There are a number of sins which we can all say we’ve done, no one has ever escaped them. The sin of anger, the sin of coveting, and I would add the sin of lying. We’ve all lied in one way or another. Lied to our parents, brother, sister, friend, spouse, teacher, or boss. Every one of us has lied. Even as we’re discussing this, you probably have a lie in mind that you’ve told.
Here is Acts chapter 5, we see a married couple who tried to pull off the lie of a lifetime, a lie against God and His Holy Spirit.
Vs 1-10 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. 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.”
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.
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.
This story is set against a background where the early church was coming together in unity as we see in the preceding chapter.
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
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.
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
So now we find in Acts chapter 5, this husband and wife had together agreed to sell their property as God was calling them to do, but then to keep part of the money for themselves. So the first sin was in being disobedient and keeping part of the money. However they still want to look good to all observers, so they made things worse by lying to the Apostles and to God about the amount they sold it for when they donated the money.
This reminds me of another story back in the Book of Joshua where Israel had been in a battle and God specifically instructed the Israelites not to keep any of the battle spoils for themselves. But Achan had disobeyed and had “kept back” some of the spoils from the battle:
Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver under it.
In both situations, the folks were instructed not to keep what belonged to God, and in both situations there was deceit and a thought that God wouldn’t know.
God knows our hearts!
Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?
He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
We can’t fool God. But God loves us even though we try sometimes to hide our sin.
And because God loves us, He sent us His Holy Spirt.
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.
Even better, God’s Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Why do you think there is so much death in the Bible in response to sin or sinners? If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we’re forgiven from sin, right?
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
God wrote these things in the Bible to show us the seriousness of sin, and to remind us that sin leads to death (eternal death apart from Jesus).
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, they were acting like they were part of the church and loved The Lord, but they had kept back from The Lord and then lied about it hoping that God wouldn’t notice. Only God knows their hearts and whether or not they knew Christ as their savior. But God felt this was serious enough that He needed to use it as a reminder to us that sin leads to death apart from Christ.
Remember we’ve talked a couple of times in past studies (incl. last week) about Solomon’s Porch and how that was a place of healing. Here we see it come up again in Acts 5.
Vs 11-16 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.
And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The early church is growing and the Apostles are healing others by the Holy Spirit. If you recall the last time we saw them at Solomon’s porch (see last week’s message) they were arrested under the pretense of healing on the Sabbath. The real truth was the temple leaders didn’t want the Apostles preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name. So they arrested, scolded, and released them. Now here in Chapter 5 it happens again, but Round 2 has a twist!
Vs 17-25 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”
Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
This time after being thrown into prison, an angel of The Lord appears and sets them free! God has a plan to get these Apostles out teaching. When God has a plan, nothing can stand in His way!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
God does have a purpose and a plan for you and for me. We cannot push the plan any faster, nor can others stand in the way of God’s plan for us. God works in His time.
Vs 26-42 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
I love that even though the temple authorities had a plan to stop the Apostles from teaching Jesus to the people, here again God intervenes – this time through Gamaliel. They are released and go out to continue the ministry! God is working in your life and in my life. We need to listen and to obey.