Last week I read a very sad story about a lady who purchased a beautiful home in Georgia. I saw pictures of it before and after. She had it termite inspected before she bought anything, and nothing showed up. But when someone leaned his hand against a wall, his whole arm went right through its paper thin skin. She realized that she had termites. She didn't know how bad it was until she hired a contractor to fix the termite damage in that wall. One wall led to another, and as they were stripped bare, they were horrified to see that almost all the support beams holding the house up were ready to crumble. They quickly evacuated for safety sake and were planning to tear it down. And there was virtually nothing left by way of structure that would keep the whole building from collapse. Her life savings are gone and the case is now sitting in court. But the newspaper said that she probably didn't have much recourse. There were no tell tale signs on the outside. Since my son is into buying and fixing up old houses, that definitely was a story that made me nervous. We don't have Formosa termites up here, but our own termites are still a problem, aren't they.
The Presence of Sin (Termites) is not what Made Them Hypocrites
The Contrast Was Initially Undetected (5:1 "But")
You may not think that a termite house is not be the best word picture to describe the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, but I think it does help to communicate a few of the differences between Barnabas and them. Luke is introducing a deliberate contrast between the pretended grace of chapter 5 and the Spirit-given grace of chapter 4. Notice the word "But" at the beginning of verse 1. The last two verses of chapter 4 show Barnabas selling property and giving it to the church, and the first two verses of chapter 5 show two more people who sell property to give to the church. And the little word "But" was included by the Spirit to clue us into the fact that the two givings were a world apart. They may have appeared to be similar to everyone looking on. But chapter 4 shows actions flowing from real grace and chapter 5 shows actions flowing from counterfeit grace. Every God-given grace has a fleshly counterfeit: God produces peace, and so can Satan; so can our flesh. God produces generosity, and so can Satan; so can our flesh. Now that does not mean that Ananias and Sapphira were unsaved. They may have been. That is a debate that has raged for centuries, and there has been no definitive proof. But whether they were believers or not is immaterial to the force of Luke's argument. And the reason I say that is because believers can show this same hypocrisy. It's not by accident that Luke contrasts Barnabas with the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas later falls into exactly the same hypocrisy. In Galatians 2:13 Paul says, "And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy." Even Barnabas. If even Barnabas could play the hypocrite, then there is much that we can learn from this contrast between chapter 4 and chapter 5.
The Contrast Was Obscured By Similarities
Both had sin (termites). Note that "all" needed "great grace" (4:33)
The first thing I want you to notice is that the presence of termites was not the problem with Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas had termites too. In chapter 4:33 it says, "and great grace was upon them all." Notice the word "all." Great grace was needed because of the greatness of sin. Scripture says, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more." Everyone has termite problems in their houses. I know I do, and I know you do, even if you don't admit it. The question is, "Do you go to the fountain of grace for bug spray?" Do you allow Jesus to inspect the corners of your lives? Or, like Ananias and Sapphira, are there certain areas that are off limits to the termite control work of the Lord Jesus? It would be a mistake to think that the problem is the presence of sin or of termites. Everyone needs to be on guard for those. We get ourselves into legalism if we think that they were unsaved because they had sin in their lives, or to think that they were unsaved because they were disciplined. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul says that there were some Christians in that church who were weak, some who were sick and even some who had died because of their hypocrisy in coming to the Lord's Table; Pretending to be in communion with each other when they were not. We don't come to the Lord's Table worthily by being perfect. In fact, if you hide your sin and pretend that you are sinless, you are disqualified from coming to the Lord's Table. It is the worthiness of Christ that enables us to come. It is the willingness to let the bug inspector daily inspect our lives for termites and to spray for them that enables us to come. It is humility and dependence upon Christ's grace that makes us worthy. So the first thing that I want you to see is that the presence of sin or of termites was not what brought judgment. Everyone had sin.
