Summary: The deaths of two early church members may seem to "about the money," but that isn’t the whole story. See modern church problems in a new light.
There is a bit of folk wisdom that goes something like this: “Whenever you hear someone say that ‘It’s not about the money,” it usually is.” But this morning, I want to share from a passage that is almost always focused on the money and probably should not be. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit inspired and preserved this passage to teach us about stewardship. Yet, it almost always seems to be on Stewardship Sunday that we hear sermons on this text. But I believe this passage is about contrasting spiritual life with spiritual death, spiritual power with spiritual emptiness. (Read the text)
It’s probably too bad, at times, that we have chapter breaks where we have them. I’m one of those guys who particularly dislikes paragraphs or even sentences that begin with the conjunction “but,” much less entire chapters. Yet, that’s what we have in Chapter 5 of Acts. The story of Ananias (the root of the name is “God favored” or “God showed grace”) and Sapphira (“beautiful” from the Aramaic) is definitely told in contrast to what has gone before. So, let’s look at what went before in order to determine what’s really at issue in the passage.
Verse 32 emphasizes that the believers were of one heart and one soul (“life”). “One heart” means that their volition, their “decider” as the current President Bush called himself, and their “want to” were aligned to the same objective. “One soul (“life”)” means that they were in agreement about what was most important in their common life and the purpose of their partnership. Action went along with commitment and dedication.
Yet, it goes even further. No one grasped onto personal privilege or held to his/her own agenda versus the needs/expectations of the partnership—the partnership of faith (that’s what “koinonia” means). They held everything common. The community was more important than the individual.
Verse 33 underscores two great things. First, we are told that the apostles had GREAT POWER in their testimony about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (or in some Greek translations and texts, resurrection of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ the Lord, Jesus Christ, our Lord, or our Lord, Jesus Christ). The purpose of banding together in the special partnership of the church was to witness to the life-changing power of Jesus’ resurrection and the attitudes and actions of the early church were such that the “preaching” had GREAT POWER. And folks, no church can have GREAT POWER in its preaching where the assembly of believers is not unified in purpose and resources.
Second, there was GREAT GRACE. Think of grace as being about GIVING. God GAVE us His Son. We didn’t deserve it, but God met our need of salvation. In the same way, the “haves” in the early church took care of the needs of the “have-nots.” Nowhere does it say that the “have-nots” deserved it. We merely read in this verse that there was great, tremendous, grace, giving. In the next verse, we see that those who owned property were even willing to liquidate their real estate to meet the needs of those who had nothing.