In Acts 4:36-5:11, the Apostle Paul’s friend and physician, Luke, says this:
“And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, Son of exhortation), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by [birth], having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also [knowing] it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy [control]? How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.’ And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up [his life]: and great fear came upon all that heard it. And the young men arose and wrapped him round, and they carried him out and buried him.
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, ‘Tell me whether ye sold the land for [this] much.’ And she said, ‘Yea, for [that] much.’ But Peter said unto her, ‘How is it that ye have agreed together to [test] the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee out.’ And she fell down immediately at his feet, and gave up [her life]: and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.”
In this passage, we see two examples of the first church’s practice of selling property, and giving the money to the Apostles to distribute to those in need of it, so as to prevent any church member from being needy. The first example is a good example, and the second is a bad one, which actually consists of 2 examples of being charitable in a sinful way. Therefore, this passage can be divided into 2 main sections:
- The Encourager of Charity
- The Exaggerators of Charity
The second section may be divided into 10 sections, each describing an aspect of the couple’s bad example of charity:
- The Exaggerators’ Deceit
- An Exaggerator’s Discovery
- An Exaggerator’s Depravity
- An Exaggerator’s Damnation
- An Exaggerator’s Dreadfulness
- An Exaggerator’s Disappearance
- An Exaggerator’s Do-over
- An Exaggerator’s Devilishness
- An Exaggerator’s Demise
- The Exaggerators’ Dreadfulness
In verses 36-37, Luke begins this passage by describing the encourager of charity. He says that this man’s name was Joseph, that he was a descendant of the Jewish priestly tribe of Levi, that he was from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, that he was called Barnabas by the Apostles, which means “Son of Encouragement,” that he owned a piece of land, that he sold it, and that he laid the money from the sale at the Apostles’ feet.
There are many characteristics about him that commend him as a good example of charity. First, he was a Levite. Because he was from this priestly tribe, he was in a very privileged position among the Jews. The Levites, as the priests of the Jews, technically were supposed to have their needs met, provided that they were serving in their priestly role. However, in this man’s case, instead of taking from his fellow Jews, he gave to them by selling a piece of land, and giving all of the money to the church. Second, he was born in Cyprus, and therefore was not native to Israel. This was a possible point of discrimination between him and the Jews that were native to Israel, and were members of his church. Despite this possibility, he showed his love for his Christian brethren by selling property and giving all of the profit to the church. Third, the Apostles, the leaders of this church, called him “Son of Encouragement,” meaning that he was known for encouraging people, or by coming alongside them and helping them, especially by speaking the truth in love to them.
In verses 1-11 of chapter 5, Luke describes the bad example of the exaggerators of charity. He begins in verses 1-2 with the exaggerators’ deceit. In contrast to the good example of Barnabas, he implies, a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, but kept back some of the profit for himself, with Sapphira’s knowledge, and then brought a portion of the profit, and laid it at the Apostles’ feet. The assumption of Luke is that Ananias and Sapphira agreed to pretend that they were giving all of the profit to the church, while keeping some of it for Ananias.
In verse 3, Luke describes an exaggerator’s discovery. After Ananias brought some of the profit to the Apostles for charity, Peter asked him why Satan controlled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the profit from the sale. Why did Peter ask Ananias why he lied to the Holy Spirit? Because in pretending to bring all of the profit to the Apostles, in an attempt to make them believe that he was doing that, he was lying to the Holy Spirit who was controlling them and the church. Now, was the Holy Spirit controlling Ananias? Obviously not. In fact, the fact that Satan controlled his heart reveals that Ananias did not even have the Holy Spirit inside of him, since 1 John 5:18 says that Satan cannot even touch believers in the gospel, who have the Holy Spirit.
In verse 4, Peter reveals an exaggerator’s depravity by telling Ananias, with rhetorical questions, that while his property was unsold, he could have just kept it. Furthermore, he goes on, after he sold it, he could have done whatever he wanted with the money. Despite these circumstances that did not influence Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit, he says with a final question that Ananias still conceived his sin in his heart, or willfully planned it. In so doing, he finishes, he did not lie to men, but to God the Holy Spirit.
In the first part of verse 5, Luke describes an exaggerator’s demise. As Ananias heard Peter’s statement that he did not lie to men, but to God, Luke says, he fell down and died. The implication from the fact that he fell down and died as he was hearing these words of condemnation from an Apostle of the Holy Spirit is that God was striking him dead at that particular point in time because of the especially grievous sin that he had committed.
In the second part of verse 5, Luke describes an exaggerator’s dreadfulness by saying that great fear came upon all who heard of his death as he heard the statement of his guilt before God. Why were they afraid? Because God had put someone to death in the presence of the Apostles at a particular point in time because of a particular sin. If this could happen to Ananias, then it could happen to anyone who conceived such a grievous sin in their heart.
In verse 6, Luke describes an exaggerator’s disappearance by recounting the burial of Ananias. It was the Jews’ custom to bury someone on the same day on which he died, and so here such a thing was done. Luke says that the young men of the church got up, indicating that his death occurred during a meeting of some of the church, excluding Sapphira. Then, he says that they covered his body, carried him out of the building in which they were meeting, and buried him.
In verse 7, Luke describes an exaggerator’s do-over. After about three hours, he says, Sapphira came into the building, and had no knowledge of what had happened with Ananias. The fact that about 3 hours elapsed reveals that Sapphira had more than enough time to repent of the sin she had committed with her husband, so here she had an opportunity to confess her sin.
Sadly, in verse 8 and the first part of verse 9, Luke describes an exaggerator’s devilishness. When Sapphira came into the building, he says, Peter asked her to tell him whether or not she and Ananias sold the land for a certain price, and she replied by saying that they had sold the land for that exact price, which was the price that Ananias had given to the Apostles. In reply, Peter asked her why she and Ananias agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord, or Supreme Authority, to the test, by lying to Him.
In the second part of verse 9, and in verse 10, Luke describes this exaggerator’s damnation, or judgment. He begins by recording Peter as telling Sapphira to take notice that the same people who buried her husband are at the ready to bury her dead body as well. Immediately after he says this, Luke says, she falls dead at his feet, and the young men find her dead, carry her out, and bury her next to her husband.
In verse 11, Luke concludes this passage by describing the exaggerators’ dreadfulness. As a result of Sapphira’s condemnation, he implies, great fear came upon the whole church, and upon everyone that heard of what happened.
So, are you an encouraging person, like Barnabas?
Are you willing to sell your property to provide money for your church family’s needs?
Do you strive to fulfill all of your commitments, and commit to only that which you plan on doing?
Is the Holy Spirit controlling your heart, so that you are letting His Word live richly within you, speaking to your brethren in Christ with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks for all things by the authority of the Lord, and submitting to your brethren because of your reverence for the Lord?
Are you trying to be honest in your heart before God about everything you think about, or are you trying to deceive Him?
Do you have reverence and awe toward God?
Do you have any sin in your life that you know about, but have not changed your mind about and confessed to God?
Do you understand why you need to be saved from God’s righteous judgment? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousnessof men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13