November 4, 2013

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe


Topic #II: The Church in Jerusalem, Acts 2.1-8.3

Subtopic D: Struggle from Within and Without (Acts 5.1-6.7)                    



Lesson II.D.1: The Deceit of Ananias and Sapphira (5.1-11)



Acts 5.1-11 (KJV)


1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 

9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.



Introduction


Here we have the well-known incident involving Ananias and Sapphira. These two people possessed light—that is, they were exposed to the miracles and workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the true believers. Therefore the sin they committed in spite of the light they had received called for special and divine indignation in order to show God’s terrible judgment upon those who sin against the Holy Spirit.

As far as I am concerned, the record given here is proof positive that the Bible is divinely inspired, the true and absolute Word of God; because if it was simply a chronicled account written by great historians they would surely have omitted the incidents recorded in the first eleven verses of this chapter! I personally believe the Holy Spirit ordered the writing of the account of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira as a grave warning to the early believers—as well as a warning for believers in our day.



Commentary


1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 


The account of Ananias and Sapphira has not been placed side by side with that of Barnabas in verses 36 and 37 of chapter 4 simply to contrast the two; therefore we are not to place undue emphasis on the word “but” with which this verse begins. In the original Greek, verse 36 of chapter 4 begins with the same conjunction, one which is often used in narratives where only a simple connection of two clauses is intended. That is the case we have here.

“Ananias” was a common name in that day—notice Acts 9.10-17 and 23.2. The name “Sapphira” was probably derived from the Sapphire stone, and the word is found in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as in the New Testament Greek.

Probably among the new Christians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up and everyone was eager to place his contribution at the disposal of the apostles. This included Ananias and Sapphira who “sold a possession.” The Scripture does not tell us what the possession was that they sold. It could have been a house or land or some other kind of personal property. In addition, we are not told the selling price of the property—it might have been a small sum, or it could have been a great deal. Whatever the selling price, it is reasonable to assume that they would have given the greater part of it to the Church, and kept only a small sum for themselves, because they could not expect to get by with keeping more than they gave to the Church. They would have been caught in their act of deceit—and this is something they hoped to avoid.

The Greek word which has been translated here as “kept back” is the same word used in Titus 2.10 where it is rendered “purloin,” and it is frequently translated “to rob.” So, regardless of the amount of the money Ananias and Sapphira kept back—whether a large sum or only a few paltry coins—they were robbing God because they professed they were giving the entire proceeds to the Church treasury.

“His wife also being privy to it . . .” tells us that this was not a sin committed on the spur of the moment. Ananias and his wife had talked it over between themselves and agreed to do it; they planned what they would say to cover up this fraud. 

Whether Ananias and Sapphira were carnal Christians or simply ‘professed to be Christians” cannot be determined with 100% accuracy and does not affect the narrative. There is no use in speculating on what Ananias and Sapphira thought they would gain by their deception, but one thing is certain: They thought more of the impression they would make when they laid the money at the apostles feet than they thought of the offence against God. They were thinking of the esteem they would gain within the congregation when they were seen giving the money, instead of thinking of Almighty God looking down on them as they committed this sin.  

Peter understood that such men would soon arise in the local assemblies. In 2 Peter 2.1-3 he wrote: “But there were also FALSE PROPHETS among the people, just as there will be FALSE TEACHERS among you. They will secretly bring in DESTRUCTIVE HERESIES, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. In their greed THEY WILL EXPLOIT YOU WITH DECEPTIVE WORDS. Their condemnation, [pronounced] long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.”

“And laid it at the apostles' feet” is found in Acts 4.35 and 37, but it places the act of Ananias and Sapphira in contrast with the act of Barnabas. It’s obvious that they were imitating Barnabas. They saw that he got a certain amount of public recognition, and they thought that it would be nice if they could get that kind of recognition too. They really wanted to be thought of as generous and holy. I have found that there are certain people who will give to their church just to be noticed. It’s one of the offshoots of pride that is still around today, because it is part of our human nature. But today we have a name for it; we call it hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is deliberate deception, trying to make people think we are more spiritual than we really are. That was the condition of Ananias and Sapphira. 


3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 

Apparently, Ananias thought he could do this without being detected. It must have been a great shock to him when Peter said, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” It is clear from the question here that the Holy Spirit had given him knowledge of the deception which Ananias and Sapphira planned and agreed to carry out, and it is also clear that the Spirit had informed Peter that judgment would fall upon Ananias and Sapphira and that they would be punished for their deception. If this were not true, how do we explain Peter’s calm demeanor and total lack of surprise when, in the following verses, such startling judgment fell upon both of them?

