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Acts 5:1-16 (web)

Ananias and Sapphira

5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, 
5:2 and kept back part of the price, his wife also being aware of it, 
and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 

5:3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit,
and to keep back part of the price of the land? 
5:4 While you kept it, didn't it remain your own? After it was sold, wasn't it in your power? 
How is it that you have conceived this thing in your heart? You haven't lied to men, but to God." 
5:5 Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and died. Great fear came on all who heard these things. 
5:6 The young men arose and wrapped him up, and they carried him out and buried him. 

5:7 About three hours later, his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. 
5:8 Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." 
She said, "Yes, for so much." 
5:9 But Peter asked her, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?
Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 
5:10 She fell down immediately at his feet, and died. 
The young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. 

Such Miracles Increased the Church

5:11 Great fear came on the whole assembly, and on all who heard these things. 
5:12 By the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. 
They were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 
5:13 None of the rest dared to join them, however the people honored them. 
5:14 More believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. 
5:15 They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mattresses, 
so that as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some of them. 
5:16 Multitudes also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, 
bringing sick people, and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed. 


Why did they die?

The answer to this should be easy enough from a clear reading of the text. But often people don't read the text, but rather rely on human dogmatism and presumption. Would they have died if they simply told the truth? Certainly not! Would God have killed them if they simply gave part of the sale to the church and kept part of it for themselves if they had been forward with these facts? Certainly not! They were not even under any obligation to sell their property in the first place. Peter himself admits this saying: "Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal?" Ac 5:4 (niv) These are of course rhetorical questions, which also indicates that the Apostles and the early Church did indeed recognize personal property rights. What you have is yours. It belongs to you. You are not under compulsion to give anything to the church. When you give it is not under obligation, but simply an act of generosity. But remember this:
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2Cor 9:6,7

Have you committed this sin?

This type of sin is quite common in the Christian community throughout its history. What is the sin? Simply claiming to give more to God than we actually give. Have you ever claimed to give more or do more for God than you actually did? Then you have sinned just like Ananias and Sapphira and are worthy of no less a punishment.

What was the root of this sin?

We note that just prior to this in the end of Chapter 4 that it speaks of Barnabus selling a field and giving it to the church. Why did Ananias and Sapphira lie? I would infer that they were attempting to get undue praise. Despite their apparent generosity, it was self-seeking pride that motivated them to withhold the truth so that they could take the credit and get the honor.

If the apostles had not been given special insight by the Holy Spirit these two would have gotten away with it. And in fact many today do get away with it. Many do "good works", but with mixed motivations. Such will have their rewards diminished. But this is not to say that we should necessarily question everyone's motives. Else we may end up slandering those who do good.

What could have been to avoid such sins?

It would have been helpful if the apostles had heeded Christ's instruction to keep acts of generosity private - away from public observation, and avoid giving recognition to those, like Barnabus, who practice generosity or other such good works. For what would be the point in such praise of man? Such praise, recognition, hand-clapping is common, and I would suggest overdone in churches today. The righteous man doesn't prefer such recognition. It detracts from the element of faith and calls into question his motivation, and rewards from the Lord may be reduced. Mt 6:1  "Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (also Luke 14:13,14) Praise from men introduces a temptation which many Christians fall into whether consciously or unconsciously.

Why hasn't God killed all such Christians?

If this type of sin is so common, why haven't more people died of such? And indeed we read of other instances such as in 1Cor 11 of people dying because of behaving inappropriately at the communion service. Indeed it seems if a church claims to mimic the first Century church, rather than having people "slain in the spirit" it should have people just plain dropping dead!  But though I think that a vast number of Christians today would have died if God kept that up, I think He did it in the first century as a warning of His attitude concerning such matters. And it worked. Christians feared God. They had to judge even their own motivations. The fear of God has waned a bit in the Christian community due to deviant theology and a lack of such judgement today. Let us therefore not take advantage of his present mercy and tolerance, but rather repent of any inappropriate behavior and attitudes. For though we may not experience it now, it is inevitable that we will all face judgment. Let us fear God and depart from evil.

Did they go the hell?

This is an assumption that many make in reading this account. But in fact it doesn't indicate what their fate was. These could have indeed been born of God but were taken aburptly out of the ministry. They could have done more for God if they simply hadn't claimed to already be doing more than they were doing. But as it is their future rewards will be limited and for thousands of years they would face shame as their deed is recorded in the Bible. However they did associate with the Christianity community and believe in Christ even in the face of persecution. They even sold some of their property and gave that to the church - which they were under no obligation of doing. All these would indicate to me that these were true believers, though I couldn't say for sure. But the practice of their faith certainly surpasses many of those who claim to be "Christian" today. 

Miracles Increasing the Church

Once again as I noted in Acts 2 that such a record of public miracles as we see here is self-affirming. For if they hadn't occurred everyone would have known it, and the account would have been discredited and would have discredited the author. Yet the fact that such accounts stood the test of time even in the midst of a hostile society itself is evidence affirming these reports.  And indeed if such things hadn't occurred, where did the mass of believers come from?

vs 13 It is interesting that though they faced persecution from the religious elite, who also had Christ crucified, yet they were highly regarded by the ordinary unbelieving Jews. There are many unbelievers that respect Christians, but don't want to be around us. Else they be convicted of sin, or also experience persecution from anti-Christians.

vs 12 It appears that God was only doing miracles through the apostles and not through all the Christians. For it was the apostles words which needed affirming. The other Christians merely had to propagate the apostle's worrds and point to the miracles done by them as an affirmation. This is no different than today where, although miracles are not commonly performed by ordinary Christians, yet we propagate the words of Jesus and the apostles, affirming the word by the miracles done by them. 

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources May 11,2023