HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Death of Ananias and Sapphira; second persecution
Chapter 5 continues showing us the effects of Simon Peter's great sermon. Here we see the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Some say they were Christians, but did not live on the high spiritual level of the early church. Others say they were hypocrites. If they were Christians, their death is in my opinion, what is spoken of by the apostle John. 1 John 5:16-17 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (KJV)
At the end of chapter 4, Peter speaks of a man by the name of Barnabas. Here we see more of him. He was one of the wonderful saints in the early church, a true man of God. He was the first missionary partner of the apostle Paul when they went into the difficult Galatian area, and God greatly blessed their ministry there.
Barnabas had given quite a sum of money to the church. It was a generous contribution and everyone was talking about it. He received much publicity for his generosity. Remember, in the early church they had all things common. It reveals the fact that they were on a high spiritual level to be able to do this. Now we see the first failure. . Having all things common could not continue and did not continue . . . because of the carnal nature of mankind.
Today, Jesus tells us: Matthew 6:3-4 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (KJV) . . . Do not brag about how much you give!
Death Of Ananias And Sapphira (Acts 5:1-16)
Acts 5:11 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, (KJV)
It is quite clear that they were imitating Barnabas. Many people give to be noticed. Pride was the condition of Ananias and Sapphira. Of these unhappy people we have no farther account than what is recorded here by Luke. In the previous chapter, Luke told of the compassion and sincerity of the mass of early Christians. They were willing to give up their property to provide for the poor, and he mentioned Barnabas as worthy of special attention.
Here Peter tells of something quite different . . . of insincerity and greed and hypocrisy and of the just judgment of God on those who were guilty of it. This is a most remarkable instance of the nature of greed and hypocrisy, of which we ALL are some times guilty. Luke goes on to illustrate the art and cunning of the enemy of souls (the devil) in trying to corrupt the church, and to pervert and twist the true doctrine of the Gospel (2 Cor.11:4). A hypocrite is someone trying to imitate the people of God, or to assume the appearance of a TRUE Christian. So far, the church had been shown by great their self-denial, kindness and and generosity. The hypocrisy of Ananias was his attempt to imitate this, when greed was rampant in his heart.
Acts 5:2 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. (KJV)
There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with the fact that they kept back part of the money. They had every right to do that. The property had been theirs and they had the right to do with the money whatever they wished.
Today, we in the church are under grace. None of us are commanded or required to give any certain amount. Many in the church today give 10% (tithe). But, the tithe is NOT a law to the church, it was a Law to the Jews! The eleven tribes were to tithe to the Levites because they were not given any land (Num.18:24). Personally, I think the "tithe" is unfair. There are many who are well able to give much more than 10%. J.C. Penny is said to have given 90%, and then we have poor widows living on social security, who struggle with every penny.
Today, we are NOT under the Law. Consider what the Bible says about giving: Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: (KJV) 1 Cor.16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (KJV) 2 Cor.8:12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. (KJV) Luke 21:4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. (KJV) . . . See our article: www.hisservants.org/tithing_h_s.htm
In the early church they were giving everything they owned. Ananias and Sapphira did not give all but kept back part of it, which they had every right to do. Their problem, their SIN . . . they lied (Rev.21:8). They said they were giving all BUT, they kept part of it for themselves, saying that was the total amount. Ananias and Sapphira said they were laying all on the altar, but they were lying!
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (KJV)
The sin of this man and his wife was that they lied about it.
Acts 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. (KJV)
There are people today who deny that the Holy Spirit is God. Simon Peter believed He was God. First he says, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?" Then he says, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." The Holy Spirit is God.
Acts 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (KJV)
There are those today who think that Peter caused the death of Ananias. They blame him for his death. I think Peter may have been as surprised as anyone when Ananias fell down dead. I really don't think Peter knew what was going to happen. Peter did NOT kill Peter! God did! This Universe is God's, and is under His control! We are God's creatures, breathe His air. He can take our bodies any time He wants to. God is not guilty of a crime, but God is the One Who is responsible for the death of Ananias and Sapphira.
Acts 5:6-9 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. (KJV)
It is not known why she did not know what had happened to her husband. It was a most extraordinary circumstance. He had died suddenly, in a way that had shook up the early church. He had been dead 3 hours when Sapphira came in. She must have been in the vicinity, yet she seemed to have no idea of what had happened. Did the multitude conceal the facts from her? Did Peter tell them not to tell her because he wanted tell her himself? This is not known.
