They Lied & They Died: Acts Series #9
The early New Testament Church was in the blaze of glow of revival. The Church was experiencing an earth-shaking, mountain-moving, devil-drying, soul-saving, holy-healing, and rater-rattling revival.
The revival tides were running high, the apostles were preaching with great boldness, and thousands were turning to Christ. Can you imagine the stir all of this caused in Jerusalem? If newspapers had been published in those days, the headlines would have talked about the strange things that were happening. The radio commentators would have blared forth their news about these matters. Television talk shows would be interviewing people who had been healed, saved, and delivered by the power of God. The Internet blogs and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram would have been filled with the miracles and salvations that were taking place everywhere.
If you had a friend on the streets, he would have said, “Did you hear about what transpired yesterday? This rich farmer, Barnabas, was converted and sold his land and gave every shekel and denarius to the church.” Another would exclaim, “Did you hear about Joshua? He had been a cripple all of his life, but he went to the meeting and was converted and completely healed!” Yet, still, another would ask you, “Do you remember that elderly blind man who begged every day at the corner of Moses Avenue and David Street? The apostles touched him and now he can see and is going everywhere praising God.”
Someone else would say, “Did you notice Judas’ Gambling Casino, the place where men drank and caroused and where every sin flourished? It was closed this morning. Judas has been saved. A few minutes ago, I heard him on the corner of Jericho Road and Victory Lane preaching Christ and telling what the Lord had one for him.” Indeed, the revival tides were high!”
In the midst of this Pentecostal revival, the devil was up to his old dirty and deceitful deeds. First, Satin tried intimidation in Acts 3; but his tactic failed. Second, he attempted persecution in Acts 4; but as before, his plan failed. More people got saved.
Now, the devil is going to try a new scheme. Up to this point, he has attacked the church on the outside. This chapter shows Satan coming against the Church from the inside. In essence, he said, “If I can’t conquer them, then I will corrupt them.”
We Need To Watch For The Satan Inspired Plot
We read, But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the proceeds for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Satan’s plot comes in two stages. First, we see the decision of Ananias and Sapphira. Satan looked for someone he could use to corrupt the Church. He found the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira ready for the task. Our text states, “But Ananias and Sapphira.”
Chapter five opens with a great contrast between the revival in the land and the ruining of Ananias and Sapphira. Souls are being saved, but Ananias and Sapphira. Believers are growing in the Lord, but Ananias and Sapphira. The Lord is blessing but Ananias and Sapphira. People are being healed, but Ananias and Sapphira. The Spirit is filling countless believers, but Ananias and Sapphira. Thousands are being saved, but Ananias and Sapphira.
This is the story of sin entering into the early church. it is a picture of what happens when a congregation allows the devil to tempt and enter their lives. It illustrates the results of permitting the devil to use us as a beachhead to bring trouble into the house of the Lord.
The narrative of Ananias and Sapphira is a gnash on the body of the Lord. It is a splash on filth on the rope of our lovely Savior. It is a rent in the seamless rope of the Saints. Let this tory be a warning to all of God’s people. The Word of God never glosses over sin and the facts of what really did happen. Remember, the devil is always trying to cause people to stumble. If the devil can slip inside the church, then he can do a great deal of damage. The devil attacked the church with persecution in Chapter 4, but the church prayed down an earth-shaking revival.
Now, the water begins to get inside the ship of grace. The devil starts to sow seeds of discord in the church. Ominous clouds are on the horizon. Judgment is knocking on the door. The Word of God states that the devil put it in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira to lie. I do not believe that a Christian can be possessed by the devil. However, he or she can be oppressed by him. Satan will work on your mind and will try to alter your holy lifestyle.
Once the devil can accomplish stage one, he will lead to the second stage: the deed of Ananias and Sapphira. We read, “And brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:2b). So far, so good. They still had time to explain. They could have told Peter that this is a percentage of the price. We did not feel we could give it all.
Yet, their pride and pretense would not allow them to be honest with Peter and with God. It was the root of pride and the fruit of pretense that stopped them. A person who has pride always pretends to be something he or she is not. For us to pretend that we are more holy, more dedicated, more spiritual than we are is an offense to God.