Both were generous givers (4:36-37; 5:5:1-2)
Notice too that Luke does not deny that Ananias and Sapphira were generous. Barnabas generously gave his property and this husband and wife team generously gave at least a part of their property. Did the generosity spring from faith? Well, I suppose it depends upon whether you think they were true believers or not. But remember that even true believers can lack faith at times and can lack godly graces.
Perhaps I should review the way in which this generosity flowed out of faith. Look at 4:32. "Now the multitude of those who believed" [there is the key – everything flows out of that faith. Galatians 5 says that it isn't just justification that flows from faith. Paul said that sanctification also flows out of faith. This means no one has anything in which to boast. If our house is standing, it is only because faith has received God's grace after the Spirit has shined his flashlight on the termite spots. A sure way to get into legalism is to read chapter 5 as if Ananias and Sapphira didn't work hard enough to be accepted by God and by the church. No. Their house did not fall down because of the presence of the termites of sin, but because they sought to cover and ignore sin, and they pretended that they had grace when they did not. So verse 32 indicates that our life starts with faith because it is all of grace. Anyway, going on, verse 32 shows two things that result from trust in Christ's finished work: 1) first, their hearts begin to hold onto relationships tightly, and secondly, their hearts are willing to let go of things; they hold onto things with an open hand. It says, "Now the multitude of those who believed"] were of one heart and one soul;" [there's the holding tightly onto relationships] "neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own," [they had a stewards heart, treating everything as belonging to God; they did not hold onto things with a tight grip. And the text says that the result was] "but they had all things in common." When emergency needs arose, they were willing to sacrifice greatly for each other.
Last time we distinguished this carefully from both asceticism and from socialism. But it is clear that great grace made the people have great generosity. And this example of others made Ananias and Sapphira desire to give as well. It was an infectious attitude. So Chapter 5:1-2 shows that they made a big sacrifice. Don't be so busy in showing their wrong that you fail to see the good that they did do. "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles feet." This was a very generous act. Though we will see that he did not give everything that he had pledged, he still gave generously.
Both professed faith and were treated as Christians
Third, everyone described here had professed faith and were treated by others as Christians. Even Ananias' name shows an acquaintance with grace because it means, "Jehovah is gracious." He was living in an atmosphere of grace, but did not appropriate that grace for this sin.
Both were attracted to the grace-filled, Spirit-filled church. Even after this judgment, many unbelievers found this attractive (5:13)
And both were attracted to the grace-filled and Spirit-filled church. Some people wonder, "How could an unbeliever find this so attractive?" Well, again, we are not guaranteeing that they were unbelievers. But if you look at chapter 5, verse 13, you will see an explicit reference to unbelievers finding what was going on to be very attractive. "Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." When God's grace is powerfully at work in the church it will bring the fire of some enemies, but there will always be others who find it attractive, even if they dare not join. Now again, I'm not going to settle whether they were truly saved or not, because I don't see that as Luke's intention. He deliberately leaves that vague. And I will be giving evidences on both sides.
The Real Contrast is Seen in Attitudes Towards Sin, God and Grace
Unlike the others who took sin seriously (Acts 1:18,25; 2:37-38; 3:19, 26; etc), this couple sought to hide their sin (5:8-9) and they treated the sin lightly (5:2,8-9)
The real contrast can be seen in the attitudes that were displayed towards sin, God and grace. In your outlines I list several verses that showed that the others took sin seriously in chapters 1-4. The gory description of the fruits of sin in chapter 1:18 is designed to show how revolting sin was to this body. They see sin as always leading to judgment. Chapter 2 shows sin as separating men and women from God and needing remittance and cleansing. Who wants a termite house? God is in the business of destroying termites, not covering them up. And we have a faulty view of grace if we think that grace simply covers termite damage with new sheets of veneer. That's not the way God works. In chapter 3:19 Peter wants sins blotted out in terms of justification and in verse 26 he wants people to turn away from sins in terms of sanctification. Termites must always be dealt with no matter how small they are. But Ananias and Sapphira were content to appear right before others. Others are generous, so let's be generous too; in fact, let's exaggerate our generosity. Let's promise 100% of the proceeds of this land, but keep back part of what was promised. No one will know. And all we care about is appearances. Those kinds of attitudes will eventually cause your house to crumble from termite damage whether you are a believer or an unbeliever.
