5:17-32 But the high priest and his party (the local sect of the Sadducees) were filled with envy, and they laid hands on the apostles and put them under public arrest. But through the night the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison and led them out and said, "Go, stand in the Temple and tell the people all the words of this life." When they heard this they came into the Temple very early and began to teach. When the high priest and those with him arrived, they summoned the Sanhedrin and all the council of the sons of Israel; and they despatched messengers to the prison that they should be brought. When the officers arrived they did not find them in the prison. When they returned, they brought news saying, "We found the prison shut with all security, and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened the doors we found no one inside." When the superintendent of the Temple and the chief priests heard these words, they did not know what to make of them and could not understand what could have happened. But someone arrived and told them, "Look now, the men you put in prison are standing in the Temple and teaching the people." Then the superintendent of the Temple went away with his officers and fetched them, but he used no force, for they were afraid of the people in case they might be stoned. When they had fetched them they stood them amidst the Sanhedrin. The high priest questioned them, "We laid the strongest injunctions on you not to teach in this name; and, look now, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are aiming at bringing on us guilt for the blood of this man." Peter and the apostles answered, "It is necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you got into your hands and hanged on a tree. God has exalted him as Prince and Saviour at his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins, and we are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who obey him."
The second arrest of the apostles was inevitable. The Sanhedrin had strictly ordered them to abstain from teaching in the name of Jesus and they had publicly disregarded that injunction. That to the Sanhedrin was a doubly serious matter. These apostles were not only heretics, they were also potential disturbers of the peace. Palestine was always an inflammable country; if this were not checked it might well result in some kind of popular rising; and that was the last thing the priests and Sadducees wanted, because then Rome would intervene.
There is not necessarily a miracle in the release of Peter and John. The word angelos ( Greek #32 ) has two meanings. It means an angel; but it is also the normal word for a messenger. Even if the release of the apostles had been brought about by human means, the agent of the release would still be the aggelos of the Lord.
In the narrative of the events after the release we see vividly displayed the great characteristics of these early men of God.
(i) They were men of courage. The command to go straight back and preach in the Temple sounds to a prudent mind almost incredible. To obey that command was an act of almost reckless audacity. And yet they went. (ii) They were men of principle. And their ruling principle was that in all circumstances obedience to God must come first. They never asked, "Is this course of action safe?" They asked, "Is this what God wants me to do?" (iii) They had a clear idea of their function. They knew that they were witnesses for Christ. A witness is essentially a man who speaks from first-hand knowledge. He knows from personal experience that what he says is true; and it is impossible to stop a man like that because it is impossible to stop the truth.