By Ken R. Speakman
Member, Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory
Focal Passage: Acts 4:36-37; 5:1-11
In our last study we observed Peter and John standing before the Sanhedrin with the healed beggar. They had been commanded not to speak of Jesus. They went to the church and told their story. The church broke out in a spontaneous time of prayer (Acts 4:23).
The church was growing in spirit and number and encountered the first dose of persecution when Peter and John healed the lame beggar. The apostle’s display of courage before the entire counsel of Jewish religious leaders greatly encouraged the church. The church was joyful and their contagious spirit attracted many to join them.
If Satan cannot defeat the church from the outside, he will try to corrupt it from within. What allows this to happen? We must look to the close of chapter 4, (vv. 36-37), and meet a generous brother named Joseph, who was nicknamed, Barnabas (encourager). He sold a piece of land and gave the proceeds to the apostles. He sought no praise from others, but his generosity became known. This act was not so uncommon because others were doing similar things (v. 34).
Ananias and Sapphira, also sold property and presented a portion of the proceeds to Peter, claiming they gave the full amount. Satan knows how to lie to the minds and hearts of church members, even sincere Christians, and get them to follow his directions. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that Ananias was lying (v. 3).
It is interesting that the very first problem the church had to deal with was not immorality, embezzlement, or anger. The first problem was hypocrisy. The word “hypocrite” eventually came to denote someone who was acting as if they were someone or something else (early actors wore masks to hide their faces).
One thing we can learn from this passage is that it is possible to look good and not be genuine. Ananias and Sapphira looked spiritual and their gift was a gracious act. But, as we continue reading (vv. 5-10), they were hiding their hypocrisy (they were actors, wearing masks). In this generation in which we live, the reputation of the evangelical church needs to be above reproach (II Corinthians 6:3).
Ananias and Sapphira’s gift was an attempt to make them look super spiritual and become influential in the church. It is easy for us to condemn them for their dishonesty, so we need to examine our own lives to see if our profession is backed up by what we practice. If God struck Christian deceivers dead today, how many church members would be left?
Were Ananias and Sapphira Christians? I believe they were. They were part of those who believed and were baptized, as Acts 4 tells us. They had concerns for the needs of those who had financial difficulty. I believe the lesson for us, from this passage, is to be authentic, pure, and resist the evil of our day. Be fortified with the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:14) and stand firm. We must realize the reputation of Jesus Christ happens to be what our reputation is in the world.