There is more to knowing and understanding the historical record of Ananias and Sapphira as is usually preached from Acts 5. If one is not familiar with this passage, the apostles were collecting funds as needed and volunteered by other believers to feed their widowed. There was an issue between the Hellenist Jews and the Jerusalem Jews where one group seemed to be getting more than the other. We will address this in chapter six of the Book of Acts article. For now it is Ananias and Sapphira.
In agreement with each other, this couple sold some property for the expressed purpose of contributing to the “widow Fund.” It seems that they had an ulterior motive; to look good amongst their fellow believers per contribution. In a real sense this is reflected per an attitude in Mark 12:38-44.
(In brief) In His teaching Jesus was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets… and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation. They made much ado about dropping their tithe in to the collection box. The noisier the better and greater likelihood others will make note of their abundance in generosity.”
This is what is usually pointed out in lessons and preaching; the fact that Ananias and Sapphira wanted all to know they gave so much to this cause of widow funds. Peter challenged Ananias as to whether or not the amount he gave was the same as for what he sold his property? He said yes. He died on the spot as it was not so. He wanted to deceive those in witness regarding his generosity by confirming that the amount given was the amount collected.
Three hours later his wife came looking for him. She must have wondered what was holding him up. Perhaps he was being celebrated for such generosity and she wanted her fair share of the attention. Peter asked if the amount her husband had given as an offering and as he had claimed was the price of the property sold. As previously agreed with Ananias, she also said yes. Sapphira also died on the spot.
This is the content of Acts 5:1-10 but the context is more than the historical facts recorded in the bible per Peter, widows, Ananias, and Sapphira. It is what this meant and remains true today per our relationship with others and the Holy Spirit. It may not be directly connected but keep in thought that “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is the one unforgivable sin.
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him.
Acts 5:3 & 9 are too often given little attention in a Sunday School lesson or from the pulpit. We lie to each other in order to deceive. But, the same sin is not a deception of the Holy Spirit but a blatant lie. In other words, we can deceive each other but not the Holy Spirit. He is part of the trinity God-head; all knowing, ever present, and all knowledgeable. What fool thinks a deception of other humans is also a possibility with God? We deceive each other but can only lie to the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:13 is of particular note. It reads… (ESV) “and more than ever believers were added to the Lord…men and women.” The word “believers” is pisteuō in the Greek. It means to put one’s confidence in. It is more than acknowledging something to be true, it is putting one’s trust and life (living) in it; a new way of life. To be a true believer is to accept and to live out one’s faith of confidence.
Beginning at verse 17 the true heart of the Jewish (religion) leaders is exposed. Verse 17 says that the leaders were “jealous.” They see their Judaism flock flooding to Peter consequently putting him in the public spot light and not them. It isn’t that Peter wants the spot light, but the Sanhedrin bunch sure wish it. So what do they do? Arrest Peter and company in the name of their self-proclaiming righteous positions inside the Jewish community.
In short, Peter and his companions are under lock, key and guard. What happens next is amazing. Verse 19: (ASV) “But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them out…” Two great mysteries are found here per this angelic prison escape. We find both in verse 23 of Acts 5. The prison doors were found soundly locked the next morning, and two, the prison guards were still standing at the prison doors unaware of any “escape.” Peter and his co-conspirators per the Sanhedrin, walked out of prison unnoticed and without unlocking the doors.
JIV: (Jim’s Introspective View) The Greek word for ‘open’, as in the passage where the Angel of the Lord opens the prison doors, is anoigō. It can be used literally or figuratively. Either the prison guards were made total unaware of their surroundings and blinded to the actuality of the event or they made consciously blind and Peter along with the angel of the Lord simply walked through the ‘door’ way open or figuratively speaking.
What a shock it had to be the next morning when the Sanhedrin assembled to ‘judge’ these Jesus preaching individuals, seeking them in their prison cells but found them in the Temple witnessing just as they were doing previous to their in initial arrests (verse 25). But in verse 24 we read that the Jewish leadership and captain of the guard were “perplexed.” This means they were trying to find a rational explanation to this unexplainable event. Even in full view of this miracle, they refused to see the truth. This is one of Satan’s most powerful tools of deception.
Acts 5:28 supports this self-deception of the Sanhedrin and guards. The Jewish legal system peaceably gather Peter and company from the Temple a second time and tell them to basically…”don’t do that or this again; we forbid it.” Following this warning we find in verse 30, Peter points out that they must follow God not the whims of religious dictums. He also reminds this Sanhedrin bunch, many being the very same people who had condemned Jesus but a few years earlier, that it was them who crucified Christ Jesus. He put the blame right at their feet. This reminder, plus their efforts to forget the crucifixion made them want to kill them on the spot. Gamaliel, one of their own Sanhedrin members, cautioned them that this is either not of God and will go away on its own or if of God, they must not kill again adding to their guilt of crucifying Jesus.
What an example of to be and to live a life in Christ. Verse 42 specifies that Peter and his entourage kept witnessing door to door and teaching in the Temple. At no time did Peter invite unbelievers to join in the fellowship and worship of believers. He went to them. Has the modern day evangelical church got it wrong? ABSOLUTELY!