The verb which has been translated here as “filled” is eplerosen, from pleroo, which here has the idea of control or influence. The same verb is used in the command, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18). Ananias, a believer, was influenced by Satan, not the Spirit! The fact that Peter asked, “How is it . . .” implies that Satan had gained control because Ananias had not dealt with some previous sin in his life. Perhaps he had promised the Lord that he would give the whole amount. Then when he kept some of it he lied to the ever-present Holy Spirit in Peter (1 Cor. 6.19, 20 ) and in the Church (Eph. 2.21, 22 ).

Ananias means “God is gracious,” but he learned also that God is holy; and Sapphira means “beautiful,” but her heart was ugly with sin. I know some people who don’t think a loving God could kill two people just because they lied about a business transaction and about their church giving. But when you consider the features connected with this sin, you have to admit that God did the right thing by judging them. 

It is worth noting that the Lord judges sin severely at the beginning of a new period in salvation history. Just after the tabernacle was erected, God killed Nadab and Abihu for trying to present “false fire” to the Lord (Lev. 10). He also had Achan killed for disobeying orders after Israel had entered the Promised Land (Josh. 7). While God was certainly not responsible for their sins, He did use these judgments as warnings to Israel, and even to us—“Now all these things happened unto them FOR EXAMPLES: and they are written FOR OUR ADMONITION, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10.11, 12). He was letting everybody know that He would not tolerate deception in His church.

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was energized by Satan; and that is a serious matter. If Satan cannot defeat the church by attacks from the outside, he will get on the inside and go to work (Acts 20.28-31 ). He knows how to lie to the hearts and minds of church members, even genuine Christians, and get them to follow his orders. We forget that the admonition about spiritual armor (Eph. 6.10-18 ) was written to God’s people, not to unbelievers, because it is the Christians who are in danger of being used by Satan to accomplish his evil purposes.

The men whom Ananias attempted to deceive were men in whom God dwelt in the person of the Holy Spirit, men whom God appointed as His undershepherds. Therefore, Ananias and Sapphira lied—not only to men, but to God and to the Holy Spirit. The sin of this couple was especially wicked because it was directed against God’s church. We have reason to believe that Ananias and Sapphira were not believers (see verse 11). The spiritual level of the church at that time was so high that it is doubtful that a mere “professor” could have gotten into the fellowship without being detected. The fact that they were able to lie to the Spirit and tempt the Spirit (v. 9) would usually indicate that they had the Spirit of God within, but in their case they lied to the Spirit in Peter and the other believers.

God loves His church and is jealous over it, because the church was purchased by God’s Son (Acts 20.28 ; Eph. 5.25 ) and has been put on earth to glorify Him and do His work. Satan wants to destroy the church, and the easiest way to do it is to use those who are inside the fellowship. Had Peter not been discerning, Ananias and Sapphira would have become influential people in the church! Satan would have been working through them to accomplish his purposes! The church is safe so long as Satan is attacking from the outside, but when he gets on the inside, the church is in danger.


4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 

There are people today who deny that the Holy Spirit is God. Certainly, from what Peter says here, he believed He was God. First he says, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” Then he says, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” The Holy Spirit is God.

It was fortunate for this primitive Christian community that the incident came to light. Peter told Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit. This is equivalent to lying to God and tempting the Spirit of the Lord. The incident brings to mind the teaching of Jesus on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3.28 ). The sin against the Holy Spirit is calling good evil and evil good. When a person is so morally wicked that he cannot tell the difference between truth and a lie, he has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit.

Their sin was motivated by pride, and pride is a sin that God especially hates and judges (Prov. 8.13 ).No doubt the church was praising God for the generous offering that Barnabas had brought when Satan whispered to the couple, “You can also bask in this kind of glory! You can make others think you are as spiritual as Barnabas!” Instead of resisting Satan’s promptings, they yielded to him and planned their strategy.

Jesus made it clear that we must be careful how we give, lest the glory that belongs to God should be given to us (read Matt. 6.1-4, 19-34). The Pharisees were adept at calling attention to their gifts, and they received the praises of men—but that’s all they received! Whatever we possess, God has given it to us; we are stewards, not owners. We must use what He gives us for His glory alone (John 5.44 ).

