The Flawed Sapphire – Acts 5:1-11

Have you ever had a really, really sore finger or toe? I am talking about the kind of hurt that makes you jump every time you touch it? I am talking about the proverbial “sore thumb.” This history of Ananias and Sapphira stick out of the Book of Acts like a pair of sore thumbs – one on each hand. It is painful to read about them. It is painful to read about their deaths. They died miraculously.

Think about all of the miracles of which we read in the New Testament. All, but a very few, warm the heart and uplift the spirit. There are the fantastic deliverances from disease and even death. There are a few cases of miraculous supply. Like food to feed thousands and coins in the mouths of fish. There were deliverances from prison and miraculous changes of character – called “conversions.” Sparsely interspersed between the great miracles, are a handful of equally miraculous negatives. There are things, like Christ’s cursing of the barren fig tree and it’s immediate death. This kind of miracle really bothers people. “What right has God to kill some living thing?” As we learned in our camp devotionals – God has every right. People who are upset by such miraculous, divine interventions, are not bothered in the right kind of way. Perhaps we aren’t surprised when we hear a thunderbolt and see the lightning blast. But we should bothered when we see how close we stand to where lightning struck. God has every right, by the definition of deity “God” – to take the life of a tree, an ant, or a mouse. And He has just as much right to slay Ananias and Sapphira. And the Lord Jesus might have said in this case, “Take heed and beware.”

I would like you to consider three things this morning – The Sin Concealed…..the Sin Revealed…..and the Sinners Sealed.

Consider the Sin Concealed.

It is an easy thing to call oneself “a Christian” today. There is no stigma attached to that title, until we actually strive to live like Christ. It is not so easy to be called “a saint,” or even a “Baptist,” but 3 out of 4 people in America are “Christians.” But that ease and peace has not always been the case, and it is not that way in many places in world. Among the Jews, from the very beginning of the Gospel, when someone became a disciple of Jesus, the Christ, he was often considered to be dead by his family, his neighbors, his employer. In the past there were many Christians who were brought to the point of starvation because of their faith.

So the early church undertook to feed their own – those who had no way to feed themselves. The more wealthy saints sometimes voluntarily chose to sell property and sometimes much of their possessions, giving it to the church to dispense to other Christians who were destitute. Clearly, what they were doing had no semblance to modern Communism, and it wasn’t modern welfare either. It was voluntary. Even though some generous Christians tried to hide their giving, sometimes it was hard to hide a big gift. Sometimes there was notoriety which couldn’t be stifled. People, like Barnabas, were rare – greatly appreciated and greatly esteemed. Apparently Ananias and Sapphira wanted some of that esteem and notoriety.

By the way, there is almost a parabolic quality about this whole event. “Ananias” is a name that means “He who God has graciously given,” and “Sapphira” refers to the beautiful sapphire stone. It is as though these were beautiful people, representatives of those who’d been blessed by grace. They were members of the Lord’s first church. It was a church which was exploding under the weight of the Lord’s blessings. But along with abundant conversions, wretched sinners beginning to walk in the righteousness of the Lord, there also came persecution and poverty – especially among the widows and orphans. And along with the good fruit came the fruit flies – like Ananias and his wife.

After laying aside the depravity which infests all, the root their sin was a derivation of the love of money. Ananias and Sapphira also coveted the adulation which was showered upon Barnabas and the few others who had sold property and given the proceeds to the church. They, too, had some superfluous property, and they determined to sell some of it, as others had done. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it was out in the country somewhere. They probably had a house in Jerusalem, where they usually stayed, so what they were selling wasn’t too pivotal to their life-style. But it may have been farm land which had earlier helped to supply their income, but wasn’t necessary. Then they may have announced to the brethren that they were going to sell that property and to give the money to church, provided that proper receipts were given for income-tax purposes. Perhaps they found a buyer, who wasn’t well-known in the city or to the church, and a deal was struck. While this was being contracted they were telling their Christian friends that the sale price was a hundred talents when in fact it was a hundred and sixty. When Ananias presented a hundred talents to the leaders of the church, his wife was at the bank depositing five hundred into their retirement savings. There was no sin in the sale of their property or the price which they negotiated. But the couple had agreed to deceive everyone into thinking that they were sacrificing the total sale price of the land to the work of the Lord. They were lying to their friends at church. And they were trying to deceive and defraud the Omniscient God. My friends, that is something which cannot be done.

