I found myself in Acts 5:1-11, a passage I couldn’t get away from. Lately, I’ve thought a lot about what it truly means to grieve the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is so holy that He shrinks back at the slightest sin. If we viewed sin as the Holy Spirit does, we would be more cautious in behavior and in words. For me, when I look at the story of Ananias and Sapphira, I can see how serious sin is in the eyes of God and His Holy Spirit.
Amongst the believers, no one lacked anything because the believers were helping those within the body of Christ also called “The Church,” taking care of each other when they saw those in need. In Acts 4:34-35, we can see it states, “There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need,” using Barnabas as an example (Acts 4:36-37) who had owned and brought the money to the apostles. In Acts 4:32, it states, “All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.” In this passage, we see the believers helping those in need in any way they were able. As God had blessed them, they were blessing others. It was up to each believer as to what they could do with the money from the land they had sold. They could have done what they wanted with their property as well as their money, and it was up to each believer to decide how much each would give or what each would do with their property.
Now that brings us to Ananias and Sapphira… Just like everyone else, they had a choice as to what to do with their cash and possessions. “But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest,” (Acts 5:1-2 NLT).
Sapphira and Ananias, instead of being upfront and truthful, conspired together to deceive the Church. The sin was not in them wanting to sell their property. The sin was not in them keeping back part of the money. The sin was the deceptive masquerade they put on before the Apostles and the Church. Acts 5:3-4 states, “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!’”
The Holy Spirit exposed Ananias’ deception. We can see this by the words given to Peter to speak, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit… How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!’” If we don’t have God’s approval, then we have absolutely nothing. The Spirit of the Living God does not approve of deception in any way, shape, fashion, or form. We need to always remember that “Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed.”
The consequence of Ananias lying to the Holy Spirit can be found in Acts 5:5-6, and it states this, “As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.” That’s how serious a matter it is when one deliberately chooses to set out to deceive his/her brethren, when one deliberately chooses to conspire with another or others to do evil, when one chooses to sin rather than doing what is right before the eyes of God.
Sin is transgression of God’s law. ALL sin is transgression of God’s law, and He is not impressed with posturing or masquerades or pretense. In the presence of the Living God, everything is laid bare, fully exposed. He commands truth and holiness. God doesn’t have suggestions, but He does have commands. We are to follow those commands as outlined in His Written Word. Love for God is keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.
What happened to Sapphira? I wonder if her response to Peter would have been different had she known what happened to her husband, but Scripture states Sapphira didn’t know what happened. Acts 5:7-11 says, “About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?’ ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘that was the price.’ And Peter said, ‘How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.’ Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.”
I know these are rather sobering thoughts, but as I have been thinking about this for the last several days, I find myself humbled and in awe of God who has given us His Word so that we might know all we need to live a life pleasing to Him. Our God is very merciful and compassionate, but our God is the God of Justice, the God who demands honesty in the innermost parts. It’s not enough for those attending places of worship to have ambitions of being a disciple of Christ. Either you are a disciple of Christ or you’re not. You cannot have it both ways. God is not impressed with pretense, hypocrisy, or showmanship. If you are putting on a show simply to keep up appearances or just to gain the approval of man, God will eventually strip off your mask. You cannot expect to be blessed when you are living a life of disobedience to God.
REFLECTION: “Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness,” (Matthew 23:28). Who are you when no one is watching? Are you living two lives –one life in your place of worship and another life outside of your place of worship? Being Christ-like is a lifestyle, not an act of showmanship. When you go before God, do a deep self-examination, letting God show you if there is anything within you that offends Him. Let Him show you if there is anything you need to repent of. “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it,” (Isaiah 30:15). Repent of your wicked ways, turning to God, and have Him cleanse you from your sins. It is only in surrendering to God that you will find rest. God is your Savior, and when you submit to obeying Him and walking in His ways, that is where you will find liberty. When you confess and repent of your sins, you have this assurance found in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are the God of Truth, and You are the God of Justice. Lord, I’m sorry for being pretentious, for caring more about gaining approval of men instead of seeking Your approval alone. I’m sorry for grieving Your Holy Spirit. Father, I have sinned against You and You alone. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Have Your way in my life, and come reign in me. I’m truly sorry for sinning against You. Please don’t cast me away from Your Presence because I am nothing without You. Wash me clean with the Hyssop of Heaven and I shall be made clean. Please forgive me, and have Your way in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Linda A. Knowles
“But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” -Isaiah 63:10