Leviticus 10:1-7 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. 4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. 5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. 7 And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses. (KJV) . . . . They offered strange fire (of their own making, not the fire of the altar) before God (Lev. 10:1; Num. 3:4).
The holiness of God is set forth at the beginning of the age of law by this incident . . . AND the holiness of God is set forth at the beginning of the age of grace by the incident concerning Ananias and Sapphira. Death was the severe penalty in both cases. Our God is Holy, and He deals with His children on that level. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29) is something we ALL need to learn today. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." (2 Cor. 5:11). We must recognize this today.
Hebrews 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: (KJV) . . . This is a great sin today! People are NOT hearing what God has to say in His Word.
Acts 5:10-11 Then fell she 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. (KJV)
Simon Peter may not have known what would happen to Ananias, but he does know what will happen to Sapphira. It is quite clear what will happen to this woman . . . the same as what happened to her husband. She too, fell dead at Peter's feet, and the young men came in and carried her out and buried her by her husband.
Consider: There was a holiness in the church. Were Ananias and Sapphira really saved? Or were they hypocrites? IF they truly were saved, they had committed the sin unto death. "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). This was a sin unto death which Ananias and Sapphira committed. This kind of sin could not exist in the early church. It had to be stopped, and it was!
Fear came upon all the church, and fear came upon people who heard of these things. Power of the Holy Spirit would continue in the church, and multitudes would be saved . . . but, the church would never be as pure. Consider: The spiritual discernment of Simon Peter was tremendous. This is desperately lacking today.
Acts 5:12-14 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) (KJV)
The APOSTLES exercise the APOSTOLIC gifts. Gifts of healing and gifts of miracles were sign gifts which were given to the APOSTLES. They did many signs among the people. It is my opinion that many spiritual gifts were given ONLY to the early church. People brought the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
The strict discipline in the church had put a fear on the people and had stopped the revival. Yet there were those who were still being saved. Believers were being added to the Lord's church.
Acts 5:15-16 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. (KJV)
This CANNOT be compared to today's modern faith healing! Modern faith healers NEVER heal all the people who come to them. The apostles had tremendous faith and were empowered by the Holy Spirit with sign gifts. NO one in the church since that time has had those gifts. People were healed, every one of them. They emptied the hospitals. This was the power of the early church.
We must remember that at that time there was no written New Testament. The church is built on Jesus Christ . . . He is the Cornerstone! The apostles were witnesses to Christ. The sign gifts were given to them to demonstrate the fact that they spoke with God's authority. Today we have a written New Testament as our Authority.
1 Cor.13:8-10 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (KJV) . . . That which is perfect is the New Testament! In my humble opinion, tongues have ceased!
The Second Persecution (Acts 5:17-42)
We have seen that there was strict discipline within the early church. Now we find that there is great persecution from without. When the apostles exercised their gifts, they was quite a reaction.
Acts 5:17-18 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. (KJV)
Note that the Sadducees are leading in the persecution. It was the Pharisees who had led in the persecution against Jesus; it is the Sadducees who lead the persecution against the early church. The apostles are arrested for the second time and are put into prison.
Acts 5:19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, (KJV)
This is an angel sent from God, not Christ who appeared here. In my opinion, in the Old Testament, the "angel of the Lord" was none other than the preincarnate Christ. But, Christ is the Man in glory at God's right Hand then and today (Mk.16:19; Lu.22:69; Ac.2:33; 5:30-31; 7:55-56; Rom.8:34; Col.3:1; Heb.1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet.3:22). That is recorded no less than 12 times! JESUS was the One Who directs the activity of His apostles. Today, there are NO apostles. An apostle is someone who was chosen personally by the Lord Jesus. We have disciples today, followers and learners of Jesus, NOT apostles.
Sad to say, much of the time Jesus' Hands and Feet are paralyzed because the people in the church are NOT moving for Him in this world. Christ Jesus desperately desires to move in and through His church. He wants to move through you and me if we will allow Him. This is an angel sent from God, not Christ who appeared here; it was an angel.
