Chapter 5 of the Book of Acts begins with a disturbing story of a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira. They sold some land in order to give the money to the apostles; but rather than give them all the money, they kept some for themselves and told the apostles they sold the land for less. They essentially lied to God. Not giving all the money to the church was not the wrong they had done. Lying to God was their downfall. As a result of their misdeed, they both fell dead in front of the apostle Peter. The text does not imply that Peter was somehow responsible for their death. It seems that lying to the apostle Peter, who had a direct connection to God, was exactly like lying to God’s face – that seems to be a fatal decision.
This makes me wonder about all the times we lie to God indirectly and what the consequences of those actions might be. Probably the grandest example of this might be our marriage vows. In a religious marriage ceremony, couples usually make a vow to God to love, honor, and cherish their spouse as long as they both shall live – or something to that effect. If you consider that statement carefully, it’s pretty easy to short-change God in the delivery of that vow. Or how about promises we make to God during prayer? Did you ever promise God you would do something and later realize you simply didn’t have the willpower to follow through?
I know God is well aware of the enemy’s attack on all of us and I suspect He is cutting us all a little slack; nevertheless, Ananias and Sapphira are a harsh reminder of the awesome power of God and His total righteousness. Praise God for sending His Son to save us from our sins. I can’t help but think Jesus is working overtime at the right hand of God trying to explain all of our misdeeds.
Chapter 5 of the Book of Acts ends with a powerful demonstration of the commitment to God the apostles had. The religious leaders who felt threatened by the apostles had them thrown in jail but they were miraculously set free and went right back to their teaching. When the apostles were recaptured, the religious leaders came to the conclusion that it was probably better to just let them go.
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39 (NIV)
Of course they were right. You don’t want to get into a battle with God. But before they let the apostles go they tried to once again impress upon them their disapproval of their teaching.
“They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” Acts 5:40 (NIV)
I shouldn’t have to tell you how this story ends. The apostles actually enjoyed being flogged – they were proud to suffer pain like Jesus. And did they stop teaching in His name to please the religious leaders? Of course not!
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” Acts 5:41-42 (NIV)
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