Acts 5:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 14, 1997


Two weeks ago, we got a glimpse of life in the early Jerusalem church, where they took care of the needs of the people.

From time to time, as people were led by the Spirit, they would take some of their possessions and sell them, bringing the money to the apostles to be distributed to those in need.

I think it was kind of neat how it all fit into last weekís message by David Carroll from Gospel for Asia. He was encouraging those of us who live in the wealthy U.S. to think about simplifying our lives in order to help support the poor church in India.

One of the givers in the Jerusalem church was Barnabas Ė

(Acts 4:36-37 KJV) And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, {37} Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

I imagine that some of the attention Barnabas got because of his gift may have led to what weíre about to study.

:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira

:1 a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife

Ananias = "whom Jehovah has graciously given"

Sapphira = "beautiful", or "a sapphire"

Itís ironic that outwardly they had such beautiful names, but inwardly were just the opposite.

:2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it

kept back Ö being privy Ė the idea is that they kind of embezzled this money, and they were both aware of what they were doing.

As weíre going to see, it wasnít that Ananias kept part of the money that was wrong.

The problem was that he pretended to be something he wasnít.


Get Real. Accept reality.

The word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek theater.

The ancient Greek actors would have masks showing happy faces or sad faces that they would hold up while they spoke.

They were "play acting", pretending to be somebody they werenít.

Like the person who complains that there is too much sex and violence on his VCR.

George MacDonald wrote, "Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not."

Iíve been finding that thereís a serious problem in the modern church today, surrounding the concept of the "Happy Christian".

It seems that weíve gotten this notion that a Christian is a person who has a silly plastic smile plastered to his face all the time.

For some of you, this is very hard to do, because you donít feel all happy and smiling all the time.

When you canít get yourself to put the happy face on, you tend to not come to church.

Paul wrote,

(Eph 4:15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Being real is all about truth, and speaking it in love. Thatís when we "grow up".

For some of you, youíre trying to be as real as you can, but you have found that people donít know what to do with it.

You feel like Abraham Lincoln, who said, "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"

I heard the story this week about a family where one of their children had been stricken with cancer.

When the church they attended found out about it, one of the eldersí wives visited the hospital twice, and then announced, "I canít deal with this anymore", and thatís the last they heard from the church. Perhaps it was too real of a problem.

Itís my desire that we be a real church of real people.

There are times when we can rejoice with what God is doing.

But there will be times when folks struggle and suffer, and even if we canít fix the problem, we can at least stick it out together and support one another.

:3 Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart

Satan didnít have much success when he stirred up a little persecution against the church.

So now he changes tactics, to try and bring defeat to the church from within.


Donít be Satanís tool.

I do not believe the Scriptures teach that a believer can be "possessed" by demons.

1Jo 5:18b but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

But just because a demon canít live inside of you doesnít mean that he canít influence you in some way.

Just because a person canít get inside your house doesnít mean that he canít stand across the street and yell at you.

Just because a demon canít be inside of you, doesnít mean that he canít be whispering things into your ears or pour ideas into your heart.

Peterís own experience Ė

When Jesus was telling the disciples that He was going to have to suffer and die, Peter had the nerve to rebuke Jesus and say that He shouldnít do that.

Mt 16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

How do we keep from being Satanís tool? By staying as close to the Lord as we can, and by getting to know His heart, and the things of Him.

(Psa 91:9-10 KJV) Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; {10} There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

:3 to lie to the Holy Ghost

This is what hypocrisy is all about, a lie.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all."

:4 Ö was it not in thine own power?

The believers were never forced to give all their possessions, or to give at all.

All the giving had been a work of the Holy Spirit on the people, prompting them to give.

:4 thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

This phrase shows us the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Note how in verse 3, they lied to the Holy Spirit, and yet now Peter says they lied to God.

Thatís because the Holy Spirit IS God.

:5 Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost


Donít get any crazy ideas that Peter put Ananias to death.

Peter just delivered a message, and then it appears that God pulled the plug on Ananias.

I donít even hear Peter saying these words with great anger and power. I would imagine him a little sad at their conduct.

Did Ananias go to heaven?

Two possible answers:

1. Yes Ė he was a believer, and rather than allow his hypocrisy to pollute the church, God took him to heaven where he wouldnít cause any more trouble.

2. No Ė he was not really a believer, but a pretender.

:5 and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

I would imagine the peoplesí thoughts went something like this, "God must be really serious about us following Him with sincerity, He could even kill us!"

People like to say stuff like, "Oh that our church was like the church in the book of Acts".

But they usually like to forget this chapter.

:6 the young men arose Ö and buried him.

The first example of youth ministry in the early church!

:8 Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?

