Acts 4-5 – 2019-08-26
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- CHAPTER 5 Commentary
vv.1-2: “Lest any should think that the material question is a small issue, Luke moves from the positive account of the generosity of Barnabas to the chilling tale of Ananias and Sapphira. There, possessions and what they do to us is a matter of life and death, the very first crisis to hit the young community.”
vv.2-3: “The desire to gain a higher reputation than is one’s due for generosity or some other virtue is not so uncommon that anyone can afford to adopt a self-righteous attitude toward Ananias.”
“There is something quite natural about the lies of Ananias and Sapphira, for we all know the way we rationalize and excuse our own covetousness, acquisitiveness, and greed. ‘I’m not really all that well off,’ we say. ‘I have all I can do just to make ends meet.’ ‘I worked hard for this and deserve it.’ Our lies are a correlate of our materialism, for both our materialism and our self-deceit are our attempts to deal with our human insecurity, our human finitude, by taking matters into our own hands. Luther once called security the ultimate idol. And we have shown time and again that we are willing to exchange anything – our family, our health, our church, the truth – for a taste of security.”
v.11: “The fear of God and of the consequence of sin is a major theme of this story (5:5, 11). Paul told Timothy that elders ‘who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning’ (1 Tim 5:20). Public rebuke gives people a sense of seriousness of sin, and that in turn acts as a deterrent to sin.”
“The idea of going through life fearing both God and the consequences of sin seems unattractive in our age where people are so devoted to good feelings. Fear is considered a bad feeling, and therefore people think it is wrong […] Actually, fear is a friend that alerts us of the danger of sin […] The fear of displeasing God and of the consequences of sin does not take way the enjoyment of life. It is rather a gateway to true enjoyment.”
One prominent feature that becomes apparent in this portrayal of the early church is the centrality and the authority that the church seemed to have had on the individual Christians. The influence of the faith community on its members is so intense that it seems rather foreign to our culture.
“While being one in heart and mind is considered the usual model for Christian community life, it is not easy to maintain in today’s individualistic society. We do not like having anyone ‘pry’ into our personal lives, which would be necessary if the model shown in Acts were to be followed. For this reason many have lowered their standards and settled for a functional unity that comes more from secular management studies than from God’s Word […] This is an area where the church needs to be countercultural. In a society where people deny the community orientation that is part of human nature in order to protect their privacy, close Christian community life may be one of the most important prophetic messages we can give the world […] But such unity is not easy to maintain. If our standards are high, our expectations from each other will also be high. Consequently the pain of disappointment will also be high. I believe this is a primary reason why people have lowered their standards of what to expect from Christian community. […] Many Christians do not feel a church has any right to make demands on members. They choose which church they will join and choose to leave it when ‘it does not meet their needs.’ Such people will not get the benefit of deep fellowship from any church and will not receive the security and enrichment that comes from spiritual accountability.”
 Hillimon, William. Interpretation: Acts, p.53
 Bruce, F. F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.105
 Hillimon, William. Interpretation: Acts, p.54
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, p.201
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, pp.206-207
 Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary, pp.185-186
Acts 4:36-5:11 (ESV)
36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
5 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
- Study Questions:
- Acts 4:36-5:11
- What might have driven Ananias and Sapphira to lie?
- What are some modern parallels, and how might such tendencies weaken or damage the church?
- Are there any deceptive patterns God is prompting me to repent of through my study of today’s passage?