Daniel Defoe called pride “the first peer and president of hell.” Indeed, it was pride that transformed Lucifer into Satan (Isa. 14.12-15), and it was pride (“Ye shall be as God!”) that caused our first parents to sin (Ge. 3). Pride opens the door to every other sin, because once we are more concerned with our reputation than our character, there is no end to the things we will do just to make ourselves “look good” before others.

“Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” Notice there was no pressure put on Ananias to force him to sell his property. The only thing expected of him was honesty in reporting what he had done—and even if he felt led to sell his property there is no suggestion that he was expected to give the entire proceeds to the church. Such a gift was between him and the Holy Spirit. This is certainly implied in the words of our text which declared that the money received from the sale of any property was at the seller’s disposal until he, led by the Holy Spirit, gave the money into the treasury of the young church. He was not obligated to donate all the money received—but he was duty bound to be honest in what he did!

“Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?” This is an expression used several times in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament—as in Haggai 1.5, 7 : “Consider your ways.” The meaning is “Lay it deep in the heart, decide after deep deliberation.”


5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 

What is described in this passage is not a case of church discipline. Rather it is an example of God’s personal judgment. “The Lord shall judge His people. It is a terrible thing to fall in to the hands of the living God” (Heb 10.30, 31), but they agreed to lie and God had to deal with them.

There are those today who think that Simon Peter caused the death of this man, Ananias. They even blame him for his death. I want to absolve him of this crime. Simon Peter was probably just as surprised as anyone when Ananias fell down dead. I don’t think he knew at all what was going to happen. Do you know who struck Ananias dead? God did. Do you feel you want to bring charges against God? Do you want to call the FBI to tell them that God is guilty of murder? May I say to you, if you can give life, you have the right to take it away. This is God’s universe. We are God’s creatures. We breathe His air. We use bodies that He has given us. My friend, He can take our bodies any time He wishes to. God is not guilty of a crime. This is His discipline within the church. God is the One who is responsible for Ananias and Sapphira’s death. He cut them off in severe judgment as an example to His infant church to discourage others from committing the same sin. God increased His church through miracles—healing of the sick, raising of the dead, feeding of the hungry. In like manner He sent sudden Judgment to save His church from the hypocrisy of evil men who would turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). Even in spite of such judgment, there were those in the Corinthian church who were gluttons at the Lord’s Table, drinking to excess, making mockery of the Lord’s Supper. To the Corinthians, therefore, Paul said, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (are dead)” (read 1 Cor. 11.17-30).

Some people attempt to explain these deaths on natural grounds, saying that this couple died from the horror of being found out; but it is certainly unreasonable to suppose that a man and his wife would be of the same temperament and thus die in the same way because they were caught in an act of despicable deceit! No, there is no natural explanation for the death of Ananias and his wife.

What a dark shadow this couple cast upon this infant church! How many people might there have been who, when they heard about the couple who cheated, said to themselves, “If that is the best these Christians can do, it is not for me.” There is no answer to that question, but when we bring the question down to our times, it loses some of its theoretical abstractness. What did they do to that church? They cast upon it the shadow of hypocrisy. They confirm the suspicions of the cynical and alienate the loyalty of the young. The incident caused great fear to fall upon the community outside as well as upon the church; upon all the city, and upon all the leaders of men that packed the city. The sudden and swift and awful judgment became a flaming sword barring the entrance and holding men away. Verse 11 says, “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” This confirms the seriousness of hypocrisy and sin in the church. The people learned that death can be the consequence of sin (1 Cor. 6.19, 201).

We must bear in mind that this was Satan’s first attempt to obtain, through hypocrisy, a footing among believers in the infant church, and it was absolutely necessary that such an attempt be dealt with immediately and severely. God did just that by causing the death of Ananias and Sapphira. They were both smitten through the power of the Holy Spirit whom they had intended to deceive.


6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 

Some people suggest that these young men were connected with the church and that it was their business to bury the dead; but this seems very unlikely, as I shall explain. “The young men”: Literally “the younger men,” probably to distinguish them from the “elders”; but it is unlikely that the office of elder existed at this early date, and it is also unlikely that “the younger men were a body of men devoted to such duties as burying.” In verse 10 they are simply called “young men.” In Acts 6.1-6, deacons were elected to serve tables and take care of other matters, so that the apostles could devote their entire time to prayer and the study of the Word. The meaning here simply seems to be that the younger members of the church picked up the body of Ananias, wrapped him in the robe he was wearing at the time he entered the church, carried him out and buried him.

