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God’s Word for You

Acts 5:1-4 Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 7, 2019

5 But a man named Ananias along with his wife Sapphira also sold a piece of property. 2 He kept back some of the proceeds of the sale with his wife’s knowledge. He brought the rest and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 Wasn’t it yours before you sold it? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What put this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

In some circles, there is a tendency to blame Peter for exposing the sin of Ananias in the way he does. This is probably due to a reluctance to admit the reality of miracles or the punishment of God. Scottish Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) very seriously cautioned commentators: “If it is no part of the commentator’s business to pass moral judgments on Peter, perhaps he may permit himself to pass them on Ananias. But let him be careful: the temptation to seek a higher reputation than is our due for generosity or some other virtue is not so uncommon that we can afford to adopt a self-righteous attitude towards poor Ananias. Let us rather take warning from his example” (Acts, p. 113-114).

Before we continue with what happened to Ananias, we will notice three important details about this passage:

  1. The contributions of the early Christians were entirely voluntary. Our gifts, similarly, should be given voluntarily, without any pressure or resorting to legalistic demands. It is a great temptation for some to say, “Each one of us must give (a specific amount) and we will meet our goals,” when what we should say is, “This is our goal. If you give, do so because God has blessed you, and out of thanks and love for Christ.”
  2. The Holy Spirit’s divinity is stressed. This happens in other passages: 1 John 5:7 and 5:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 12:4-5. A study of the Holy Spirit should also include passages that name his divine attributes: eternity (Hebrews 9:14); omnipotence (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and omniscience (1 Corinthians 2:10). Also, his divine works: creation (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6) and grace (Hebrews 10:29; Zechariah 12:10). Finally, the Holy Spirit possesses the glory of God (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Peter 4:14).
  3. Peter described this as an example of Satanic possession. When Satan has a person completely under his power and makes that person an obedient tool, he is said to have possessed that person. This might be a bodily possession as we see some demons doing in Jesus’ time (Matthew 9:32; Mark 9:17-26; etc.). But it also might be a spiritual possession, when the devil fills a person’s spirit and rules him according to his will (Luke 22:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Ephesians 2:2). Possession is thought to be a kind of judgment of God, when a person’s unbelief has led to God abandoning that person (this is part of God’s judgment on the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is choosing unbelief over faith), and Judas “justly serves as an example” (Hoenecke II, 290). This possession of the will of Ananias and his wife would fall under the heading of spiritual possession rather than bodily possession, but its seriousness will be seen in what follows in this chapter.

Ananias and his wife were free to bring a gift or not; they were free to bring a portion of the sale of some land or a fraction. The act and the amount of money was not the problem, it was sinfully lying about it in order to gain a special glory for themselves. It might have been an impulse, or it might have been an old habit. Either way, it was a sin directly against God because they lied about a gift to God. Yet I think it is wise to listen once again to Professor Bruce, so that none of us forgets just how close we each come to this same sin. Perhaps there are some who have fallen in the same way. By the grace of God, the same punishment has not fallen on them yet. Perhaps the best conclusion we can reach in this terrible account in the history of the church is to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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