Acts 5

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs.

Acts 5

Ananias and Sapphira
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.

3 Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.'

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, 'Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?'

'Yes,' she said, 'that is the price.'

9 Peter said to her, 'How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.'

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

The apostles heal many
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought those who were ill into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were ill and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

The apostles persecuted 
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 'Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people all about this new life.'

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin - the full assembly of the elders of Israel - and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 'We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.' 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, 'Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.' 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,' he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead - whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.'

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.


To read the story of Ananias and Sapphira I am indebted to the Official John Peters commentary (OJPC) on this passage.

The standard interpretation of this text goes:

Members of the church are selling their property and giving the proceeds to be distributed to the most needy in the church. A Christian couple decided to deceive the Apostles and the church regarding the sale of a piece of land by keeping back some of the profits for themselves. They want a reputation for generosity but don't actually want to be generous, this deceit gives Satan a stronghold in their lives. They're actually lying to the Holy Spirit and the judgment of God falls upon them and the whole church is understandably terrified.

A common application is: we must be people of integrity otherwise God will judge us in the same way, we may not die but he will judge us, he is a God of holiness, and we must not presume on his grace but live in the fear of the Lord.

'That's rubbish' - (OJPC).

It should be completely obvious that all Christians are deceptive and hypocritical. All Christians profess to live by certain values or at least consider them important, but then regularly live in direct contradiction to them.

Jesus says "For it is out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:19). Jesus definition of sin is firstly about what happens and proceeds from the heart. Ananias and Sapphira are the same as everybody else in this respect.

Biblically speaking - Christians are not sinners. Sinners in the Bible are unbelievers who stand under the judgment of God not because they are particularly terrible, but because they have not yet received the particularly wonderful things that God has done in his Son to redeem, and draw back them to himself, and deal with the problem of their rebellion to him. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians who do believe in Jesus called sinners despite the fact that we continue to sin. Instead, the insistence by all the New Testament writers is that disciples of Jesus are in fact Saints, Holy ones!

The writer of the New Testament letter Hebrews says: "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (10:10) and goes onto say "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made perfect (holy)." (10:14). We are perfect and are being made perfect. We are holy and being made holy. Our holiness and ultimate perfection is established when we come to the cross and repent and believe in Jesus. When it comes to integrity, righteousness, holy living in the New Testament, Paul seems to say "You are holy, would you like to live like it as well?!" He's not saying strive for holiness because you sure haven't got it yet. Holiness is a gift of God, be the holy people of God that you are. If we have been declared holy, as we have been, this can only mean that God's judgement will not come upon us. God's judgment fell upon our sin, when Jesus (our sin-bearer) stood in our place at the cross. This is the love of God.

So what Christians need to take on more and more and more is the height, and depth, and width, and length and breath of the love of God. The problem is, despite our saintly status, we contradict the love of God by our behaviour. And we doubt, thinking how could God ever possibly love us? And we think that God is like us in that respect. Because if we hurt someone, we damage the trust and their ability to love us. However, God is completely other in this respect he is love from first to last, love that never stops, never relents and never gives up on us.

There are two Ananias' in the book of Acts, and I think it is significant how they are both introduced by, Luke, the author. This Ananias is described as a certain man (5:1) whereas the other (who God called to heal and baptise Saul who would become the apostle Paul) is introduced as a disciple named Ananias (9:10). If judgement cannot fall upon the saints in Christ, it's fair to assume that neither Ananias or Sapphira are followers of Jesus, and that judgement falls on them because they're seeking to deceive the Spirit as the church moves in power.

So if you felt were worried that it might happen to you - chances are it's because you recognise the power of God in Christ by his Spirit, and therefore you really have no need whatsoever to be worried about it.

To quote the Official John Peters Commentary: "I'm glad we had this little chat."

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