The sobering story of Ananias and Sapphira is a cautionary tale, but much more. Sometimes God’s mercy is demonstrated in a way that seems severe. This sermon gives a great deal of context to this one act of judgment, and shows the merciful and loving heart of God behind it.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira begins at the end of Ch. 4.
Ch. 4:32-37 & Ch. 5:1-11
Early church was beginning to find itself and God was beginning to define it to itself and to the outside world, including those that would come into the church and those that would stay outside. We don’t know everything that was in the hearts of either one of them beyond the obvious. They clearly wanted to be thought of in the same way Barnabas was.
On the surface, this is a dramatic story of a quick judgment of what we tend to think of as a minor deception. But there is much more to it than that!
Context, Part 1
In the history of God’s actions with His people, this kind of quick action on God’s part wasn’t all that unusual!
It’s His mercy that He doesn’t do that all the time!
Other examples in the New Testament: Matthew 16 and Luke 22
Context, Part 2
Behind the scenes, this was a spiritual war going on, a war that was peaking around the time of Jesus and shortly thereafter!
The devil tried to stop the entire human race, but failed. He tried to destroy God’s chosen nation. He tried to stop the line of people that would lead to the Messiah.
The devil tried to get Jesus killed as a baby through the actions of Herod. Then he tempted Jesus in the desert. Satan managed to make serious headway with Judas, and even tried with Peter. But God folded Judas’ actions into His plan for Jesus, and Peter just got strongly rebuked and seemed to learn his lesson.
The church was born, and the devil just changed His tactics, trying to, trying to poison it early. He saw love, selflessness, generosity, spiritual trust and a very scary (to him) unity. So he tried to destroy it before it had a chance to grow.
Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be moved by God’s spirit when it was the opposite. They were lying to God. What we do to others, we do to the Lord.
Don’t boast of what you haven’t done, or promise a good work that you don’t do, or exaggerate what you have done.
Be real–about everything. Admit where you’re at.
God cares deeply about honesty and integrity.
God loves and works with us as individuals, but He also sees us and works with us as members of a body, a group. Ananias and Sapphira were more than individuals. They were visible members of the early church, and their sin would have infected the whole place, and compromised the work of God at that crucial time.
What about mercy?
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken
“God is not content to leave the believer as he is, pursuing idols that can never satisfy. It is a severe mercy that he would remove temporal, idolatrous happiness to make us more holy. Severe- because refining fire must burn out things which we hold dear. Mercy- because we are made more like the Son and more free to worship and delight in our God.” – C.S. Lewis, A Severe Mercy
The severe mercy here was to the church of God. Like having to amputate an arm or leg because the gangrene would eventually kill the whole body, God did something severe to make sure this spiritual infection didn’t infect the entire church, and eventually bring her to ruin.
For us, it’s a sober reminder that while God is gracious and loving and forgiving, we need to take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning. God is not mocked! He sees the heart, and He hates sin.
It’s also a sign that God’s mercy is often unrecognized. He has done some painful things in our lives, and yet behind many of them stood His mercy!
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? What would you try to get right? What would you try to correct?
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a reminder to all of us that judgment day is coming, for some of us, much sooner than for others. Every person’s death is their own judgment day, when they go before the Lord face-to-face. If they have received the forgiveness of Christ, they are there to finally meet their Maker and Forgiver, and to receive their reward in heaven. If not, they will have to pay for their sins themselves–not a pretty picture.
For today and forever, He is our refuge!