12:10

[39] Philippians 1:6

[40] Philippians 2:12-13

[41] Holiness, J.C. Ryle; Page 58-59

[42] Matthew 5:13-16

[43] Philippians 3:8,10

[44] Hebrews 12:1-2

[45] Romans 6:4

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