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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

6. ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA - a dishonest couple

"Ananias, together with his wife… sold a piece of property" (Acts 5:1).

Consider the people
Ananias and his wife Sapphira were disciples in the Jerusalem church. Their short, condemnatory story tells us how they "lied to God - the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3,4). Their deceit reminds us that the earliest church was not perfect.

Study the Scriptures
The couple sold property and claimed to give the purchase money to the apostolic fund. But they kept part back part for themselves (Acts 5:1-10). The Christian communism of the Jerusalem church was voluntary, which meant the couple could give whatever they wanted to (Acts 5:3). Their blatant lie was a sin. Peter discovered their hypocrisy through a word of knowledge, an insight given by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor.12:8). Ananias showed no spirit of repentance when he was questioned, and was subsequently denounced - and fell down dead! When Sapphira was confronted she maintained the lie, and shared the same fate as her husband! Compare the story with the sacrificial giving of Barnabas (Acts 4:32-37).

Ask questions

1. This story warns us that God hates sin. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31). Why doesn't God judge sin in a drastic way in the church today?

2. Paul says the love of money is the root of evil (1 Tim.6:10). Do Ananias and Sapphira illustrate this? See also 1 Tim.3:3,8; 1 Pet.5:2.

3. Does the story relate to the so-called prosperity gospel? The doctrine of covenant material prosperity was not preached by the Lord Jesus or taught by the early church (cf. Mt.6:24; 8:20; 1 Tim.6:17). Consider 2 Tim.4:3 here.

4. The earliest church was imperfect. Consider other examples of unrighteous Christians in the New Testament. Were they disciplined? Note the problems of divisions, immorality and litigation in the Corinthian church (1 Cor.1 - 6).

5. What does the story teach about the personality of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:9)?

6. What was the effect of the judgment in the church? See Acts 5:11. Is the modern church in danger of losing a reverential respect for God?

Apply some thoughts

1. Consider what the Bible says about dishonesty and hypocrisy. See: Mt.6:1-5; 23:27,28; 1 Pet.2:1; Prov.12:22). Lying is deceitful (Psa.120:2).

2. Do our decisions affect other people?

3. Married couples can be a bane or a blessing to a local church (Josh.24:15).

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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