Just as there had been a Judas among Jesus’ disciples, so in the early pure church, there were some who were not honest in heart like Ananias and Sapphira. The approval of the church of Barnabas’ sacrifice of selling a land that he owned and donating the profits to the church (Acts 4:36, 37), stirred Ananias and Sapphira to do the same. He thought that he could have the same approval but with less cost to himself.
So, he sold a land that he owned (Acts 5:1) but he kept back part of the profit, with the knowledge of his wife. And he brought a certain part of the profits and gave it to the apostles claiming that the it was the whole amount of the sale (Acts 5:2). Unfortunately, greed was stronger than honesty. He tried to serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
The keeping, by Ananias, of part of the selling price of the land was not in itself a sin. Actually, he was not obliged to give anything at all. The money was his to give in whole or in part. For the church compelled no one to give to the common fund, but only that if a man did promise to give, he should give what he had promised.
But Ananias sinned when he lied and pretended that the part, he gave was the whole. And his wife Sapphira joined him in the deception. His attempt to conceal the truth and receive a name for generosity without actually sacrificing made him guilty.
Then, the Holy Spirit, through the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 2:14; 12:10), showed Peter Ananias’ sin. So, 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” (v. 3,4).
Ananias had not lied to men but to God. All sin is eventually against God. David knew this and he wrote, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). When Ananias heard Peter’s words, he fell down and died (v. 5). And the young men arose and buried him (v. 6). His was a similar judgment to what happened to Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:2), and Achan (Joshua 7:20–26).
Three hours later, when Sapphira came to the apostles, Peter asked her the same question that he asked her husband and she too lied about the profits. Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out” (v. 9). So, she fell and died as well (v. 10)
Although this was a severe punishment from God, it was needed especially to the believers of the early church who have tasted firsthand the heavenly gifts of salvation and experienced the supernatural power of Pentecost. If God didn’t correct the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, such sins would have weakened the work of gospel. So, God had to interrupt in this case to save His church from future follies.
As a result, “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (v. 11). It is possible that there were other dishonest individuals that needed a deeper sense of respect to God as the final judge. Such fear was a warning to those who were wavering in their walk with the Lord and an invitation to mend their ways (Jeremiah 26:13).
In His service,