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Acts #15 (chapter 4:32-5:11)
The Book of Acts
The Sins of the Saints
Acts 4:32–5:11
Text - Acts 5:1-11
If you look at the early days of the church with something of a panoramic view, something interesting emerges regarding church history, and it is a great lesson for any church in any age becasue it reveals the strategy of Satan. 
The church initiates with the preaching at Pentecost and immediately souls are saved.  The same thing happens following the healing of the lame man in chapter 3, with even greater results.  Three thousand are saved and added to the church in the first instance; 5,000 are added in the second.
The primary difference between the two is the opposition that comes from the Jews with the second as they threaten Peter and John and release them. 
So we have the gospel being preached, with people being saved as a result of it followed by the gospel being preached and people being saved as a result of it, followed by persecution from outside the church, followed by the gospel being preached with boldness, and the great multitude that believed being drawn together into a community of believers that is sensitive to and responding to each other's needs, followed by, in our text tonight, inward division in the church.  
It's pretty simple to identify Satan's strategy, isn't it? 
Anytime and anywhere the gospel is preached and believers are serious about modeling the Christian lifestyle, they should expect Satan to try and interfere with or stop the advance of the gospel and the influence of the church by either persecution from outside the church OR fighting inside the church OR both. 
Here in the opening verses of Acts 5, we come face to face with the first recording instance of sin in the church.  Satan tried to stop the gospel with persecution, but that didn't work.  In fact, it was liek pouring gas on the flames.  So now, Satan goes to church and tries to do his work from the inside.
By the way, this is where Satan does his greatest damage.  History would tell us that to persecute the church externally only causes the church to become purer and more powerful and more effective.  So, Satan works inside the church.
So what happens when saints sin?  Well, to understand that, we need to see what happened that led to the sin in the first place?  
verses 32-37
This is an amazing snapshot of normal life in the early church.  It was church life in its purest form.  It was beautiful and joyful and sacrificial and loving and unified.  God was so in control of this early church, that they are described as being of "one heart and soul.”  They were willing to forfeit their own possessions, including their land and houses, if it would meet the need of someone in the church.
So this is the true church.  They are the real deal.  They all understand that everything belongs to the Lord and they have no right to hold it tightly if He wants to use it for something or someone else. 
So before we see the sinning saints, we see the sharing saints.  If I were outlining this text, I think I'd call this first part  "strong unity."
Not only is there strong unity, but as I've already noted, there was also "strong preaching". 
Verse 33
They’re actively preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ and they're too busy caring for each other and too busy preaching the gospel to the world to waste time over selfish bickering, personal pursuits, idle talk, gossip, backbiting and criticism. 
And as a result, what this early church accomplishes is nothing short of amazing, and they are just getting started good! 
In fact, they also experienced "special favor".
verse 33b
When you’re that obedient, that humble, that sacrificial, that loving, that united, that zealous, that passionate to pour out the message of the gospel and be bold and courageous, even in the face of persecution, believe me, great grace will come from heaven.
So there is a massive crowd of thousands of people who are now preaching the gospel, taking care of each other's needs in a community of Christian love, and all of it is happening with God's blessing, including people freely donating their possession to further the kingdom of God.  And it is all voluntary, all joyful, all expressive of their love for the Lord.
Then, notice, according to verses 34-35, the apostles have the responsibility to distribute these resources that are being given. 
verses 34-35
By the way, this is the Christian view of money.  None of it really is yours.  It’s not 90 percent is yours and a tenth is God’s.  None of it is yours.  It is God who gives you the power to get wealth.  All of it is a stewardship of resources that, in the end, belong to God.  You belong to God.  Your children belong to God.  Your money belongs to God.  Your house belongs to God.  Your land belongs to God.  Your abilities, your talents, your resources, they all belong to God, and they are all there to be used for His honor and for His glory. 
And so important is this principle, God picks out an example in particular from the church to serve as a personal testimony. 
verse 36
We know quite a bit about the man called Barnabas in this verse.  His given name is Joses or Joseph.  He is a Levite from Cyprus, and Barnabas is his nickname.  It means Son of Comfort, or Son of Consolation, or Son of Encouragement.
I think it highly likely he had the gift of encouraging others.  And we won't take the time to look at his life tonight, but as we progress through the book of Acts, we will see him quite often. 
In the 11th chapter it is said of him that "he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.”
Chapter 13 verse 1 tells us he served as the co-pastor of the church at Antioch.  In chapter 14 he's identified as an "apostle".  He’s not an apostle with a capital A because he didn’t see Christ and he wasn’t personally appointed by Christ as Paul was, but he is an apostle with a little "a" which indicates he was a “missionary.” 
He comes up again in chapter 15 in an argument about whether they’re going to keep John Mark who has been a disappointment to Paul.  So Barnabas becomes a very important figure in the life of the early church. 
