Today, let’s take some time to give a quick overview of Acts chapter 5.
In Acts 5:1–11 we see the account of Ananias and Sapphira, and it’s one of the most disturbing stories in the New Testament. It speaks to how important unity within the church is to God and how seriously God takes deceit that threatens that unity. Thankfully, most of us don’t receive immediate judgment for our sins like Ananias and Sapphira did. This kind of judgment is rare, even in Scripture.
However, we can be sure that sin will be dealt with, and the consequence of sin without Christ’s atonement is always death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus didn’t choose to die for us because our sin was trivial. Our sin was great, but he chose to die for us because His love for us was greater. The God who punished Ananias and Sapphira is the same merciful God who offers grace even to those who arranged the crucifixion of his Son.
Now looking at Acts 5:12–42, we see the persecution against those proclaiming the name of Jesus is growing. The jealousy among the priestly group against the apostles is so great that they are enraged to the point of wanting to kill them. Here we see the beginning of the spiritual collision of this present world system with Jesus and His kingdom. This is not a battle of human strategy and weapons, but rather, the Holy Spirit himself witnesses for and about Jesus.
Every time the gospel is met with opposition in Acts, God finds a way to advance the message. As the gospel crosses geographical, linguistic, social, religious, cultural, and ethnic boundaries, Luke shows that God is vindicating His message. Some of the craziest attempts to silence the movement—like the persecution of the church in Jerusalem—lead to a further expansion of the gospel. No one is able to overthrow the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation, both here in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth (Rom. 1:16).
So with that breakdown, let’s go back to this interesting story of our friends Ananias and Sapphira.
Thomas Brooks says: Better to die than to lie. And in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, this couldn’t be more true.
Ya see, times were tough during the beginnings of the church. Believers relied heavily on the teachings of the apostles and...although it was not commanded by God, a lot of people chose to sell their possessions and property and adopt a communal style of living out of love for their fellow believers and as an act of thanksgiving to God. This kind of communal lifestyle helped provide needs of everyone in those difficult days in the early church.
One person who sold a piece of land was a man named Barnabas, who’s name itself means 'son of encouragement', and many others chose to follow his example. Some, like Barnabas, did this with loving and charitable motives, while others were tempted to do it out of duty, or to make themselves appear to be generous in front of other believers, but having a hidden heart of selfishness.
A man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, also followed Barnabas' example and sold a piece property for this purpose. However, they conspired together to only give a portion of the money they received but giving the impression that they had offered the full amount to the apostles.
Ananias and Sapphira had every right to retain some, or all, of the proceeds from the sale of their property - but by pretending that they were offering the entire amount, they were telling an outright lie. They were not only trying to deceive the apostles, but they were also lying to God, Himself. Peter, being prompted by the Holy Spirit, challenged Ananias with the question, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?"
The outward action of Ananias and Sapphira, may have appeared to other church members to have been generous, but God is omniscient, meaning, He knows all, and knew the true intent of their hearts and motives.
The secrets of the heart are wide open to the God. He knows every motive and outward action of every man and woman and child, no matter how deceptive their behavior may be.
Sin is unacceptable to God, and is prompted by the world, the flesh, or the enemy. Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, exposes their deceit, and identified Satan as the one who filled their hearts and prompted them to lie to the Holy Spirit...by keeping back some of the price of the land pretending to give it all. God loves a cheerful giver of any resource but knows when we give an offering with a reluctant, or dishonest motive.
A. W. Tozer said this:
Religious acts done out of low motives are twice as evil, evil in themselves, and evil because they are done in the name of God.
This passage teaches the importance of truth and truthfulness and the evils of lying and deceitfulness. As believers, our hearts and motives should be pure before God...and although we may be able to deceive others with deceptive words and deceitful actions...we can never deceive the indwelling Holy Spirit!
However, it should not be out of fear of that we live an honest, honorable, and truthful life, but out of love for our Heavenly Father who loved us so much, that He gave His only Son.