Text: Acts 4:23-37, Acts 5:1-11, Deuteronomy 15:4-6, Hebrews 6:13-20
When I was a kid, I was scared of the dark.
At night, I would quicken my step down the hallway when passing a darkened room. My own room was upstairs, and before bedtime, I would run up to dark windows to pull down their pink shades; large trees loomed just outside, holding who-knows-what in the darkness.
I was afraid of what I did not know, and certain that the unknown could, and would, hurt me.
My heart’s inclination is to treat the story of Ananias and Sapphira like those darkened windows in my childhood bedroom. I want to run past it, afraid to stop and look for fear of what I might find.
The chief priests and elders were afraid too. They saw the wonders and heard the testimonies brought on by the spread of the gospel, and they demanded that the apostles stop preaching (Acts 4:17). They were afraid of what they did not understand. But the gospel is true even when we don’t believe.
The apostles knew this. Their intimate experience of Christ’s salvation so affected them, they not only refused to stop preaching and healing in the name of Jesus, they prayed that the Holy Spirit would equip them to preach and heal all the more (Acts 4:29-30).
And so the effects of the gospel continued to spread, in spite of the Council’s warnings. The power of the gospel was so great that this newfound church poured out all they had for the glory of God and the good of their fellow believers. “There was not a needy person among them” (v. 34).
This was the context in which Ananias approached Peter with a portion of the proceeds from the land he’d sold, and a premeditated lie about the full amount of the sale. Picture that: while the church was literally giving their all—preaching the gospel and being arrested, giving freely and relying individually and collectively on the grace of Jesus—Ananias and his wife cooked up a plan not only to deceive the church, but to deceive God.
The couple did not fear God as holy. They did not trust God as good. They believed God could be tricked, and they set out to do just that. And we know what became of them: in pretending to give all, they lost all.
But the story of Ananias and Sapphira isn’t about money.
This story is not a departure from the stories of gospel power demonstrated in the chapters preceding it—power that healed the sick, fed the hungry, provided for the poor, and saved souls by the thousands. This, too, was the living God at work, and the living God is to be revered as holy and powerful and good, because He is.
I don’t have to be afraid of this holy God the way I was once afraid of the dark. He is not unknown, like the night time darkness lurking outside my bedroom windows. No, our God has intentionally and carefully made Himself known. Through the person of Jesus Christ and through His Word, we are invited to know the real, holy Him.
We may not fully understand His ways, but we can see His fingerprints on each page of the whole Story. We see them when He gives His covenant to Adam and Abraham and David, and when He pursues His people, though they run. We see them in Jesus’ life and death and in the glory of the resurrection. We see them when we are given forgiveness and mercy, instead of judgment and death. And we see them in this story, too, as God reveals His unquestionable, uncompromising holiness to His people in a powerful way.
He is holy. And He is wholly good.