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Acts #16 (chapter 5:1-14)
The Book of Acts
When Sin Entered the Church, Part 2
Acts 5:1–14
 
Acts 5:1-14
 
One of the unexpected events of the early church is that the severe response to sin found in these verses resulted in church growth. 
 
This is the very first account of sinful behavior n the church.  And keep in mind, sinful event in the life of the church, the first sinful event.  Obviously this is not the first sin committed by a Christian, but it the first sin recorded in Acts.  And it is the first public discipline of sin.  But it results in people being added to the church. 
 
So I guess we could say this is the first evangelism emphasis the New Testament records.  And, as we saw last week, it begins with the sin of hypocrisy.  Barnabas sells a piece of land and donates the proceeds to the church.  Another couple, Ananias and Sapphira do the same thing, but lie about waht they received and what they gave and wind up dying because of their sin.
 
It all began with a
 
1.  Sinful Pretense
 
as these Christians are struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit.  Their sin was not in keeping back some of the profit.  The land was theirs to give or keep or sell or whatever they wanted to do with it.
 
But it was a sin to lie about it.  That was the hypocrisy.  They wanted people to think they were more spiritual than they were.  They were putting up a pretense of being generous and obedient. 
 
And reading between the lines, since Peter says they lied to the Holy Spirit, they must have announced their intention to give everything they got from the sale, and then secretly held some of it back and lied about it.  And they were revealed to be the hypocrites that they were.
 
And notice, the connection that is made between what was done and Satan initiating it. That is a critical point.  Satan has already tried to slow the spread of the gospel with persecution by the enemies of the church. But now he's moved inside to corrupt and disrupt the effectiveness and power of the church.   And the pawns he uses are Ananias and Sapphira and the hypocrisy of their sinful pretense. 
 
Then, in verses 3 and 4, we see
 
2.  Spiritual Perception
 
verses 3-4
 
Peter immediately recognizes the deception.  So how did he know what was going on?  I don’t think he took a look at the giving records and investigated down at the county court house. 
 
In fact, I don’t know that he necessarily knew all the details or how much and to whom and what part was kept.   But it is obvious the Holy Spirit has given the ability to discern the truth about what's going on. 
And from a pastoral point of view, I will just tell you this pretty bold on Peter’s part because there is so much at stake.  After all, everything is going really well.  The church is booming, people are being saved.  The spirit of the church is so good.  So many good things are happening!  And it would be tempting to just let the good outweigh the bad and let it go.   
 
After all, there’s so much love and so much unity, and we did get a lot of money from Ananias and Sapphira.  Maybe I ought to just cool my heels here a little bit.  Why do I want to make an issue out of this?  It’s better that they sold the land and we got what we got.  After all, Ananias and Sapphira are some of the wealthier people in our congregation.  We need his shekels to keep coming in to keep the work going.  And he was generous, and we do want to be appreciative.” 
 
But those are not the thoughts of Peter.  Those are the thoughts of a rationalizing compromiser.
 
So Ananias comes to church expecting to be honored for his generosity, and instead he is confronted with his sin by Peter who is acting upon this spiritual perception the Holy Spirit has provided. 
 
And notice, he confronts Ananias with his heart being filled by Satan to commit this sin.  Back in 4:31, the whole church was filled with the Spirit, but here the same word filled is being used of Ananias being filled with Satan.  I don’t know all the dynamics of this but in someone he opened himself up to satanic influence.  
 
I don’t believe that Christians can be demon-possessed in the sense that demons take up a permanent residence in them, but we certainly can be Satan-influenced.  And I think it safe to say the more you make available to Satan, the more he'll take advantage of it.
 
And through this pre-meditated plan between Ananias and his wife, the hypocrisy and lies gave  Satan an opportunity to damage the church, not because they lied or were greedy, but because they were glory-seekers!  They wanted to be honored and respected and revered! 
 
But the Holy Spirit knows what's going on, and He knows who to tell!  And Peter takes the information he is provided and immediately confronts the sin of Ananias as soon as the offering is given.   
 
And immediately comes
 
3.  Swift Punishment
 
verses 5-6
 
He died on the spot.  What an amazing moment in the church.  By the way, have you ever thought about where we'd be if God still judged sin like that?  I'll tell you where I'd be!  I'd be right here preaching to an empty church! 
 
So what killed him?  I would suggest it was nothing less than the spoken Word of God.  As far as physical cause, we don't know.  We don't have a death certificate or coroner's report to tell us.  But it seems to me it must have been sheer terror.
 
Just imagine Ananias comes waltzing into church thinking he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  He’s all decked out.  Sapphira’s not there.  She needs three more hours to do her hair and makeup.  But he’s there and he's all ready for his big moment. 
 
He walks up in front of those gathered to worship and presents his offering to the apostles.  I can just picture the smug look on his face.  Maybe he looks over to Barnabas as if to say, "You're not the only big dog in this church!"
 
And immediately, Peter says, “You blatant, hypocritical liar!  Why have you allowed Satan to influence your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?"
 
