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Summary: “His wife also being privy to it . . .” tells us that this was not a sin committed on the spur of the moment. Ananias and his wife had talked it over between themselves and agreed to do it; they planned what they would say to cover up this fraud.

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November 4, 2013

By: Tom Lowe

Series:The Early Church

Lesson II.D.1: The Deceit of Ananias and Sapphira (5.1-11)

Acts 5.1-11 (KJV)

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Introduction

Here we have the well-known incident involving Ananias and Sapphira. These two people possessed light—that is, they were exposed to the miracles and workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the true believers. Therefore the sin they committed in spite of the light they had received called for special and divine indignation in order to show God’s terrible judgment upon those who sin against the Holy Spirit.

As far as I am concerned, the record given here is proof positive that the Bible is divinely inspired, the true and absolute Word of God; because if it was simply a chronicled account written by great historians they would surely have omitted the incidents recorded in the first eleven verses of this chapter! I personally believe the Holy Spirit ordered the writing of the account of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira as a grave warning to the early believers—as well as a warning for believers in our day.

Commentary

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

The account of Ananias and Sapphira has not been placed side by side with that of Barnabas in verses 36 and 37 of chapter 4 simply to contrast the two; therefore we are not to place undue emphasis on the word “but” with which this verse begins. In the original Greek, verse 36 of chapter 4 begins with the same conjunction, one which is often used in narratives where only a simple connection of two clauses is intended. That is the case we have here.

“Ananias” was a common name in that day—notice Acts 9.10-17 and 23.2. The name “Sapphira” was probably derived from the Sapphire stone, and the word is found in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as in the New Testament Greek.

Probably among the new Christians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up and everyone was eager to place his contribution at the disposal of the apostles. This included Ananias and Sapphira who “sold a possession.” The Scripture does not tell us what the possession was that they sold. It could have been a house or land or some other kind of personal property. In addition, we are not told the selling price of the property—it might have been a small sum, or it could have been a great deal. Whatever the selling price, it is reasonable to assume that they would have given the greater part of it to the Church, and kept only a small sum for themselves, because they could not expect to get by with keeping more than they gave to the Church. They would have been caught in their act of deceit—and this is something they hoped to avoid.

The Greek word which has been translated here as “kept back” is the same word used in Titus 2.10 where it is rendered “purloin,” and it is frequently translated “to rob.” So, regardless of the amount of the money Ananias and Sapphira kept back—whether a large sum or only a few paltry coins—they were robbing God because they professed they were giving the entire proceeds to the Church treasury.

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