Today we meet sin for the first time in the new covenant community.
Just as Israel entered the Promised Land and God showed them how seriously He takes sin among His own people with His judgment of Achan’s sin (Joshua 7), so now God shows His new covenant community the unacceptability of sin.
God’s judgment on Ananias (v. 5) and his wife Sapphira (v. 10) was instantaneous. What they had done was devil-inspired (v. 3) and constituted lying to the Holy Spirit (v. 3), lying to God (v. 4), and testing the Spirit of the Lord (v. 9). What precisely was their sin? They had conspired together to sell a piece of property, like Barnabas, and lay only a portion of the sale price at the apostles’ feet as if it were the whole amount. They wanted the reputation for generosity like Barnabas, while keeping back part of the money for themselves.
It was this deception that Peter highlights (v. 4). It was their land and they could have kept all of the money for themselves, but they sought a reputation that was built on deception. They hypocritically wanted an undeserved reputation. Whether or not Ananias and Sapphira were true Christians is not answered, although they were certainly part of the new covenant community. God’s judgment that resulted in their swift removal from the community was actually merciful of God, because it meant that their deception and hypocritical presence would not continue to plague the Christian church.
What an impression this must have made on the young men referred to in verses 6 and 10. They may have wondered when all this was going to stop. A primary sin of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day (Matthew 23:3) is that of hypocrisy; teaching one thing yet doing another. It is this sin that enters the Christian community and is judged.
Beware of wearing a mask, of seeking a reputation that does not fit with the reality of your life.
In what ways may hypocrisy show itself in your life today?
Why might this incident, extreme as it seems, represent the mercy of God?