Summary: Let us learn and then never forget the example found in the lives of Ananias and Sapphira. Give Him your all...hold nothing back from the Lord...and then stand and see His power unleashed
HYPOCRITES IN THE CHURCH
ACTS 5:1 16
(Opening: #399 of Illustrations of Bible Truths Spiros Zodhiates)
Last week we left off on a positive note with the story of Barnabas, the encourager, who set an example of just how positive of an influence becoming a Christian can make not only in an individual life but in the life of the church.
His life was so transformed by the Holy Spirit that he was given a new name, one that represented the character that had been given him as a Christian.
But not everyone followed his example. Unbelief and ungodly living hinder the work of God and also discourages man, and in our Scripture passage today, we’ll see the mixture of bad with good that is evident, even in the best of situations. [Tares will grow among the wheat until the harvest.]
READ 5:1 16
Up to this point in our study in the book of Acts, we’ve seen signs and wonders that were truly miracles of mercy...but now we will examine a miracle of judgment.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira introduces us to a whole different world of thought than we have in modern times today. It was a world in which sin was taken seriously...
It was a time when a person convicted of sin against the Holy Spirit might well suffer a fatal shock at the thought of having committed such a serious offense.
Just the thought of such a thing almost seems funny...because today we seldom even blush at things that are just as bad or even worse. In fact, for the most part we’ve eliminated sin from our vocabulary.
Things that we once knew were sins against God we now look upon as just alternative lifestyles, like the adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, and other perversions to God’s design for family life.
Or sins like drunkenness, and substance abuse which are now looked at as diseases, something beyond our control...like catching a cold or getting the measles.
Much like the deacon from the illustration...we talk the talk but we don’t walk the walk. And we’ve become masters in the art of justifying the sins that we so easily commit. But that’s getting too personal, so let’s move on.
Today we are going to look at 3 things concerning hypocrisy...how it was perpetrated...how it was perceived...and how it was punished.
We already mentioned that a man named Joseph was so changed by the power of God that he was given the name Barnabas, which means "Son of Encouragement".
The name Ananias, in the Hebrew, means "Yahweh is gracious" and Sapphira means "beautiful." But there was nothing gracious about what Ananias did, nor anything beautiful about his wife’s cooperation in their pretense of loyalty to the Lord and His people.
The example of Barnabas, in giving over the proceeds of the sale of his property in Cyprus, was one that drew great admiration among the believers in Jerusalem.
Desiring to attract the same attention, Ananias and Sapphira sold their possession, which was also a piece of land, with the thought in mind of giving the money to the church.
But this is where the problem comes in. They made a promise to give it all to the work of the Lord, and then kept back part of the money. So what is so wrong in what they did?
Any church would be glad to get a check in the offering plate like that, even if it was only part of the actual sale price, right? But the blessing isn’t in the gift itself, but in the heart of the giver.
They sold their land, and then, perhaps in a burst of enthusiasm they decided to be like Barnabas and give the money to the church...but when the money was in hand that whole idea no longer seemed so great and they held back part of the price.
That money looked good to them, and they probably thought it was too much to put into the hands of the apostles...and besides, who knows when there might come a time when that money might be needed for some "emergency."
The problem was that they pretended to give over all the proceeds of the sale of the property. They knew they couldn’t give the full amount away and yet they wanted others to think they had.
Luke makes it very clear that no one had said that they were required to give anything. But the spirit of giving to the One who had given all for the believers was very strong.
No one said that what he or she had was their own...except Ananias and Sapphira. It was the deception that was the sin. They thought they could do what Jesus clearly said was impossible...and that was serve both God and mammon or money.