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Ananias & Sapphira

Ananaias & Sapphira

Written by David Steltz on .

Notes

Good Morning!

‌We get to continue going through the book of Acts together today!

‌Go ahead and get your bibles open, if you are following along.

‌Note: If anyone needs or wants a bible, please say something! We have copies we can give you, and there are all kinds of free apps and websites, so we can at least help get you started. There are many legitimate excuses for not reading the Bible, but availability is not one of them for anybody here!

‌Recap

‌Where Are We?

‌As we pick up in Acts chapter 4, I want to do a quick recap as a reminder of where we are. Where, When, Who, What are we reading about?

‌Where in the world is this story taking place?

‌The Temple in Jerusalem. So far, the entire story has taken place in Jerusalem, and only in a couple of different locations. Chapter 1 starts off in the enclosed, upper room of where the disciples were staying, in Jerusalem, chapter 2 takes place during the Pentecost celebration, and we’re told they’ve been spending a lot of time at the temple. Chapter 3 brings us to a story that takes place in the temple. The disciples aren’t living in the temple, they’re living and meeting in their homes, but also continue to spend more time in the temple teaching, and the viewpoint of the narrative is pretty much centered on the temple. We see the disciples come and go, to and from the temple, and the narrative follows a couple different stories, but it’s all centered around the temple, and, by extension, Jerusalem. The central figures are sort of dug in at “base camp” until chapter 8 when they’re forced to scatter.

‌When in the world is this story taking place?

‌The first century AD. Specifically, AD 30-60. Point being, these are the really early years. Essentially the whole book, in perspective is in the first half of the first century of our “common era” which is marked by the advent of Christ.‌

It’s the story of the first generation of Christians! The first to follow Jesus Christ, himself the firstborn of a new humanity.‌

And so far, we’re still in the first few weeks, let alone the first full year, or full century of the church’s existence.

Who, specifically, are the main characters in this story so far?

The apostles (especially Peter and John) who are devout Jewish Christians, and their students.

They are spreading the good news of the Messiah to the Jews first, beginning at the cultural and religious epicenter of Judaism.

Joining them are the crowds of new Christian Jews and gentiles from all over the world.

‌In general, the surrounding population is divided into those who gladly accept the gospel, and those who dare not go near it.

‌There are many reasons to be afraid of joining God, but not joining God is a lot scarier to me.

‌Luke 11:23 (LSB)
23 “He who is not with Me is against Me and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

‌Ignoring or refusing to be an active participant in the community of God may seem like the “safe” option, but in reality it’s like closing your eyes and sinking to the bottom of the ocean instead of reaching out, grasping, and holding on to the lifeline that has been extended right in front of us.

‌Alright, who else do we have on the stage? In addition to those two main categories of the general population (those who joined the Christians and those who didn’t dare), we also have the presence of a higher class of temple-goer. The civil and religious leaders who are unhappy with the disruption that Christ has caused.

‌They aren’t afraid of missing out so much as they are afraid of being undermined, or subverted.

‌If that’s our fear, then perhaps we need to realign ourselves a bit with God, because God cannot be undermined or subverted, and therefore we have nothing to fear if we are working alongside God in accordance to his will, united by his spirit as brothers and sisters in one body.

‌If we oppose what God is doing, on the other hand, we will miss out on the incredible joy and satisfaction to be found in it, and it will end in greater pain and frustration,‌ and we can expect to take great personal offense to whatever God is doing when we choose to go entirely in our own direction instead, OR when we become so proud and self-affirmed in our established dogmas and traditions and ways of thinking that we’ve left no room for anything more but annoyance and irritation when God introduces something new to us or wants to teach us a new way of understanding something.‌

What’s Happened?

Alright, that’s where, when and who, so what has happened so far?

‌Jesus ascended into the sky, leaving the apostles to wait for his spirit in Jerusalem.

‌They replace Judas while waiting, then receive the Holy Spirit during Pentecost, a major Jewish holiday. This loud, bright, attention-drawing event was witnessed by many, and caused the church to expand rapidly by the thousands.

