Act 5:1-15 NASB - "1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet.
3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price." 9 Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 1
4 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15 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 one of them."
East of Eden, things don’t go well for long. Ananias and Sapphira desire to look as good as Barnabas before the watching church. The desire to the praise of human beings in how we give is a common human temptation and the root of much religious hypocrisy. The Lord Jesus warns:
Gospel according to Matthew 6:1 NASB - "1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."
Ananias and Sapphira had a “secular” view of giving. It was only of this time and did not include how God might look at it. They were after the praise of human beings and not God’s glory in their giving to the church.
Now behind this wrong thinking was Satan himself. The liar had promoted and encouraged such wrong thinking in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira. There was no forced socialism here. They were free to give nothing or everything without moral failure. They were not free to lie.
Now the lying was to the Holy Spirit. How was this a lie to the Holy Spirit?
Because the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church as the new temple, therefore to lie to the Church is to lie to the Holy Spirit that now abides in the Church. This does prove the Holy Spirit is a person and not only an impersonal power since you cannot lie to electricity. This is important when we seek confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
God has a tendency to warn HIS people of the need to keep their worship pure at the beginning of it being established. When the Sabbath was first established those who violated it were put to death.
Numbers 15:32, 36 NASB - "32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. ... 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses."
Now many would violate the Sabbath after this and not all of them were put to death. But God is attempting to demonstrate and warn us how important it is not to play around with worship of HIM for our own purposes and plans.
Leviticus 10:1-2 NASB - "1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD."
It is hard for us to understand that the purity of worship is so important to God. As Americans we feel we are doing God a favor by going to church on Sunday. The reality God favors us by allowing us to worship HIM in Spirit, Truth, passion, and integrity.
It is a high and horrible sin when our worship falls short of this ideal. We must therefore worship under the blood of Christ so that we will be justified by grace and at the same time strive in everyway to avoid any “strange fire” as we worship. May God have mercy on us and teach us to worship in a way that honors HIM.
This story was not given to make us feel more righteous than Ananias and Sapphira. It was not the intention for us to say to ourselves we would never do anything like what they did. The story is not told to make us self-righteous.
Instead, its purpose was to put the fear of God into us. The purpose was to gain recognition that there can be consequences for ungodly and immoral actions. We are called to take God and HIS worship seriously even when we may also encourage joyfulness in us. God wants HIS church to have healthy relationships with each other and us.
Another purpose was to make sure we are praying against the temptations and traps of Satan. The devil is able to get the greatest of saints to sin and hurt the entire body of Christ. Knowing that God will chasten HIS people the lord of darkness and lies is more than ready to lead us into deception and false understandings. Sometimes these lies are simple and sometimes complex. We need God to guard our hearts and minds from wrong thoughts, attitudes, and motives.
We need to doing in-depth confession so that we are examining every aspect of our words, deeds, and attitudes least we also be deceived even as this Christian couple.
How should we then live?
Lord, keep us from lying to the Holy Spirit by playing church games and seeking the praise of people over your glory. Save us from self-justification and self-righteousness. Give us hearts that desire to worship you in Spirit, Truth, passion, and integrity. Save us from “strange fire”. Amen
Prayer: Lord, help us have a healthy fear of hypocrisy and lifeless worship. Give us a desire to be joyful givers to your kingdom and the poor. For those who give to the poor, lend to the Lord. Give us such hearts in holy sincerity. Forgive us from falling so short of right worship. Amen