Let’s try to imagine what happened that day. God was sending true revival in the land. These new Christians not only had their souls converted, but they also gave their pocketbooks to the Lord. True conversion ought to change the business life, private life, and financial life. A lot of Christians sing, “Jesus paid it all,” and are content to stop there. They drink in all the blessings of God like a sponge soaks up water, but there is one difference—you can squeeze a sponge and get something out of it!
Barnabas set a good example in sacrificial giving. His gift electrified the church. the halls were buzzing about his deed. He had sold some real estate and gave all the money to the church. Nevertheless, the green monster of jealousy began to talk to Ananias and Sapphira. I can hear them talking between themselves at home one night. Ananias might have said to Sapphira, “Barnabas is not the only Christian here.”
The next day, they obtained a real estate agent, sold their land, and receive the money. Then, late one night, Sapphira said to Ananias, “We can’t give all the money because our nest egg is getting small.” Ananias might have responded with, “And furthermore, we deserve to have a cabin up in the hills around Lake Galilee.”
Sapphira blurts out, “Let’s don’t forget about the retirement.” And besides, said Ananias, “The board cannot be trusted with that much money.” So, they agreed together to hold back some of the money and pretend to give it all.
It was not a sin for Ananias and Sapphira to own property. They did not sin by keeping back some of the funds. But the problem was pretense or the sin of hypocrisy. No one pressured them to do what they did. Peter said it was their land and money. They were pretending to be something they were not in reality. They were pretending to have a spirituality they did not possess.
Luke, the author of Acts, uses the nosphizumai (kept back) which means to “misappropriate.” The same word was used in the LXX of Achan’s theft. This word is used only one other time (Titus 2:10). There it means to “steal.” Ananias and Sapphira had entered into some kind of contract to give the church all the money raised. So, when they brought only part of it, there were guilty of embezzlement. But Peter does not focus on their sin. He zeroes in on hypocrisy.
Ananias and Sapphira pretended to walk into the church claiming a spirituality they did not have, while living in a hypocrisy. The church cannot win the lost if it is constantly dealing with sin in the body.
This world is filled with pretenders. In 1808, a gaunt sad-faced man entered the office of Dr. James Hamilton in Manchester, England. The doctor was struck by the melancholic appearance of his visitor, who became an instant patient. He inquired, “Are you sick?”
The visitor replied, “Yes doctor; sick of a mortal malady.”
“What malady?,” asked Dr. Hamilton.
The patient said, “I am frightened of the terror of the world around me. I am depressed by life. I can’t find any happiness anywhere, nothing amuses me; and, I have nothing in life to live for. If you can’t help me, I shall kill myself. What shall I do?”
Go to the circus tonight to see Grimaldi, the clown said Dr. Hamilton. He is the funniest man alive. He will cure you.”
A spasm of pain crossed the poor man’s face as he said, “Doctor, don’t jest with me. I am Grimaldi.”
We Need To Wait For The Spirit inspired Purging
Every time sin enters into the Body of Christ, there is a rejection. First, we witness, the revelation of sin (vv.3-4). We read:
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? While it remained, was I not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why has thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Let’s try to relive what happened that day. I see Ananias kiss his wife goodbye Sunday morning as he heads for church. On the way, the Holy Spirit pricks his conscience. The Holy Spirit troubles his soul by saying repeatedly, “Don’t do that sin.” Over and over the Spirit said, “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t!
Ananias waits until it is offering time before coming into the church. Pastor Simon Peter has stood as they prepare to receive the offering. Ananias enters alone. He says to Peter, “I have something to give to the congregation.” So he walks down the center aisle and says, “My wife and I have sold a piece of land and we have X amount of money to give to the church.” Ananias looks around for the applause, and nods of approval.
But Simon Peter’s face clouds up and hurt moves across his countenance. It becomes deathly quiet in the service. Peter tells the whole congregation what Ananias has done. Ananias’ sin is exposed.
Peter had not taken a course on “How To Win Friends And Influence People.” He said, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” The Holy Spirit gave Peter discernment and knowledge. Never forget that God has your number.
Backsliders don’t want to hear a Spirit-filled preacher proclaiming the Word of God. In fact, when you are living in your sin and you think your sin is covered up, God will expose it. When backsliders get in an old-fashioned preaching service, they will be extremely uncomfortable until their sin is gone. Peter could have said to himself, “I better not say anything now because Ananias and Sapphira were well-to-do people. But, Peter feared God and the face of no man.
