But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
Peter is asking Ananias why Satan has filled his heart to lie to God because he and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of land, and gave some of the money to the church, but lied about the actual selling price of the land. Their goal was to deceive the apostles so they could keep some of the money for themselves. Peter tells Ananias that the land was his to do with what he wanted, and it didn’t matter how much it sold it for. In fact, He and his wife could have done anything with the money that they wanted, but instead they felt the need to not only lie about it to Peter, but they ultimately lied to God. When Peter finished saying these words to Ananias he fell down dead.
Since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) there have been many miraculous signs and wonders done among the apostles (especially through Peter). There is the healing of the beggar in Acts 3 and the many signs and wonders that Luke says were being done in Acts 5:12-16. In many ways this establishes Peter as the main figure head in the church in Jerusalem though the apostles were ruling together. We also see that thousands of people were coming to faith through the apostles and that they were so moved to faith and obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit that everyone was selling their stuff so that no one was in need. So we have radical miracles, radical giving, and radical love for one another. And Luke, in this passage, is also adding the reality that there was radical holiness. This is showing the heart of who God is. He works amazing miracles for his people, calls them to love one another as he has loved them, but he also calls his people to holiness and to realize that their sin is not just against one another, but is against God himself.
One of the things that we want to see in this passage is that Ananias and Sapphira were willing to lie to God. Their hearts were not set to following God at all which means that they were not really believers to begin with. Today, the outcome for unbelievers is the same as it was for Ananias and Sapphira even though death doesn’t come as quickly. However, for those of us who are believing and trusting in Christ when we sin we must also remember that we have a High Priest and an Advocate who pleads our case (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Jn. 2:1-2). Even though we deserve the same outcome as Ananias and Sapphira, Jesus intercedes for us because of his shed blood, and the wrath and punishment that we deserve for our sin was and is ultimately poured out on Christ himself. This is the amazing grace that God has poured out on us in Christ. However, we should also see that followers of Christ are those who desire to walk in holiness and keep his commandments (1 Jn. 2:3-6). Following Christ is not a license to sin, but instead following Christ is a call to holiness and obedience.
The main point of this passage is that our God is a holy God who rightly judges sin, because our sin is not just against man, but against God. This not only serves to show God’s people what he is like, but it also serves as a confirmation of the work God is doing through Peter and the early church, the radical holiness that God’s people are called to pursue and live out, and it is a continually reminds us of our need to rely on Christ.
The main all from this passage is two fold. One we must stand in awe of our holy and perfect God who rightly judges sin and if it were not for Christ he would and should judge us and condemn us as sinners who have broken his law. So we humbly worship and stand in awe of our God and maker. Secondly, the call of this passage is to seek to live out radical holiness. One of the greatest marks of the early church and really one of the greatest calls of the New Testament is to live holy lives before God. In fact, the epistles talk more about holiness than they do evangelism. So our lives should be marked by a pursuit of holiness that is Holy Spirit empowered, and is made possible by the shed blood of Christ. Will we live perfect holy lives? No. But it is our joy to pursue holiness by God’s power because we are made new in and through Christ.
- Why is God’s holiness and justice something that we should love?
- How do you view the idea of holiness? Do you see it as trying to earn God’s favor or as a joy-filled response to God of a person who has been saved and transformed by God through Christ?
- Do you see your sin as primarily being against God? Why is that important?
- Examine your life today. What is one area where God may be calling you to pursue, by his Spirit, greater holiness and obedience?