May 2, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
God, in the Old Testament, seems a God of severe judgment. He told King Saul concerning the Amalekites in I Samuel 15:3, “…kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” And when a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day, He ordered the Israelites, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones…” Is He really the same God as Jesus portrayed in the New Testament – a God of love and acceptance? Let’s look at a scripture in Acts 5:1 through 11 (condensed for the sake of space) and see if God has changed from the Old to the New:
…a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
and he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it…and
brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “An-
anias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep
back part of the price of the land for yourself?…you have not lied to men,
but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and breathed
his last….So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard
It says in the verses left out that the same thing happened to Ananias’ wife Sapphira! Just a little lie, and God kills two people? Why? It sounds hard, but God did it to make an example out of them! To understand just what their sin was about, we must go back to Acts 4:32 through 37 (again abbreviated for the sake of space):
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul;
neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own,
but they had all things in common. …Nor was there anyone among them
who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and
brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the
apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they kept back part of the proceeds of the sale for their own use. It was that they told the leadership of the church that they gave it all to the Lord when they did not! As Peter told Ananias, “…you have not lied to men, but to God.” And this is another big point – a big theological point – that Peter makes here. He said just before this, “…why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?” Then he added, “…you…lied to God,” equating the Holy Spirit and God! This is a very strong argument for the Godhead in Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – all God!
The last verse of Acts 5:1 through 11 tells us, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” This was God’s purpose for taking the life of Ananias and Sapphira! “You mean to tell me that God killed two people just as an example to others of what could happen if they didn’t tell the truth?!” Yes, that is exactly it!
If it is true what is written in Ezekiel 18:4 and again in verse 20: “The soul who sins shall die,” – and it is true if it is in God’s Word – then all of us should be guilty and headed for capital punishment when we sin! And according to the Bible, there is really no small sin. (There is the argument that I John 5:16 makes about degrees of sin. But it must be seen in the light of Matthew 12:31 and 32. But this is for a future blog.) James says this about God’s law – His standard – in James 2:10 and 11:
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is
guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do
not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you
have become a transgressor of the law.
So a little sin becomes a big sin in the sight of God – and sin is worthy of death! So God made the example of Ananias and Sapphira to starkly stand out so that others would not fall into the same trap of lying. If you look back to the blog for April 27, Kill The Sinner – I, two things are emphasized: The holiness of God and the seriousness of sin! Read it again and you will get a better understanding of what was going on with Ananias and Sapphira and the early church. At stake was not only the well-being of these other believers, but also the reputation of God Himself! What would God look like to the world if His followers took sin and His holiness so lightly that their lives were no different from the unbelievers? A powerful witness to the world is that Jesus Christ has made a holy difference in our lives!
There is one more example that we will consider in our next blog – and that from I Corinthians 11:26 through 30.