In the early Church the believers shared their possessions in such a way that “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:32-35 NIV). In fact “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45). Luke recorded two examples of such sharing – one good and one sinful.
Barnabas “sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). His was an unselfish, sacrificial act. Ananias and Sapphira also sold a piece of property but decided to keep some of the money for themselves, while appearing to give all the proceeds of the sale to the apostles. This was a deliberate, dishonest and hypocritical act. When Ananias was accused of lying “he fell down and died” (Acts 5:5), and when his wife Sapphira was also accused of lying she fell down and died as well (Acts 5:10). Their punishment for this sin of deception and hypocrisy was instant death. Understandably, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11).
Ananias and Sapphira were members of the early Church in Jerusalem in a period when “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). At this time, all the members of this church were true believers who were “one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). This means that Ananias and Sapphira are in heaven like all true believers who have died. Just because they were influenced to sin by Satan doesn’t affect their eternal security. Sin spoils our fellowship with God, but not the salvation He offers (Jn. 10:28-29). Ananias and Sapphira were disciplined as God’s children (Heb. 12:6-11). They illustrate that God sometimes takes a believer home early because of sin (1 Cor. 11:29-32).
This deception is the first recorded sin in the life of the Church. It seems as though God was stressing the importance of living godly lives at the beginning of a new era and was warning about the seriousness of sin. It has been recorded in Acts 5:1-11 to remind us all of this lesson. Similarly, in the period when the Old Testament Law was being established, Nadab and Abihu died after they disobeyed God’s command (Lev. 10:1-2). Likewise, sin may be dealt with swiftly when the Lord rules on earth during the Millennium (Isa. 65:20).
This incident reminds us of God’s holiness and our sinfulness (Rom. 3:23; Rev. 4:8). Surely, He deserves our obedience and respect. Are we swift to confess our sins and repent as “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb. 4:13; 1 Jn. 1:9)? Is our way of life being transformed to be more like the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; 1 Th. 4:7; 1 Pet. 1:15; 2 Pet. 3:11)? Let’s be honest and give up our hypocritical ways.
Published, October 2009; updated, October 2016