In the Apostolic era, there lived a man named Ananias (the Lord is gracious) with his wife Sapphira (beautiful).
There was also a man named Barnabas (Son of Encouragement), a Levite, from the country of Cyprus.
We read back in Chapters 1 & 2 that, on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit had “fully come” one-hundred and twenty believers in Christ in the early church in Jerusalem were all with one accord. Then, as we turn to Chapter 4:32-34 we read: Now the multitude of those who believe were of one heart and one soul: neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Verses 33 & 34 – go on to read: And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold.
As the plot goes, this couple agreed in their hearts to deceive the apostles, at least that’s what they thought.
Ananias and Sappira sold the land they possessed and held back a part of the money of the sale from the apostles. Ananias, being the husband decided it was his duty to go first and test the waters, so to speak, and that he did. We are told he brought the proceeds and laid them at the apostles’ feet. Notice what transpired here – Peter asked Ananias four questions:
(1) Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back a part of the price of the land for yourself?
(2) Was it not yours while it remained (before you sold it)?
(3) And after you sold it, was it not in your control?
(4) Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?
Barnabas, unlike these two, sold his land and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.
Take note – Barnabas had not been interrogated by the apostles as the lying couple had been. His heart was right!
The Holy Spirit made a point of comparison with the unbelievers and the believer.
Matthew 15:19: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…
The Lord says that, the hearts of men are deceitful and desperately wicked, but He searches the hearts.
When Peter asked Ananias, Why has Satan “filled” your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? That was a poignant moment for me.
Here, in the apostolic era, the believers were “filled” with the Holy Spirit, but these two were “filled” with the evil spirit. The Holy Spirit completely controlled the believers in Jesus Christ; while Satan completely controlled Ananias and his wife, Sapphira.
The Holy Spirit searched Ananias’ heart through the apostle Peter and read it like an opened book. “You have not lied to men but to God” said Peter.
Ananias, as he was hearing the words – they were not completely out of Peter’s mouth when he fell down dead and was given an instant burial.
The soul that sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:20)
What swift punishment!
Although God dealt with His people in a gracious manner throughout all dispensations, we see here in the case of Ananias that His (God’s) punishment was “swift” and “deadly”.
He dealt with this situation as He did in the Old Testament – under the Kingdom program.
The Dispensation of Grace had not yet been ushered in, in this instance. God no longer deals with His people in this manner under the Dispensation of Grace.
Have you noticed? There is an overlapping of dispensations here! (That’s for another article)
Likewise, the very same fate befell his beautiful wife, Sapphira.
When first we practice to deceive.”
– Sir Walter Scott- 1777-1832 Marmion, Cantor vi. Stanza 17
Not knowing what fate had served her husband, Sapphira too spun the same web of lies that her husband had done three hours before. She came to the apostles with the same scheme of lies that she and her, now dead, husband conspired together.
Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.”
She had the opportunity to abandon the lie…Peter opened the door for her to do so, but Satan’s influence was too strong for her to contend with.
Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you agreed together to test the Holy Spirit of the Lord?” Look, the same feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
And the narrator says: “Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband”.
Wouldn’t you say they were deserving of each other!
Food for thought: …and be sure your sin – lies – will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)
Remember – When we lie, it’s not to the person the lie is directed to, but to the Holy Spirit.
As God, the Father had His ministry in the Old Testament with the Wilderness Church; Jesus Christ, the Son at the appointed time had His ministry on the earth for three years with the Kingdom Church, likewise, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is today, in the dispensation of grace. Although they are one in essence, they have three distinct and separate ministries.
*All scriptures are from the Holy Bible – New King James Version. All emphasis is mine.
– For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)