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.
I remember some years back being asked by a man about the severity of God’s judgment in this account. Sure, Ananias and Sapphira had lied, but there are other instances in the Scripture where men lied and were not judged so severely. Why was this case so different? I believe the answer lies in the verses just prior to this account and centers around what we considered last week in Ac 4:32: “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.”
At the end of Acts 4, we find a people who are united. We have the birth of the Christian church (though she won’t come to be known by the name “Christian” until Acts 11). It is the church in her infancy. She is pure and innocent. We see a trust that is foreign in many churches today. People were selling their possessions and giving the money to the apostles to be distributed according to the needs within the church. (v. 34-45) There was no doubt in the integrity of the apostles or fear of misuse of that which was given. The people were joined together with a singular desire to glorify God and faithfully declare His word. (v. 29-30) Satan hated what he saw and was looking for a source of division. He found it in Ananias and Sapphira.
Imagine what would have happened if news of this couple’s deception had been revealed in another manner. What if member after member had gone to them and spoken of the great encouragement their abundant gift had been to the assembly? Consider the tremendous grief it would have been to the church if in the midst of the church’s thanksgiving it was revealed that these two had lied to God and His people. If Ananias and Sapphira had deceived them and kept some money for themselves, perhaps the apostles were doing the same! The suspicion introduced into the minds of the people would have grown until the church disintegrated.
But here at the very establishing of His church, the Lord would teach those within and without the body of Christ that this message of the apostles was not just some new and exciting doctrine that would fizzle out after a few months. God intended to turn the world upside down with their gospel! (Ac 17:6) Christianity is not simply another option to all the religions of the world. It is the only pure and undefiled religion identified by the one, true God! (Jm 1:27) This God says, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Is 45:22) And, Jesus Christ is not one of many ways to approach this God. He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No man comes to the Father except by Him! (Jn 14:6) “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Ac 4:12) This severe act of judgment made one thing clear–God’s wasn’t playing around. I ask the modern church one simple question: “Are we?”