Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment, and we are going through the Book of Acts. We are in Acts:5:1: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them who heard these things.”
Dave: Well, Tom, I’ve heard of “slain in the spirit,” you know, popular on TV—Benny Hinn does a lot of it: waves his coat at you—although I think he doesn’t do that anymore—and he blows on you or, you know, whatever. People fall over backwards—it’s a little bit of a problem because…
Tom: It’s a sideshow, as well.
Dave: Yeah, it’s a problem, because when you fall down in the presence of God, you fall on your face. In the Garden when Jesus said, “I AM,” you know, they fell over backwards. Falling over backwards is a sign of someone who is really an unbeliever, and they have come under the conviction of God and God’s judgment is upon them. So maybe they need to rethink this whole picture and get people falling on their faces.
But the only slaying in the spirit that I know of in the Bible is what you just read: Ananias and Sapphira. Now, it’s important to understand—we talked about it last week. There wasn’t a demand that everyone had to sell everything; and they could have kept back part of it. That’s not Peter’s complaint, that’s not the complaint of God; the complaint was that they lied. They didn’t want anyone to know that they had kept back part of it, so they pretended that that was the whole price for which they had sold it, but actually they had kept back some of the price. Now, as Peter says, “You didn’t have to give it all, but what you do have to do is tell the truth.”
I sympathize, and I’ve had—I can remember as a much younger Christian thinking if we could just be in the days of Acts, if we could just see the power of God and the miracles—and probably every Christian has gone through that stage—and it would be wonderful. On the other hand, there would be a lot of dead people, because what was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? They exaggerated their testimony! Wow! I think we’ve had quite a few exaggerations.
I remember reading By My Spirit, I think, by Jonathan Goforth of the revival in China. And that first night when God just manifested His presence and power, people were repenting, weeping, and turning to Christ. One of the elders said, “If we are to continue to enjoy the presence and the power of God like we’ve seen it tonight, we must walk very humbly and very carefully.”
I think that’s the problem today. People say, “Why don’t we see these miracles, and so forth?” Well, let me see the humility—let me see the holiness that was characteristic of the early church. Well, why isn’t it? Because God’s judgment is not falling like this. We have homosexuals, big men in the charismatic movement; we have people who have run off with other people’s wives, you know—divorced their wives, and so forth; we have so much immorality in that whole realm. So, that’s why these are phony healings, phony miracles—it’s not the real thing. But if you want the real thing, then God’s judgment is going to fall on sin.
And it’s just like it was with Israel, Tom, when God first delivered them from Egypt. You picked up sticks on the Sabbath day, you were stoned; a child bad-mouthed his parents, it was stoned. Well, God finally says, “Look, remove the tabernacle outside. If I remain among you, I will consume you.” So we would be consumed if we had God’s presence today like it was then. But this was a very solemn moment for the church at that time.
Tom: Dave, in verse 5, the last part: “…and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” You’re talking about the holiness of God, and God’s beginning the church is demonstrating His holiness right there. And as you said, if that were to continue, who would be left, on the one hand? On the other hand, it brings up the fact that we need to be holy, we need to be careful, we need to move in a way that is pleasing to God—not just as a deterrent, but I think we need some deterrents here. We just spent the first segment going through excuses based on psychological problems, or based on psychobabble, really.
Dave: Well, Tom, you know, we talked a bit about mega-churches, and there was a part of that in the last question. We have churches today that are so huge you don’t get the fear of God. That’s one of the problems. “Fear came upon them….”
It’s like…churches are growing. There are some huge churches. We call them seeker-friendly, because by and large they have determined to tell the people what they want to hear. “Let’s not frighten anyone with talk about sin or guilt or God’s judgment, but let’s make out like everybody is on good terms with God, and you want to come to Christ not to be delivered from judgment, not to be delivered from the wrath to come because you are a guilty sinner and you need forgiveness, you know. No, “let’s come to Jesus because it’s becoming a very popular thing to do. You’ll be happier, and you can fit right in here, you know, and be spiritual, but without being holy.” You can act like the world, live like the world, but still, you mouth a few phrases, sing some snappy songs Sunday morning…” God had a lot to say about that: “This evil people that draws nigh to me with their mouths, but their heart is far from me.” And there was something wrong in the heart of Ananias and Sapphira. I remember the hymn, “Is your heart right with God?”
And it was an example to the church, but it’s something that God had to withdraw, or the church would be devastated today.
Tom: Verse 7: “And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord: behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then she fell down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her with her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
Dave: It’s a very solemn thing to pretend to know God, and to serve Him and to worship Him. The Father seeks worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth, and Ananias and Sapphira lied. And there can’t be lies in our lives.
Tom, it’s just…this sort of thing that we have just gone through is not popular. You wouldn’t preach that as a Sunday morning sermon. You’re not going to attract the unchurched to come into church to hear about God’s judgment and people falling down dead. And we need a little of the fear of God, and I speak to my own heart. Sometimes we act like, you know, God is just our buddy. We would fall at His feet, and sometimes what goes on from the so-called “worship team,” it’s more entertainment than worship of God, and I don’t think it would go over before the throne of God. And we need to get a little of this reality and fear today, as well, and I am speaking to my own heart.