Devotional Word for Friday, June 26, 2020
When I say the names Ananias and Sapphira, does that ring a bell with you? I hope so. They appear in the Bible in only one place: Acts 5:1-11. It’s one small incident, but it is an incident with HUGE implications for the people of God. Let me review the account with you and then we’ll make three applications.
Ananias and Sapphira had means. They had properties. They sold one of their properties with the purpose of making a donation to the church. Being folk who wanted to put the best face possible on all they did, they told Peter the amount they donated was the entire amount they received from the sale of the property. It wasn’t. It was only a portion. How much of a portion we don’t know. It may have been 50%, it may have been 90%, or it may have been 10%. We don’t know. But we do know it was not the entire amount.
Peter asks Ananias about the amount. Ananias says, “Yes, that was the full amount.” Peter says Ananias will die because he lied to God. And, boom, Ananias falls over dead. He’s taken out and buried. [Yes, they still do burials that rapidly in Israel even in the 21st century. I’ve been there and seen some.] A short time later Sapphira comes in. She’s not aware of what’s happened with Ananias. Peter asks her if they sold the property for such and such a price. She says that’s exactly right. Peter tells she’s going to die just as her husband did. Boom. She falls over dead and is taken out and buried next to her husband.
Quite the story, eh! Verse 11 tells the impact: And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard these things. Three important lesson for us to learn from this.
First, it teaches the full deity of the Holy Spirit. In verse 3 Peter asks Ananias: . . . why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? Peter goes on to declare to Ananias: You have not lied to men but to God. [v.4] When Sapphira affirms what her husband said, Peter asks her: Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? [v.9] It would take a couple hundred years for the Church to formalize a document stating the Holy Spirit is God, but the Church knew it all along! In fact, in this passage one can see each person of the Trinity: Jesus in The Spirit of the Lord, the Father in the term God, and the Holy Spirit. This is a passage that teaches the doctrine of the Trinity.
Second, this passage refutes the notion of the early church as being built on a communistic model, or as a sort of first century group of hippies in a commune. Acts 2:44-45 is often cited in support of such notions. And all those who believed were together and had all things in common; and they began to sell their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. One can see how folk might think communism was part and parcel of the early Church. Act 5:4 helps bring some proper balance. Peter asks Ananias this question: While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Just like today, early Christians were extremely generous. They gave from their own funds, or sold goods they had, in order to help their brothers and sisters in need. There was not a significant governmental social net such as we have today, so the Church stepped up. But no one was required to do so. It was completely voluntary. It was above and beyond their tithes. All that was given was given with a cheerful heart. This is exactly what is taught in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 9:7. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Third, this passage confirms and reaffirms that at the heart of all that God finds abominable is telling a lie. As we heard, the charge leveled against Ananias and Sapphira is they purposed to lie to the Holy Spirit, which is to say, they lied to God. That’s why idolatry is so bad. It lies about God, says something other than God is God. That’s why false weights and measures are said to be abominable to God: they tell a lie. That’s also true of the sexual revolution our society is currently experiencing: it is based on lies and tells lies about human sexuality. In Revelation 21 where all the types of sinners that will be cast into the lake of fire are listed, the last statement is and all liars. [Rev. 21:8] As Christians we need to be people of truth, people marked by telling the truth. Lies are an abomination to God. That includes flattery by the way. Be suspicious of someone who is always flattering you.
What a way to end our week. We start off with gold and we end up with lies! What can we say about that? Truth is golden. If tried by fire, it will be found indestructible and come forth glistening with more glory. Let’s purpose to be people of truth, who love the Truth, who tell the truth.
Let us pray: O holy God, You are a consuming fire as we read in Hebrews12:29. Thank You for a full picture of Your fiery love of truth in the life and death of Ananias and Sapphira. Search us and try us and see if there be any wicked way in us. Forgive us through the abundant mercies of Jesus, and change us by the work of the Holy Spirit. May we honor You in all we think and do. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.