Devotional # 46. 8/5/13. Ananias and Sapphira and the Apostles Broken out of Prison.
This week’s Reading: Acts 5:1-42.
Introduction. Last week we read in Acts 2 about how the Holy Spirit came on men, Peter gave a sermon and 3,000 people were saved. This week we move to Acts 5. I suggest you read chapters 3 & 4, specifically Acts 4:32-37 to understand what we’re talking about here.
vv. 1-6. We are introduced to Ananias (pronounced: Anna-nye-us) and Sapphira (Suh-fie-rah), a couple calling themselves Christians who are taking part in the communal living of other believers. They sell a “possession” (its land, as we’ll see in v. 8) and want to give the proceeds to the rest of the church but decide to keep some of it for themselves. Ananias goes by himself and takes the money to the apostles. Peter, having been told by God prior to this, calls Ananias out on his treachery. It must have been a shock for Ananias to think he would get praised but instead condemned! Notice Peter doesn’t say that he lied to the church or to Peter but instead “to the Holy Spirit” (v. 3) and again “to God” (v. 4). Immediately Ananias is struck down dead by God. This was done for those present (“great fear came upon all those who heard these things” and again in v. 11) and for us to know God is not to be messed with. So the young guys who were in the room wrap him up, carry him out and bury him.
vv. 7-11. Three hours later Sapphira comes in and Peter gives her a chance to come clean but she lies also. So she is told that she tested the Lord and immediately died. The same young men that just carried out Ananias now carry out his wife. The point of this story isn’t that Ananias and Sapphira had kept the money back from the church it was that they had lied about giving allof it. Do we act like this to God? Remember we do all things to God. If we don’t offer a drink to a poor person we’re doing it to Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46), when we work it’s not for a paycheck or for our boss or even for our family but for God (Colossians 3:22-23). When we prepare a tithe for God to keep a little for ourselves, just in case times get a little tougher? Do we sing worship songs like “God you have my heart” and pray that He uses our gifts for His kingdom but always hold a little back for us? I challenge you to be honest with God and give Him your all. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit convicts you when you think about lying to God that you have given Him all but really kept some extra.
vv. 12-16. This section tell us how the Christians had more and more converts and continued doing miracles in Jesus’ name. Notice in v. 15 it says that Peter’s shadow passing by would heal people. This is where the cycling team called “Cast A Shadow” gets their name. If God is the light and we are used by Him then we can be used to help and heal people in need.
vv. 17-25. The rest of the chapter is the story of the religious leaders (“Sadducees”) vs. the apostles. The “high priest” and others were angry that the apostles were healing and teaching people, so they had the apostles arrested. But the problem was that God sent an angel to free the apostles. Isn’t this interesting! If the priests had been doing their job instead of conducting witch hunts then they would be teaching the people. But God always provides a way for His people to be taught—even if he has to break the keynote speakers out of prison!
vv. 26-32. No one asks how they escaped from prison they just arrest the apostles again and yell at them. I love Peter’s response in v. 29 and think it is something every Christian should memorize and live by: “‘we ought to obey God rather than men.’” It’s so simple yet true. If my faith is real and God provides for me to keep telling people about Jesus’ love for them and dying for their sins then I won’t stop. A person telling me to stop, laws passed, my employer telling me to be quiet, my teacher telling me I can’t say religious things…whatever it may be: do I obey God or men? When I stand before God in heaven will I answer to Him or some other person standing right beside me? I guarantee you I will wish I had spent more time “obeying God” and less worrying what men think.
vv. 33-39. So naturally the religious hypocrites don’t like what Peter says because 1. They feel a little guilty for killing Jesus and 2. Because they can’t believe that His influence is still so huge. But wisdom, that I am convinced came from God, put the idea in the mind of Gamaliel that if it was from God it couldn’t be stopped and if it was from Satan or men that it would be squashed by God. This had happened before from what Gamaliel says. There were several cases (one with a man named Theudas and another with a guy named Judas) which failed and the rebellion died out.
vv. 40-42. The religious leaders agree with Gamaliel’s council (although they still beat the apostles!) and release them. Notice that the apostles don’t say, ‘whew, we narrowly escaped that, we better never say anything about Jesus again.’ They also aren’t angry at God saying, ‘hey, you broke us out of prison and we were obedient to you by preaching and we got beat up. Why God? You don’t love me!’ What do they say? They recognize God’s will is the only important thing in their lives. They count themselves blessed to be worthy to be persecuted for Jesus! Amazing. That is the attitude you and I should have. So the next time our tire goes flat or we fail a test or we don’t get a promotion remember it’s not that God doesn’t love us it’s that God’s will is more important than our comfort or will. Persecution like this still happens to Christians around the world and I know that it is coming to us soon regardless of where we live but I pray that we consider ourselves “worthy” and do not “cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ”!!
Conclusion. When we study about Ananias and Sapphira and the apostles braking out of prison it gives us strength in knowing God will provide if we are honest and available to be used. There is a sharp contrast between deaths in this chapter. The death of the dishonest couple is not a revered one. It is not a valuable one. It is a lack of faith and a growth of greed. But the suggestion of death (in knowing the final end of persecution) is honorable and respectable. It is the greatest honor to stand for Jesus, just as He stood for us, and to be killed for the Truth. Not because we are religious zealots, not because we get 70 virgins, not because it is our only way to heaven but because we have faith that God has put the martyr’s door of death in front of us to walk through. God takes care of us in life, how much more in death!!