The case of Ananias and Saphira is unique in Scripture. Nowhere else does anything quite like this occur in Scripture.
In Acts 4, persecution had begun and Peter and John were arrested for preaching in Jesus’ Name and for healing a lame man. After their release, they returned to the other disciples and a prayer meeting was held. God granted them fresh power to be His witnesses, in verses 31-33.
Some disciples developed needs and needed financial help. Possibly, this was because of the persecution which was just getting started, or they may have been travelers to Jerusalem. Remember that even before Christ was crucified, the Jewish leaders had agreed to put believers in Christ out of the Temple and synagogues:
• John 9:22 “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”
• John 12:42 “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.”
In order to meet this need, some disciples that had lands or houses decided to sell them and use the money to help those in need in the church. Those that did so gave it all and kept none of the money for themselves – although they could have. It was their money and they were allowed to do with it what they wanted.
The Work of the Spirit
It is important to note that this selfless act was kind of a trademark of the Holy Spirit’s work. It is mentioned both times after the Spirit filled the disciples:
• Acts 2:44,45 “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
• Acts 4:34,35 “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
Ananias and Saphira decided to hatch a scheme, under the instigation of the Devil (Acts 5). They wanted to sell some land, help the poor, and look good to the church people – but keep some of the money, too. They wanted the riches and the praise of men – based on a lie.
Everyone knew the Holy Spirit was the one doing it. He instilled some hearts with love and generosity. The Devil couldn’t stand it anymore. He knew God could not continue to bless if selfishness would enter the picture, so he found some people who were willing to put on an act.
The Exposure and Penalty
When this couple, one at a time, came before Peter, who was clearly filled with the Holy Ghost, they were exposed. Everyone needed to know their evil intent – and then they were taken out – killed by God on the spot. No defense on their part was allowed, and no opportunity for repentance.
In their case, God worked instantly in judgment. He wants a clean church, and in this example we see that God still hates sin, and He does still occasionally deal with it swiftly. Afterwards, God’s people were careful in their attitude toward sin.
Christians need to realize that there is no sin in our hearts that God cannot see. He does chasten His own, but if we repent and seek to obey Him, He would much rather bless.
When God looks at your heart today, is it clean before Him? Can He bless like He desires to, or must He chasten? Is confession needed or must God make an example of you? Do you dare say with David: “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:13,14).
Evangelist Mike Valles
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