Shared February 22nd, 2015
We are looking at the account of the punished pair, the true story of Ananias and Sapphira which is so gripping because it is about where one spends eternity: heaven or hell. This couple tried to deceive God and were killed as a result. Deception is really traced to that fateful day when satan lied to Eve, then Adam. And deception is still going on today.
Look at the presentation that was done a few years ago to the whole world (the UN) in order to invade Iraq. Of course I am referring to that “weapons of mass destruction” fiasco. Look at the results today: anarchy in Libya, chaos in Syria, tumult in Yemen, pandemonium in Nigeria, topsy-turviness in Kenya, turmoil in Tunisia, bedlam in Somalia/Sudan, shambled nerves in the West and now the reign of terror in Iraq/Syria by another off-shoot of islam. All because of one lie. This scary narrative of Ananias and Sapphira is about the same thing: deceit. As the account reveals, the pair paid dearly for their deliberate deception.
This is where we are. Ananias and Sapphira have been struck dead by the Holy Spirit because they lied to God. And what was the result? “Great fear came on the whole church.” This is the first reference in Acts to ekklesia, Greek for “called out” which also means “church.” Yes, the body of Christians, not the building, is the church. Is it not significant to find the first introduction of the word “church” at the climax of this petrifying story? It heightens the seriousness of this couples’ sin but also explicitly, and without apology justifies the severity of their punishment. And, especially so since God was fulfilling His Word by establishing His church. Dr. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts reminds us that the dread extended to non-Christians as well. He says “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” Acts 5:11.
You have read this exhortation and all I can say is that the message for both Christian and non-Christian alike is self-evident. Christian, God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Non-Christian, this is a warning: think twice before joining the Church. Are you willing to pay the price, that is, fully renounce wicked ways and full-heartedly embrace Christ? You have to, because the alternative is death in hell. Christ welcomes you home, or you go to hell.
Let me end with some key questions:
1. Can you consider the many ways in and through which the spirit of Ananias and Sapphira might be operating in our day?
2. “Lying to the Holy Spirit:” What is your understanding of “lying to the Holy Spirit”?
3. Death by the hand of heaven (instant, immediate sentencing and judgment) versus Deferred judgment(i.e. sentencing and judgment postponed or delayed)
· Whilst Ananias and Sapphira died by the hand of heaven most would die from deferred judgment. As you personally understand it, does divine judgment (i.e. ‘death by the hand of heaven’ constitute an immediate sending of an believer to hell? Does it mean there is no more redemption possible for them? Why and Why not?
4. We saw that the first mention of sin and the word “church” in Acts 5 is in relation to Ananias and Sapphira. You know what your personal life is like; what might this couple say to you today?
5. What do you think of Peter? He had a past. He was the one who denied Jesus, didn’t he? When things got real dicey he repeatedly told anyone who would listen that he didn’t know Jesus, even though he knew Jesus. So, was he too harsh, particularly on Sapphira?
What do you do with a text such as Acts 5:1-11 which tells us about the deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira? It is for us to “fear the Lord,” which is a good and proper attitude. I am not saying it means to be “scared” of the Lord and regard Him as a merciless and unapproachable tyrant. No. To “fear the Lord” is to have the wisdom to know that He is holy and sovereign and we are not. God’s holiness and sovereignty always demand respect. Do you remember God’s attributes?
Proposed prayer: Dear Father, thank You for the warning in Your Word, which says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). If I do not confess You, there is no forgiveness. Help me Lord, in Jesus, name. Amen.