In that day the dead were usually buried in caves (John 11.38 tells us that such was the tomb of Lazarus). It required very little preparation to make the caves ready to receive the dead, and they were closed simply by placing a large stone over the entrance. Therefore it is understandable that Ananias was buried so quickly after his death. Little time would be required to complete the entire work of burial, and in that day—especially in hot climates—burial must take place very quickly. 

It’s interesting that there is no mention of Peter reading a few verses of Scripture, praying a prayer or making a few remarks to the effect that Ananias was “not all bad” and that he had “done some good” in his life! Ananias had committed a terrible sin, he was immediately judged by the mighty hand of God, the episode itself preached a much louder sermon than Peter could have preached, and there was nothing more to be said. They simply buried him.

From the point of view of the believers in this infant church the death of Ananias and Sapphira was a drastic example of 1 Corinthians 5.7—“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened . . .”—an act of discipline in order that the ‘fresh dough” of the early church might continue to be unleavened. It must not be deduced that sickness and death among the Lord’s people are always directly related to some special sin, since discipline through trials may be the special experience of those who follow the way of holiness (read Heb. 2.4-11). In exceptional cases there are such visitations for the health of the local church (1 Cor. 11.30 ).


7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 

I believe we can now safely say that Simon Peter knows what will happen to Sapphira. He didn’t know what was going to happen to Ananias, but now it is quite obvious what will happen to this woman.

Ananias was dead and buried, and Sapphira did not even know it! Satan always keeps his servants in the dark, while God guides His servants in the light (John 15.15 ). We are not told why the couple did not attend the meeting together, but whatever the reason, it was about three hours after the death of her husband that Sapphira came in “not knowing what was done.”


8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 

The use of the English verb “answered,” where no question or remark precedes it, is found many places in the Bible—such as in Daniel 2.14, 15 and in Luke 3.16. Peter was not answering a question, but asking one. He was actually asking Sapphira “Did you sell the land for so much?” Peter wanted to know if she was in a pact with her husband, so he asked about the price received for their property. Peter’s question should have aroused suspicion on her part. She should have suspected that the scheme her and Ananias had cooked up had been discovered and that Peter knew they had not brought all the money received from the sale of their property.

But if Sapphira did suspect that the fraud had been found out she gave no evidence of it. She stated the same amount as Ananias had, so Peter knew that the two conspired together to lie to the Church and to God.


9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 

Ananias and Sapphira were actually defying God and daring Him to act—and He acted with swiftness and finality. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4.7).

We must keep in mind that their sin was not in robbing God of money but in lying to Him and robbing Him of glory. They were not required to sell the property, and, after selling it, they were not required to give any of the money to the church (Acts 5.4). Their lust for recognition conceived sin in their hearts, and that sin eventually produced death (James 1.15 ).

Undoubtedly, Ananias and Sapphira had witnessed some of the miracles wrought through the power of the Holy Spirit as the apostles preached the Gospel throughout the community; and to try the omnificence of the Holy Spirit who so forcibly dwelt in the apostles and in the Church was, in truth, to tempt the Spirit of God. Their sin was not the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but they had come perilously close to it.

Sapphira’s answer to Peter’s question convinced the apostle that this was not the individual lie of an ungodly and covetous husband, but rather a deliberate sin committed after an agreement between a husband and his wife—a cleverly planned scheme to deceive the believers and rob God. Peter therefore said to Sapphira, “Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.”

This does not necessarily mean that Peter actually heard the approaching footsteps of the young men who had buried Ananias. The chances are that they went barefooted—or they were shod with sandals which was the custom in that day. Peter simply meant that the men who had buried Ananias were approaching the assembly and would also carry Sapphira out.

Those who buried Ananias were probably not gone very long because the Jews did not embalm. Customarily, they buried the dead the same day, especially someone who died by divine judgment (Deut. 21.22, 23 ).

Peter accused Sapphira of agreeing with Ananias to “tempt [test] the Spirit of the Lord.” “To test the Holy Spirit” means to see how much one can get away with before He judges; it means to presume on Him, to see if He will perform His Word, or to stretch His judgment and patience to their limits (Duet 6.16 ; Matt. 4.7 ).


10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 

This verse speaks for itself. Sapphira must have been overcome by everything that happened so suddenly. To begin with, Peter told her about the death of her husband, and then she was hit with the shock of being exposed, and finally there was the stress of hearing Peter announce that she was going to die too. She immediately dropped to the floor and died at Peter’s feet.