Unlike the others who feared God (2:43; 5:5,11), the couple seem to have no fear of God (5:1-10)
Unlike the others who feared God, this couple seemed to fear what people would think far more than they worried what God would think. Paul addresses this problem in Galatians where even Barnabas was drawn into the allurement of hypocrisy. You see, it's so much easier for our pride and for our flesh to cover over the termite damage (than to really deal with it) if our interest is in appearances rather than in being termite free. And this preoccupation with appearances (in other words, with what others might think of you) affected even Barnabas. And if it affected Barnabas in Galatians, it can affect us. Just three or four days ago I had to repent of this hypocrisy. I was feeling ill again, and had slept in. So I didn't get out of the house and to the office till a little after 9 o'clock. And as I left the house, I caught myself looking at the street to see if Glenn's car was there, concerned that he would think I was a lazy bum for coming in just after 9 o'clock. And I rebuked my flesh immediately for wanting to live by appearances and being interested in what men think of me. And I was thinking to myself: "Why in the world would I want to appear to be coming in to work on time if I am not coming in to work before 9 am? Ridiculous." But that is exactly what hypocrisy is. It is ridiculous. And so Paul said in Galatians 1:10, "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." He said that you can't really serve Christ if you are driven by this hypocrisy – this desire to appear good to men – this desire to hide your termites from the inspection of men and of God. Those are not my words – those are the words of Paul. He said that being a bond-servant of Christ is inconsistent with striving to seek men's favor. And in this passage it is the fear of God that is the answer to the fear of man.
Unlike the others who depended upon grace for approval (4:33), this couple depended upon appearances for approval (5:1-2,8).
But it wasn't just a faulty view of sin, and a lack of fear of God. It was a lack of the appropriation of grace that made them depend upon appearances rather than to truly be holy. We can all fake Christianity, can't we? We can fake peace when we have no peace. We can fake joy when we have no joy. We can fake humility by confessing certain sins while desperately trying to avoid the confession or detection of other sins. This is the way the human heart works. It even appeals to grace as a reason why we don't need to spray for termites. It's amazing how deceptive hypocrisy is. Paul counters the subtlety of counterfeit grace when he asks, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!*" Or as the King James words it, "God forbid!" The idea is that it is unthinkable to use grace as a reason to not have to be treating the termites.. True grace enables us to hate our sin without becoming discouraged over our sin. True grace allows sin to be exposed to a counselor without feeling despair at the presence of termites. True grace enables us to delight in the pursuit of holiness even when we haven't arrived where we would like to be. It enables us to grieve over sin without giving up in our resistance to sin. True grace can have sin exposed even to men without feeling shame and smallness because it focuses on how Christ is sufficient, and how Christ makes us worthy.
All of that is a world apart from an approach to termites that either ignores them on the one extreme or is in despair over them on the other extreme. And really, both extremes are manifestations of the same problem that makes us want to throw up our hands and say, "What's the use." Unlike the others who depended upon God's grace for approval, this couple depended upon appearances for approval. "We need to give something so that people will think that we are holy." That's what's going on. And so, the first point is that the presence of sin or termites is not what made this couple hypocrites. It was putting up a veneer over the termite damage that was the problem. It was hiding their sin and appearing to be something that they were not. It was living by appearances because they feared man more than they feard God. It was a counterfeit grace and a failure so see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Just as the presence of termites ought to scare us in our real homes, the presence of sin ought to make us instantly go to Christ so that by His grace He can once again engage in the process of rooting out and destroying the termites. And we can praise God that Jesus is sufficient for this. He has promised that "he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Amen?
