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The Grim Tale of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5:1-11


Ananias gave an offering on behalf of himself and his wife.  He claimed to be giving more than he actually was, and fell over dead, and they carried his body out.  Then his wife, Sapphira, not knowing he had died, was asked specifically whether she and her husband gave the full amount.  She lied, and fell over dead, and they carried her body out.  [ushers had a hard job…no wonder many churches put their cemeteries so close!]


v. 11        I guess so!


The early church is in great revival w/ thousands getting saved…and the devil didn’t like it!  And that’s ok.  We don’t want Satan to like it here.  We want people to like it, but not at the expense of doing things right.  And if you do things right then there will be some, like the devil, who won’t like it here.

Proverbs 13:10

Only by pride cometh contention…

        Mark it down.  When you see someone with a bur under their saddle at church, you can know there’s some pride involved.  The devil doesn’t mind a church like that, especially if that attitude is present in the leadership.  But when God is blessing a church of obedient, faithful people, great things happen, and Satan is not happy.


        He had tried to stop that church w/ intimidation/persecution…but when he couldn’t stop it from w/out, he tried to stop it from w/in!…if he couldn’t conquer the church, maybe he’d try to corrupt the church!


So ch. 5 starts w/ a great contrast… “but”.

        …Means—here’s the flip side.

In ch’s. 2-4 - thousands are saved…

but, Ananias and Sapphira

Great generosity…                 but, Ananias and Sapphira

Wonderful unity…                 but, Ananias and Sapphira


I.                 The Problem in the Church

v. 1-4       Permit me a little liberty here, and use your imagination to think how this may have happened.  It actually didn’t seem such a grim tale in the beginning…

        In 4:36 a good guy named Barnabus had made quite a generous donation, and many would have been impressed.  He didn’t give it for praise, but inevitably word gets out.  Perhaps this married couple were bitten by the green-eyed monster of jealousy and concocted a plan of their own.

        They sell some land and carry a big bag of money home and dump it on the living room floor.  What a stack!  Money does funny things to people.  The Bible calls it a snare/trap.

        “If I had a million dollars I’d give it to the church” someone says.

[and they don’t even tithe].  It’s silly when you think about it, because money doesn’t tend to make greedy people unselfish, it has a tendency to make greedy people more greedy!  The more you have the more you want.


They look at that stack and say, this will be a great day at church this Sunday…and they planted some leaks to spread the word!

        I picture in my mind them looking at all that money the rest of the week saying, we haven’t saved anything for retirement [took out part, set it aside].

        Kid’s college…


        Extended cab camel…


by Sunday they had half the $ in the bag and half under their mattress.

        Brought it to church Sunday and gave it.  Does it look like Peter believes him?  And so the story continues like this [on screen]


Was it wrong for them to only bring part to church?

        No!  There was no record of God telling them to do it.  And that’s the point Peter makes in v. 4…

        Nothing wrong w/ any of the above.  The problem was not their giving only part of the $…the problem was that they SAID they were giving it all.  They intentionally lied/deceived to lift themselves up!  They pretended to be something that they were not.



        If they had come and said, we sold land for 50k and we feel led to give half and keep half…that would have been fine…but they just had to try to keep up w/ the Barnaby Jones’ [Barnabus].


We can point the finger, but we’re pointing right into the mirror!

How many times do we sing All to Jesus I Surrender…but not come back to church for just the slightest excuse.

        Or, Sweet Hour of Prayer, knowing we haven’t prayed 10 minutes!

Or, sang a special for our own glory and not the Lord’s

Or, prayed a spiritual prayer publicly in the service, our only heartfelt one all week!

Or, collected the offering as an usher, but not participate in giving?

Or, taught that lesson on sin, only to go home intending to sin privately.

Lead kids in song, O be careful little eyes…then surf the net or TV lustfully!


Jesus said in Matthew 15:8

    This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Our hypocrisy will hinder the cause of Christ!


You can fool…

Some of the people all the time

All the people some of the time

But you can’t fool…

All the people all the time!


Those in your home will figure it out

Those at work/those neighbors/…those at church

Prov.—“showed before the whole congregation”

…because we can’t fool God anytime!


In the gospels Jesus was very compassionate, patient, and tender in dealing w/ those who fell to sins of the flesh…but very harsh w/ those who were religious hypocrites!


--woman caught in very act of adultery.

        I forgive you, go and sin no more

--woman at the well, married 5 x’s, shacking up…

        Jesus said, I’ll give you living water

--Zacchaeus the liar/thief…

        Today salvation is coming to your house!


But how did He treat the religious hypocrites?

        You snakes!  Generation of vipers!  You’re like a whitewashed tomb, looks good outside but filled w/ dead, stinking corruption!  That’s what you remind me of…I know your wicked thought life/motives!


He took a whip and drove them out of the temple, shouting at them for turning His house into a den of thieves!


Religious hypocrisy/playing pretend is a stench in the nostrils of God!


If Satan cannot conquer the church he’ll try to corrupt it, if not from w/out, then from w/in.

        Reminds us of the story in Joshua of Achan, when the children of Israel suffered defeat in the little village of Ai…36 men lost their lives/Joshua got on his knees and asked God why/God said these words:  there’s sin in the camp!

