I’ve read some teaching about Acts 5:1-10 that argues that God killed Ananias and Sapphira because they lied.
But such explanations contradict the New Testament message!
This is what God’s word has revealed to me:
At first reading of this sort series of events it appears that God strikes down Ananias and Sapphira because of their lie.
However, if this was true: is God a liar, has God repented of his grace toward us, (and could Jesus have saved himself a lot of bother)?
If God struck down Ananias and Sapphira for their sin, it implies that the only sure way into heaven for any of us is to die or be killed immediately upon realising our salvation: because sinning is human nature – we all do it frequently.
James clearly explains in chapter 2, verse 10 of his letter that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
This means that if I am a goody-two-shoes, religiously adhering to the letter of God’s law, but perhaps I decide not to inform Customs & Excise when I am returning from abroad with some souvenirs that I am required to pay duty on: if I walk through the airport green gate when I should have gone through the red gate: this is a lie, a minor lie, a little white lie, and if I was caught out it would be laughed off because it was only worth a few pennies, and everyone does it anyway (don’t they?).
However, this minor silly undeclared customs duty is a lie, it is a sin, I have offended in one minor point of the law: but I am as guilty as if I had murdered, worshiped an idol, robbed a bank, had sex with a netball team, lusted after my neighbours new car and drooled over his wife, and declared God a fool!
Because, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” [James 2:10]
It is black and white: there are no shades of grey.
It doesn’t matter if it is a big sin or a little sin: any sin excludes us from the righteous holy perfection that God demands.
But because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we are made righteous because Jesus has suffered our punishment, which has made us righteous before God, when we believe.
Ananias was a believer, but he lied about the amount of money he had received from the sale of his property.
Why did he fall down dead?
Luke does not explain why Ananias fell down dead, he just states, “Ananias hearing these words [the accusation of Peter] fell down, and gave up the ghost:”
So, I asked a close friend of mine about the time when she was expelled from her church because she refused to stop dating a certain young man whom the church leadership judged to be ‘unsuitable’.
It is a memory that she was very unhappy to recall.
She was summoned to stand before three overseerers of her meeting.
These were three senior men with authority.
She was just 18-years old.
They told her that she must stop dating her boyfriend: that he was not a believer; that the relationship was ‘unequally yoked’; that she would otherwise be expelled from fellowship.
She chose to be expelled from fellowship.
She said that it was an awful, demoralising, and shaming experience.
I can visualise her standing there before her accusers: her heart was pounding out of her chest, face flushed with embarrassment and shame, (and determination).
Similarly, Ananias was accused before his peers by a person with authority over him. His lie had been exposed by Peter’s perception. Perhaps, like my friend, Ananias was flushed with embarrassment and shame, and when his heart pounded hard he suffered a heart attack and died, or maybe it was a stroke!
Scripture does not state why Ananias died.
(And we know the truth stated clearly in Revelation chapter 22 verses 18 and 19 that a terrible punishment awaits anyone who adds or takes anything away from what is written in scripture.)
Fact: Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, and to God:
And Ananias fell down dead.
Hands up if you have never lied to God!
Have you ever pretended to tithe a tenth of your income, but perhaps rounded it down, or calculated it after-tax rather than before-tax (giving God not from your first-fruits, but from your left-overs)? Or have you ever spoken ‘Amen’ at the end of a communal prayer, when you weren’t really paying attention to what was being prayed?
Or have you ever joined in singing a song claiming something like, ‘God, I give my life to you,’ but actually you only give God 90-minutes attention on a Sunday morning, or speak to him in prayer only when you need something?
We lie all the time to God; it’s terrible! but it’s true.
Okay, so how I can claim that God did not kill Ananias?
Numbers chapter 23, verse 19, a famous soothsayer called Balaam declared: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
If God struck down Ananias, then the New Testament [new covenant / new contract / new agreement] between God and man, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, has been declared null and void. If this is true, according to James 2:10 every believer should already be struck down dead because all of us sin frequently: in deed or word or thought.
However, Paul sums up our condition in Romans chapter 5 verse 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
I do not approach God wearing “filthy rags;” because that was man’s Old Testament condition.
Isaiah chapter 61 verse 10 prophesied a New Testament truth that, “he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Romans chapter 3 verses 22 and 23 declare: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
God does not lie.
God does not repent.
God has spoken, and he has made it good.
I am blessed.
You are blessed, when you believe.
And, Ananias was blessed.
Paul declares in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 3 that we are “blessed with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places, in Christ.”
Balaam declared in Numbers chapter 23 verse 20: “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he [God] hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.”
What God has blessed cannot be un-blessed. (Unless we decide to un-bless ourselves.)
So, if God’s word is the truth, neither God nor the Holy Spirit killed Ananias.
Okay, so what about Sapphira?
The death of Sapphira must be taken in a different context.
First, consider the person who confronts her: Peter.
Peter is a wonderfully flawed character who gives hope to the rest of us because God used him in such a powerful way.
Peter is described as messing-up occasionally: stepping out of the boat then going under when he became distracted; hacking of a guard’s ear at the arrest of Jesus; denying his dearest friend three times after declaring that he would never deny him; Paul even had to confront and correct Peter for slipping back into Jewish ways (in Galatians chapter 2).
Why did Sapphira drop down dead?
Peter said, “Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.”
This is what can be interpreted as a curse!
Peter told Sapphira that she would die, and Sapphira died.
If this sounds illogical, than the entire creation can be declared illogical, because God spoke and creation happened.
I have studied the power of words, not only in the Bible, but in everyday life, and I can confidently declare that words are very dangerous when used recklessly.
Proverbs chapter 18 verse 20 states: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
I scold my family when they speak recklessly.
When a shoddy doctor tells his patient that they have six month to live, guess what: if the patient believes their doctor they will be dead in six months.
When I ask someone how they are, and they reply, “I am getting the flu!” Guess what: they ARE getting the flu, because they have just declared it! They should declare, “I am not getting the flu!” deny it, and rebuke the symptoms.
When greeting someone, I enjoy declaring that I am blessed, because even on a difficult day this truth slowly sinks in: I realise that I am truly blessed, and I live in this blessing.
Back to Peter who is confronting Sapphira:
Peter enjoyed great effectiveness in the divine healing power that worked through him, and in his teaching. When he spoke, people paid close attention; when Peter spoke, people believed him.
Peter told Sapphira that she would die: Sapphira believed the words that Peter spoke: Sapphira dropped down dead.
To assume that God or the Holy Spirit struck down Sapphira is to add to what is written in scripture.
Peter told Sapphira that she would die, and she died.
Here are the facts according to Luke:
- Ananias and Sapphira sold property and lied about the fact that they had held back a proportion of what was theirs to give: they pretended to give it all.
- Peter perceived their deception and publically exposed and shamed Ananias, who consequently dropped down dead.
- Peter then told Sapphira that she would also die: and she died.
- Even the smallest least offensive sin is as offensive as the greatest sin.
- Though we are sinners, we are made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ.
- When God looks at a believer he does not see filthy rags, but a robe of righteousness.
- God does not lie.
- God does not repent.
- God does not un-bless someone whom he has blessed.
This is what God revealed to me through his word.
Having meditated at length over this incident described in Acts chapter 5, I cannot accept the teaching that God killed Ananias or Sapphira as punishment for their deception, because it would mean deleting several blessings and prophecies of the Old Testament and much of the gospel teachings of the New Testament.
read for yourself:
Acts Chapter 5
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 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.
3 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?
4 Whiles 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.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 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.
10 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.