The deception of Ananias and Sapphira
In contrast to the example of Barnabas were Ananias and Sapphira. This married couple evidentially had participated in the Christian community enjoying the benefits of being in fellowship with their fellow Christians. When the time came and the need arose for them to sell their property, they withheld a portion of the sale and lied about what they had received from the sale of the property. Ananias and Sapphira were not required to give any of the sales to the church; however, they did with a lie. Ananias and Sapphira were, in effect, trying to rob God. When Ananias had thrown the money at Peter’s feet, Peter proclaimed that “Satan had filled their hearts (5:3)” (NASB).
Verse 5:3 uses the Greek words “Satanas plhrow” that has been translated “Satan has filled their hearts” literally means the adversary has taken control over someone’s thoughts and actions (Gaebelein, 315) (NETbible). The word “Santanas” is a common Greek word that literally translates to either adversary or accuser depending on the context of the sentence. This word implies “the Devil” or “chief of the devils” as we understand today. The reason that Peter had given for their deception is that Satan had taken control of their thoughts and action and that they were willing parties in the lie.
Ananias’ punishment was severe Peter proclaimed that Ananias’ lie was not to man but was to the Holy Spirit, therefore lying to God. It was thru the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Peter learned of Ananias lie and when the lie was brought to light he died. Ananias is the example for the New Testament that Achan was in the Old Testament.
Joshua 7:1-26 is the parallel account of the story of Ananias and Sapphira in this account Achan. Everything that was within the city of Jericho made of silver, gold bronze and iron was suppose to go into the Lord’s treasury. Achan saw a mantle, 200 shekels of silver and a bar of gold and kept it, these banned items that belonged to the Lord brought a curse upon Israel. When Joshua found out about the stolen property after losing a battle, he and his family and his animals were stoned and burnt in the valley of Achor. This is just one example of the many in the Old Testament He saw, He coveted, and He took and was disobedient to God in the process. Corruption follows this pattern; it is the same pattern in the Garden of Eden account and David with Bathsheba.
The question has been raised, why would Ananias be struck down and Simon the Sorcerer was allowed to live and had the opportunity to repent Acts 8:13-24. There is a distinct difference here Simon the sorcerer was acting in the tradition or the day and the area. In Samaria where Peter and John were “laying on hands” the priests of the pagan religions paid for their posts. Simon desired to become a priest and within the tradition of that area, the position was purchased with coins or at auction. Simon did not realize that “the reason he was passed from these gifts was because his heart was not pure” (Kistemaker, 304). Simon was not trying to defraud God or the Apostles as Ananias had attempted to do. While his heart was not pure and he had originally desired the gifts of the Spirit for personal gains and was rebuked for this of which he repented. While both accounts speak of personal gain one was attempted by deception and the other was not. Simon was not trying to steal but to purchase the gifts of the Spirit. Another consideration is that Ananias and Sapphira were Jews, who knew the scriptures from the time they were young and later in life came to the realization of Jesus as Lord and were baptized, Simon the Sorcerer was a gentile and came to the knowledge of Christ after his baptism, although his faith was not genuine or complete.
Sapphira was also asked about the sale price to which she had testified as he husband had and she was struck dead as well. God’s judgment had been made. Both Ananias and Sapphira had decided to lie and test the Holy Spirit (provoke into judgment). All the Israelites that tested God in the desert perished and so was Ananias and Sapphira’s fate. Matthew 4:7 clearly shows why they were dealt with so harshly. Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’
There is the issue of why Sapphira was not told about her Husbands death and burial. There is not much information in the passage about why Sapphira was not with Ananias or why she was not told within the passage. In the Old Testament However, the body of a person who had been struck down by God had to be buried the same day he was struck down Deu 21:23 his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance (NASB). When Aarons sons were struck down at the alter, by God, Moses had the cousins carry them away outside of the camp for burial Lev 10:5 So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said. Aaron and his sons were not allowed to mourn for them, and anyone who touched the bodies was ceremonially unclean for 7 days. It appears that notification was not given because of the realization that God had judged, Because of the judgment morning was not permitted, therefore the next of kin was not notified.
Verse 5:11 has the first reference to the word “ekklesia” which is translated to the word “church” but it literally means a gathering of people (NETbible). This message traveled throughout the Christian believers rather quickly. The community was stricken with fear. This fear was a godly fear. Within this passage we see the church pass from “great power and great grace to great fear, all of these aspects should be present in the church” (Wiersbe, 422
After Pentecost, all the believers are of one mind and spirit being responsive to the Holy Spirit they freely shared their resources with the poor among them. This was not because of a socialist response to demands of the Apostles, but out of free will and good will towards their brothers and sisters in Christ. Barnabas, who later became a disciple, was used as the example of the new believer’s response to Peter’s message and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Barnabas was faithful in his response to the Apostles, the Holy Spirit, and the early church.
Ananias and Sapphira, on the other hand, gave the money but were not willing to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit and give it all. The money was never required of them, but they lied to Peter and tried to deceive the Holy Spirit and defraud God. The coins for the purchase of the property was not the bottom line issue that cost them their lives, it was their attempt to test God, when they, both being Jews, knew better. The Old Testament has several stories within its pages that tell what happens when a man puts God to the test; in every occurrence, man has failed. Ananias and then Sapphira are no different, they tested God, and God was enraged at the insult and struck them down. Ananias and Sapphira put their desire for worldly things over their desire to follow God.
In both cases and in both examples the actual coinage was not the issue, neither was socialism. The actual issues was the early churches response to the social issues of one having more than plenty and one not having anything, the responsiveness of the people to the Holy Spirits promptings, and all members of the early church sharing one mindset which was the concern for one another and the spreading of the Gospels to the ends of the earth.
Click on any link below to read the other parts of this blog entry:
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 1
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 2
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 3
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 4
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 5
The Beginning of the Christian Church – Part 6