Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Open: I made a choice ten years ago about how to install my closet hardware. It was a small thing then - nails or screws. That choice came back to haunt me when I returned from vacation this week. Next time I'm going to do it right the first time.
The choices we make do effect us - and this morning we're going to learn about the choices two sets of people make - and the drastic effect it has on their lives and on the kingdom of God.
The giving spirit of the believers was evidence of the changing work the Holy Spirit was doing in their lives.
It doesn't mean that they lived communally, but those who had extra property or homes sold them to realize the funds tied up in the property, then donated that to the church for fill needs as they arose.
Barnabas' example is apt: It is always encouraging when we give - not out of compulsion, but with a cheerful heart. (reference)
To contrast Barnabas we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They too sold land, but lied about the price in order to make people think that they had given the whole thing to God.
What was the sin here - that Ananias (whose name means: the grace and mercy of our Lord) decided to only donate a portion of the proceeds? Is this a lesson for us that God will strike us dead if we make an accounting mistake in our tithes?
No, I believe the sin here was that of spiritual deception. Ananias probably made a big deal of the fact that he was doing this great thing for God by giving their all to the work of the Lord - when in fact, they were not giving their all at all. They pretended to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, pretended to give the entire proceeds of the sale to the Lord, but in fact were influenced by a very different spirit - an evil spirit by the name of Satan.
Their choices were clear:
First: They sold the property (of what kind we don't know) voluntarily - no one forced them into it. They simply wanted to look good. The Greek makes it clear, though, that this was public property once they declared their intentions to sell it and give all the proceeds to the church.
Second: Even after they sold it they didn't have to give all the money to God, they didn't have to give any of it to the Lord. But when you say you are going to do something, don't make it appear you've done it when you really haven't.
Lessons for us:
1 - God takes financial integrity of His church seriously.
That's why, for instance, we don't have two check signers from the same family. That's why we have open books and make regular financial disclosures.
2 - God demands integrity of heart when it comes to our visible ministry.
God hates hypocrisy. (definition) he hates those who on the outside appear one way, but on the inside are quite another. Now as I say this I know that to a certain extent we are all hypocrites. And God is dealing with us, cleansing us. That's not what I'm really talking about. I'm talking about a deliberate, purposeful deception in order to personally gain while appearing to be completely selfless.
3 - Don't be a make-believer
Maybe you hang around Christians. You come to church, you learn the songs, the lingo - know the right places to be and the right things to do and the right words to say. But you have never surrendered your life and soul to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
He knows those who are His. You can fool us, but you can't fool God. You can't go to heaven without the blood of Jesus covering and forgiving your sins. You can't get that unless you confess Him with your mouth as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead - in other words, acknowledging that He is the only way to God and life - and that you want to belong to Him.
Ananias and Sapphira could be in heaven. It doesn't say they were not saved - but sometimes God chooses to cut short our earthly ministry because we are doing more harm than good. It happened here, it has happened since, but perhaps not quite as dramatically.
This could be what's called "A sin unto death".
I Jn 5:16
16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.
There is also hope found in this verse:
1 Cor 3:12-15
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Some men and women who profess Christ but live a worldly life will still get to heaven, but they will bring nothing with them, no benefits, no works done for the Lord. And believe me, when we get there, we will want to have done things for Him.
4 - Satan can influence the actions of even a believer
Peter knew that Satan had filled Ananias' heart. It doesn't mean that Satan had possessed him, but Satan's intentions and desires became Ananias and Sapphira's. We too must check our actions and attitudes to make sure we are following God's intentions and not those of the enemy. How do we know?
- Does it square with the Word
- Does it match the character of Jesus
- Does it result in good fruit
Its important to note that this is never repeated in the New Testament with regards to members of Christ's body. The Holy Spirit is making a strong statement here to warn the church that integrity of the heart, not just the appearance of piety is the goal.
Great fear seized the church - I would think so. Talk about a wake up call. Do you ever get wake-up calls from God? A traumatic or dramatic event in your life that you know instantly is God calling you on the carpet?
It's interesting that they met at Solomon's collonade. This was the same place they were when the chief priests and elders caught them after healing the lame man and warned them not to teach anymore. So much for that command.
Two possibilities for this strange verse.
1 - Ananias was one of the 120 original disciples and thus the people would not dare to associate themselves with the 120 seeing how strict a judgment God had levied against one of their number.
2 - Seeing that God would not tolerate the politicizing of this new "sect", none of the other groups such as the Pharisees or Saducees would join them.
We know that it doesn't mean a lack of salvations or of people joining the church - because of verse 14.
An amazing little note - "all of them were healed." What an incredible set of miracles. Jesus said His church would do greater things than He did - and it was true. It made an impression on the people - and it made an impression on the leaders.
We get a little more detail about what happened in jail - mainly that an angel appeared and not only let them out but gave them strict instructions to go right back to the temple and preach the full message of this new life.
God was not going to let Satan stamp out this new being - this church - at it's on set.
The Sanhedren were again afraid of the people - not just of their opinion but for their lives.
They make an interesting statement - you are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood. This was already true - but in the face of miracle after miracle, they could not soften their hearts to the truth.
Gamaliel: An interesting person. We see his reason - and it's good. As with all plans of man, if you take off its head it will die. It was good advice. But this isn't the last time we hear of Gamaliel. In Acts 22:3 we find out that he taught others in the way of the law. One man in particular of his students stands out - Saul of Tarsus: the Apostle Paul.
The disciples rejoiced at the flogging - counted worthy of suffering for Christ. What is our reaction when we suffer? Are we mad at the world, mad at others, mad at God for letting it happen? Do we think ourselves bad people because things didn't go right? Perhaps we think we didn't hear from God because bad things happen in our lives.
Let us strive to embrace their attitude: rejoice at suffering.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
God was trying to work perseverance into the lives of the disciples - and they learned it - that no matter what happens they were to continue without stopping the proclamation that Jesus is the Christ.
What is God calling you to do? Have you faced persecution or rejection or trial in it? Are you discouraged, ready to give up? Learn to see God growing you as much as He is using you.
Maybe that's why we see the story of Ananias and Sapphira beginning this chapter - God is in the business of changing lives from the inside out - not the other way around. He wants to have disciples that are being made pure inside before they can truly serve Him on the outside.
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the love of money overcame their fear of the Lord. In the case of the disciples, their love for the Lord overcame their fear of punishment.
So what do we learn?
God is serious about sin
God is serious about changing hearts
God is serious about spreading the gospel
Don't treat the church like the world
Don't think everything you do is automatically the right thing
Don't give up on your calling - because God hasn't