Setting

The church in Jerusalem had successfully overcome the first wave of oppositions. In this passage, Luke gives us a report on the grace and power of the Lord on the church as well as the love and unity of the believers. But Satan found his way into the heart of a few unfaithful and attempted to corrupt the church through their deceit. However, God intervened swiftly and decisively to remove the evil from within the church. As a result, the fear of the Lord came upon everyone in the church and all who heard about the divine judgement. The Lord continued to manifest His great power, and the believers continued to grow in number.

Key Verse

(4:32; 5:4)

Did You Know...?

1. Levite (4:36): The Lord had instructed the Israelites that the Levites should have no inheritance (Deut 18:1). There are some possible reasons why Barnabas owned a field: 1) The regulations for the Levites may have applied only within the land Palestine, and perhaps the land that Barnabas owned was in Cyprus. 2) He may have been married, and the land sold may have been from his wife’s property. 3) The prohibition against Levite ownership of land was probably no longer observed. [ref]
2. Cyprus (4:36) is an island in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
3. “Kept back” (5:2): This verb, nosphizo, is the same as the verb used in the Septuagint (early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) for Achan’s act of stealing.

Outline

  • The Sharing of Possessions
    (4:32-37)
  • Ananias and Sapphira
    (5:1-11)
  • Signs and Wonders through the Apostles
    (5:12-16)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    What are the similarities between this passage and Acts 2:40-47?

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    1. Believers shared their goods with those in need
    2. Believers were increasingly added to the church
    3. Believers were of one accord.
    4. Great wonders and signs were done through the apostles, and fear came upon everyone.

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  • 2.

    Why do you think Luke repeatedly reports about the lives of the believers in the church?

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    Church growth is more than an increase in membership. A thriving church is also marked by Christ-centered lives of the believers. When believers obey the will of the Lord in their daily lives, the church will have the abidance of the Holy Spirit and continue to receive God’s blessings.

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Segment Analysis

  • 4:32-37

    1a.

    How did the lives of the believers show that they were indeed “of one heart and one soul”?

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    The believers did not consider their possessions as their own. Instead, they shared them with one another so that no one was lacking.

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  • 1b.

    Based on the recording in this paragraph, what do you think are the important prerequisites for unity among believers?

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    1. To achieve unity, it is important to relinquish a self-centered way of life and look to the needs of other members of Christ’s body.
    2. Unity of the church is in essence the unity of hearts and souls. Superficial unity, such as forming work teams or holding meetings, without sharing the same heart of love and dedication, will not last very long. For the church to be truly one, everyone needs to have a sincere heart and will to care for other members and seek the common good of the body of Christ.

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  • 2.

    How should the church today practice the sharing of possessions to take care of the needy?

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    Each believer in the church has to be ready to give. This would require that we all not consider our possessions as our own but regard ourselves as stewards of God’s possessions. In addition, we should learn to show concern for one another so that we can know who is in need. Then whenever we know that someone is lacking, we can generously give our possessions to meet their need.
    Those who have been chosen to manage the affairs of the church should also look out for any member who may be lacking. So when they see a need, they can faithfully and wisely use the funds available to the church to help these members.

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  • 5:1-16

    3a.

    Was it wrong for Ananias and Sapphira to keep some of the money from the sale of their property? What sin were Ananias and Sapphira punished for?

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    Peter clearly pointed out that Ananias had total control of the land and the money from the sale of the land (4). There was nothing wrong for keeping some for themselves while offering the rest to the church. But Ananias’ sin was in conspiring with his wife to deceive the apostles and the church with the lie that they had actually given all the money from the sale of the land to the church.

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  • 3b.

    What could have prompted Ananias and Sapphira to do what they did?

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    What Barnabas did, i.e. selling his land and giving the money to the church, was a very noble act. The fact that this was recorded shows that it was well known by all the believers. Ananias and Sapphira probably wanted to earn people’s recognition by way of also giving money to the church. So together they devised a way to put on an appearance of generosity without actually sacrificing too much. In other words, their motivation for giving was very likely to win people’s praise, not to help the needy. They used Christian charity to their own advantage.

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  • 4a.

    Why do you think the punishment was so severe and swift for the sins this couple had committed? Was the punishment justifiable?

