Summary: Second in a series of what the perfect church is and isn’t.
January 19, 2003
Text: Acts 5:1-11
Subject: Lying to God
Title: Looking for the Perfect Church: Part 2
Last week we saw a man who believed he knew better than God what the perfect church would be. Jonah refused to go and speak the word of God to the Ninevites. He didn’t think they deserved the opportunity to repent and be saved. They were mortal enemies of Israel and whether this book was written before or after the northern kingdom was taken into captivity doesn’t? really matter. Israel and Assyria were enemies and Jonah didn’t want them to receive anything from God but punishment.
From our study last week we see that there are a few principles that were established.
One, we need to be obedient to the Word of God.
Two, even if we are not in the will of God, He can still use us - even if we don’t like it.
Three, God will do whatever it takes to get us back to the place where He wants us.
What we learned last week is that the "Perfect" church is not a matter of who you think should or should not be in attendance. It is about being in the will of God and accepting everyone regardless of their background or race or social status.
Today we continue in our search for the perfect church. At this point the church is an exclusive Jewish organization even though the O.T. Shows that the kingdom was to be extended to the Gentiles and Jesus did not exclude Gentiles from His ministry. The church was not yet what God wants it to be.
In our passage today we see a Christian couple who wanted to be somebodies in the church but were not willing to pay the price.
We can learn these things from our passage.
First, the church is not about looking good in the eyes of others.
Second, the church is not about doing good works.
Third, the church is about obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s continue in our search for the perfect church.
I. God is not impressed with outward appearance. (Verses 1-2) Ananias = Hebrew - "God is gracious" Saphira = Aramaic - "Beautiful" On the surface they seemed to be the perfect Christian couple. Why did Ananias and Saphira sell their ground? The first word in verse one tells us. "But" (NKJV) or "Now" (NIV) links this passage with the previous passage. Ananias and Saphira saw how Barnabas received acclaim from the church for his sacrificial deed. They wanted the same kind of recognition. Matthew 6:1, "Be careful to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do you will receive no reward from your Father in heaven." Jesus told us we are not to seek recognition from men. Matthew 6:5,6 says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you." There is no room in the church for jealousy or envy. Ananias and Saphira thought they could receive a greater reward by being held in high esteem. You know there are people in churches that want to hold positions of power so they can have a say in the direction of the church.
The apostle John wrote about those people in 3 John 9,10, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." Desire to be praised by men restricts the flow of the Spirit in the church. When we do it man’s way instead of God’s way we quench the Spirit.
II. God is not impressed with our works. We will be rewarded according to our works, but we will not gain entrance into heaven by our works. If Ananias and Saphira had just sold their ground and taken 10% to the apostles and said, "Here is my tithe on the ground we sold", would they not have been blessed? Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test Me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it." There is a chorus that Michael W. Smith does on his worship CD.