The Termites Planted by Satan
Arose Out Of Context Of Revival (v. 1 "But")
Well, having given an overview of the problem of allowing sins to gnaw their way through our lives rather than fumigating them the instant we find them, let's look at Satan's brilliant strategies. I think that word "But" in verse 1 not only contrasts Barnabas with this couple, but contrasts the whole life of the church being described in chapter 4:32-37. And Satan plants his termites when we are least expecting them; when we have been on a spiritual high and everything has been going well. So far the church had been advancing with remarkable strides despite the persecution of Satan. Tremendous revival, spiritual vitality and power were evident in the church. Now Satan was seeking to ruin the church from the inside out, and this is a strategy that he had used successfully over and over in the past. He brings temptation on the heels of victory. He takes you off guard when you think that you've got it made spiritually. When for instance did David fall into sin with Bathsheba? It was at a point in his life when he was on top of the world and everything finally seemed to be going right When did Satan bring Balaam to tempt Israel into harlotry? It was immediatly after God had granted them two outstanding victories. Israel was defeated at Ai because of the sin of Achan in their midst and it was right after their outstanding victory over Jericho. In fact, the language that is used in Acts 5:2 is the same language used of Achan. I think there is a deliberate allusion to Acahan's sin. But the point here is that Achan's sin came on the heels of incredible grace and incredible victory at Jericho.
And it was the same here. You wouldn't think that revival would be fertile soil for a temptation to arise. But arise it did. No doubt Ananias and Sapphira wanted to bask in some of the glory that surrounded Barnabus. They too had property and they too sold it and brought money to the apostles feet. They wanted to be part of the glory of the revival, but their motivations came from the flesh. Don't ever think that Satan is not in the field of religion. It is precisely in that field that he has his biggest hay day. So this termite of sin came in the context of revival.
Used Good Actions As A Vehicle (vv. 1-2)
And verses 1-2 indicate that it came on the wings of very good actions. Who would have thought that someone as generous as Ananias and Sapphira would be chastised by God? But you see, that is to think it terms of works-righteousness. We tend to think, "So long as I have been doing good in these areas, I shouldn't be punished for these little sins." But termites are termites, and the purpose of grace is not to hide termites but to exterminate termites. And the fact that you have worked on termites in the bedroom does not do away with the need to apply God's grace to termites in the living room where the Television is. And the fact that you have squished the obvious termites that have wings and have come out of the floor boards does not mean you can ignore the termites that are hidden. You see, God does not look at the outward deed only. God was looking at the heart. This gift had all of the appearances of a very godly and noble act. But the Spirit had overheard their conversation in verse 1, knew when the land had been put up for sale, knew the market price, saw the sale deed signed and the bank deposit made. He saw the knowing look passing between their eyes as Ananias kissed Sapphira goodby that morning and had prodded his conscience all that time as he was walking to church. And he ignored it.
You see, no matter how covered with good deeds our sins are, God is not fooled. You may be able to rationalize till you are blue in the face, but you know deep down that your argument is with God. If you ignore the proddings of your conscience until the stage that they were in, in verse 2, you will feel an even greater need to rationalize so that you can save face. But believe me, I know from many bitter experiences in my own life that it is much better to have immediate repentance rather than to wait for God to bring out the spanking paddle. We can hide our sins from others in a religious mantle, but we can never hide them from God. And that is what we see in the following verses. The termites of their sins were detected by the Holy Spirit. Rather than grieving over this we ought to delight in this and say Thank you Lord that you do termite inspections in my house. Thank you Lord.
The Termites Detected By The Spirit
Its Nature (2-4, 8-9)
Embezzlement of funds already given to the church ("keep back" [e˙nosfi÷sato] of verses 2 and 3 means to "embezzle" or "pilfer.")
To break a promise to give it all ("lie" vv 3,8).
