Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira 

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A Biblical example of two perishing to prevent Satan from gaining a foothold in the new movement.


     Acts Chapter 5 records an extreme account of the subject of divine judgment that is designed to prevent sin from strangling a work of God in it's infancy.  The account: Acts 4: 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was called Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. Acts 5: 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 has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power? (it was yours to do with what you wanted) why have you conceived this thing in your heart? you have not lied to men, but to God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost (died): 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 three hours later, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter asked her, Tell me, did you sell the land for this much? And she said, Yes, for that much. 9 Then Peter said to her, How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried your husband are at the door, and shall carry you out. 10 Then she fell 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.

     What is clear in this account is that Ananias and his wife could have sold the property and just given a portion of it if they wanted to. The amount given was not the issue. It would not necessarily show a lack of charitableness on their part to have given only a portion of the price of the land. The real problem is their motive which in this case is demonstrated by them lying about the price the land was sold for. Again, had they given the total amount, that would not mean their motive was pure. The sin that Satan had filled their heart with was a desire to have influence, acceptance and position in the new move of God. This of course without the prerequisite conditions to gain such a place.

     Now lets notice some things about this account. First, that great fear came upon the church. Not reverence, but fear, tremendous fear. Why is this?  Because Satan was attempting to infiltrate the new church in Jerusalem through the hearts of believers that were not yet pure and God needed to stop him in his tracks.  It seemed to have the desired effect as we read in the next two verses.  Acts 5: 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders done among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 13 And of the rest, no man joined himself to them: but the people magnified them. In verse twelve it can be construed that at this point men ceased to seek a place of influence among the apostles. This is a huge problem in any work of God in the earth. That people of impure hearts seek to influence and eventually take over the movement of God. In fact this is what eventually happened in the church at Jerusalem.

      Acts 21:17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had greeted them, he declared particularly what things God had done among the nations by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said to him, Do you see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the (Mosaic) law: 21 And they have heard about you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What should be done? the multitude will come together: for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Go with them, and purify yourself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, that they have heard concerning you, are nothing; but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the (rituals and rites of the Mosaic) law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

     This is radical. Under the influence of ignorant men that had infiltrated and found positions of influence in the church in Jerusalem.  The Apostle Paul was not only going to participate in rites and rituals of his people but was going to (perhaps) have an animal sacrificed for him. To Christians reading his letters today this would be an inconceivable perversion of the faith tantamount to witchcraft. Yet the Apostle that wrote so much of the Bible that delivered almost the whole world from such practices is about to fall back into it under pressure from "leaders" in the church. Well, that is the bad news. The good news was that through the death of Aninias and his wife God delayed this work of Satan long enough to establish centers of this movement in other cities in the world. Churches such as the one in Cornith, needing to be purified and kept from great sin just as well as this one in Jerusalem. It was not desirable but better that one man and woman perished rather than many more; had this sin entered into that church in it's infancy.

© Daniel Martinovich 2012