Sin, Surge, Suffering, Rejoicing: Acts 5 (1)
Pray Psalm 51.1-3.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Sing Psalm 51.1-3.
(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Be gracious to me, Savior, according to Your love!
According to Your mercy, my sins, my sins remove!
O wash me, precious Savior, and cleanse me from all sin;
look on me with Your favor, and cause my grief to end.
Read and meditate on Acts 5.1-6.
1. What wrong did these people do?
2. How did Peter interpret their actions?
We recall that immediately after Israel’s great victory at Jericho, sin in the camp almost derailed the whole endeavor (Josh. 7). Satan, though bound by our Lord Jesus (Matt. 12.22-29), still stalks and rages about, always looking for ways to short-circuit the ongoing work of the Lord (v. 3; cf. 1 Pet. 5.8). The believer’s duty – and the duty of the church – is to resist him (1 Pet. 5.9).
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they kept part of the proceeds of the sale of their property. As Peter noted, it was theirs to do with as they wished. But by representing the portion of the proceeds they donated as the whole of what they had received, they lied to the church and the Lord, and stole God’s glory to make themselves look good (v. 4).
Peter’s role in this situation was to expose the sin. By the Spirit, he had come to know that this couple’s actions were not on the up-and-up. Ananias died (v. 5), perhaps because of the shock of being found out and embarrassed in front of the very people he’d been trying to impress. More likely, God brought this judgment on him as a way of saying to His Church, right here at the get-go, that you must not harbor sin in your midst (Ps. 66.18). You will have no more success than Israel did against Ai if you allow sin to find among you a place to root and flourish. The fear of God’s discipline resonated with the hearts of His people, just as it should (v. 5).
God intends the church – His assembly, body, and temple, and the sign of His Kingdom – to be a holy community. The actions of cleansing and renewal taken in Acts 5 are strong, but they were necessary at this critical stage of the church’s life, and we can see the benefit that came from this discipline as we read through the rest of Acts 5.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
It is not as if God has not warned His people, then and now, how He feels about false giving and lying. And if somehow, we were still wondering, Ananias and Sapphira thoroughly confirm His thoughts!
Hear the word of the LORD about false giving:
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.”
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with wicked intent!”
“Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain.” (Prov. 11.1; 21.27; 25.14)
Hear the word of the LORD about lying:
“You shall not bear false witness…” (Ex. 20.16).
“The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Ps. 34.16).
“I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law” (Ps. 119.163).
“A righteous man hates lying, but a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame” (Prov. 13.5).
“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations?’” (Jer. 7.8-10).
“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man…” (Col. 3.9, 10).
We are all without excuse. We know the truth. And knowing the truth,
we must strive always to keep sin out of our camp! So, hear the word of the LORD:
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4.23).
1. What was so bad about the sin of these two people?
2. What do you suppose would have happened in the new Kingdom community if nothing had happened to them?
3. What kind of giving honors God?
The falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavoring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put a cheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 5.1-11
Pray Psalm 51.4-13.
Let the Lord search your soul and life (Ps. 139.23, 24). Confess and repent of any sin He brings to mind. Make sure throughout the day that you practice confession and repentance as the Lord leads.
Pray Psalm 51.4-13.
(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Against You only, Savior, have I become unclean;
thus, just the condemnation which You pronounce on me.
Lord, I was born to sinning, while You seek truth within;
to wisdom my heart winning, release me from my sin!
In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.