Let's look first at the nature of these termites of sin. Verse 2 says, "And he kept back part of the proceeds." That word, "kept back," means to embezzle or to keep back for yourself something that is not your own. Like if you were digging for diamonds for a diamond company, it would be keeping back in your own garments one of the diamonds for personal gain. One dictionary says, "to keep back [by way of] engagement in a type of skimming operation" (BDAG). Another dictionary has "to steal" (LEH). Another has "to misappropriate funds for one's own benefit — ‘to misappropriate funds for oneself, to embezzle.'" (Louw & Nida) Another has "to embezzle" (UBS). Another has, "embezzle, withdraw covertly and appropriate to one's own use" (Thayer). In other words, he is taking something that is not his own. That's a key word to understanding this passage.
The same word is used by Peter in verse 3. , "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and" [here's that word] "keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?" The implication is that Ananias and Sapphira had already given away to the church the full price of the land. Once they had pledged the land, it was no longer theirs to keep. And verse 4 makes that clear. "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?" You can't steal what belongs to you, and before it did belong to you. Two weeks ago we saw how this does not even remotely resemble either asceticism or socialism which abolishes private property. This was an example of the rights to private property, broken promises and theft. Peter accuses him of lying to God, not to man. The church is not enforcing giving. This is not Peter judging him, but God judging Ananias. Peter is merely God's spokesperson. So Peter says "Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." What was the lie? It was the pledge to give the whole proceeds. And Scripture says that when we promise God something and don't follow through, we are brought into judgment. Let me give an example: Solomon said:
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed – better not to vow than to vow and not to pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands.
Obviously the New Testament takes the issue of fulfilling our promises just as seriously as the Old Testament does. It's a termite.
Giving in to Satan's temptation
The third aspect of what was happening was that Ananias was tempted by Satan. "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?" Some people think that if Satan fills his heart, he can't be a believer. But this is not talking about demon possession. This is talking about the strength and power of demons to tempt people. Some have their hearts filled with a lust for money; others with a lust for sex; others with a lust for praise. But Scripture portrays Satan as having the ability to fill the minds of both believers and unbelievers with temptations unless they are resisted. 1 Corinthians 7:5 indicates that Satan can tempt Christians in the sexual arena. 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that Satan moved David to number Israel. 2 Timothy 2:26 indicates that Satan can snare Christians with false doctrine. Satan moved Peter to use words that would deflect Christ from His purpose. In fact, later in Luke 22:31 Christ said that Satan would try his utmost to get Peter to deny the faith.
Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.
Satan would be successful in getting Peter to deny the Lord, but not to lose faith completely. The Puritans were insistent that we must not ignore the wiles of the devil. 1 Peter 5:8 says that we have the responsibility to resist the devil. Peter knew from hard experience that what happens when you fail to do that. He remembers Christ looking right at him and sayng, "'Get behind me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.'" (Matt. 16:23) And that was right after Peter had made the glorious confession of Jesus as the Messiah. So Satan was at work.
But don't think of this as being a situation where Ananias has no control over himself. Peter holds him responsible for his actions, and so the Puritans were just as insistent that we need to watch out for the wiles of our heart. Notice that in the second part of verse 4 Peter says, "Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?" He conceived it in his heart, and yet Satan also moved him in some way. We have a faulty view of demonology if we use the excuse, "I couldn't help it. The devil made me do it." All Satan can do is dangle the bait. He can't force us to sin. James makes it very clear, "each one," no exceptions- each one, "is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.** (James 1:14-15). But James makes it just as clear that we must resist the devil or we will fall into sin. James 4:7, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." So notice that the outline says that this was giving in to Satan's temptation.
Hypocricy – pretending to be what you are not
But fourthly, Ananias was engaging in hypocrisy as I have already demonstrated. Hypocrisy takes many forms, but it is always concerned more with appearances than with reality. And Paul warns us to replace hypocrisy with sincerity. He says, "the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity" . . ." (2 Cor. 1:12). "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." (Eph. 6:24) .