Acts 5:20-23 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. (KJV)
This is similar to happened at the resurrection of Christ. The stone was NOT rolled away to let Jesus out; He was out BEFORE the stone was rolled away. The stone was moved to let those on the outside come in. The same thing happened here. The doors did not need to be opened to let the apostles get out. They were out long before the doors were unlocked. What a God we have!
Acts 5:24-28 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. 25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. 26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. (KJV)
The startling news seriously effected the stubborn Sadducees. They did not know what to do or think. The Sanhedrin proceeded with business, dispatching another guard after the apostles, with the captain of the temple himself taking command. They brought them without violence because they feared the people and did not want to be stoned.
When they were placed before the Sanhedrin, the high priest asked: Did we not strictly command you not to speak in this name? And yet you fill Jerusalem with your teaching, say we are guilty of this Man's Blood. There were now two specific charges against the apostles: disobedience to the Sanhedrin, and accusing them of the murder of Jesus.
People were listening to the apostles. They were good witnesses. They were obeying Jesus, in that He had said that the Gospel was to go out, first in Jerusalem (Ac.1:8; Lu.24:47). We see that this has been done . . . Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.
Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (KJV)
The apostles DID obey what their Lord and Master had told them to do. Believers today are commanded to obey civil authority . . . unless it opposes the commandment of God.
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. (KJV)
Christ Jesus WAS hanged on a tree. He was crucified! And the Jews were responsible. They did not lie.
Acts 5:31-32 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (KJV)
Jesus at God's right Hand (Mk.16:19; Lu.22:69; Ac.2:33; 5:30-31; 7:55-56; Rom.8:34; Col.3:1; Heb.1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet.3:22). That is recorded no less than 12 times!
This is still the message to the nation Israel in Jerusalem today.
Acts 5:33-34 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. 34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; (KJV)
The Sanhedrin had been stunned by the boldness of Peter and John in their former trial. But, their commands and threats were overlooked by the apostles. Now, the apostles dared to defy them again.
Gamaliel wants the apostles excused so that he can talk to the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel was an outstanding man and greatly respected. He was the teacher of the apostle Paul (Ac.22:3.)
Acts 5:35-38 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: (KJV)
The Sanhedrin intended to destroy the apostles. Josephus mentions one named Theudas who was the author of an insurrection (rebellion), while others disagree. "Boasting himself to be somebody" . . . bragging that he was somebody. Probably claiming to be a well known and important prophet.
Gamaliel's advice was to let the apostles go. The reason for his advice was that if it should turn out to be of God, it would be a sad state of affairs to be involved in opposing Him.
Gamaliel was an unexpected ally for the apostles, although he probably did not support their teachings. He was a distinguished member of the council and a well known teacher. While Gamaliel may have saved the apostles' lives, his real intentions probably were to prevent a division in the council and to avoid arousing the Romans. The apostles were popular among the people, and killing them might start a riot. BUT, Gamaliel's advice to the council gave the apostles some breathing room to continue their work. The council decided to wait, hoping that this would all blow away. They couldn't have been more wrong. Oddly enough, Paul, one of the greatest apostles, was one of Gamaliel's students (Acts 22:3).
Acts 5:39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (KJV)
Gamaliel probably gave examples of men who had started uprisings and had a following, but after they were killed, their followers disbanded. Now he advises them that the same thing will happen to Peter and John and their followers.
Acts 5:40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. (KJV)
The Sanhedrin accepted the advice. If these men were innocent, they should have let them go. If these men were guilty, they should have held them . . . but they beat them. Beating them and then letting them go was a rotten thing to do. They should have paid more attention to Gamaliel.
Things have not changed much today. The courts today let people off by giving them some light sentence. If a person is guilty, he should be punished. If he is not guilty, he should be let go with no sentence.
Acts 5:41-42 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (KJV)
These apostles were good, Godly men. They rejoiced that they could suffer for the Lord Jesus. They continued to teach and to preach Jesus Christ. What is the Gospel? It is a Person! It is Jesus Christ. Christianity is NOT a "religion" it is a PERSON! It is CHRIST JESUS!
Are you a Christian? Do you have Jesus? You either do or you don't. You either trust Him, or you do not trust Him. He is your Saviour, or you do not have a Saviour. That is the Gospel.
The apostles did not stop teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. Thank you Peter and John! Thank You Jesus!
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28