Summary: Third in a series on the book of Acts. In the middle of the church’s peace, grace, and generosity, there was one dark spot. But the way the church dealt with its problems allowed it to shine.
From Selfishness to Service
(Third in the series What’s Next? The Adventures of Growing in Christ)
“Who do you think you’re going to kid? Did you really think you could lie to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3).
“And the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied” (Acts 6:12).
In the middle of the church’s peace, grace, and generosity, there was one dark spot. But the way the church dealt with its problems allowed it to shine.
1. The Results of selfishness (5:1-11)
"Ananias and Saphira got together to conspire a plot
To cheat the church and get ahead.
They knew God’s power but did not fear it;
Tried to cheat the Holy Spirit;
Peter prophesied it, and they both dropped dead!
God loves a cheerful giver; give it all you’ve got;
He loves to hear you laughing when you’re in an awful spot;
So when the odds are up against you and you cannot do a thing,
Praise God; to praise Him is a joyous thing!"
Now, there is more to this story than the words of this song describe!
In chapter 4, Barnabus (Barney the Encourager) sold a field and gave the money to the apostles to distribute to the needy.
Ananias & Saphira noted the obvious admiration given to Barnabus. They also had a field they could sell; they wanted that recognition for themselves but did not want to give all the money to the church.
That would have been ok; if they only had not agreed to lie about it!
The consequence of their sin was swift and frightening. Why did God bring such a severe punishment on them? This new church needed to understand who they were dealing with. The God of the OT and the God of the NT are one and the same. We cannot reason away our sin; we cannot lie to God.
What do we do, what do we say, what do we think, and what do we watch that is reasoned away as not being so bad?
It used to be that going to an “R” rated movie was frowned upon. Now we can view more violent and vulgar stories on prime time TV.
It used to be that pornography consisted of an occasional glimpse at a Playboy magazine. Now with a few clicks of a mouse we can fill our eyes and minds with crudest depictions of people satisfying their need for lust without love, without a commitment, without a relationship.
It used to be that people actually did not live together until after they were married. Now marriage has become such an optional lifestyle that many do not want to be hassled with it.
Remember Ananias and Sapphira. It wasn’t worth it to be dishonest. It wasn’t worth it to be selfish. It wasn’t worth it for them to hold back for themselves something they promised to give to God.
In all these situations, and in many more, we have come to the point of lying to ourselves and to God to make our personal sin more acceptable. It is time to be honest! It is time to repent!
When Abraham Lincoln was running the country, he had lots of chances to make shady deals. And enhance himself financially. But this is what he said about his Presidency: "I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me."
At the end of the day, we have to live with ourselves. And we have to live before God. Let’s make wise choices.
2. The testimony of the faithful (5:12-42)
Signs and wonders
Jealousy leads to arrests and a supernatural jailbreak!
“Tell the people the full message of this new life!” (Verse 20)
“We must obey God rather than men…we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (verses 29 & 32).
Gamaliel: One reasonable voice
“Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (verses 38-39).
Do we find ourselves fighting against God? Do we try to give him good reasons why we will not follow His Son? Why not surrender to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts? To the One who gave us His life so we could live?