Summary: Exposition of Acts 5:1-6, about the results of Ananias and Sapphira’s lies upon the church
Text: Acts 5:1-16, Title: Drop Dead Fred, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/2/07
A. Opening illustration: Tell about that Church of God evangelist praying at the invitation…At the end of the island I noticed a small green frog. He was exactly half in and half out of the water. He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent. ... An oval shadow hung in the water behind the drained frog: then the shadow glided away. The frog skin bag started to sink. I had read about the water bug, but never seen one. "Giant water bug" is really the name of the creature, which is an enormous, heavy-bodied brown beetle. It eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs. Its grasping forelegs are mighty and hooked inward. It seizes a victim with these legs, hugs it tight, and paralyzes it with enzymes injected during a vicious bite. Through the puncture shoots the poison that dissolves the victim’s muscles and bones and organs--all but the skin--and through it the giant water bug sucks out the victim’s body, reduced to juice. Hidden sins can suck the life out of us.
B. Background to passage: After the little parenthetical five verses about the unity of the church, Luke gives us a positive example of this unity in Barnabas’ giving of the proceeds of the sale of some land. Then he gives an account, lest the first pictures of the early church seem too idealized, of the first imperfections seen in the church. Some find this account repulsive or difficult to deal with personally. And we live in a religious culture that rarely takes to heart the seriousness of sin within the church. So Luke reminds us with graphic clarity of God’s special hatred for the sins of hypocrisy and religious deception.
C. Main thought: In the text we will see three aspects of the first imperfections recorded of the early church.
A. The Sins of the Saints (v. 1-4)
1. Explain that according to the text, this giving of property was not mandatory. Nor was it mandatory that they give all the proceeds. The problem with the whole scenario was that Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look really spiritual in front of the church. They wanted to be known as generous givers. They wanted all the prestige of being part of the gold club givers. But even that wasn’t the worst thing they did. It is a sin of the heart, but it led to a sin of the tongue, in which they lied to the church, and thus to the Holy Spirit of God. The word used in v. 3, translated “kept back,” means to pilfer or embezzle. The implication is the willful deception of others. It is only used one other time in the NT, but is used in a significant story in the OT—Achan in Joshua 7. Luke probably intends to draw some parallels with that account. For there as well you have a prominent member of the people of God who has not only deliberated disobeyed, but they have concealed the sin. And as we will note later, the punishment is similar. Peter also notes that this event was satanically inspired. However, it doesn’t remove responsibility. Jesus was kind and compassionate to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, but he had little mercy upon religious hypocrisy.
3. Illustration: “Would I refuse a big donation that was corrupted? “God is holy and holiness (is) the moral condition necessary to the health of his universe. ...Whatever is holy is healthy, ...the holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is his utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hated the polio that would take the life of the child.” –Tozer, speaking of the ugliness of sin, MacArthur says, “none is so ugly in God’s sight as those who flaunt a spiritual beauty that they do not posses,” the leader of one major international ministry said that they have to overlook a lot of mistakes made in good faith by their personnel, and clean up the messes willingly, but the one thing that they will not tolerate at any level is deception and dishonesty,
4. God is no respecter of the rich. Peter confronts the biggest giver head on. The desire to look really spiritual is in ALL of us. So, as one writer said we should be careful about throwing stones. But the reality of this situation demonstrates the severity of the offense of such desires. We must guard our hearts diligently against the desire to look good in front of others. We should do violence against the propensity for us to put on more than we really do. Furthermore, we must realize that lying, deception, and other such sins to the church, are the same as lying to God Himself. This is why open, intimate accountability does wonders for people. It guards their heart against wrong action and motivation. Another note of practical application is that your personal sin is poison to the church. This is why it is so integral that the church be a help to those caught in a fault. It can halt and thwart the efforts of the church to win the world to Christ. We note its seriousness by seeing what God did about it. And we should have a deep commitment to the purity of the church and the accountability process.