It seems Peter might be pointing to the pile of money at his feet when he talks with Sapphira.

Peter wants her to tell him if they had sold the property for the supposed amount they had brought to the church.

She answered with a lie, saying, "Yes".

:9 How is it that ye have agreed together

ye have agreed together Ė sumphoneo "together" + "to voice" = to agree together

It was obvious by the way that Sapphira was answering that she and Ananias had talked together and agreed how they were going to handle things.

They had done it together.

This gives marital communication a bad name!

Donít be thinking that because Ananias and Sapphira got into trouble here, that you shouldnít be talking to your husband or wife!


Talk together!

Hey, at least Ananias and Sapphira did something right! They at least talked together!

(Imagine using Ananias and Sapphira for an illustration for marital communication!)

Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; {26} That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, {27} That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Guys, itís your responsibility to be talking with your wives and to be washing them with the water of your words.

And they should be more beautiful because of the way you talk to them. Not ugly liars like Sapphira.

I wonder if the reason this falls on the guys is because theyíre the ones less likely to be talking! The girls rarely have trouble doing any talking! J Ha!

:9 to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?

They were deliberately disobeying God and trying to see how much they could get away with.

(Deu 6:16 KJV) Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God

:9 behold, the feet of them Ö shall carry thee out.

Perhaps Peter could hear their footsteps coming down the hall, as they came back from burying Ananias.

Peter speaks prophetically here about them carrying her out as well.

:10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet

straightway - parachrema Ė immediately. Itís interesting to see that this word is a compound that literally means "alongside the money"

I wonder if Luke chose this word as a kind of pun, perhaps she did fall down next to the money.

She certainly fell down because of the money.

:10 the young men came in, and found her dead

I guess you could say that things were going so well in the church of Jerusalem, that people were just dying to give. Or more correctly, they were giving and dying.J

Actually, even though preachers might like to teach from chapter 4, where people were selling their possessions and giving to the church, you have to balance it with this chapter, and the fact that improper giving could be dangerous to your health!


When giving is wrong.

Itís a dangerous thing to give to the church when you do it for the wrong reasons, like getting recognition.

(Mat 6:1 NLT) "Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.

I heard last week about a church that announced during the service how much each person had given! By name! Talk about stealing peoplesí rewards!

If you canít give purely to please your Father in heaven, perhaps you shouldnít give at all.

Certainly the ideal is that we give for the correct reasons.

:11 And great fear came upon all the church

The church has now moved from where there was great power and great grace (Acts 4:33), to great fear. This is actually a proper progression.

(Heb 12:28-29 KJV) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: {29} For our God is a consuming fire.

Why so harsh a judgment?

Partly because this is the beginning of a new work of God, and God is concerned that His works get off to a good start.

Weíll see that something similar happened two other times, when new works were begun.

When Moses had first set up the tabernacle in the wilderness, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice. When Aaronís sons, Nadab and Abihu decided they needed to do something, they offered God incense that He hadnít asked for, and ended up consumed by fire as well.

Moses said at that time:

(Lev 10:3a NASB) Then Moses said to Aaron, It is what the LORD spoke, saying, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy"

God is not some "good luck charm" where you kind of make up the rules as you go along. He is God. He is our Creator. We are responsible to Him to live the way He wants us to live.

This leads to the other reason there was a judgment, because Ananias didnít recognize what was holy.

He didnít recognize the presence of God, and the holiness of God.


Take care with whatís holy.

Another example of a similar judgment happened when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, again starting a new era in worship, leading to the temple in Jerusalem.

2 Sam 6:3-7 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. {4} And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. {5} And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. {6} And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. {7} And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

The ark should never have been on an ox cart, it was supposed to have been carried by the priests.

Uzzah died because he reached out to straighten the Ark of the Covenant. He felt he was good enough to fix the problems of the holy thing and "touch" it.

In a way, Ananias and Sapphira thought they too could mess with the holy, the Holy Spirit, by lying to it without any effect.

Now the Bible tells us that we are not just a "box of the covenant", but weíre a whole temple of the Holy Spirit. (1Cor.6:19)

I wonder sometimes when we feel like we have to "straighten each other out" if we ought to be a little more careful sometimes?

Donít get me wrong, I know thereís a place to encourage, exhort, and even rebuke each other.

But I wonder sometimes if we realize what weíre dealing with?

We tend to get angry with each other, and can think very little of each other, when in fact the person in front of you is a temple of the Holy Spirit!

Uzzah should have had the ark on his shoulders, and the shoulders of the priests, with the priests bearing the burden, not the ox cart.

Perhaps if we would bear one anotherís burdens more (Gal 6:1), we wouldnít feel like we have to straighten each other out so much.