ACTS 5:1-11 OCTOBER 2, 2016
“WE MUST ANSWER TO THE LORD!”
It is often frustrating to observe individuals who never seem to suffer the consequences of their actions. I have observed some people locally who seem to have the luck of the Irish as they seem to get away with multiple convictions for wrongdoing and never get sent off to prison. On a national level I have observed those who are wealthy and influential who seem to be like Teflon, where nothing sticks! Psalm 73:12-13, 16-17 (NIV) “12 This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth. 13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” What comforts me is the knowledge that one day each person will have to answer to God! God is aware of every misdeed!
Last week we looked at the start of church and how the church was of one heart, mind, and purpose. Acts 4:34-35 (NIV) “34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” Luke listed Barnabas as a positive example of one who gave freely of what he owned. Barnabas sold a piece of property and gave the full amount to the apostles to be shared with those in need. Luke then gave a negative example of sharing.
Acts 5:1-2 (NIV) “1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.” The Greek word used here for “keeping back part of the money” is a rarely used word meaning to “pilfer, embezzle”. This same word is used in the Old Testament in the time of Joshua (Joshua chapters 6 & 7). Achan kept back part of the spoils of war, gold items which he hid in his tent, when God had explicitly told Israel to destroy everything. Because he disobeyed and then lied about it and tried to deceive the community, God decreed judgment. In a similar way, Ananias sought to deceive the church by keeping back part of the money and then proclaiming that he had given the full amount.
There would have been nothing wrong in giving only a portion of the amount that Ananias and Sapphira received from the sale of the land. The sin came in seeking to deceive the church (and God). Ananias and Sapphira must have seen the acclaim that Barnabas had received from his gracious gift and wanted to also look good in the eyes of the church. However, their pride and greed led them to be open to the wiles of Satan.
God cannot be deceived! Acts 5:3-4 (NIV) “3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” Too often, we overlook the holiness of God and that our sins are an offense to a holy God.
We fallible humans also like to blame others for our sins. It has become a national pastime to blame others. Yet, we must take responsibility for our actions. Yes, Satan tempted Ananias and Sapphira, in the same way Satan tempted Adam and Eve. Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) “13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Ananias and Sapphira yielded to their sinful desires and sought to deceive. God decreed judgment at that moment. Acts 5:5-6 (NIV), “5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.” This was not a sudden heart attack brought on by his poor health, but it was divine judgment.
Peter was not swayed by a large monetary gift from a wealthy person, but was led by the Holy Spirit to decree the judgment of God. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter what Ananias and Sapphira had done. The same word for “fell down and died” was also used later in describing what happened to King Herod. Acts 12:21-23 (NIV) “21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
The story is replayed a few hours later when Sapphira sees Peter. Acts 5:9-10 (NIV) “9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” Whenever we seek to deceive God and the church we are testing the Spirit of the Lord! God will hold us accountable for God is holy and will not be mocked.
What was the effect on the church? Acts 5:11 (NIV) “11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” The LORD is aware of our hypocrisy and deceit. We should live in reverent fear, always seeking to please the Lord in all that we do and say. We are saved by the grace of God. The LORD knows that we are not perfect but he examines the heart. Proverbs 21:2 (NIV) “2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.”
This action that Peter took on the behalf of the church is why church discipline is so important. We take seriously the words of Jesus. Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) 5 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” The purpose of church discipline is to restore the person to full participation in the church. That is always a worthy goal!
We live in a hostile world and it is so easy to fall into sin. We do have an adversary who seeks to get us off track. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV) “8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” The Lord knows what we face and he has provided us the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness. We must call on Him for strength so we can be faithful. Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV) “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Let us pray.