Now, here in chapter 4, we are told he sold a piece of land he owned and gave the money to the church.  And I know it wasn't his idea to draw attention to himself, but he became both a living illustration and an eternal testimony of what was going on in the church. 
He's doing exactly what verse 35 tells us was happening.  he sells the land, gives the money into the care of the apostles so they could distribute it to those who had needs. 
By the way, let me just encourage you to do that also when you are unsure whether a need is legitimate.   It's not uncommon for us to have people going to you as individuals asking for help.  Just recently, we had one such individual. 
I told him to stop doing it and come to the office if he needed help.  You have no way of knowing if it's legitimate or if others have already helped.  You are already giving your tithes and as a part of that giving, we distribute it and try to be good stewards of what you give. 
And I guess if you don't tithe, then you deserve to be burned by the scammers!  But if you do tithe, then you don't need to dig even deeper and give more to a stranger off the street. 
God may burden your heart to do something specifically, and I won't comment on that, but don't ever be guilted into helping someone when you aren't sure about the details.  Let us help with that.   
They gave it to the apostles and trusted them to distribute it appropriately.  And Barnabas is just one of many who did that, and he is used by the Holy Spirit to illustrate what happens in chapter 5.
I've always found it interesting that the first word of chapter 5 is "but'.
verse 1a
So far so good.  Ananias and Sapphira did exactly what Barnabas did.   
verse 1b
So get this picture.  Everything is rolling along very well.  Even though there is persecution from outside the church, everything is as it ought to be inside the church. . .until what this couple did interrupts the progress.
So we meet Ananias and Sapphira.  Ananias means, "the Lord is gracious.”  It's a nice name.  Sapphira obviously is related to sapphire and it means "beautiful". 
So this couple, apparently very involved in the church, genuine believers according to 4:32, watched all of this generosity taking place and people being recognized for it, and they wanted to get in on some of the accolades.  So they sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price.  It says that Ananias did this for himself with his wife’s full knowledge.  Then they brought some of the earnings and gave it to the apostles, just like Barnabas. 
But there is a difference in their hearts and the heart of Barnabas.  They want to get in on the recognition, but they don't want to make the sacrifice.  They're not willing to sacrifice everything.  they just want people to believe they are. 
So they sell their property and lead people to believe they are giving the full amount of the sale.  But they are lying.  They've kept part of it back for themselves.  And please note, they didn't have to give all of it.  They didn't have to give any of it.    
The sin is not that they didn’t give or they didn't give enough.  Their sin is they lied about what they gave.  And I will tell you:  God hates lying! That's first on the list in the Old Testament!    
In fact, they didn't just lie.  According to what Peter says in verse 3, they lied to the Holy Spirit!  That means they lied to God. That makes tem hypocrites.  They're not just liars, they have lying lives!
Apparently they thought nobody would know.  But hey discovered that a secret sin on earth is an open scandal in heaven!  And their lie is the worst kind of lie.  It's a lie intended to make them look spiritual! 
They're looking to gain praise from men by defrauding God! They thought that they would be applauded for their sacrifice, and at the same time, they could free up a little spending money on the side!   And Peter identifies them as the hypocrites that they are!
And in so doing, Peter draws attention to the very first recorded sin of the church.  I would guess most of us would not have thought of hypocrisy as the first sin in the church God would discipline. 
I would have guessed immorality or stealing or some sort of blasphemy or rejection of the Word of God.  We might have thought it would be anger or bitterness of a lack of forgiveness.  Those are all part of life in the church.  But the sin that the Holy Spirit highlights to help us understand the impact sin makes in the life of a church is pretending to be something you’re not.  Hypocrisy!
Hypocrites are the ones who want to be elevated in the church.  They want people to notice how spiritual they are and how important they are to God. 
They put on a spiritual front and make sure everyone notices.  They’re hypocrites.  So, is the church full of hypocrites like lots of people say?  Absolutely.  Just look around!!
None of us live as we ought to live.  None of us are what people believe us to be. None of us live the Christ-like life as we should. 
But neither should we pretend that we do.  Nor should we be in some kind of hurry to act as if the realities of our sin don’t even exist.   ANd we sure shouldn't be looking down our noses at others and how bad they are!
That’s exactly what was going on here.  Yes, churches have hypocrites.  Yes, people pretend to be spiritual when they’re not.  That needs to be exposed.  And that's exactly what Peter does. 
verses 3-4
And just that easily, Satan entered the church. He came in and used a good thing to lead a couple of God's children to lie to God.  And he hasn't left yet!
Well, sin in the church has to be dealt with, and we'll see how that happened in the coming studies as we look at the results and the impact of that sin.
Let’s pray.
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