‌Peter and John have been preaching, and healing, like Jesus did, and telling people, relentlessly, about Jesus!

‌The people in charge got really annoyed and arrested them, and put them on trial.

‌Peter’s message:

‌We’ve heard from Peter multiple times, and his message has been pretty clear and consistent, and while it varies based in the context, it’s always focused on Jesus. We saw that last week in Peter’s message to the Sanhedrin, and Mike explored the concept of being focused on Jesus. Even more specifically, the name of Jesus, and what that really means.

‌Everything they did - at least, everything of significance that was recorded - was to the glory of the Father, in the name of Yeshua the messiah, through the ruach ha kodesh, the holy spirit, who unified and empowered them.

‌All of this action, all the talking and doing stuff, it was never about anyone’s individual reputation, except maybe to establish themselves as credible witnesses to give credibility to their testimony of the one reputation that really matters: that of Christ. And it was evident just by listening to them that they knew what they were talking about. They knew who they were talking about:

‌Acts 4:13 (LSB)
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and comprehended that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

‌In other words, there was no other explanation for their wisdom and articulate handling of scripture, other than that they had spent so much time learning, informally, separately from the established institutions, but directly from Jesus, the master teacher himself.

‌On top of that, there was this man who was healed very publicly and visibly, and was still walking around for anyone to see! And he stayed near the apostles as much as he could, while he could. He may not have been thrown in jail with them, but he sure wasn’t afraid of being associated with them! In fact, we’re told that it’s seeing him, standing there (remember, nobody had ever seen this guy stand before!) that finally silences the Sanhedrin in verse 14:

‌Acts 4:14–22 (LSB)
14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What should we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy sign has happened through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 “But lest it spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this sign of healing had occurred.

‌Verse 20 is a great stand-out verse that Mike called out last week too. They tell the authorities, with all due respect, they’re not going to stand in the way of what God’s doing, and they just can’t even physically possibly stop talking about how amazing it is, because they just love Jesus SO MUCH!

‌OK, I can see how that could possibly get a little annoying after a while. Especially in this context. But it’s such a great perspective to have. I do think we should do our best, in general to not be annoying if we can help it. But I’ve decided I’d rather be worried I’m talking about God too much than worried I’m not talking about God enough. I probably just shouldn’t worry at all, but that’s easier said than done.

‌We never have to worry about what will happen when we share what God has done; what we have seen and heard, as long as it is truly out of love, and a desire to share the unstoppable message of the gospel.

‌Passages

‌Alright, now with some review under our belt lets continue forward into chapter 4, picking up with verse 23:

‌Acts 4:23–31 (LSB)
23 So when they were released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Master, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE VAIN THINGS? 26 ‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ 27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders happen through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed earnestly, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with confidence.

‌After Peter and John return and tell everyone what happened, the immediate response is for everyone to pray together. Unified, not only in their prayer but in their mindset, desires, and mission. In the face of opposition and threats, they lean into their dependence on God’s strength, recognizing him as the one true master and creator of the universe. They pray for Jesus’s work to continue, for his name to be exalted, and all of this is accomplished through the word of God and the power of the Spirit of God in them to speak the Word of God.

‌They begin, in verse 24, by quoting from Psalm 2:1-2

‌Psalm 2:1–2 (LSB)
1 Why do the nations rage And the peoples meditate on a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying,

‌They’re acknowledging and bringing before God the opposition they now face, recognizing their own Jewish leaders as acting in parallel with any of their Gentile oppressors. They had become their own worst enemy, in a way. A story which we get to see miraculously reversed in Saul later on, by the way! The Jewish Christians’ worst enemy becomes their greatest champion! But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves.

‌Reading on:

‌Acts 4:32–37 (LSB)
32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and not one was saying that any of his possessions was his own, but, for them, everything was common. 33 And with great power the apostles were bearing witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a field, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

‌Alright, so far, this is just some more detail being given in a summary very similar to what we read back in chapter 2:

‌Acts 2:42–47 (LSB)
42 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were dividing them up with all, as anyone might have need. 46 And daily devoting themselves with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved.

