In Acts 4, we read that “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, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 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, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Verses 34-37). The Lord’s people had devised a voluntary system to ensure that all the needs of His people were met. They sold their possessions and gave the money to the apostles to distribute to the needs of others.

Chapter 5 begins with a little, but powerful word…BUT. We read in verses 1-2, “BUT a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 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.” Ananias and Sapphira acted sinfully by selling a possession of land and giving the apostles only part of the proceeds. Their sin was NOT in keeping back part of the price. Their sin was in acting as if they had given all the money they had earned from the sale. We read in verses 3-4, “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? 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.” Ananias and Sapphira were under no obligation to sell their land. Upon selling it, they were under no obligation to give any money to the apostles. Yet, after selling their land, they ‘lied to the Holy Ghost’ by giving the impression that they were giving ALL their money to the apostles.

The church began in Acts 2 and it did not take long for hypocrisy to manifest itself! How sad. We then read in verses 5-6, “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.” This instance of God’s extraordinary judgment caused those who heard about this incident to fear…and rightfully so! The name of the Lord and of the Holy Ghost had been impugned and the Lord acted to ensure that sin against Him would not be taken lightly. Surely that caused all, saved and unsaved alike, to fear the name of the Lord and to regard Him with new respect.

About three hours later, Sapphira approached Peter, not knowing what had become of her husband. Let’s read verses 9-10, “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. 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.” Peter discerned that Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to tempt the Spirit of the Lord, so she was equally guilty. Her punishment was the same as her husband…she died at the feet of Peter.

Ananias and Sapphira ‘tempted’ the Lord by acting as if the Spirit of the Lord could not detect the crime. They did this by trying to see whether the Spirit of God could detect hypocrisy. He did. Their sin was exposed. Their judgment was swift. This was a solemn act of the Lord chastening the early church. His act of judgment shows His thoughts concerning sin. SIN IS SERIOUS, whatever the sin may be. Too often we minimize our sin. We act as if it is NO BIG DEAL. Oh, but it is a very big deal. 1 Corinthians 15:3 tells us that “Christ died for our sins.” Realizing that it took the death of the Son of God to remove the penalty of our sins, then we must realize that sin, all sin, is terrible.

For the believer, we need to heed the words of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We desperately need the benefits that confession brings to us. We need the forgiveness and cleansing of the Lord to maintain our close relationship with our precious Lord. (319.2)