Acts 5: Non-negotiables

Application

There are two things that I want to focus on in Acts 5. The first is the situation with Ananias and Sapphira. This couple wants to look good in the eyes of the apostles, of the church, and of God, but they don’t want to give up everything to do it. The problem wasn’t that they held something in reserve to meet their own needs, but that they tried to portray their gift as more generous than it was. In other words, they lied.

Or did they?

Luke never tells us that Ananias actually said this was the whole price. In other words, at least at the start, this wasn’t a sin of commission, but of omission. And yet the price was extreme.

Godliness is not just a matter of what you do. It can also be a matter of what you don’t do. We must not compromise, even implicitly. And we must not tolerate when others do, either.

The other thing I want to focus on here is the disciples’ response to the Sanhedrin’s threats. After being thrown in jail, set free by an angel, hauled in front of the Sanhedrin, flogged, and set free, the apostles and co. actually rejoiced that they were counted worthy of suffering. Let me say that again. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy of suffering. And then, even more, even after being warned to be silent, they went right back to the temple and started proclaiming the gospel again.

The disciples’ response here at the end of chapter 5 stands in stark contrast to what I see happening in the church, and even in my own life, today. Rather than rejoice that we would be counted enough like Christ that we could share in his sufferings, we whine. And rather than proclaim the gospel boldly each and every day, we go through most days without ever mentioning the name of God to anyone.

If we ever want to see a church that is as vibrantly effective as the New Testament believers, these things must change.

We must not tolerate compromise in our own lives or the lives of anyone else. The body of Christ must not be tainted with our sin, whether it be of commission or omission.

We must expect and embrace suffering as part of being Christ-like. Indeed, the body of Christ was broken for our sin; how can we expect anything less as we minister to and for others?

We must resolve to evangelize. This is, after all, the greatest news of all time. And it’s not just about some remote, abstract concept of eternal life in absolute paradise; it’s about a well of life which would spring up even now in the center of the believer.

So how are you doing? How is your church doing? Are you accomplishing all of these things so that, as the New Testament church saw in Acts 6:1, the number of disciples is increasing today?

Notes

  • (1-2) Read as a continuation of 4:34-37, where people brought all the money from the sale of property to the apostles.
  • (1-2) It is imperative to understand that no one compelled these persons to bring all the money to the apostles. They chose to do it, so they could also choose to bring less than all. The problem here is that Ananias and his wife implied that the portion they brought was the whole. I.e., they lied.
  • (3-4) Peter reinforces that the problem was the lie and makes clear that such behavior may not be tolerated in the church.
  • (5-6) How much of the church today would be carted out like Ananias? We make a big show of giving our “all,” when in reality we continue to withhold a chunk for ourselves.
  • (7-8) Peter gives Sapphira a chance to acknowledge the sin and repent, but she chooses to persist in it. How many would-be Christians are content in their hypocrisy! They get the best of both worlds and think no one is the wiser!
  • (11) It seems to me that “great fear” would be an understatement. It also seems to me that a good number of modern Christians would do well to experience this kind of great fear. We must recognize the gravity of sin and the magnitude of salvation!
  • (13) “No one else dared join them” because of Ananias and Sapphira? The threats of the Sanhedrin? Just the fact that they were different? How familiar this sounds!
  • (14) No one dared join the fellowship casually because the expectations (and dangers) were too great, but the group continued to grow as people truly believed and their lives were changed. Oh, that we would recognize and realize this same kind of growth!
  • (15-16) Oh, that we saw similar things today, where the church was making such an impact on the community and the world that it enjoyed such high esteem that people came in droves whenever we even came out of our homes!
  • (20-21) As clear and imminent as the threat was, the apostles were commanded – and resolved – to return to the most public venue in town to continue preaching the same thing that had gotten them thrown in jail in the first place.
  • (20) Notice the focus of the gospel: “this new life.” The focus wasn’t on the repentance. It wasn’t even on eternal life. It was on the changed, full life, here and now!
  • (23-24) The significance of this report is critical. If the apostles had escaped due to negligence on the part of the guards, the guards would have been executed, end of discussion. But they apparently weren’t executed because they weren’t at fault.
  • (33-39) Don’t be too quick to judge God’s intentions based on your own paradigm. Gamaliel’s cool wisdom encouraged the Sanhedrin – and us – to sit back, to watch and to pray, working to discern God’s will rather than jump to conclusions.
  • (41-42) How funny. They’re flogged, and the apostles rejoice at being counted worthy to suffer for the cross. They’re commanded to be silent, and they return daily to the most public venue in town to proclaim boldly the gospel message. How often is this exactly the opposite of our reaction to such things?
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