‌The idea is that they were consolidating and redistributing their assets to make sure everyone was cared for and was not going hungry. As a result, any major wealth or class disparity that existed prior to them coming together as Jesus followers, all of that was being left behind as irrelevant.

‌A class-free society of people all working together for the benefit of the whole, to achieve humanity’s purpose of glorifying God and partaking in all the abundance of life together. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

‌Well, history shows us that trying to force people into such a way of life does not go well, and even less so if Christ is not at the center of focus and motives. But within the church, we certainly ought to have attitudes of generosity, and even of collective stewardship, in recognizing that nothing is really ours but placed under our care. Each of us has a responsibility for what we’ve been given, but that weight of that responsibility is only fully realized within community with each other.

‌Importantly, all the liquidation and donation of assets is voluntary, and it’s serving to meet real needs, to enable everything that’s happening to continue, without anyone being left out.

‌And here, it’s being brought up again in the story that people are leaving behind certain aspects of their old ways of thinking to follow this new, better way together. And they are doing things wisely, profitably, again, for the sake of everyone to benefit rather than any one person or family.

‌That context is important in framing the next story, which picks up in the beginning of chapter five. Chapter 4 ends with the story of Joseph, or Barnabas, who sets a great example by selling his field and donating everything he got for it to the church!

‌It seems that perhaps others took notice of his example, or wanted to have a similar reputation. Not a bad thing necessarily if their motives were also the same, but that’s not the case with Ananias and Sapphira:

‌Acts 5:1–11 (LSB)
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 authority? Why is it that you laid 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. 6 And the young men rose up and wrapped him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 7 Now there was 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 were paid this much for the land?” And she said, “Yes, that much.” 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 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 these things.

‌Nobody was demanding that they sell their land, nor that if they did sell it that they give everything to the church! Their sin was not in selling the land, nor even in keeping some of the proceeds for themselves. Their sin was in their pretense, and their deception. What they really wanted, more than to help the church, was to be highly regarded by the church, and they were willing to lie and deceive in order to achieve their desires.

‌Doing what we think is a good thing for the wrong reasons may seem harmless on the surface, but it’s a symptom of corruption…the twisted disease of deception fed to us from the beginning by the prince of lies.

‌Whether it’s Adam and Eve, the first of humanity, eating the forbidden fruit, or Saul, Israel’s first human king, saving some of the spoils of war for “sacrifice,” or Ananias and Sapphira trying to deceive the apostles in the first church, these acts of rebellion, from people who know better, are met with disastrous consequences.

‌Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden. God expels his own Spirit from Saul, and expels the lives of Ananias and Sapphira from their bodies on the spot.

‌This sudden judgment had, rightfully, a sobering effect on those around and those who heard about it. It was a chilling reminder of the imminent reality of God’s power, and of how important it was to maintain integrity within the church. Even for those on the outside, imagine this reputation of just knowing that lying and deception was not, could not be tolerated among them.

‌This might deter anyone else from joining unless they were ready to be fully committed to it, and yet this strong, uncorrupted foundation paved the way for even more growth.

‌Acts 5:12–16 (LSB)
12 Now at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were happening 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 were holding them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers in the Lord were added to their number, multitudes of men and women, 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 Also the multitude from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.

‌I love the back and forth with verses 13 and 14: “Nobody dared associate with them, even though they were highly esteemed, and somehow their numbers kept growing in multitudes anyway!”

‌Let’s keep reading, a little further.

‌We won’t get all the way to the end of chapter 5, but lets see what happens when they get arrested yet again:

‌Acts 5:17–32 (LSB)
17 But the high priest rose up and those with him (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18 And they laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, and taking them out, he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and those with him came, they called the Sanhedrin together, even all the Council of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the jailhouse for them to be brought. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison, and they returned and reported back, 23 saying, “We found the jailhouse locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors, but we opened it and found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25 But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). 27 And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Sanhedrin. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly commanded you not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a tree. 31 “This One God exalted to His right hand as a Leader and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 “And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who obey Him.”

