What does Acts 5:22 mean?
ESV: But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported,
NIV: But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported,
NASB: But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported,
CSB: But when the servants got there, they did not find them in the jail; so they returned and reported,
NLT: But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported,
KJV: But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
Verse Commentary:
The chief priests have arrested the apostles for teaching the people that Jesus rose from the dead. The next morning, as the whole council prepares to question them, the prison is empty (Acts 5:17–21). It's possible the guards are reminded of the empty tomb (Matthew 28:11–15).

The chief priests, elders, and scribes of both the Sadducees and the Pharisees worked diligently to get Jesus arrested and executed. They bribed one of Jesus' followers to arrange a quiet time for the arrest (Matthew 26:14–16, 47). They sought men who would lie under oath that Jesus had broken the Mosaic law, despite the fact that false testimony about a capital offense was, itself, a capital offense (Matthew 26:59–60). They manipulated the Roman governor to do the killing, blackmailing him with the accusation that to do otherwise would mean he was committing treason against Caesar (John 19:12). And they incited a crowd to force Pilate to release an insurrectionist instead of the innocent Jesus (Matthew 27:20).

After the deed was done and Jesus was buried, they even asked Pilate to officially seal and guard the tomb so the disciples couldn't steal His body (Matthew 27:62–66). So when the guards came to the chief priests with the message that angels had appeared to roll the stone away and the tomb was empty, the priests had nothing. They bribed the soldiers to claim the disciples stole the body—but didn't formally charge the accused grave robbers—and tried to pretend it would all go away (Matthew 28:11–15).

Now, those same disciples are teaching that Jesus has risen from the dead and belief in Him will reconcile the people to God. There is no talk of sacrifices or offerings in the temple, as the priests would prefer. The priests had the apostles arrested, and now, their prison cells are empty. And the officers have to tell the priests.
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 2:36:32 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com