Summary: The world today is full of people playing Christian, but the Lord is no friend of hypocrisy. The Lord is looking for a few good Christians.
The Game is Over
As children many of us played a game called let’s pretend. My favorite was pretending to be a soldier, like my Dad. I would dress up like a soldier and me and my friends would go out into the fields around our house and go on secret missions to defeat the bad guys. Man, that was fun! Unfortunately though, many continue to play let’s pretend spiritually long after the time for games is over.
In Acts 5 we are given the account of two people who played the game of pretending to be Christians. It is one of the most dramatic stories in the New Testament. The story vividly demonstrates the high price of hypocrisy.
Let’s read Act 5:1-11 together, and see what the Lord has in store for us today.
I. The Acts of Deception
a. Why was the land sold in the first place?
i. Barnabas had sold a piece of land and had brought the money to the apostles, back in Chapter 4.
ii. This act of commitment and dedication had, no doubt, been exciting to the young church.
a. I can just picture the early church struggling financially to put things together to reach the people for Christ.
b. An in walks Barnabas and gives them a good lump sum of money from selling his land and tells them that he want the church to use it for the glory of God.
c. You can almost picture the excitement; joy and uplifting that most have brought to the early church.
iii. Ananias and Sapphira had witnessed the excitement that this gift had brought to the church.
iv. Their problem began with their envying of the response to Barnabas’s generous offering.
b. God had been good to Ananias and Sapphira.
i. They were significant people in their community.
ii. Ananias literally meant “one to whom Jehovah has been gracious.”
iii. Obviously, God had blessed them, and he was a man who had done good things.
a. Let me put it to you this way, they were the rich people in the church congregation that had no financial worries.
c. The lesson is clear. God is not impressed with what we have or how good we are.
i. God is not impressed with what others think of us but what is happening inside us.
ii. The more respect we receive from others, the more God expects of us.
a. When you are financial blessed, then God expects you to bless others with that.
b. When you are blessed with great wisdom, then God expects you to share that wisdom.
d. They deceived themselves.
i. They sold the property on their own initiative verse 1 tells us.
ii. They conspired together to deceive the Church, verse 2 tells us.
iii. Their gift to the Church was made as if it were complete.
iv. They may have given more than Barnabas, but that was not the point.
e. If God struck down all of those who pretended to be totally committed to the Kingdom, we would see many empty places and pews today.
i. People can be easily fooled.
ii. God is never fooled though.
II. The Discovery of the Deception (vv. 3-4)
a. Peter was prompted to make the examination.
i. The Holy Spirit most likely gave him a special discernment to know that something was not right.
ii. There are similar stories in the Old Testament.
a. The story of Achan.
i. The people are told in the book of Joshua not to take any possessions from the people that they defeat.
ii. Joshua confronts Achan, after the Israelites are defeated at Ai.
b. The story of David and Bathsheba
i. David was confronted by Nathan.
b. The lesson here is crystal clear – God knows everything that is going on in our lives.
i. Gal. 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
ii. Eccl. 12:14, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.’
iii. Matt. 12:14-16, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and he healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was.”
iv. Rom. 2:16, “On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
c. We do not deceive God, we can only deceive ourselves.
III. The Price of Deception is High (vv. 5, 10)
a. Look at what happened to Ananias
i. As soon as he heard the words of Peter calling him out on lying to God, he fell to the ground and died.