        This was open, flagrant, pre-meditated sin…we all struggle and mess up and sin at times, but when we choose to LIVE  there it’s different.

Ill—phone call at 6 am—they say, “I’m so sorry, I woke you!”  You:  “No, I was up!” [clearing throat] Yeah, always up early!

        All lying is wrong…but this in our text was clearly different!


That was the problem in the church…


II.            The Purging of the Sin

v. 5-7       why did she come in 3 hours late?  [woman!]

v. 8-10             The Holy Spirit exposed the whole thing dramatically in front of the church.  It was the gift of knowledge/discernment whispered in Peter’s ear!  God makes sure His man finds out the truth.  And God will not be mocked!

Then Peter knew:

  • The Source of the Sin

v. 3  Satan is the source…he has the ability of planting ideas in the minds of church members for the purpose of hindering God’s work.

        So, we have to protect our hearts and minds.


“I know what they’re thinking/saying about me!”

“She’s against me!”

        Then we find out later that nothing could be further from the truth.

Satan will mess w/ your mind if he can…try to get you to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

The Holy Spirit revealed to the leader not only the source of the sin…but

  • The Seriousness of the Sin

v. 4b        Any lie is serious, we are never more like Satan than when we lie…Satan is the Father of all lies!  But it’s more serious to lie to a judge [perjury]…but it’s most serious to lie to God [hypocrisy].


Have you ever lied to God?  Made Him a promise you didn’t keep?


3.     The Punishment of Ananias and Sapphira


  1. Severe

They died!  Saved by grace doesn’t mean you have a license to sin.  God judges believers…be sure your sin will find you out.  God will not be mocked!  We ALL reap what we sow! 


Every believer undergoes 3 judgments…

As a sinner, as a servant, as a son

    If you’ve been saved, your judgment as a sinner is in the past/as a servant will be in the future, but you are judged as a son right now!


In the past--As a sinner-judged on the cross, you died w/ Christ, God’s wrath toward your sin was poured out on Christ.

Romans 8:1

    There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


Sin was fully judged there.

Ill.—prairie fire, stand in burnt patch.

    The foot of the cross is the place to stand when judgment comes!


In the future—judged as a servant, during trib. on earth, judgment seat of Christ happens in heaven [not great white throne]…a 1 on 1 personal interview w/ Christ…you’ll be judged not as a sinner, but as a servant, how faithful have you been, what were your motives for service, etc.  A time of rewards…if not, then why did Jesus tell us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven?


Read I Cor. 3—wood, hay, stubble will burn up/gold, silver, precious stones are rewarded!


In the present—you are being judged as a son…right now you are being judged.


Ananias and Sapphira were saved.  And they were being judged as “sons.”  They died because they crossed a line w/ God.  This is talking about a couple who were mature believers.  These weren’t baby Christians, and they certainly weren’t kids.  They knew better.


This is not pleasant, and I have not looked fwd. to this…but God sometimes takes a mature believer home early because of sin.


I Cor. 11—people abusing Lord’s Supper. 

1 Cor. 11:29

    For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation [lit. judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

1 Cor. 11:30-32

    For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [31] For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. [32] But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

That’s one example.


1 Cor. 5:1-5

    It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [3] For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


1 John 5:16

    If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death [implies what?], he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

        Written to Christians. 

You say, you’re trying to scare me!  [maybe, no worse than a cancer doctor who says, stop smoking or these spots that I see now will turn to cancer!]


Not only a severe judgment, but…

  1. A Saving Judgment
    1. for them

This judgment was for the purpose of saving them from further sin.  He wasn’t getting even w/ them, God does not take “vengeance” upon His own.  He was saving them from further sin.

Ill.—suppose you have a 3 year old, you look out window and they are playing in the street…you warn Johnny to stay in yard/ 5 minutes later he’s back, you spank him this time, and give one more chance, watch carefully…he starts to head that way again, so you bring him on in, to save him!


‘what kind of punishment is that, going to heaven?’

I don’t wanna get benched early, I wanna stay in the game!  Johnny lost his privileges, and so may we!

It was a saving judgment for them…

  1. a saving judgment for the church

acts 5:11—God did this as an example…He didn’t continue to kill everyone who lied in church, necessarily, but He sure showed how He felt about sin in the church!

        God often sets examples for first time offenses.

[Sodom and Gomorrah—

Jude 1:7

    Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

        There’s God’s 1st statement about homosexuality…yet San Francisco/Amsterdam seem to be ok!

Children of Israel—I Cor. 10—a whole generation wiped out as an example.

The Bible teaches that punishment is a deterrent.

Saved them, saved the church…


  1. a judgment to save souls

v. 14        purity brings power!


4 conclusions:

  1. Sin in the life of a believer is more serious than sin in the life of an unbeliever…for you are bought w/ a price, you are His child, His ambassador.
  2. Be very careful not to lie to God.
  3. Guard against hypocrisy in your own life…be the same at home as at church, in the closet as on the platform!  Don’t put on the fake face at church like a play actor [your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks!]
  4. Don’t let some hypocrite keep you out of church, follow God, not man!

There’s one person in this church that will never disappoint you…and it’s not me!  Follow Christ!

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