What about Ananias and Sapphira?


Question: I struggle to understand the meaning of the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Leading up to the story in Acts 4, we can see how the church was functioning. Multitudes were flocking to hear the gospel, and the church came together to accommodate all these people. It says that all the people in the church were of “one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own.” The people of this church saw the needs of everyone coming in, so they sold their houses and land and brought the proceeds to the apostles’ feet. Ananias and Sapphira enter the story. Ananias sold possessions like many in the early Christian community, but he and his wife held back part of the sales (Acts 5:1-21).

The story goes on: But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? … You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. … After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.

Some have suggested that Ananias and Sapphira were not really Christians, implying that it was okay for God to kill them. But from the story it seems clear that Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of the early Christian Jerusalem church. So here we read of Christians instantly dying in response to Peter’s words! So who or what killed them?


Response: What killed them was eating from the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil, the same thing that kills all of us. It’s the Lord that numbers our days. Love (who is God) consigned them to disobedience and futility, just as he did me. He delivered them up to death just as he did Jesus. He has delivered us all up to death that we might all live forever with him. He took Ananias and Sapphira out of that early church, but that does not mean that he has not or will not judge them, redeem them, and raise them from the dead to life eternal.

Let me put it another way: The Word of Grace died with them and will rise with them. We all must “lose our lives (psyches) to find them.” We tend to think that death is the end of the story, or the beginning of endless conscious torment. But that just isn’t biblical. I’m saying that Grace kills us all; but that’s not entirely accurate, for according to Scripture we’re already dead in our trespasses and sins. Grace helps us surrender our spirits. Ananias and Sapphira pretended to do that but wouldn’t do that. So Grace protected his infant church, and Grace is helping, or has helped, Ananias and Sapphira surrender their Spirit, their Breath, the Life, in them. Grace helps them lose it so they might receive it.

The “Grace Crowd” is sometimes so concerned with making God look nice, that we don’t allow him to be Good. We’re concerned with making him non-violent, so we won’t allow him to violate our will. But unless he “violates” my fallen will with his perfect will, I am never disciplined, I never grow, and I may never be saved. He saves me from my sin, which is my own will and the prison of death in which all of humanity is trapped apart from Grace, which is God’s will and God himself.

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