‌Some of this is starting to sound like the same conversation over and over again, because the apostles’s message, at its core has not changed!

‌These poor men though, the priest and the Sanhedrin, they just keep getting more and more annoyed by the apostles, and the apostles just keep getting more and more annoying! They can’t even keep them in a public jail anymore, they just somehow miraculously are back at the temple preaching first thing in the morning! I mean, can you imagine how annoyed you would be? Come on!

‌How cool would it be though, as the apostles, to have that happen to you? To have such blatant validation in what you’re doing, that God would send angels to get you out of jail and make sure you can continue doing it again at the crack of dawn!

‌Of course, they get dragged back to the Sanhedrin, and although nobody knows how they got out of jail, they don’t ask about that, ironically enough. They just say, basically, “Hey! We said stop it! You’re doing it again, and we said stop it!”

‌And again, their response, essentially, is “Sorry, but God said not to stop, and God’s bigger than you. By the way, you should repent and follow God.”

‌They don’t back down. And how could they, after that night and morning they’ve just had?

‌I think my favorite part of Peter’s response, though is at the end, in verse 32.

‌“We are witnesses. But so is the Holy Spirit, who God gave to those who obey Him.”

‌In other words, “You don’t even have to take our word for it! Ask God! Ask the Holy Spirit, who is available to you, IF YOU ARE COUNTED AMONG THOSE OBEY HIM!”

‌Conclusion

‌So, to wrap up, and step away from the story for a moment, let me ask you a question, as a follow up to Peter’s last statement.

‌Do you obey God? Ask yourself. “Do I obey God?”

‌What does that mean? When? Where?

‌How does one obey God? What does God require?

‌Micah offers a rather poetic summation:‌

Micah 6:8 (LSB)
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does Yahweh require of you But to do justice, to love lovingkindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

‌Jesus of course sums up the whole law and prophets with this:

‌Luke 10:27 (LSB)
27 And he answered and said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

‌As for the unique daily details we all encounter, Jesus says we need not waste energy worrying, even for our own wellbeing and provision, IF we seek God’s kingdom first.

‌Matthew 6:31–33 (LSB)
31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

‌As complex as God is, and as complex as life is, following God is relatively simple. Essentially, all you have to do is choose to do so. To decide that your primary focus in life will be following God, and to trust that everything else will fall into place around that.

‌The most valuable gifts we have from God are his word, his spirit, and each other united in the same.‌

Through God’s spirit we have been given his word, and through God’s spirit we can know and understand and be transformed by God’s word.

‌John 1:1–5 (LSB)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.

‌Benediction

‌By the light of your word and your word alone, oh Father may we traverse this life humbly with you. And as we walk with you, and talk to you, open our ears and our eyes to what you’re teaching us all the time. Help us know and understand you better by knowing and understanding scripture, christ, and each other better. Help us to love you more deeply every day, as we learn to love scripture, christ, and each other more deeply. We humbly ask you for peace, for health, and for many more hours filled with joyful communion with one another, as individual families and together as your church, we cherish seasons of abundance and comfort, knowing that you are compassionate and generous, and we know that’s true even when we don’t feel comfortable or happy, we can all the more lean into your love and strength. As much as you want us to enjoy the many good gifts you’ve given us, we must never worship those things rather than worshiping you who gave them to us. Sometimes it takes stripping away other distractions for us to regain focus on you, but whatever it takes, Lord I pray you would help each and every one of us set our gaze on you with every breath we take. And when we lose focus, not to go into a tailspin but to simply pick up where we left off, knowing your open and loving arms will never turn us away when we truly humble ourselves before you and seek you and your kingdom above all else. Give us such clarity, and motivate and unite us in the rhythms of your grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.


Ananias & Sapphira