The Deceit of Ananias and Sapphira Part 1 of 4

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

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?

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?

November 4, 2013

Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson II.D.1: The Deceit of Ananias and Sapphira (5.1-11)


Acts 5.1-11 (KJV)

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
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.
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?
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.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 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.
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.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.


Introduction

Here we have the well-known incident involving Ananias and Sapphira. These two people possessed light—that is, they were exposed to the miracles and workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the true believers. Therefore the sin they committed in spite of the light they had received called for special and divine indignation in order to show God’s terrible judgment upon those who sin against the Holy Spirit.

As far as I am concerned, the record given here is proof positive that the Bible is divinely inspired, the true and absolute Word of God; because if it was simply a chronicled account written by great historians they would surely have omitted the incidents recorded in the first eleven verses of this chapter! I personally believe the Holy Spirit ordered the writing of the account of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira as a grave warning to the early believers—as well as a warning for believers in our day.


Commentary

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
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.

The account of Ananias and Sapphira has not been placed side by side with that of Barnabas in verses 36 and 37 of chapter 4 simply to contrast the two; therefore we are not to place undue emphasis on the word “but” with which this verse begins. In the original Greek, verse 36 of chapter 4 begins with the same conjunction, one which is often used in narratives where only a simple connection of two clauses is intended. That is the case we have here.

“Ananias” was a common name in that day—notice Acts 9.10-17 and 23.2. The name “Sapphira” was probably derived from the Sapphire stone, and the word is found in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as in the New Testament Greek.

Probably among the new Christians, a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up and everyone was eager to place his contribution at the disposal of the apostles. This included Ananias and Sapphira who “sold a possession.” The Scripture does not tell us what the possession was that they sold. It could have been a house or land or some other kind of personal property. In addition, we are not told the selling price of the property—it might have been a small sum, or it could have been a great deal. Whatever the selling price, it is reasonable to assume that they would have given the greater part of it to the Church, and kept only a small sum for themselves, because they could not expect to get by with keeping more than they gave to the Church. They would have been caught in their act of deceit—and this is something they hoped to avoid.

The Greek word which has been translated here as “kept back” is the same word used in Titus 2.10 where it is rendered “purloin,” and it is frequently translated “to rob.” So, regardless of the amount of the money Ananias and Sapphira kept back—whether a large sum or only a few paltry coins—they were robbing God because they professed they were giving the entire proceeds to the Church treasury.

“His wife also being privy to it . . .” tells us that this was not a sin committed on the spur of the moment. Ananias and his wife had talked it over between themselves and agreed to do it; they planned what they would say to cover up this fraud.

Whether Ananias and Sapphira were carnal Christians or simply ‘professed to be Christians” cannot be determined with 100% accuracy and does not affect the narrative. There is no use in speculating on what Ananias and Sapphira thought they would gain by their deception, but one thing is certain: They thought more of the impression they would make when they laid the money at the apostles' feet than they thought of the offense against God. They were thinking of the esteem they would gain within the congregation when they were seen giving the money, instead of thinking of Almighty God looking down on them as they committed this sin.

Peter understood that such men would soon arise in the local assemblies. In 2 Peter 2.1-3 he wrote: “But there were also FALSE PROPHETS among the people, just as there will be FALSE TEACHERS among you. They will secretly bring in DESTRUCTIVE HERESIES, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed. In their greed, THEY WILL EXPLOIT YOU WITH DECEPTIVE WORDS. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.”

“And laid it at the apostles' feet” is found in Acts 4.35 and 37, but it places the act of Ananias and Sapphira in contrast with the act of Barnabas. It’s obvious that they were imitating Barnabas. They saw that he got a certain amount of public recognition, and they thought that it would be nice if they could get that kind of recognition too. They really wanted to be thought of as generous and holy. I have found that there are certain people who will give to their church just to be noticed. It’s one of the offshoots of pride that is still around today, because it is part of our human nature. But today we have a name for it; we call it hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is deliberate deception, trying to make people think we are more spiritual than we really are. That was the condition of Ananias and Sapphira.

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?

Apparently, Ananias thought he could do this without being detected. It must have been a great shock to him when Peter said, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” It is clear from the question here that the Holy Spirit had given him knowledge of the deception which Ananias and Sapphira planned and agreed to carry out, and it is also clear that the Spirit had informed Peter that judgment would fall upon Ananias and Sapphira and that they would be punished for their deception. If this were not true, how do we explain Peter’s calm demeanor and total lack of surprise when, in the following verses, such startling judgment fell upon both of them?

The verb which has been translated here as “filled” is eplerosen, from pleroo, which here has the idea of control or influence. The same verb is used in the command, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18). Ananias, a believer, was influenced by Satan, not the Spirit! The fact that Peter asked, “How is it . . .” implies that Satan had gained control because Ananias had not dealt with some previous sin in his life. Perhaps he had promised the Lord that he would give the whole amount. Then when he kept some of it he lied to the ever-present Holy Spirit in Peter (1 Cor. 6.19, 20 ) and in the Church (Eph. 2.21, 22 ).

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