Wilfully Engaged In Unfaithfulness to God
And then finally, this was willful sin. They did not just fall into the sin like Peter did under pressure when he denied he knew Christ. They planned it ahead of time according to verse 2. They had plenty of time to rethink their position while the land was for sale. Three hours after Ananias gave the gift Sapphira was given a chance of repentance but she chose to cover up rather than repent. When Scripture speaks of wilful sins it is synonymous with sinning with a high hand and an "I don't care what happens attitude." That puts us into very dangerous water. Sometime study what Numbers 15 has to say about willful sin. It is serious, even when it is engaged in by a believer.
Its Source (3-4,9)
Satan (v. 3)
The Heart (v. 4,9)
Lying To God (3-4)
Testing God (9)
At this point I want to deviate from the outline and just plow through these verses phrase by phrase. Verse 5 says, "Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last." That doesn't sound like a very nice thing to do in the age of grace, and so you find commentaries and pastors stumbling all over themselves to try to explain this. But the simple fact is that God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. He does not change. The God who hated hypocrisy in the Old Testament continues to hate it today as well. Does He always strike people down as an example to others? No. God makes examples in every era to show how seriously he takes our sin. For example, Moses' brother Aaron was really upset with God for killing his two sons. All they had done was deviate on a small issue with respect to worship. They had used fire of their own making for the incense rather than fire off the altar that God had lit. People might think, "What's the big deal? Fire is fire. Who cares where you got it from?" But it destroyed the symbolism that God was wanting to establish. In both the Tabernacle and in the Temple, God Himself lit the altar with fire from heaven, and the priests were not to let that fire go out. From that point on, all service in the temple was to be lit from the coals that came off the altar to demonstrate that all our service must flow from God's grace. And when Aaron complained to Moses about the death of his sons, God answered and said, "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified." (Lev 10:3) No one can stand in God's presence apart from grace. Counterfeit grace will not do. And when people insist on patching up the termite damage rather than dealing with the termites, eventually God has to tear down the house to protect the neighbors in the rest of the church. Termites travel; they infect other buildings.
And the same is true of sin. When sin is ignored in the house of God, the termite infestation only becomes worse and impacts the whole church. Again, this is not talking about being sinless. It is talking about covering up sin rather than exposing it and if need be, over and over coming to the throne of grace for treatment. But the point is that any view of grace that thinks this kind of an action is inconsistent with grace is a faulty view of grace.
Verse 5 goes on to say, "So great fear came upon all those who heard these things." The previous chapter spoke of great grace being upon them. That grace is not inconsistent with great fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 16:6 says, "In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil." By the fear of the Lord, one departs from evil. Any view of grace that makes it inconsistent with fear is a counterfeit grace. You see, the greater God appears to us, the more confident we will become that He is capable of taking care of the termites. But this same greatness of God not only builds our faith in Him, it makes us tremble at Him. Is your God a big God? Is He the same God that brought weakness, sickness and death to people in 1 Corinthians 11? Is it the same God as Hebrews 12:23-29 describes as one that we must serve with reverence and godly fear. There are a lot og bad ideas circulating even in Reformed churches that are imcompatible with Lukes news of graves in this chapter. Is He the same God that in 3 John 2 delights to say that His plan for you is that you might prosper in all things and be in health, even as your soul prospers? Is God limited to a sphere, or do you see Him as relating to all of life?
Verse 6: "And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him." Ananias was judged, but he was not cursed. His body was not burned as a cursed person might have been. It was buried. The word buried itself shows honor. Liddel and Scott's dictionary says, "to pay the last dues to a corpse, to honour with funeral rites." This is the word that is used of Christ's burial. They honored his burial.
It appears to have taken some time to take care of matters outside the city. So it is quite surprising when verse 7 says, "Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened." My first question was, why was she not invited to the funeral? Why was she not informed of what had happened? We are not told, but from the progression of this text it appears that the Spirit did not allow it. His goal was to test her apart from knowledge of judgment. If the only reason a person leaves sin is because of fear of the consequences, it is not true love for holiness or true hatred for sin. There are many unbelievers who don't fornicate because they are afraid of the consequences. That's not holiness. So the Spirit allowed her to deal with the sin on it's own merits. Will she hate the sin for its own sinfulness?
