Summary: Deals with the danger of spiritual deception.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 11
“It is not a Good Idea to Lie to God!”
Things were going great in the church. As we have seen in the previous study, verse 33 tells us that there was great power and great grace at work in the church. Satan, always the enemy of God’s great plan, had already begun a counter attack of persecution through the civil and religious authorities. But his tactic had proven ineffective in stopping the advance of the gospel, so the devil tried a different strategy this time he attacked from within. It is always tragic when Satan can use Christians to wreck the church.
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. (2) And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (3) But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? (4) While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (5) Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (6) And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. (7) Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. (8) And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” (9) Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” (10) Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. (11) So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” Acts 5:1-11 (NKJV)
This is one of those passages that biblical commentators tend to pass over, perhaps because they think that it shows God in a bad light.
I. SPIRITUAL DECEPTION DEFINED 5:1-2
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. (2) And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
“Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not!” George McDonald.
The word “but” introduces the awful contrast of the lives of Ananias and Sapphira to the portrait of the life of Barnabas. The names Ananias and Sapphira are as much a contradiction of their natures as Barnabas’s was an affirmation. Ananias means “God is Gracious” and Sapphira means “beautiful.”
You will remember that last week we noted the fact that we should all be involved in a ministry of encouragement, by examining the life of Barnabas. Barnabas was an individual whose life is characterized by the investment he made in others. One of the things that Barnabas did was sell a parcel of land and use in helping the needy and for the expansion of the gospel. Unfortunately in the crowd somewhere was a man and wife who saw the recognition that Barnabas was receiving, and desired the same kind of acclaim. There names where Ananias and Sapphira. They thought, “I should would like to have people praising me like that! Look at all the attention that he is getting.” So they decided to sell a piece of their property and do the same.
Sadly we soon find out that they are not anything like Barnabas. Outwardly it may have looked so, but inwardly they had completely different motives. Barnabas gave out of a thankful heart and motivated by concern for others.
Ananias and Sapphira lied because they wanted to impress the rest of the church. They wanted the credit and the prestige for sacrificial giving, without the inconvenience of it. “Have you ever tried to impress someone and have it blow up in your face?” Most of us have some of Ananias in us, which is the desire to be thought better of spiritually than we are.
This is a pretty dramatic story and it is easy for us to say, “Well I could never do anything like that.” Really!!! Do you ever make decisions that although they are not illegal are just this side of ethical because you think, “well its no big deal.” “It is not going to hurt anyone else. No one needs to know.”