As I was thinking about this passage of Scripture, it occurred to me that it is quite theologically significant.

The story is interesting and should be well-known to every child of God.

It’s a part of the history of the early church, and so it’s a part of our early history.

But when we consider the theology and application that lies behind the story, it really becomes important.

I have given this message the title: “The Sin Against the Holy Ghost.”

Unfortunately, I hadn’t come up with that title early enough to put it in last Sunday’s bulletin.

I would like to have used it just as the magician uses slight of hand.

The title accurately describes the text, but it should have provoked people think about something else.

Oh, well; another great sermon title down the drain.

Since we will probably only have one message on these eleven verses,

Let’s begin by reading them slowly and making a few comments as we go along:

Verse 1: “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,”

Ananias is the New Testament equivalent of Hananiah, and it refers to the Lord’s grace.

Sapphira mean’s “sapphire.”

Were these people Christians? There is nothing in the scripture to say that they were not.

They appear to be members of the church in Jerusalem,

So they probably had shown some of the fruit of repentance.

And Peter doesn’t call them children of the Devil or even hypocrites;

You will see that on another occasion, Peter did call a church member a lost man, but not here.

Verse 2: “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.”

With all the excitement caused by Barnabas and others giving large financial gifts to the church, some of the new believers wanted to reap some of that honour for themselves.

Ananias and his wife agreed to sell a piece of property and give some of the money to the church,

But they decided to tell the Apostles that they were giving away 100% proceeds of the sale.

Someone might ask whether they actually gave the larger “half,” or the smaller “half.”

I imagine that they were presenting the larger portion of the proceeds to the church.

Verses 3-4: “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?

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? & 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.”

Once again, we see that these large gifts were totally voluntary.

And there was no rule that the entire sale had to be given to the church.

I keep wanting to say that the gift was “to the Lord,” but I’m not sure that is entirely accurate.

Ananias and Sapphira were giving to the church and apparently to IMPRESS the church.

I hope that when you give your tithes and offerings that it is to the Lord as much as it is to the church.

Verses 5-6: “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.”

There is a very interesting parallel between Acts 5 and Joshua 7 where we read of the sin of Achan.

In both cases, the history of the Lord’s people was beginning a new chapter.

In both cases there was the theft of the Lord’s property, there were lies and then judgment.

It would do us considerable good to spend some time studying that comparison.

In this case, Ananias immediately and somewhat miraculously died.

He may have had a heart-attack; he may have had a stroke.

But whatever the coroner might have determined in an autopsy, God judged and executed Ananias.

What about these young men?

I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t acting as temporary deacons.

They appear to have made themselves available to the Apostles to do whatever was needed.

Verses 7-10: “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 fell she 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 by her husband.”

It took three hours for the young men to bury Ananias.

Today, with all the necessary requirements, it might be impossible to have a burial in three days.

And notice that there wasn’t a formal funeral.

The church pastor wasn’t there for the interment,

And not even the wife was notified about her husband’s death.

Although I’m not accusing the church of anything illegal, it makes a person wonder.

Notice that Peter “answered” Sapphira.

She probably came to church thinking that she’d find her husband sitting in some seat of honor.

When she didn’t see him, she asked where he was.

Then Sapphira repeated her husband’s lie and declared that they sold the property for “x” dollars.

Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit chose not to tell us the figures in the sale.

Of course, the price of land in those days would be meaningless to us today.

But it would have been interesting information anyway, especially to know the true sum and the reported sum.

When Peter confronted the woman about her lie, she immediately died just as Ananias had done.

And of course this is pretty conclusive evidence that neither of their deaths should be considered “natural.”

They were natural, but they were not natural;

They were natural, but more importantly, they were supernatural.

“And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”

Was the glass half full, or half empty?

Was this fear a good thing or a bad thing to the church and to the ministry?

I think that a proper and healthy fear of the Lord is always a good thing.

Okay, having said all that, and having skipped over several things, I’d like you to notice three points:

Peter’s knowledge of the sin; Satan’s input in the sin, and Ananias’ lie which was a part of the sin.

First: PETER’S KNOWLEDGE of the sin.

Obviously, there was no sin in giving this gift to the church.

There was no sin in the amount of money that was given to the church

The sin was in the lie that this was the entire purchase price.

The question is this: how did Peter know that this was a lie.

Of course, he could have had ears at the county-clerk’s office, who recorded the sale for tax purposes.

There were a lot of ordinary citizens being saved and becoming church members.

It was probably impossible for everyone to keep track of who were coming and going.

Ananias might have stood right in front of someone when the sale was consummated,

And didn’t know that this person was a member of the church,

And was going to have dinner with one of the Apostles that night.

Every once in a while, when we feel really hungry and particularly rich, Judy and I go to the Olive Garden and chow down on their all-you-can-eat soup and salad.

Every once in a while the waitress comes over and offers us a free taste of wine.

I assume that it wouldn’t be anything more than a swallow.

And I assume that it is to entice us into buying a full glass or even a bottle.

Neither Judy nor I know anything about wine, and I’ve been tempted to give it a tiny taste, just to see.

But we never have, because that is a big restaurant, & there may be someone in there who knows us.

If we are seen with empty wine glasses, someone might assume that we are regular wine-drinkers.

My point is this:

The next time that you lie, you imbibe, you sin, remember that there very likely are people watching.

The next time you come out of an eight screen theater, having just watched an innocent G-rated movie,

How are you going to keep someone from thinking that you weren’t in there watching that other horribly wretched and offensive thing that was showing on one of the other screens?

