The Deceit of Ananias and Sapphira Part 4 of 4
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
There are two things that amaze me about this incident. One is the fact that a lie, such as these two were living, could not exist in the early church. There was a holiness of life in the church. Ananias and Sapphira, although they were thought to be saved, lied to the Holy Spirit and were removed from the company of believers. They had committed the sin unto death (1 John 5.16 ), but the Lord would not allow this kind of sin to exist in the early church.
The other amazing thing is the spiritual discernment of Simon Peter. This is something that is lacking today.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were not the work of man, but were caused by the mighty hand of God acting in swift judgment. Therefore this incident served as a severe warning to anyone who might the tempted to commit such a sin in the future. Great fear came upon all who watched the quick and terrible judgment that befell this couple, and all about the city those who heard about it were in awe of the God who executes swift judgment on those who attempt to deceive Him.
Sin and death are synonymous (Rom 6.23; James 1.15 ). Ananias and Sapphira reaped the wages of sin, although they reaped a bit more swiftly than most people do, and the question is often asked, “Why did God deal so suddenly and so harshly with these two people?” It has been suggested that He might have disciplined them and then restored them to full fellowship and communion in the church. The truth of the matter is, this man and his wife were never actually IN the church. They were present in body but not in spirit. They could not receive Christian discipline because they were not born again Christians.
I am well aware that some Bible scholars believe that Ananias and Sapphira committed the sin unto death, but I disagree. In the light of the Scriptures, I do not believe they were ever genuinely born again. I do not doubt that they were meeting with the local assembly—this is evidenced by the fact that they knew about the gifts being brought in by the believers and presented to the Church to be distributed to other believers who had little of this worlds goods. Unity of the spirit among these new Christians was one of the most outstanding characteristics of these early Christians.
But how can I know that these two were not born again Christians? Here’s how. Notice the question Peter asked Ananias: “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost.” He did not ask, “Ananias, why did Satan lead you to lie?” According to Peter’s words, Satan filled the heart of Ananias—which means that he completely possessed and controlled his heart. We know that a born-again believer could not be possessed and controlled by the devil, nor could the devil fill the heart of a believer. The Bible is very clear on this subject. Ananias and Sapphira were not Christians.
Believers are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8.14 ), possessors of divine nature (2 Pet. 1.4 ), and new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5.17 ). Therefore if Ananias had been a true Christian Satan could not have filled his heart. He might have tempted him, but he could not have filled and possessed his heart with the scheme to rob God and commit a sin that would bring terrible reproach upon the Church and upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the head and foundation of the Church. Paul clearly declared, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8.14). Certainly, if Ananias and Sapphira were children of God, they would have been led by the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit would not have led them to lie to Himself. Born again believers can grieve the Spirit or quench the Spirit, but no born-again Christian will attempt to lie to the Spirit. The true believer possesses divine nature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
During the first days of Christianity, the Church was as God intended His Church to be. The discerning Spirit was surely and clearly at work, and the atmosphere in that Church was such that it was impossible for a man to come into the assembly with a lie in his heart and a false profession on his lips. Such a person would almost assuredly be detected.
What so overwhelms me is not that Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead for their sin, but the fact that the Church was so pure, so completely controlled by the Spirit of God, that the purity of the church compelled the deaths of those two who lied to the Holy Ghost.
Certainly, the Holy Spirit does not operate in the church today as He did when the Church of the living God was so pure and holy that a hypocrite like Ananias could not enter without being detected and judged. If those who lied to God in our Churches today were to drop down dead, we would have a lot of funerals. The undertakers would be doing a land-office business. It is interesting to note that this is the first time that the word “Church” appears in Acts, although it is the most common word used to describe the assembly of those who believed. From now on it becomes the regular word to describe the followers of Jesus. Church appears twenty-two more times in Acts.
The result of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira was that a wave of godly fear that swept over the church and all those who heard the story. We have moved from “great power” and “great grace” (Acts 4.30 ) to “great fear,” and all of these ought to be present in the Church (Heb. 12.28, 29 ).
The purpose of this account was threefold:
1. It revealed God’s displeasure with sin, particularly with dishonesty, in His body, the church.
2. It marked the Church off as distinct from Israel, since such discipline was not seen in Israel.
3. It indicated that God was at work in this new group.