We would assume that the worship service was still in progress and the congregation still assembled when the young men returned from burying Ananias. Evidentially Peter was still standing at the front of the assembly hall, and when the young men returned to join the worshippers they found Sapphira lying dead at Peter’s feet. So they picked her up and carried her out, to bury her beside her husband. 

There are two things that amaze me about this incident. One is the fact that a lie, such as these two were living, could not exist in the early church. There was a holiness of life in the church. Ananias and Sapphira, although they were thought to be saved, lied to the Holy Spirit and were removed from the company of believers. They had committed the sin unto death (1 John 5.16 ); but the Lord would not allow this kind of sin to exist in the early church.

The other amazing thing is the spiritual discernment of Simon Peter. This is something that is lacking today.


11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were not the work of man, but were caused by the mighty hand of God acting in swift judgment. Therefore this incident served as a severe warning to anyone who might the tempted to commit such a sin in the future. Great fear came upon all who watched the quick and terrible judgment that befell this couple, and all about the city those who heard about it were in awe of the God who executes swift judgment on those who attempt to deceive Him.

Sin and death are synonymous (Rom 6.23 ; James 1.15 ). Ananias and Sapphira reaped the wages of sin, although they reaped a bit more swiftly than most people do, and the question is often asked, “Why did God deal so suddenly and so harshly with these two people?” It has been suggested that He might have disciplined them and then restored them to full fellowship and communion in the church. The truth of the matter is, this man and his wife were never actually IN the church. They were present in body but not in spirit. They could not receive Christian discipline because they were not born again Christians.

I am well aware that some Bible scholars believe that Ananias and Sapphira committed the sin unto death, but I disagree. In the light of the Scriptures, I do not believe they were ever genuinely born again. I do not doubt that they were meeting with the local assembly—this is evidenced by the fact that they knew about the gifts being brought in by the believers and presented to the Church to be distributed to other believers who had little of this worlds goods. Unity of the spirit among these new Christians was one of the most outstanding characteristics of these early Christians. 

But how can I know that this couple were not born again Christians? Here’s how. Notice the question Peter asked Ananias: “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost.” He did not ask, “Ananias, why did Satan lead you to lie?” According to Peter’s words Satan filled the heart of Ananias—which means that he completely possessed and controlled his heart. We know that a born again believer could not be possessed and controlled by the devil, nor could the devil fill the heart of a believer. The Bible is very clear on this subject. Ananias and Sapphira were not Christians. 

Believers are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8.14 ), possessors of divine nature (2 Pe. 1.4 ), and new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5.17 ). Therefore if Ananias had been a true Christian Satan could not have filled his heart. He might have tempted him, but he could not have filled and possessed his heart with the scheme to rob God and commit a sin that would bring terrible reproach upon the Church and upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the head and foundation of the Church. Paul clearly declared, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8.14). Certainly, if Ananias and Sapphira were children of God, they would have been led by the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit would not have led them to lie to Himself. Born again believers can grieve the Spirit or quench the Spirit, but no born again Christian will attempt to lie to the Spirit. The true believer possesses divine nature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

During the first days of Christianity the Church was as God intended His Church to be. The discerning Spirit was surely and clearly at work, and the atmosphere in that Church was such that it was impossible for a man to come into the assembly with a lie in his heart and a false profession on his lips. Such a person would almost assuredly be detected.

What so overwhelms me is not that Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead for their sin, but the fact that the Church was so pure, so completely controlled by the Spirit of God, that the purity of the church compelled the deaths of those two who lied to the Holy Ghost.

Certainly the Holy Spirit does not operate in the church today as He did when the Church of the living God was so pure and holy that a hypocrite like Ananias could not enter without being detected and judged. If those who lied to God in our Churches today were to drop down dead, we would have a lot of funerals. The undertakers would be doing a land-office business. It is interesting to note that this is the first time that the word “Church” appears in Acts, although it is the most common word used to describe the assembly of those who believed. From now on it becomes the regular word to describe the followers of Jesus. Church appears twenty-two more times in Acts.

The result of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira was that a wave of godly fear that swept over the church and all those who heard the story. We have moved from “great power” and “great grace” (Acts 4.30 ) to “great fear,” and all of these ought to be present in the Church (Heb. 12.28, 29 ).

The purpose of this account was threefold:

1. It revealed God’s displeasure with sin, particularly with dishonesty, in His body, the church.

2. It marked the Church off as distinct from Israel, since such discipline was not seen in Israel.

3. It indicated that God was at work in this new group.

 

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