Acts 5:1-2 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Seeing the act of heart worship performed by Barnabas and others-who brought all they owned as an offering to the Lord, it is clear that Ananias wanted to be seen in the same light. He desired to be seen and glorified by others. Barnabas and the others gave without regard to accolade or credit. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look as pious and spiritual as Barnabas without being pure in heart. The text says they sold a possession but kept back the proceeds for themselves. The sin is not in keeping back part of the proceeds, the sin is in attempting to deceive the Apostles and those watching them by publicly laying the partial proceeds at their feet as if it was everything they had. Look at the eerie wording once more-
Acts 5:1-2a But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it
I say eerie because of the similarity in tone between this and what happened in the Garden of Eden so many years before. Notice that instead of a sacred union between husband and wife, they show a bond of iniquity. They were both in on the scheme. Calvin comments on this account-
Luke condemns no other fault in Ananias than this: that he meant to deceive God and the Church with a feigned offering. Yet thee were more evils packed under this dissimulation: the contempt of God, whom he feared not, though he knew his wickedness: sacrilegious defrauding, because he kept back par of that which he professed to be holy to God; perverse vanity and ambition, because he vaunted himself in the presence of men, without having any respect unto God’s judgment; want of faith, because he would never have gone this way to work, unless he had mistrusted God; the corrupting of a godly and holy order; furthermore, the hypocrisy itself was a great offense of itself.
They mocked God and His Church. Bad Idea.
Peter, an Apostle with a supernatural gift of discernment, in the same tone Isaiah once addressed Ahaz who had wearied Israel’s God, addresses Ananias first, as he was alone-
Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Imagine that-Peter seeing right through to the scheme and confronting Ananias on the spot! Imagine the church treasurer, after receiving your offering some Sunday, calling you up that evening and saying- “Hello is George there? George? Why has Satan filled your heart to the Holy Spirit”? Wow!
Ananias has no defense. The zeal of the Lord to protect his Church from sinful disunity at this critical juncture in history meets Ananias with all the fury of divine wrath and we read-
Acts 5:5-6 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
Ananias was not even allowed to approach the bench. The Judge issued the sentence and carried out the execution. Jews didn’t keep bodies around long close to the Sabbath, he was buried immediately. The purity of the church fueled its unity. Such an example of sacrilege would seriously undermine the Church in its infancy, something God would not allow.
The arrival of Sapphira completes God’s Judgment-
Acts 5:7-11 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
One has to wonder- was Sapphira out spending the other part of their proceeds? She had no idea her husband had the divine smack put on him. She surely expected to be welcomed back as a hero, after all she and Ananias had given such a huge amount. But no. Instead, Peter was there to deliver the news of God’s judgment. The sentence was passed and she dropped. With echoes of the Golden Calf incident in Exodus ringing, the members of that early church could see what happened and it had its intended effect-
Acts 5:11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
A deep reverential awe fell upon the place. People were called to be serious with God. No playing around in worship. One of the things I would surely like to know is what was printed on their tombstone?