May 16, 2021

Peter's Letter-Who Are You?

Scripture Reading: Acts 4:32 to 5:16
The story of Ananias and Sapphira doesn’t seem to fit the book of Acts. It’s a disturbing story in many ways. A husband and wife drop dead in front of the apostle Peter after having lied about a gift they presented to the Church. There is no opportunity for confession, remorse, or even an explanation. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and for this reason they forfeit their right to live. In the midst of a book that shows a dramatic and powerful advancement of the
gospel of Jesus Christ and the promise of New Life in the Kingdom of God, how does this story fit in? What kind of God would do this to members of his Church? Does this story serve only to confirm to those who already think it, that the God of the Bible is a tyrannical God given to fits of unpredictable tantrums? When all is said and done, Acts 5:11 says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to
God! However, let’s not be too quick about that.

Questions:

Acts 5:11 says that “great fear” came over the Church. What does Acts 4:33 say is also great
within the Church?
Why is “fear” not a gospel word? What did the angel announce when Christ was born?
The picture of the Church in Acts 4:32-37 is one of unity, sharing, and caring – and it’s all rooted in grace. This is where we begin. This is not a picture of modern-day Communism or a more benign Socialism. Communism and Socialism are of human origin and they say, “What’s yours is
everyone’s”. Christianity says, “What’s mine is yours”. There’s a huge difference. One is born out of a heart that knows the grace and love of Jesus Christ who gave himself up for us. The other is simply a grace-less economic scheme that believes in legislating its iron will on all people. You cannot legislate the Kingdom of God into existence. The Gospel declares we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Kingdom is a gift of “Great
Grace” which is at the heart of our reading for today.

Questions:

How does the Church today still demonstrate “sharing and caring”?
Who is Barnabas, and what does he do?
Why is a grace-filled Church open to an attack from the Enemy?

Previously we have read in Acts 4 that the apostles Peter and John were ordered by the religious establishment not to teach or preach in the Name of Jesus. They refused. They cannot stop proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, and Lord. However, if the Enemy (called Satan) cannot destroy the Church from the outside (legislating against the Gospel) then you can be sure he will attempt to destroy the Church from the inside. Nothing destroys Christian community and witness quicker than an attack against the integrity of the Church and its ministry. This is what we see happening in the incident involving Ananias and Sapphira.
They want to be just like Barnabas who sold a field and gave the money to the Church. They see what he’s done and they are inspired them to do the same – only they don’t. They do not give all the money and hold some of it back. And here’s the kicker: they were within their rights to do so! Peter even says to Ananias in verse 4, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” They had every right to keep some of the
proceeds back for themselves. The problem is their lie. They lied to God the Holy Spirit! God hates hypocrisy and this couple of the definition of hypocrisy! They tried to make themselves look better than they were. They are the epitome of the first century “Woke Crowd”. They live to be seen as compassionate, open-minded, and better than everyone else.

Questions:

What is the real sin of Ananias and Sapphira?
How do people today try and make themselves look good to other people?
What does this story teach us about the holiness of God?
What Old Testament story has a similar lesson to this one about Ananias and Sapphira?

The Conclusion:

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is not just about the holiness of God and the respect (fear) that is required of us. It’s about coming into New Life in a New Creation and you cannot buy your way in. You cannot lie, steal, or cheat your way to a place in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a realm of great grace and it is not to be entered or treated with disdain.
There’s a “holy reverence” that ought to characterize the Church. The gospel is powerful and it will open the Kingdom to believers and close it to unbelievers. A Great Church is rooted in great grace where life will flourish. Where grace is absent, there is only fear. The Acts of the Apostles show us what it means to be followers of Jesus and the people of his Kingdom. Amen.