What does Acts 5:21 mean?
ESV: And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
NIV: At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles.
NASB: Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple area about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, that is, all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison for them to be brought.
CSB: Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. When the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they convened the Sanhedrin—the full council of the Israelites—and sent orders to the jail to have them brought.
NLT: So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching. When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council — the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial.
KJV: And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
NKJV: And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Verse Commentary:
The Sanhedrin, the religious court of the Jews, arrested Peter and John and ordered them not to speak in Jesus' name. Peter and John respectfully told them they were going to do what God told them to do. When they returned to their friends, the group prayed for boldness and courage, and the Holy Spirit responded, shaking the ground with His approval (Acts 4:1–31).

The apostles continued their ministry in the temple courtyard, and the priests put them all in jail (Acts 5:17–18). This next morning, the priests gather with the rest of the Sanhedrin—the elders and scribes from both the Sadducees and Pharisees—to try the apostles for breaking their direct order. Except, the defendants aren't there. In the night, God sent an angel to release them and tell them to continue their work (Acts 5:19–20).

Jesus prepared the apostles for this civil disobedience. He taught them not to fear those who threaten to kill their bodies but to respect the God who can send their souls to hell (Luke 12:4–5). Before they received the Holy Spirit, they couldn't do this. They scattered at Jesus' arrest (Mark 14:50), Peter denied knowing Him (Mark 14:66–72), and even after Jesus rose from the dead they hid from the Jewish leaders in a locked room (John 20:19). Now that they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are emboldened to defy human rulers in the service of God.
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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