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    This passage often alarms the reader and raises the question of whether the sin of Ananias and Sapphira warranted such drastic judgment from God. If we think that God was acting too harshly on a “minor” sin, then we need to reexamine the nature of sin as well as God’s justice.
    The deliberate act of sinning, regardless of how harmless it seems, is a rebellion against God. In this light, every time we sin, we are committing the crime of treason against our Creator, and the rightful consequence of our action is death, which is separation from God’s life. There is no sin that is too small to deserve anything less. Every sin against God is an offense on a cosmic scale.
    With this in mind, when we read the account of Ananias and Sapphira, we should not marvel at how swift or severe God sent judgment upon them. Instead, we should marvel at how merciful God has been to us and how often we have taken His mercy for granted. This account should serve to lead us to repentance every time we read it.
    Let us also not take lightly the sin of deceiving God, for God cannot be mocked (Gal 6:7). Ananias and Sapphira had declared publicly by their act that they had given all the money to God. So even the portion that they were holding back for themselves no longer belonged to them. Attempting to steal the things that have been dedicated to God is definitely not a “minor” offense by any measure.
    As to why Ananias and Sapphira were not given a second chance, we should not be quick to conclude that they never had the chance to repent of their sins. We simply do not have enough information about this couples’ lives and possible events that might have preceded this incident. We should also remember that the work of the Holy Spirit was very powerful in the early days of the church. With the Holy Spirit living in them, they would have certainly been taught what was right and wrong, and perhaps have even been warned by the Spirit against committing this sin. But they still chose to let Satan fill their hearts and conspired to “lie to God” (4) and “test the Spirit of the Lord” (9).
    The death of Ananias and Sapphira was not only just, it also served a larger purpose. Through this event, God had taught everyone, including Christians today, the important lesson about the seriousness of sin as well as God’s penetrating knowledge of the motives of our hearts. God’s decisive judgment preserved the purity of the church at the initial stage of church growth and prevented many from committing such corrupt acts.

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  • 4b.

    What do you think would have been the consequence if the sin of Ananias and Sapphira had gone unpunished?

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  • 5.

    What impact did this event bring?

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    Fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things (11). The indirect result was that the Lord continued to bless the church by working with the apostles and adding believers to the church (12-16). Even people from the surrounding cities came to Jerusalem to experience the healing power and grace of the Lord Jesus.

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  • 6.

    What does it mean to “lie to God” or to “test the Spirit of the Lord”?

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    Lying to God or testing the Spirit of the Lord means trying to fool God with an insincere act of piety, such as offering to God with an ulterior motive as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. In a similar fashion, the Israelites also lied to God by paying Him lip service without any intention to obey Him (Ps 78:36; Isa 57:11; Hos 11:12).

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  • 7.

    What lessons did you learn from this event about a. Offerings and charitable deeds? b. Lying to God and Testing the Spirit of the Lord c. Satan’s work? d. Church growth?

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    a. We need to consider offerings or charitable deeds as a dedication to God. Since it’s done towards God, it must not be self-serving. It should be done purely out of love for God and for the needy. We must not take advantage of an act of piety to earn respect, admiration, or some other reward. As the Lord taught us, we should not carry out acts of godliness with the intention to be seen by others (Mt 6:1-18). Men may look at the outward act, but God looks at the motive behind the act.
    b. God detests false piety as well as deliberate acts of sin. We may be able to fool others, but we can never fool God. While God may not always judge us immediately for our secret sins the way He punished Ananias and Sapphira, He is not unaware of our sins. We will still have to give an account to God.
    c. Satan’s work may come externally in the form of opposition to the faith or the preaching of the gospel. But Satan can also work from within the church through those who obey him. He starts his work by filling a person’s heart, even the heart of a believer, and using that person to accomplish his evil purpose. In so doing, he destroys the individual whom he uses as well as causes damage to the spiritual well being of the church. So we need to guard our hearts and our church against Satan’s infiltration.
    d. If sinners are not rebuked and sin is not removed, church growth may be hindered. Worse yet, the church may become corrupt, for sin can spread like leaven (1Cor 5:6). If one sins, and the church takes no action, others may follow his sin. But if the church stops sin from spreading by condemning that sin, or if the Lord intervenes to send immediate judgment, the fear of the Lord will come upon all. Then the church can preserve her wholeness and continue to grow under the Lord’s blessing.

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  • 8.

    The signs and wonders through the apostles elicited two kinds of responses from among those outside the church, according to verses 13 and 14. Why do you think the reactions are so different?

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    There were two kinds of response to the signs and wonders that God had performed. Some dared not join the church (13). But some came to believe in the Lord (14). This is in accord with the Lord Jesus’ teaching in John 3:19-21. When the light of the gospel shines brightly into this dark world, those who love sin will avoid the light for fear that their evil deeds may be exposed, but those who submit to the truth and repent of their sins will come to the light and be saved.

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