Sr. Pastor Darrell G Vaughn
Faithfulness – A Key Step to Happiness
Aug 29, 2012: “Same Snake, different garden!”
Wed PM Worship
Text: Acts:4:29-5:16 (King James Version)
“Father, I am your servant, willing and desiring to be used to bless your people.”
The Fields are white and the laborers are few!
C.H. Spurgeon said, “If God does not save a man by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival;”
Act 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
Act 4:30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Act 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
Act 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Act 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
Act 4:35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Act 4:36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
Act 4:37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Act 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
Act 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.
Act 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?
Act 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.
Act 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.
Act 5:6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
Act 5:7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
Act 5:8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Act 5:9 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.
Act 5:10 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.
Act 5:11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Act 5:12 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.
Act 5:13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
Act 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
Act 5:15 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.
Act 5:16 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.
Let’s pray. Father, Open my eyes so I can see Your truth.
Open my ears so I can hear
Your voice. Open my mind so I can understand Your Word.
And open my heart so I may receive all that You want me to receive. AMEN
What an incredible story!
[Re-tell the narrative briefly]
Can you see the headlines in the Jerusalem papers the next morning? …
- (Jerusalem Gazette) – “Local pastor kills church members”
- (Judean Morning Age) - “God did it, says killer pastor”
- (News for Israel) – “Pharisees say - We told you they were dangerous”
In this story we see several striking images. The first image or picture we see is that of …
1. Gifts Laying at the Apostles’ Feet
- The community of the early church were very DEVOTED people. Devoted to their new life in Christ. Devoted to the Lord. Devoted to worship. Devoted to outreach. And devoted to one another. (2:44-45 – “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” And again in 4:34-35 – “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 outstanding example of Barnabas (4:36-37)
- So life in the early church was humming. They were experiencing something absolutely remarkable. It’s a portrait of true revival!
“Every person, and every church, in it’s best state has it’s ‘BUT’”
stated there is no perfection this side of Heaven.
Here we see the honesty of the Bible. God refuses to present in His Word an idealized picture of anything. In the midst of the glory days of the early church, and all the powerful things that were taking place – when you or I would probably like to sweep aberrations under the carpet and just focus on the good stuff – God includes this ugly account.
The first image we see is gifts laying at the apostles feet, but the second image now is …
2. Ananias & Sapphira Lying at the Apostle’s Feet
This story tells of a blight that came upon the wonderful community that the brand new church was experiencing.
a) Their sin DEVISED
- The complicity between them
- Love of money - 1 Tim 6:10 / Matt 6:24
- Desire for pre-eminence – e.g. Diotrephes (the sin of “impression management”) Gordon McDonald: “Half the sin in the world comes from trying to LOOK, instead of trying to BE, what we are not.”
b) Their sin DISCOVERED
- Hebrews 4:13 – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
- Peter’s word of knowledge
- Some have judged Peter harsh (particularly in light of the recent forgiveness HE had experienced). But don’t “shoot the messenger”! This is not Peter’s judgment – it’s God’s.
c) Their sin DEFINED
- Lying to the Holy Spirit
- No doubt Ananias & Sapphira had no conscious thought that they were setting out to “lie to the Holy Spirit”. At worst they perceived themselves to be lying to men (though they probably couched even that in other terms to quiet their conscience) Nevertheless, GOD pronounced it lying to the Holy Spirit.
- Ananias & Sapphira’s sin was that of the “counterfeiter”. Counterfeiters try to create a fake and pass it off as the genuine – the original. There’s all kinds of counterfeiting goes on in churches (double-lives and so on). The Bible describes it as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. WHO are we really lying to? Others? (Yes, but more so …) To ourselves? (Yes, but again even more so …) To GOD! And guess what? He CANNOT be successfully lied to! He is never deceived.
- Our sins are always FIRSTLY (primarily) against God – see David’s prayer after sinning with Bathsheba (“Against Thee, thee only, have I sinned.”) Not a denial of his real sin against Uriah and (arguably) Bathsheba, but a statement about the reality of sin’s offense firstly against the Creator.
- Like David, Ananias and Sapphira imagined that God did not see. So their lie to men was also a lie to God.
