#carmelprays – Acts 5:1-16
Opening Song: Only By Grace
Read Scripture: Acts 5:1-16
Moving from Acts 4, we’ve reached some kind of culmination of the fellowship of the church. God has sent his Holy Spirit to be with the Church, amazing healing stories have taken place, the disciples were preaching and teaching in boldness, and the church is unified and sharing everything they have generously with one another, such that not a person was in need. Yet, in a sharp turn of events, Acts 5 opens with “but” and the introduction of the couple Ananias and Sapphira.
While this might seem distant from our reality (when was the last time you witnessed God strike someone dead the instant they lied?), it does show us clearly (1) the character of God’s people and (2) the character of God.
It shows us that as much as the Church could be “doing well” with great fellowship shared among the believers, with prayer and bold preaching, with sharing and generosity among some, we are still ultimately a Church made up of sinful beings struggling with deep brokenness, in this case, greed and self-serving deceit. It shows us also that we serve a holy God who hates sin, and who has the ability to inflict His wrath if He saw the need and desired to do so.
Ananias and Sapphira were a couple who lied to the Holy Spirit (v3, 8), who in their greed, lied about what they had and why they gave what they gave. This, warranting a foreboding “but” to open this passage after Luke had just cited multiple instances of generosity within the church (v32-37). Where Ananias and Sapphira went wrong was not in the absolute amount of what they had given, but rather the disparity between what they had claimed to give, and what they really gave.
Perhaps you look at Ananias and Sapphira and think to yourself “yes, I do lie sometimes but I’m not as bad as they are, I don’t lie about such big things. I don’t struggle with greed. I don’t love money like that”. Yet, if we were to look carefully at the players in this passage, we should recognise that perhaps, like the only other character in this passage – Peter, we are not too far removed from this deceptive couple. While Peter was the one speaking out against Ananias and Sapphira and their deceitful ways, one would recall that just a while before, when Christ was being crucified, Peter himself had lied to the Holy Spirit, denying that he had anything to do with the Christ. Peter, a trusted friend and brother to Jesus himself, had in his frenzy, lied and denied any relationship he had ever had with his Lord.
How are you and I deceitful in the ways we live out our love for Christ our Lord? Could it be in the way we spend our money like Ananias and Sapphira? Or perhaps in the way we spend our time? Could it even be in the way we relate and share our hearts with the sisters and brothers in our church? How much of our hearts are we truly open to giving to others? Or are we dishonest about our relationship with God for fear of how others could see us?
On close examination, we should all be able to see ourselves in Ananias, Sapphira or Peter. Perhaps then, what we should take away from this passage should not merely be “do not be like them” or that “God could kill me and so I should fear Him”. Rather, I believe this passage should bring us to fear the Lord not solely because He has the power to strike us dead, but because that same wrath He could have unleashed on you and I, and Peter, He instead chose to withhold from us and unleash upon His own Son, so that you and I can now have life. This same power can now enable us to overcome sin and say “no” to ungodliness.
God sounds wrathful in this particular passage. He sounds also like a fierce being, one intolerant of sin. Yet, He is a just God, giving to Ananias and Sapphira just what their actions warranted. But what happens when He does not give us what our actions do warrant? That looks a lot like merciful love. We cannot understand the richness of His love we have today, until we see truly what we were saved from.
And when we come to the realisation that all our life is grace, our fear of death turns into a reverent fear of this gracious and holy God for the abundance of life He has lavished on us by withholding the judgment we deserve, and giving it instead to our substitute, Christ His own son.
Now that is the great exchange. What kind of fear do you feel when you read today’s passage? Who or what do you fear? And is your fear placed rightly?
Pray in Response
Merciful God and Father, thank you for love, grace and mercy. Thank You that as the prophet Jeremiah testified (Lam 3:22-23) it’s truly because of Your great love, that we are not consumed by Your wrath and judgment. Thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. Indeed great is Your faithfulness and goodness towards us! Our hearts are filled with gratefulness and praise as we remember the grace and forgiveness we have received through Christ today.
Hear the cry of our heart as we come to You. We acknowledge our transgressions and confess to You our sins. Release us from our past as we turn from our ways to seek Your face. Fill our hearts with Your healing grace again, give us a heart that reveres You and desire to honour You in all that we do. Teach us, speak to us and reveal any area in our life that needs Your cleansing and restoration. Mould us into Your likeness as we receive Your guidance, love and healing grace every day. Amen.
Response Song 1: Healing Grace
Response Song 2: Thank You For The Cross
By Anne Hwarng