I mean, right there in front of the whole church, Peter calls him out for his sin.  And the color just drains from his face.  His body begins to shake,  His heart feels like it will explode in his chest!  His brow breaks out in sweat!  There he stands, trapped in the horrors of his own hypocrisy.  And then he crumples in a heap on the floor, graveyard dead! 
 
Maybe he died of a stress-related heart attack.  Maybe he had a massive stroke or aneurysm, we don't know.  But God killed him.  He came in seeking glory and instead, his name was recorded for eternity in the record of God's Word as the hypocrite that he was as God struck him dead. 
 
So, like it was everyday business, the young men wrapped him up, carried his carcass outside and buried him.
 
 
 
About three hours later, Mrs. Ananais makes her appearance.  She had no idea what has happened.  I'm guessing the plan was for Mr. A to go to church, be the big shot, let everybody make a fuss over him, then she would show up and it would all start over again and in that way they could extend the recognition for the better part of the day.
  
So, right on cue, she makes her entrance.  Her hair's all puffed up and she has on her finest Sunday-go-to-meeting duds, high heels and all.  He makeup is meticulous.  She is the epitome of success.  Everything is perfect. 
 
By now, the generosity of her husband and her has rippled through the crowd.  Everybody knows they’ve given the gift.  She’s coming in.  It’s all theater for her.  She walks in. 
 
And she, too, is immediately confronted by Peter.
 
verses 8-10
 
Apparently they had blanket committees back in those days.  And by now, these young men must be hoping they roll off real soon! 
 
Notice the question in verse 9.  Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?  Are you trying to see if the Holy Spirit can spot hypocrisy?  Is that the test?  Is that what you’re doing?  Do you think you can deceive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God?”
 
 
 
What stupidity.  After all, back then it wasn't like today where you sometimes have to wonder if the Holy Spirit is present.  If you needed evidence the Holy Spirit was around back then, all you had to do was look around.  There was evidence everywhere you looked!
 
from the very beginning on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came, there were visible manifestations of the Spirit’s power.  Languages were being spoken people didn’t know.  There was a loud noise like a mighty rushing wind.  There were tremors.  There were all kinds of phenomenon going on, and then there were miraculous signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles.  Miracles were flourishing in the early church, and it was very clear that the Holy Spirit was present and powerful.
 
Better understood, Peter's question was really, "Just how stupid are you?  Do you not know that the Holy Spirit is present?  Do you think you need to give Him a test to see if He can spot a hypocrite?” 
 
And just as quickly, down she went also. And they haul her out and bury her alongside her husband. 
Just another Sunday down at First Baptist, Jerusalem! That would make a great TV commercial for your church, don't you think? 
 
Come on down to our church where people are just dying to get in!
 
So what was the result of what happened? 
 
 
It resulted in a
4.  Solemn Purging
 
verse 5, 11
 
So what do we learn from this passage?  If nothing else, we see that the Lord is serious about the purity of the church.  God hates the sins of the saints.  They corrupt His church.  God hates hypocrisy.  God hates lying.  God punishes sin.  People died in the early church and people died at the Communion table.  There was a sin unto death. 
 
Purity is critical to the church, and critical to the power of the church and the testimony of the church.  Now, we’re not perfect people, but we don’t want to hide hypocrites, and we don’t want to be hypocrites.  And there needs to be a purging of the hypocrisy and the church is called to model purity and confront hypocrisy. 
 
And the goal is found in verse 12
 
They are now back where they were before the encounter with sin.  They all went back to the same unity that they had back in verse 32.  After the sin was dealt with, the corruption was removed, the hypocrites were dead, then they were back to where they were before. 
 
Now it seems to me what we see in this text would be the antithesis of church growth.  you would think It would have caused anything but church growth. And that seems to be what we read in
 
verse 13  
 
 
But the whole idea was that the Lord was designing a church that non-believers would not want to belong to.  I don’t know how to say that more clearly.  The Lord had designed a church that non-believers would not want to belong to because it’s so pursuing purity. 
 
It’s a place of judgment on sin.  It’s a place of confrontation of sin that we all desire because we have holy affections and divine aspirations, and we want to honor the Christ we love and glorify Him.
 
I know it is contrary to modern church growth strategies, but the church can’t be a place where lost people are comfortable.  Listen:  I don't care what kind of music and preaching the lost world wants to hear.  I don't want to design the worship service so it is comfortable and attract for the lost to come.
 
When a lost person, without Christ or God walks into this place, there ought to be a holy uncomfortableness about it.  They ought to know they are in a place where they don't belong and they don't fit because it is a place of purity and holiness and Godliness! 

They ought to be welcomed and helped and encouraged to see how they can fit and be made holy.  But they ought to sense the very presence of God in this place and with that, an awareness of their own sin and a high regard for those who are here.   
 
That’s the Lord’s design for a church, and it worked. 
 
Verses 14-16
 
That's God's evangelism strategy.  Confront sin.  Purify the church.  Frighten unbelievers who are living in sin.  Develop Christians who understand the terror of the Lord.  And allow that to unite us in our
pursuit of holiness and purity as we graciously share in the needs and hurts of others and see believers increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. 
 
Let's pray.
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