Saturday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 5:1-11

And Great Fear Came upon the Whole Church

We come now to the awful account of Ananias and Sapphira.  John Calvin tells us that this passage is about the great offense of hypocrisy, which here is equated with lying to the Holy Spirit, and the beauty of sincerity, which is a prized ornament of a true believer (Commentary on Acts).  I agree.  It is not accidental that this account follows immediately after the report of Barnabas who gladly parted with a field and laid the money “at the apostles’ feet.”  The generosity and sincerity of the one is juxtaposed against the conniving and pretense of the other.  And through it all we are reminded that God will not be mocked, toyed with, or treated with contempt, and especially by those who call upon His name: “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?  Are we stronger than He” (1 Corinthians 10:22)?

So in walks Ananias pretending that what he laid at Peter’s feet was the full price of the property he had sold.  Now we know two things from this passage: 1) That the Holy Spirit occasionally supplied the apostles with knowledge supernaturally, for how else would Peter have known what Ananias was up to; and, 2) That the giving of one’s property to the church was a voluntary act, for Peter said to him, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?”  The problem with Ananias was not that he held back some of the proceeds but that he lied about it.  And what is worse, he lied to the Holy Spirit, a deed that Peter could only attribute to Satan filling Ananias’ heart.  And like Adam and Eve before them, husband and wife contrived this pact together, Sapphira affirming that she and Ananias “sold the land for so much” when directly asked, lying before the Almighty and His church with abandon.

The passage tells us twice, after the passing of each spouse, that “great fear came upon the whole church” upon hearing these things.  God designed through this that the whole church would know how much He hates hypocrisy, insincerity, impurity, lying for good show, dissimulation of every sort.  Those who worship God must do so in sincerity and truth (John 4:24).  Calvin says, “The faithful do never so perfectly fear God, but that they profit yet more, being admonished by his judgments,” and “Our flesh must be bridled every now and then after this sort, because one bridle will scarce serve the turn.”  This is a good lesson: that we approach our Lord and Savior with humble and sincere hearts, for God hates not our having sinned as much as our boldly sinning in His very presence.  And Ananias and Sapphira is not an Old Testament story but a New, every bit as relevant now as ever.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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