Do we all understand how much God abhors a lie? Have we seen where God places that sin, in such verses like Revelation 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” Some time ago I visited the back room of an animal hospital. There on a shelf along the east wall were rows of jars, containing some of the parasites and pests of many of our family pets. There were various kinds of intestinal worms like tapeworms, round worms and so on. There were heart worms, and a dozen other hideous creatures. It was gruesome. God, too, has a shelf of hideous crimes, and among them all is a jar of deadly white lies.

Ananias and Sapphira plotted to deceive the church and the Lord, thinking that no one would ever know. But they hadn’t been attending consistently enough to hear the pastor’s sermon on the attributes of God. Jehovah is Omniscient – He knows even the thoughts of our heart, long before they become deeds. We cannot even imagine sin without the Lord knowing about it. We think that we have lied without detection, but that is impossible before God.

The sin which is exposed here is a very common one. The sin which God miraculously judged with death – is so common that it is highly likely that everyone in this room has committed it. Out of man’s ever present love of money and lust for praise – arise plots to deceive and defraud the Lord and his people.

But then came the SIN REVEALED.

The church in Jerusalem in those early days was not precisely like any church today. The Apostles were still in Jerusalem, before being scattered abroad with the gospel. It appears that Peter was the spiritual leader, but it may not have been like a pastor. He might have been more like a prophet – the church prophet.

The Lord revealed to Peter in some miraculous way, what Ananias and Sapphira were doing. When Ananias brought in his rather large lump of money, Peter confronted him with the fraud. Peter asked him why he would lie to God; why he would lie to the Holy Spirit. The property was his, and no one required that he should give the proceeds away. But for some reason he had chosen to deceive his friends at church. Verse 5 seems to indicate that immediately after hearing charge against him, Ananias died. It might be argued that he died of a heart attack or a stroke. But when we see that the same fate fell upon his wife, we know that this was no coincidence. This was the judgment of God – miraculous judgment.

I hope that all of us can see the implication in this: God gave the couple no time to repent after their sin had been exposed. There wasn’t time to make things right & to bring the rest of the money or to withdraw the gift entirely. There was no time for weeping, and pleading for forgiveness. One point is this: God wants repentance for sin – out of an uncoerced heart. The confession and repentance of the man whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar is probably flowing only on crocodile tears. The tearful evangelist who confesses to his adultery only when the video tape is shown on national TV is not to be trusted or restored to his ministry.

Ananias was not given the opportunity for repentance. Whether we forgive him for his deceit is not the point, his credibility and testimony was destroyed. He cannot praise God for the sale of his property, or for anything else. His testimony before both the unbeliever and the believer has been destroyed. And God says, “I will not put up with this hypocrite, this fraud.” “My judgment,” says the Lord, “is death.” So in the very early days of the first church, God showed to everyone where the bar had been set. He may not instantly kill every deliberate sinner, but He has clearly demonstrated His abhorrence of the crime and the criminal. And He certainly can bring down instant punishment on any sinner – Christian or heathen.

Think about the SINNERS SEALED.

Ananias died when confronted with his fraud. Some of the men of the church came in and immediately buried him. A few hours later Sapphira came before the Apostles, and Peter asked her some specific questions about the sale of the property. It appears that she plotted with her husband about the figures. When Peter heard the words from her own lips, she died as well.

Please don’t think poorly of Peter – he was not the instrument of either execution. It was the hand of the God, Who gave those lives and Who took them once again. I have no proof, but that husband and his wife may very well have been children of God. They may be in blessed presence of Christ at this very moment, but I don’t know. The point is this: God will not tolerate our sin.

If these two were total frauds… If they were church members without being members of Christ…. If they had not journeyed to Calvary and were not trusting in the shed blood of Christ. Then when they died, they would have immediately lifted up their eyes in torment.

But I don’t know the condition of their souls. I know only that God hates sin – theirs, mine and yours. You cannot sin with impunity and immunity.

The pertinent question is: “Have you been to Calvary?” Are you a servant of Christ Jesus this morning? Do you worship the King of kings? Have you been born again? Are you prepared for that day, when like these two you stand before God?