Friday, September 21, 2007

Ananias and Sapphira

Ananias and Sapphira
The background of this passage (ACTS 5:1-14) comes from chapter 4:32-37. This passage is a continuation of chapter four because it has one line of thought. We should remember that, the Bible was not divided into chapters; it was done to facilitate citations. In the previous citation (4:32-37), the church was growing both physically and spiritually. The believers had everything in common; united both in spirit and action and the Lord blessed them in spirit, number and wealth. Nobody in their midst lacked anything because those who had wealth brought it to be shared with the haves-not according to their needs. For example Joses; sobriqueted Barnabas (meaning son of consolation) sold his land and surrendered all the proceeds to the apostles for the entire group. This aroused a feeling in a couple called Ananias and Sapphira.
Ananias and Sapphira sold theirs, brought part but kept part. Consequently, God killed them for hypocrisy. This is the first internal problem of the church. Remember chapter 4 opens with the persecution of the apostles. The book of Acts and those to the Corinthians summarize the internal and external problems of the church. It is the first internal problem of the early church. When the devil, cannot destroy you from outside, he tries inside. The human being always fights his battles within and without. He fights others and fights himself. If the devil cannot use an enemy without he will use the one within.
Yet we ask this question; why did God react with death to a couple that even attempted at all. The church was just beginning to take its root and God wanted to prove He wanted a church without spot and without blemish. They had the alternatives to give or not to give. They were not gun pointed. Jealousy and envy of Joses (who sold and brought the entire money) motivated them. Some good deeds are like fig leaves because they have no fruits. How are yours? This passage confirms some biblical doctrines.
Firstly, it affirms that the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead when Peter emphasized that their lie was not to men but to God (Holy Ghost). Verse 9 seals the doctrine entirely. Take note of the spelling of the Ghost in the Holy Ghost and the ghost Ananias gave up. The former starts with a capital letter and the latter starts with a small letter. The former represents a Deity and the latter stands for its creature. The usage of the term Holy Ghost has subsided because of problems the early church encountered. Many people reading Holy Ghost did not consider Him a person or God and the church to emphasize the idea of the trinity then switched to Holy Spirit. That is why the term Holy Ghost is used many more times in original biblical texts (especially literal translations King James Version -KJV) than the term Holy Spirit. In fact, it is even very difficult to find the term Holy Spirit in the manuscripts but for free Translations or Paraphrases (Good News for Modern Man, Life Application Bible) and some dynamic equivalence translations (New International Version- NIV).
Secondly, his death serves as a lesson to other hypocrites. Do not forget that it is the young people, who will take both people out for burial. Two reasons could explain that. They are the valiant ones but also they are the ones to continue the legacy. Joel prophesied that the young people will see visions and the old people will dream dreams (Joel 2:28) because when we are young we have ambitions and things we want to accomplish. Meanwhile, when old, we look backwards to what we have done and now hope we were young to do more. We only dream. Therefore, the fear is impressed and the lesson inculcated in the youngsters when they in their very hands and legs take the corpse of a hypocrite out. None of these young men would do same next time.
Thirdly, God does no more consider sin by association but by participation. Flashback at Ezekiel 18:20. In Joshua chapter 7, Achan and his entire family are lapidated for him (Achan) keeping the accursed thing. Similarly, justification is not by association but by participation. Sapphira is not killed because the husband lied but because she colluded with the husband to tell the lie. Even though we are married, there are certain things that we should dissociate ourselves from our partners. Many people will blindly support their spouse even when they consciously know he or she is wrong.
Fourthly, with the annihilation and departure of the couple, the intruding evil has been eradicated and its permeation halted as a bulwark. Therefore, the church is now very holy. One question arises. Why does God not kill hypocrites in churches today the same way he did with that couple? That was the beginning of the church. The church has gone through its mid stages and now coming closer to the end of its journey on earth. As such, the patience of God seems to increase with man as we approach the end times. Nevertheless, he will judge all evil committed on earth. With this atmosphere, nothing can hold them back from performing miracles. Most churches are dead today because of sin. Most churches have no miracles because of sin. Nevertheless, one should be careful in their search of a church with miracles because there are many false prophets and churches out there performing miracles in the power of the devil. Remember even the devil can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive many (2 Cor. 11:14).
Fifthly, true believers will stay where there is true manifestation of God. After the death of the couple, fear gripped the apostles, onlookers and rumor shoppers in a way that only true converts joined the church to follow God. As such, the church multiplied. Though miracles are not a means of salvation they are a source of attraction to the person of Christ and the expansion of the church. I do not believe that it is impossible to practice a communal life as the apostles did. Scholars say the society has outgrown the principle. Remember the church was more than 5000 too. Bear in mind the practice was in mini groups like prayer cells today and thus practical if we can have true believers.
Sixthly, the church in every era will always have persecutions and polemics. Both the external and inter problems of the church have been contained but not wiped out. By implication, the temptations and trials in our lives may be contained in a moment, they will never end until we die. Christian soldier keep moving onward!
Therefore, my brethren, if our churches are dead it is the fault of the Christians who have regressed in holy living, power of God and good works. Each time we sin, we sin first against God. We lack the practical Christianity where the haves-not would live as the haves. Mahatma Gandhi said, “if not of Christians I would have been one myself”. He was thrown out of a church in England for dressing in “rags”. Even in church, the gap between the poor and the rich keeps widening daily. Nowadays, it is difficult to differentiate between a Christian and a non-Christian in their lifestyles. The church is more a tinkling cymbal than a true body of Christ (discipling true believers for Jesus). Except the church is holy it will always be dead as it is today. Good works must be bonded in holy living for us to experience the power of God, salvation of Christ and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Until then, wake up Church and let the world know you are there!

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk

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