The theme that spoke to me this chapter, is God Sanctifies His Church.
The big sin of Ananias and Sapphira, was pride. Follow: some of the disciples who, out of a pure love for God and the brethren, sold all and gave it with joy, were gaining renown (Act 4:36-37). Ananias and Sapphira coveted that renown. Coveting — one of the Commandments broken — honor from men, but not from God — another of the Commandments broken. The pure worship of God fears God above everything else, but desiring honor from men places the fear of men above the fear of God. Pure worship trusts God above everything else, and loves God above everything else.
They wanted to be known as somebody in the Church — that was the secret sin. So they hatched the plan to keep back a portion of the proceeds but to let it be known that they had given 100% of the proceeds also. Why would they do this, if not because they wanted the fame which was accompanying the few disciples who were doing this?
So then they added to the Commandments already broken, lying to the Spirit. They thought they were lying to Peter, but in reality they were lying to the Spirit — which I can only assume, they also possessed! Their hearts must have been crying out against this plan the whole time, but they hardened their hearts and went on.
Now why was God so harsh as to kill them? First of all, God was not harsh! His judgments are always just (Rev 16:7)!
I believe it was because, the church at Jerusalem was the first church of which Jesus is the Head. It is a spiritual principle that the first things belong to God. The firstborn, the tithe, the first part of our day in praise and thanksgiving to Him. Of course, all the Church belongs to God. But God was taking care to keep sin and a defiled heart from entering His first church and establishing a foothold. The result of their deaths, was that fear fell upon all. Both of the church – so that no one dreamed of treating God so flippantly again, or Peter His servant — and of the world. The world held the Church in esteem after this, and kept themselves apart from them (vs. 13).
This is just like God keeping the Temple things pure by only allowing the priests to handle them, and when others forgot that, they also died (2 Sam 6). The ark represented God’s Holy presence, and His authority in Israel, just as the Holy Spirit represented God’s Holy presence, and Peter His authority in the Church. People have, at later times and in other places, lied, coveted, stolen, and even pastors used their position to abuse the flock and to line their own pockets, and they have done it without dropping down dead.
But that God sanctified His presence and His authority, and sanctified His first things, both in the Old and New Testaments, teaches and reminds us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31), and the wise will have regard for the holiness and greatness of God.
So by the purity of the apostles and the Church, the deaths of the transgressors, the healing of the sick, and the intervention of the angel in freeing the apostles from prison – by many and diverse ways, God was placing a flashing neon sign around the apostles which said, HERE ARE MY SERVANTS, LISTEN TO THEM! By just those ways, the Holy Spirit Himself was also witnessing (vs. 32) to everyone that Jesus had been raised up by God, and God had anointed Him both Messiah and Savior.
Is the Spirit bearing witness with us, that Jesus is both Messiah and Savior? It ought to be the normal state of the believer, and the normal state of the ekklesia! (the Greek word translated “church,” meaning assembly of believers).
The sanctification of the church, is I believe, the first work of the Holy Spirit. Because the church in Jerusalem walked sanctified before God, the witness of the believers was accompanied by the witness of the Spirit in healings and other mighty acts. Church, if we would get on our face before God, and repent, and turn from our wicked ways — we, us, His people — then He would heal our land (2 Chr 7:14). Healing, health, and wholeness accompanies sanctification!
Let’s start by repenting of not obeying the Ten Commandments!