Shared February 19, 2015
As we look at this true story of the punished pair, Ananias and Sapphira, we ought to understand what it tells us, that if God acts to preserve the integrity of the community that the gospel was producing at that time, then we should fully have increased confidence in the truthfulness of the message itself. Are you a Christian? Are you one who is trying to take a casual, lackadaisical approach to entering the kingdom of God? If so, then this frightful narrative of Ananias and Sapphira is bad news for you.
Look at it: Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold real estate (Acts 5:1) and brought it to the church family. But Ananias kept back part of the money for himself, which he did in collusion with his wife (Acts 5:2). To put it literally, Ananias embezzled from the sale price. So Peter asks that very simple, truly innocent question: “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3). In so doing, Peter publicly exposes the fraud. By all intents and purposes, Peter knew and did this by Holy Spirit-empowered insight.
Poor Ananias! He brought only a part while pretending to bring the whole. Not only does Peter reveal Ananias’ hypocrisy but also his full responsibility, that he had full control over the property before it was sold and also, over the sale price before he contributed his portion to the common fund (Acts 5:4). Oh, how we love short-term gain! Ananias was enamored with the possibility of public praise for his generosity when all along he was stringing the church, keeping a secure nest egg for his wife. Don’t we see that happening all the time in the church as well?
Well, what happens? Peter speaks, Ananias listens, Ananias falls down and Ananias suddenly dies. That was it: exepsyxen that is, divine judgment or death at the hands of heaven. This was followed by a hasty and unceremonious burial of Ananias. Without the traditional rituals of mourning, Ananias is taken outside the city and buried by the young men who dutifully wrap his body in a shroud (synesteilan). Listen carefully: it’s going to be worse on that great Judgment Day.
Three hours pass and Mrs. Ananias arrives. Do you know what is interesting? Recognizing the mention of her ignorance (Acts 5:7), it becomes obvious that Peter’s question was about the couple’s agreed-upon false price, not the true price of the sale. Either way, Peter (God) still gives her an opportunity to confess or persist in her sin of collusion. Again, Peter uses the penetrating “why” question. You can tell the extent of Peter’s disbelief if you put his “Why?” in our vernacular: Sapphira, how could you…? Listen carefully: so long as you have breath, God has given you a chance to make your life right with Him if you have not already done so.
The Holy Spirit revealed the truth to Peter who in turn supernaturally reveals his knowledge of the crime, showing to everyone present the implications for their covenant relationship with God. And just like her deceased husband Sapphira too capitulates to divine judgment by immediate death, and the young men, the bearers of dead sinners again respond with a dishonourable burial. Did you notice that there is no reference to a wrapping of Sapphira’s body? Jewish custom is that women could wrap both men and women, but men could wrap only men. Listen carefully: don’t send yourself to hell and say God did it! More people are going to hell just because of what they refuse to do, accept Jesus as their Saviour, than because of what they did, sin.
But oh too late, Ananias and Sapphira “learn” that in this life God can, and when He chooses will punish sinners either by immediate death or by some other means. Is that not happening today in the Church? Supposedly “Christians” today still embrace temptation without fear: Christians luxuriate in the love and grace of God and so do not seriously consider the consequences of their deliberate and willful choice to sin. But you know, Galatians 6:7-8 says 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Listen: God will not be mocked.
Proposed prayer: Dear Father, thank You for the warning in Your Word. You accept me as Your child and do forgive me of my sins; You hate hypocrisy so please help me to live for You with the help of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus, name.