Summary: Does the Holy Spirit act contrary to our will? Is He just the suggester-in-chief?
Is the Holy Ghost a Gentleman?
I don’t know how often I have heard that the Holy Ghost is a gentleman. It is often assumed that the Holy Ghost will not force His way on anyone. I use the older term Holy Ghost rather than the newer use of the Holy spirit because “ghost” comes from the German “guest.” We all expect our guests to behave and conform to the rules of our house. We extend hospitality to our guests and if we know something meaningful that would please our guest that is not our normal custom, we condescend to that. We certainly want our “guest” to feel at home in our house. And if the Holy Ghost is our “guest”, this means that we are in control. If our guest becomes unruly, we can ask him to leave.
So coming to a passage like this in Acts 5 comes as quite a shock. Here Ananias’ house guest was expected to look the other way to their charade. They had seen Barnabas and others sell property and lay it at the Apostle’s feet. They saw the praise and coveted it for themselves. But they wanted it on the cheap. They wanted the praise of men without paying the full price. Now I think that the praise of men in the church was far from Barnabas’ motivation to give. Rather, as we can see from his personality, he was deeply devoted to the Lord and was willing to risk his life in the promotion of the gospel. The praise of men is a deadly trap which has ensnared too many of God’s children. And the spirit of covetousness became the true “guest” in their heart.
This passage tells us that we better consider who this “Holy Guest” is. The first thing we must recognize is that He is Holy. Not only is He Holy, He is divine, the third person of the Trinity. We see this in that the text said that Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost. Then is say he lied to God. It also says they tempted the “Spirit of the Lord.” The Holy Ghost is no human visitor. He is the Sovereign God who along with the Father and the Son are glorified and blessed forever. So this lie was a gross insult to the majesty of God Himself.
We remember that God is the Creator, sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe. It is His world, and we are His creatures, the sheep of His pasture. The fact that we have such an exalted status in the sight of this majestic God is purely by the will and grace of God. We must understand that we deserve nothing. In fact, even the very gifts we bring to God are already His. He owned them before we gave it back to Him. It is almost like the child who wants to buy his father a gift for Christmas. Having no money to buy one, he asks his father for the money to but the gift for his father. God smailes when we willingly give back to Him what He has given us.
The church today has been saturated in a message of a loving God. We do acknowledge some brokenness or ven a lot of brokenness. But surely God will do us good anyway. We see a loving God who trivializes sin. So it comes as a terrible shock to our distorted view of God when He in His sovereignty acts against our expectations. We have forgotten the Scripture that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God. It is true that God is love. The Bible says so. But it also says God is Holy, Holy, Holy which is far more emphatic than love as it is trice repeated in the superlative degree in Hebrew. God does not wink at sin. In fact the Bible says his wrath is kindled against it. Sin is rebellion against the rule of God in one’s life. Sin kills. It is not a trivial matter. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira is proof of that.
So what is so bad about a little white lie? After all, they did give to the church and the work of God, didn’t they? As pressed as the church always seems to be for funds, should not God be rather pleased with that? At most, God the gentleman should have tugged at the heart privately and made them feel guilty. But this public shaming! And not only that, killing them! To today’s generation, it seems so wrong. Have not other Christians sinned in far more grievous a matter and not have this happen to them? So true! But instead of condemning God for acting harshly, we should instead consider that we too are just as deserving as they. This should lead us to repent rather than to accuse God.