- Sideline note - They willingly lied to the leadership of the church, not considering it a great thing to do so. But God took it personally as a sin against Himself. Cf: Exodus 16:8 (murmerings against Moses). A sobering warning here that contempt for God’s appointed leadership is contempt for God Himself.
One more thing …
d) Their sin DISCERNED
- “Why has Satan filled your heart…”
- Peter discerns the devilish origin of this sin. Just as Satan sought to ruin the perfection of Eden through the temptation of a man and wife, again he seeks out a couple as accomplices in an attempt to ruin the harmony and the blessing of that early church. In Genesis the target was God’s perfect creation; in Acts the target was God’s NEW creation – His blood-bought Church.
- In Acts 4 Satan attempted to spoil the advance of the church from the outside – by bringing public opposition, having Peter and John arrested. But his plan backfired, as it just drove the church to even more desperate prayer, and the Lord filled them again with His Spirit and great boldness. So when he had failed to corrupt the church from outside, he now sought to do it from INSIDE.
- What a tragic thing it is to see in churches when the devil stirs up sin and strife from within, and people fail to see how he is using them to stop what God wants to do.
The first image we see is gifts laying at the apostles feet, the second image is Ananias & Sapphira lying at the apostle’s feet. The third image is a chilling one …
3. Bodies Laying at the Apostle’s Feet
- God’s swift judgment. Just as God had immediately judged Adam and Eve for their sin in the garden, so He judged Ananias & Sapphira.
- Like Genesis, the Book of Acts is a Book of “firsts”. In the first few chapters we read of the first converts of the church, the first miracle of the church, the first persecution in the church – and now we read about the first judgment in the church.
- 1 Peter 4:17 – Judgment begins at the House of God
- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – if any man would destroy God’s temple, God will destroy him.
- Ananias & Sapphira sinned against the “awe” that we read in (Acts 2:4). God’s judgment re-inforced the awe!
- “and great fear came on all the church”
- cf: 4:33 … great POWER … great GRACE … but now (ch. 5) … great FEAR! How many Christians today want great power and great grace, but are not so enamoured with the idea of great fear.
- I wonder what God will have to do in order to teach the church of today the lesson He taught the young church about holiness?
- Luke’s first use of the word “church” to describe the company of believers (ekklesia, “called out ones”, i.e. “holy ones”)
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is to the Book of Acts what the story of Achan is to the Book of Joshua
People may complain about the harshness of Acts 5. They might contest: “Isn’t God a God of love and mercy? Surely He would not do such a thing.” We must be very careful lest we construct and worship a God of our own imagination. Making Him in our thoughts as convenience would desire Him to be, rather than as the Scriptures clearly REVEAL Him to be. Yes, He is perfect in love and mercy, but also perfect in holiness and justice – and BOTH reveal His incomparable greatness and glory. (Romans 11:22 – the “goodness AND severity of God”)
What a solemn warning we have here in this story of Ananias & Sapphira. A warning that it is possible to be right in the midst of revival, with people all around being blessed and walking closely with God, even miracles and wonders being done and many being saved – and STILL a person can miss it all if they do not guard their heart!
What a solemn warning that God takes community-breaking very seriously!
What a solemn warning that God takes it very seriously when anyone treats Him with contempt – think you can live a lie and He won’t know about it.
Ananias and Sapphira had grown up with religion – grown up in Jerusalem. Perhaps they thought they could behave in God’s new community the way people had for years in the synagogue. (Jesus came into that place and found money-changing and profiteering; people behaving any way they liked in God’s house.) Perhaps Ananias & Sapphira were used to that standard. But NO – everything was changed now. This was the new community. God had bought Himself a people who were living to please Him – and He would not tolerate it being tampered with.
Maybe there are a lot of
things that go on in church life today (sins of the tongue, self-promotion,
living double-lives) that God will no longer tolerate once the church begins to
experience renewal and walk in that life and vitality and holiness that the
early church knew.
Thank God for His mercy, that He does not strike down everyone who sins against the Spirit in the Church – with Ananias and Sapphira He was making a point, not stamping a pattern. But nevertheless, He WILL deal with His people’s sin – and we must remember also that we all must give an account to Him at the Judgment seat of Christ. Let us walk softly and carefully before Him.