What does Acts 5:18 mean?
ESV: they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
NIV: They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
NASB: They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison.
CSB: So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
NLT: They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
KJV: And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
Verse Commentary:
Scholars debate whether the priests arrest all twelve apostles or if this is a second phase of punishment following the event in Acts 4:1–22 when Peter and John were taken in. The narrative highly suggests this second event involves all the apostles. The council initially held Peter and John because they taught the resurrection from the dead, which the Sadducee-heavy Sanhedrin doesn't believe in. Since preaching the resurrection isn't a crime—the Pharisees do just that—and the public supported them too much, the council couldn't punish them.

Now, however, the Sanhedrin can charge the apostles with disobeying a direct order of religious authorities. The Sanhedrin had forbidden Peter and John from preaching in Jesus' name (Acts 4:18). The apostles disobeyed, as Peter warned they would (Acts 4:19–20).

This is not the last time Peter will see the inside of a Jerusalem jail cell. After a mob murders Stephen (Acts 7:54–60) and Saul drives the Jesus-followers out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–3), Herod Agrippa I will arrest both Peter and James, John's brother. Herod will kill James; Peter will escape with the help of an angel (Acts 12:1–7).

As a literal term, "apostle" refers to someone sent out as a messenger. Mary Magdalene was this generic kind of "apostle" when Jesus sent her to the Eleven to tell them about His resurrection (John 20:11–18). Paul is an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2–4; Romans 11:13). But when the word is used in the very early church in Jerusalem, it refers specifically to the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus and Matthias whom God chose to replace Judas (Acts 1:26). As an office, or a title, it only applies to those men.
Verse Context:
Acts 5:17–26 occurs after the chief priests arrested Peter and John for preaching and healing in Jesus' name, and ordered them not to do so again (Acts 4:1–22). Now, all the apostles are healing and preaching in Jesus' name (Acts 5:12–16), and so the priests arrest them all. At this point, the Sanhedrin is still afraid of the people (Acts 5:26); after all, the apostles are so powerful the people believe even Peter's shadow can heal the sick (Acts 5:15). Soon, the council will get bolder. A mob will kill Stephen (Acts 7:54–60), and then a Pharisee named Saul will help the council drive almost all the Jesus-followers out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–3).
Chapter Summary:
The apostles continue to make hard decisions in the name of Jesus, both inside and outside the church. When Ananias and Sapphira lie to God, the Holy Spirit inspires Peter to pronounce God's judgment on them, protecting the church from the love of the world. Despite the Sanhedrin's watchful eye—and direct orders (Acts 4:17–18)—the apostles continue to preach and heal openly. The guards arrest the apostles, but the Sanhedrin settles for beating them instead of capital punishment. The apostles consider it an honor to suffer on behalf of their Savior.
Chapter Context:
In Acts 5, persecution from unbelievers begins to accelerate. The Sanhedrin has become aware the apostles teach that Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 4). Now, they start to push back in earnest, arresting and beating the apostles. Soon, a mob will kill Stephen, a deacon (Acts 7:54–60), and the Sanhedrin will empower Saul to run down and arrest any Jesus-follower he can find (Acts 8:1–3). The apostles will stay in Jerusalem. Other Jesus-followers will carry His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation with God into the Roman Empire and beyond. The apostles' faithfulness and submission to the Holy Spirit is why we have the gospel message today.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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