But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.” Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.Acts 5:1-10
Did you notice the repetition in the stories and the symmetry between them. The fact that the story focuses on both husband and wife is a convenient way of getting the main point across.
Notice the symmetry between the two halves of the story but perhaps more importantly, notice the repetition. Do you see that the stories of Barnabas, Ananias and Sapphira both start out the same. Both parties sell some land in order to give the proceeds. But after the first sentence the similarity ends. Barnabas gave all of the proceeds from his land to the apostles to apportion out to meet the needs of those in the group. In fact, supposedly that is what Ananias and Sapphira did too. As I said a couple of Gems ago, the property was theirs to sell or not to sell. Once sold, they could do as they wished with the money. They could
- a) not give any money
- b) give a part of money and keep a portion for themselves
- c) give all of the money.
The problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they sold their land and then pretended to follow in the footsteps of Barnabas by claiming to give all the proceeds from the sale of their land. However, over and over the crux of this story is made clear to us. Ananias brought part claiming it was the full amount, he kept the rest (with his wife’s knowledge and consent), they kept the money for themselves. The problem was not in keeping some of the money for themselves. Rather the problem was that they lied and claimed to have given all of the money. As Peter said to him, “Why have you let Satan fill your heart?” They were not lying to the apostles and the community, but to God. Worse yet, they were lying to the Holy Spirit. Yes, Sapphira consented to what her husband was doing, assumedly she didn’t lie. It was Ananias who fronted up to the apostles and claimed the money he was giving was the full amount. Sapphira made no such claim but she agreed with what he was doing. When she came in three hours later, Peter asks her a pointed question. The Holy Spirit must have revealed to Peter what was going on behind the scenes because he asked the key question – “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” To which she replied, “Yes, that was the price.” Now at that point she too was lying to the Holy Spirit. Clearly, as Luke conveys to his readers, she did not know what had happened. If she had, I doubt that she would have lied. If she had been there and seen what had happened to her husband, I think she would have confessed. But she didn’t know Ananias had been struck down dead by God. No one in their right mind would try to deceive God or the Holy Spirit. That would be asking for trouble. But on being asked the pertinent question by Peter, Sapphira moves from being complicit to being the perpetrator of a lie.
Now we come to the matter which another Gems reader asked – that of the incongruity between everyone being terrified on hearing this story and therefore no one daring to join them; yet more and more people were brought to the Lord. How can that be? Well, it is simple really. I know it seems like there is a contradiction there but I don’t believe there is. How can they be so terrified that no one dares join them and yet more and more people came to the Lord? Is that a contradiction? Not at all. I think if I had been there among them I would have been shocked and terrified too. It would have been apparent to all who were there that these two had been exposed by the power of the Spirit of God. It is reminiscent of what happened at Ai in Joshua’s time (Josh_7:1-26). Any thinking person would have been terrified to join them with that kind of thing going on – not once but twice. The sin was exposed by the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit.
The issue was not financial. It was not that they kept money for their own needs from the proceeds of the sale. Peter explained it was their choice. What offended the Spirit of God was the hypocrisy, the pretence and deceit at the heart of what happened here. Imagine the fear that would grip those who were practicing their own form of hypocrisy or deceit. No wonder they were afraid. This is why when the manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit are present in the midst of Christ’s body, the church, a holy fear comes over people. You would want to run a mile from a place where your sin might be exposed. But on the other hand, when one has seen the Spirit of God working in this kind of way, it is at the same time a sobering thing to observe and makes one want to get one’s life in order and get right with God. It is these two reactions which occurred simultaneously at this time. On the one hand it drives people away in fear and yet at the same time draws people to the truth and spiritual reality. It is surely a major motivating factor to getting one’s life in order and living in compliance with the Word of God. And strangely both reactions can take place simultaneously within one and the same person.
Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened. The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them.Acts 5:11-14
You have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. (1 Kings 21:20) Every sin is a self-selling.John Piper
An obstacle is often an unrecognized opportunity!Rick Godwin
Get yourself right before you lead others into the same mistakes.Hannah Rowton
God is prepping you for destiny before you were even aware that you had a destiny.T D Jakes