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God’s Word for You

Acts 5:5-11 Ananias and Sapphira

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 8, 2019

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear fell upon all who heard about it. 6 The young men came and wrapped up his body. Then they carried him out and buried him.

This account parallels the history of what happened when God established the tabernacle as his dwelling place among the Israelites. Shortly after the first five priests had been consecrated, two of them, Nadab and Abihu, sacrificed unauthorized fire before the Lord. This means that they offered a gift to God that he did not ask for, and perhaps they did it in a way that displeased the Lord as well. They were struck dead before the altar (Leviticus 10:1-2). Now in the advent of the New Testament church, when Christians are all “a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5), two such priests presented an unauthorized gift, lying about what they had. Ananias died without repenting. It can be argued that he had no time to repent, but many Christians die without any opportunity to repent of their sins. Yet Ananias was not killed in a tragic accident. He was caught in a lie told directly to God, and he was put to death for it by God. This kind of deadly miraculous event was warned about during Holy Week when Jesus cursed the fig tree so that it withered and died (Matthew 11:13-14, 11:20-21. That curse on the fig tree was a warning that God looks for faith even when man might not expect him to, and his demand for our righteousness is always a righteous and just demand. Therefore watch your life and your faith closely (1 Timothy 4:16). And Jesus specifically warned about the sin of greed: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The Lord’s judgment on Ananias stands as a just and righteous act.

The burial happened very quickly. We don’t need the details about the tomb that was selected, but we will notice that Ananias was buried with the same actions and time frame with which Jesus was buried. Notice that when the Lord was buried, the women watched from a distance, but they were not involved in the actual act (Mark 15:46-47). It doesn’t need to shock us that Sapphira was not even consulted, especially if the couple already owned a tomb or had made arrangements about it.

7 After about three hours passed, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter said to her, “Tell me whether this is the price you sold the land for.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”  9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you two agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Now you hear the feet of the men who have buried your husband at the door, and they will carry you out, too.”  10 Immediately she fell down at his feet, and she died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear fell upon the whole church, and upon all who heard about these things.

Peter’s question to Sapphira was her chance to repent. Rather than confess their deception, she lied, and so Peter once again pronounced judgment on her. There is no reason to think that she died later on, of grief. The text clearly says that she died “immediately.” This is the adverb parachrema (παραχρῆμα), “at once.” In Acts, Luke uses this word for the instantaneous healing of the beggar’s feet and ankles (Acts 3:7), for the angels striking down Herod so that he was eaten by worms (Acts 12:23), and for Paul striking Elymas the sorcerer blind (Acts 13:11). Luke uses it twice in the account of the church at Philippi. The first was when the doors of the Philippian prison flew open “at once” (Acts 16:26) and later when the jailer and his family were baptized “immediately” after Paul preached the gospel to them (Acts 16:33).

Sapphira died as her husband had died, caught in a lie and found guilty by the Holy Spirit. The same burial took place for her, and fear fell on the church. This kind of fear is awe and real trembling fear over the power of God. His threats are not dead letters; his warnings are to be taken seriously. God’s threats and judgment show how serious his law is, and at the same time the Christian can be suddenly overwhelmed with consolation. For we alone know the story of Jesus and that it holds up the cross of Christ as the only barrier that stands between sinful man and the wrath of God. For Christ took God’s wrath on himself, on his own flesh and upon his own soul, even screaming out in agony from the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Jesus was the sacrifice of atonement, the one who turned aside God’s wrath on sinners. “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). So we see that God’s wrath has a place in our lives; reminding us that his power and wrath are real, that his judgment is just, and that the final end of all things will come swiftly when no one expects it. Therefore live today as if Christ will come within the hour, but out of love for your fellow man, make plans to live out your life fully to the grave, sharing your faith at every turn, because this is what God would have you do. Treat his word as your most precious possession, the one that you have more and more of each and every time you share it and give it away.

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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