If you are part of the social drinking crowd, then you need to repent of sin. If you are part of the drug crowd, then you need deliverance. If you are part of the jealous crowd, the lying crowd, the bitterness crowd, then you must repent to gain heaven. When you lie to God, you are on dangerous ground. Peter said, to Ananias, “You have not lied to me, but to God.” When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin and you deny it, then you have lied to God.”
A person can steal, and no one will ever know. A person can cheat in a business deal and keep it to himself. A person can curse. A person can hate someone. A person can gossip about someone. But, there is a God in heaven and He knows all about it. One day, God will call everyone to give an account.
Peter said, “You did not have to do this. The money was yours. Nobody was forcing you to give it. You have not lied unto man, but unto God.” It is an awful thing to lie to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to a person and convicts of sin. The person says, “Yes, I will surrender all to follow the Lord.” But, if does not do it, then he has lied to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit may speak to an individual about tithing. In response, this person may say, “At the beginning of the month, I will begin tithing.” But, the month comes and goes with no change in giving habits. This person has lied to the Holy Spirit.
On the heels of the revelation of sin, comes retribution of sin (v.5). We read, “When Peter said, “ . . ., you have lied to God; Ananias died.” He lied and he died. The ushers came and got him. They wound him up. that does not mean he was a clock! The atmosphere became deathly tense in the church service. So, Peter asked that they have another special number.
Notice the different aspects of Ananias’ sin that were revealed to Peter. They were:
The Source of his sin (v.3a).
The Substance of his sin (v.4a). He was under no obligation to give.
The Seriousness of his sin (v.5a).
Ananias and Sapphira had planned this scheme. They were going to milk it for all its worth. Three hours later, Sapphira walks into the church service. There were not many people singing. The atmosphere could have been cut with a knife. People were wondering what would happen next. A holy fear sets in. when God gets into a place there is a holy hush. Meaningless chatter ceases when God begins walking the aisles of the church.
Peter asked, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” And Sapphira answered, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?” Behold, the feet of them which have buried your husband are at the door. And shall carry you out.”
Sapphira fell down as though she had been shot with a gun. The young men came and buried her next to her husband. Most ushers think they have it hard on Sunday. But, how would they feel, if they had to bury people out in the church lawn?
What would happen if God did this today? You can rest assured that God will judge sin sooner later. It is serious crime to play games with God. Never forget that God has everyone’s number. And for some people, the phone is ringing right now.
We Need To Work With Saint’s Inspired Power
Revival came again after judgment came to the church. the church purer means the church powerful. The results of this revival were soul-stirring and mind-boggling.
First, there will be humility and fear (v.11). We read, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard about these things.” The news of what had happened spread quickly through the Christian community and throughout the city. The church was not only a happy place where singing took place, but a holy place where sin was judged.
This is the first mention of the church in the Greek text; the word, ecclesia which means “the called-out ones.” They were called out to serve God with all of their hearts. Believers did not want to join the church because of fear. The talk on the street was, “If you were not right with God, then you could die in one of the services.”
Second, there will be holiness and faith (vv.12-13). We read, At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all [together in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem.” The apostles performed miracles. The saints were in one accord. The hypocrite refused to join the church. This early church consisted of supernatural power, a single purpose and a separated people.
Third, there will be harvesting and forgiveness (v.14). We read, “And increasingly believers in the Lord, large numbers of men and women, were being added to their number . . .” The net result of this tragedy was that people were saved and greater growth came to the church. Get the weeds out and the flowers will grow. A front door revival happens when many people came down the aisle to get saved. A back door revival takes place when those who should not be in the church are put out.
Fourth, there will be healing and fulfillment (vv.15-16). We read, “. . . to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any of them. The people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together as well, bringing people who were sick or tormented with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.”
Huge crowds gathered from all around the city and from the surrounding communities. Peter’s shadow as much an instrument of the Spirit’s power as the hem of His garment had been an instrument of the Savior’s power. The revival spread to the city. And that is the kind of revival we need today!
God touched Ananias and Sapphira and transformed the apostles and the saints. God took the trouble on the inside and threw it on the outside. The Word of God reveals the Satan-inspired plot, the Spirit-inspired purging, and the saints-inspired power.