Summary: Do we hate what God hates, do we love what God loves, do we want what God wants? That’s the question today, please take time to consider it in your own heart.
One of the great things about the early community of believers is the open practice of love and unity. ALL the believers were united in heart and mind. What that means is that they all had the same agenda. They weren’t clones, but they all wanted the same things and thought the same way about the important spiritual and practical matters of the church. There were no separate personal agendas.
Now this was not communism for a couple reasons. First it was voluntary. As we will see you didn’t have to give and you could give what you chose to give depending on your situation. Secondly, it didn’t involve everything you owned, but only as much as was needed. And thirdly, it was not a membership requirement in order to be part of the church.
Now this giving isn’t a command, but it’s sure a good principle to follow that seems to be attractive to the outside world. The point I take from it is that no one in the Kingdom of God should be without. We serve a God who has all the resources in the universe and the idea of a Christian or any human being for that matter, going without basic necessities should be unfathomable to us as the body of Christ.
That’s why it says that nobody felt that what they owned was there own, it was God’s. Is that true of us? You know the theme of the entire Bible is to trust Him. Do you believe that he owns all things, and that if you give some of yours away to someone else, he will still provide for you? Again this is the one area that God says we can test Him.
There were no needy people amoung them and this freed the apostles to focus on testifying powerfully about the resurrection of the dead. And it says God’s blessing or favour was on them all.
Now in verse 36 we hear about Joseph who was nicknamed Barnabas (son of encouragement). He gets a little fame here by coming from Cyprus with the proceeds from one of his fields. But the way he brought his offering was to lay it at the apostle’s feet. This indicates that he gave this in private. He humbly placed it at the apostle’s feet and even received a new name from them. And as a prominent Jew from the family of Levi he is also showing his support for the Gentile mission that was about to begin.
Now it sounds like this church was perfect. Perfectly unified, perfectly Holy, hadn’t been a lie yet apparently. But we see that whenever you get a bunch of people together, soon both internal and external problems start to develop. Now if we think carefully about this, we see that the people were filled with the Spirit and were walking in the Spirit. I think that is probably where the term spirit of unity comes from. But it’s also true that no mere mortal is always walking in the Spirit. The flesh takes over sometimes and this is what we see in the story now of Ananias and Sapphira at the beginning of chapter 5.
There was external pressure on the church in the form of persecution, but there was already some internal pressure it seems, to look good. I think this is something we can all relate to in church, and it is one of the reasons people outside see us as hypocrites and judgmental sometimes. When appearances become more important than love, humility, truth, and generosity, we can run into problems. We see in this story of the first 11 verses that dishonesty stemming from pride and greed was already surfacing.
This husband and wife Ananias and Sapphira had intentionally conspired to be dishonest and misrepresent what they were giving. Now we can only imagine they lied about this in order to make themselves look good, more spiritual than they were. Now there was no command that people had to bring all the money from anything they sold, there was not even any command to sell anything, this was all optional. But Ananias says this is the full proceeds from the sale of the property they sold.
Now right away Peter knows he’s lying. How did he know? Maybe when he saw the amount he realized that it didn’t represent what Ananias said he sold. But more likely Peter wouldn’t have known how much land was sold. The better explanation is that Peter was given the gift of spiritual discernment in this situation.
This spiritual gift is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and in my personal opinion is one of the most important and least commonly used gifts in the church. Much of what the Bible calls wisdom is the ability to discern, truth from error, right from wrong, demonic spirit from Godly Spirit, and so on. This is not a fun gift to have because no one wants to tell another person they are lying or they’re wrong. It is a gift that a good counsellor should have and can be developed a bit with practice.