What is going to happen when someone tells the pastor that thought that they saw you coming out of an X-rated movie?

Christians should do their best to avoid even the appearance of evil, not to mention the evil itself.

Having said all that I don’t think THAT was how Peter knew about Ananias’ sin.

I truly believe that the Holy Spirit revealed to this Apostle that there was an attempted fraud here.

Have you ever wondered how Mom knew about the secret things that you did as a child?

Mothers have an intuition about so many different things.

You might also be surprised to know that even though your pastor can’t always specifically describe your sin, he very, very often knows when you are in spiritual trouble.

The Lord gives to pastors and uncanny knowledge of such things.

Of course, the theological application of this is the LORD’S OMNISCIENCE.

You CANNOT sin without the Lord’s presence and knowledge of that sin.

You may deceive and hide it from every other person in the world, but you cannot hide it from the Lord.

Put it on your calendar, or have it pop-up on your palm-pilot: “The Lord is watching you!”

He’s not only watching what you do, but He’s listening to what’s going on in your heart.

When your heart uses its cell-phone to talk to your brain, the omniscient God is monitoring that call.

Secondly, notice SATAN’S INPUT in this sin.

Whose idea was this to lie to the church about the details of this gift?

There can be no definitive answer to that question.

But it might have started in the heart of Sapphira.

She might have quietly sitting in her garden, looking at the fruit trees and thinking about the other ladies in the church.

She may have been a society lady, whose society had just made a radical change.

She might have been a big fish in a little secular pond, but now she was little fish in a big Christian pond

And she was trying to figure out how to raise her social status in these new surroundings

So she reached up and plucked a little apple which she shouldn’t have.

Then again, she may have been initially innocent and the idea was entirely her husband’s.

He may have been thinking along the lines that I’ve just described,

Or it might have been something completely different.

Notice that Peter asked: “Why hath SATAN filled thine heart to lie?”

Could it be that the idea was originally Satanic and not human at all?

The question is really quite moot.

The fact is, as Peter puts it in verse 4: Ananias conceived this thing in his own heart.

Yes, it had a Satanic push somewhere along the line,

But Satan wasn’t punished with death for this lie.

It might have been that Satan just gave the couple a little courage.

The idea that “the devil made me do it” is a cop-out, which God will not countenance for a moment.

The idea that it was the liquor that made him murder the man, doesn’t keep from being a murderer.

The Lord doesn’t listen to the insanity defense in the same way that liberal juries do.

If the man did the crime, then that man is going to do the time, whether there were any alleged contribuing spiritual factors or not.

So it was probably Ananias sitting in the garden admiring the forbidden fruit.

And along came the serpent whispering, “Yea, hath God said, thou shalt not lie?

If thou eatest the fruit of this little tree, you’ll be honored by the church as a rich and generous man.

No one will ever know that it sold for 100,000 when you put 75,000 in the offering next Sunday.”

Watch out Ananias, whosoever eateth of this tree shall surely die, even if you were tempted by Satan.

Satan is no more responsible for this sin, than God was for not preventing it.

And then there is the incredibly, important lesson about the nature of deceit.

There are no such thing as the difference between “white” lies and the “black” ones.

If there was, then this would certainly fall into the category of being a “white” and victimless lie.

But mark it down, a lie, is a lie, is a lie,

And God hates liars, judging them as severely as if their sin was adultery or murder.

Every person in this room needs to memorize and constantly review 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.”

And now, consider ANANIAS’ LIE to the HOLY SPIRIT.

First, I think that if you asked this man about it, he would never say that he lied to the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think that in prayer he talked to the Lord and said,

“Hey God, I’m going to give you all 100% of the sale of that property on 4th street.

“Hee, hee, hee.”

I don’t think that Ananias had any idea that the was lying to the Holy Spirit.

Ah, but he probably knew full well that he was lying to the church.

But since it is only to the church, it’s not really important right? Wrong.

The Lord Jesus tells us that at the final judgment conversation will go something like this:

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

I don’t want to make the church bigger than the Lord does,

But am I stretching things too much to say that to lie to the church is to lie to the Lord?

Notice that Peter equates lying to the Holy Spirit with lying to the Lord.

I must confess that I have used this scripture to prove this point more than I have used it for anything else.

But I think that the evidence is pretty conclusive that Peter believes in the deity of the Holy Spirit.

This scripture also proves the PERSON of the Holy Spirit.

It might be arguable whether I can lie to that piano over there.

I might be able to lay on the piano, but since it is in animate, I’m not sure that I could lie to it.

Peter believes, and I agree, that the Holy Spirit can be offended;

If he wasn’t deity, it might be possible to deceive and cheat the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is one of the PERSONS of the God-head;

He has self-consciousness and self-determination.

Peter believed these things, but Ananias didn’t.

He did not believe that the Lord was omniscient, or he wouldn’t have tried to perpetrate this fraud.

He didn’t believe that the Lord was truly holy, or he wouldn’t have tried to lie.

He didn’t really believe that God judges sin, or he wouldn’t have tried to cheat the church.

It all comes back to proper theology.

Where there is no orthodoxy there will be no orthopraxy.

When people believe wrongly about the Lord, they will eventually try to sin against the Lord.

But when people believe properly about the Lord, they will try to live holy lives.

How many of us are more like Ananias and Sapphira than we generally perceive ourselves to be?