Verse 8: "And Peter answered her" which implies that she asked a question, right? Perhaps she was wondering where her husband was and came to the church to find out. She asks Peter. "And Peter answered her…" "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" Hardly the answer she was expecting, was it? But, this was a Spirit-given opportunity for her to tell the truth and abandon her hypocrisy. She is probably thinking, "Ouooh! Why would Peter be asking? Is there some doubt? Did my husband spill the beans? What's going on?" But as so often happens when we begin to be confronted over sin, we dig in our heels because we fear exposure, and we affirm the hypocrisy all the more rather than allowing it to be exposed. "She said, "Yes, for so much.'" And I see this interplay so often in both children and adults. Why is it that we find it so hard to allow our termites to be exposed? Because we fear that no one will buy the building; no one will accept us for who we are. And that is the sad, sad deception of sin. It fears termites being seen much more than it fears the termites. We would rather have our house crumble around our ears than for anyone in the neighborhood to see the termite inspector has been to our place. And if that is true of you, I pray that God would help you to see that true acceptance from God comes not when we hide the termites. Instead we should agree with the termite inspector that termites are terrible, that we hate them, that we have them, and that we want them removed. And the next day we confess: "There's more termites God. And I hate these termites. Please bring your treatment and free me from their presence." And the next day you come again. And some think, "I can't come again! I feel so terrible for having termites all the time. The termite inspector will hate me." That's works- righteousness. But why would we think that? The house is not the enemy of the inspector; the termites are. We are siding with Him against the termites. And God blesses us in so doing. So don't be like Sapphira in persisting in hiding the evidence from your counselors or from God. Admit it and get treatment.
Verse 9: "Then Peter said to her, 'How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?'" Over and over again in the wilderness, the children of Israel tested the Spirit by operating in the flesh rather than operating out of grace. Israel tempted God ten times in the wilderness and then finally God put them on a shelf and let them wander uselessly for 40 years until they died. He did not allow that generation to take the conquest of Canaan. It was a serious thing to test God. We are not told how many times Sapphira had tested the Spirit. But there does come a time when our usefulness on earth is over if we persist in rejecting grace. I believe this is what 1 John 5 is referring to when it speaks of a sin unto death. It's not eternal death; it's physical death. And it comes from testing God too long and refusing to live by grace.
Verse 9 continues: "Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." By inspiration Peter prophesies of her imminent death.
Verse 10: "Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband." God's disciplines are equal opportunity disciplines. Though the head of the household was held to a tougher standard, she too was disciplined. Again, there is no hint that she was treated as accursed by God. Her burial was handled with dignity, and her body was honored. But the termites had become so pervasive in her life that the pillars were rotten and her house came tumbling down.
Some people try to escape from the force of this passage by insisting that Ananias and Sapphira were not saved. They think that they can get away with hypocrisy because they are saved. But if we realize that termites damage all houses that they infect, it will help us to realize that settling the question of their eternal fate is not Luke's interest in this passage. This is being written to believers to show us how to live in the kingdom. And if we ignore it's message, our house will crumble just as surely as theirs did.
Brothers and sisters, my admonition to you is to admit to the termites of sin in your life. They will be there. And when you get rid of them on one day, they will fly in through a window on another day. Just resolve yourself to realizing that you live in Florida or Georgia spiritually where the Formosa termites are ravaging everything, and keep a sharp eye out for them. If you inspect regularly and spray regularly, you need not fear the destruction of your home. God's grace can keep your home intact, and can even rebuild some of the structures that have been damaged. But if you opt for hypocrisy, for covering up the damage with veneer, know that you are opting for a counterfeit grace that will let you down. God has called us to holiness and joy and the fear of the Lord and the love of the brethren. And God's grace produces these things. May great grace be upon us, and with that grace, may the great fear of God come upon us and prosper us as it did the early church. May it give a love for holiness, a desire for sincerity and a hatred for the termites of sin. Amen.