Daily Archives: 10/11/2014

Why did lying cause the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira?

WHY DID LYING CAUSE GOD TO STRIKE ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA DEAD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What an excellent question, and thank you for asking. Let us study the Scriptures and see what they have to say about this very bizarre incident.

We should begin by reading the passage in question, Acts 5:1-11: “[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. [11] And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”

Whenever we have a puzzling Bible passage, it is always wise to look for another Bible passage to explain it; that is, look for verses that read similarly, and one passage will illuminate another passage. A parallel passage that will shed light on our current topic is Luke 18:24-25: “[24] And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [25] For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This is the key to understanding why Ananias and Sapphira were judged so harshly.

The context of this passage (Luke 18:18-30; cf. Matthew 19:16-30) is that a “certain ruler” had previously asked Jesus Christ, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18; Matthew 19:16). Luke 18:19-21 continues, “[19] And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. [Jesus was asking him, “Are you calling Me ‘God?’” Modern versions water down this verse for obvious reasons.] [20] Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. [21] And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up” (cf. Matthew 19:17-20). (Note how law-keeping is related to soul salvation in Israel’s program, just as James 2:17-26 says.)

Let us return to Luke 18:24-25, but now read them in their context: “[22] Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. [23] And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. [24] And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [25] For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Our Lord Jesus commanded this wealthy ruler to sell all of his possessions and give (alms) to the poor. Why? And why did Jesus speak so negatively of being wealthy, warning His audience not to be rich (and instructing them to sell their possessions, too)?

In Luke 12:13-15, a man desired Jesus to speak with his brother, that he “divide the inheritance” with him. Christ replied, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? [And he said unto them,] Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Jesus then spoke a parable, describing how a rich man wanted to demolish his barns and build larger ones to contain his many fruits and goods. This fool deceived himself into thinking he could now enjoy “the good life,” forgetting that he would perish, lose it all, and stand before God as an idolater. Jesus concluded, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (verse 21).

Jesus then proceeded to tell His disciples not to worry about what they would eat, drink, or wear (verses 22-29). Verses 30-34 continue, “[30] For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. [31] But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. [32] Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [33] Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

In the Four Gospels, Jesus told the Jews that selling all their possessions and giving to the poor was a sign that their heart, their hope, was in heaven. Those who ignored this command were signifying their unbelief. They did not care what Jesus said; they did not seek His Heavenly Father’s will. They were idolaters—money worshippers—and not worshippers of Father God and His Son Jesus Christ.

When Jesus spoke about giving up material riches and it being impossible for rich people to enter the kingdom of God, He had Israel’s prophetic program in mind. The book of Proverbs had already foretold: “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death” (11:4). “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land” (Zephaniah 1:18).

Once Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, arrived, her program was in its “last days” (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32; Luke 16:16; Matthew 3:7-12). After the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), the day of the LORD’S wrath, the seven-year Tribulation, was to begin. Then, the Antichrist, the false Messiah, would con Israel, and cause her to rest in a false peace policy. He would then manifest himself as satanic by implementing a tyrannical economic agenda: “[16] And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: [17] And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16-17).

Jesus knew that material riches would spiritually hinder and destroy His little flock, for they would be tempted to take the Antichrist’s mark and accept his name or number in order to retain their physical possessions. He even warned Israel’s believers not to be attached to material goods during the Tribulation period (Matthew 24:15-18; Mark 13:14-16). If they sold all they had, they would be guarded against materialism. However, those rich would value their possessions, and thus submit to the Antichrist.

Observe how Jesus’ audience responded to His words, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24-25). We read in verse 26 and following: “[26] And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? [27] And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. [28] Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. [29] And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, [30] Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

Jesus’ audience did not comprehend that those who could be saved in Israel’s program were those who sold their possessions and gave to the poor. The rich, however, would be greedy, worshipping “mammon” (their material wealth; Matthew 6:24-34). They would fall into the snare of the Antichrist—and once they would accept his mark or worship him in order to keep the value of their possessions, the Bible says they would be damned to everlasting hellfire (Revelation 14:9-11).

The Apostle Peter, representing all members of Israel’s little flock, responded, “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” Jesus assured them that He knew that they had abandoned their houses, families, businesses, and so on, for the sake of God’s kingdom. He reassured them that they would receive “manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” What did He mean? Though believing Jews had lost their flesh-and-blood family members, and their material possessions, they had gained many brothers and sisters and spiritual wealth in Christ. These Messianic Jews would behave like family now by taking care of each other’s physical needs.

CONCLUSION

Considering all of our previous comments, we can see why Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead when they were dishonest about their material wealth. Returning to Acts 5:1-11, we learn how they “sold a possession, and kept back part of the price” (verses 1-2). This was most serious indeed, as we will now delineate and summarize in the following observations:

  1. Ananias and Sapphira could not serve God and mammon: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Ananias and Sapphira were money worshippers; they despised the God of the Bible. They had no respect for Jesus Christ’s words about selling their possessions and giving the money to the poor. They were breaking one of the requirements necessary to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:18-30; cf. Matthew 19:16-30).
  2. Ananias and Sapphira were laying up treasure for themselves, and they were not rich toward God. They had fallen into the trap of idolatry, materialism. What did we read in Luke 12:21, when Jesus commented about the rich man who wanted to tear down his barns and build larger ones to hold his additional goods? “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Ananias and Sapphira had more interest in material goods than pleasing the God of the Bible.
  3. What had Jesus told the rich man? “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). Ananias and Sapphira refused to believe that to be true. They were more interested in having treasures on earth than acquiring treasures in heaven. In the words of Jesus, their heart (attitude, focus) was on earth and not in heaven. Luke 12:33-34: “[33] Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
  4. Acts 5:3-4 provides us with what was perhaps the most serious error of Ananias and Sapphira. The Apostle Peter said, “[3] 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.” Ananias and Sapphira had not really lied to the apostles—ultimately, they had lied to God the Holy Ghost, the Person working in and through the Apostles. Later, when Sapphira was questioned about the matter, Peter asked her in verse 9, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?” Ananias and Sapphira had “tempted” the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost. They had determined in their hearts not to follow the Lord Jesus’ earlier commands about selling all they had and giving that money away. Ananias and Sapphira not only lied, but they purposed to cheat God and see how He would respond, a most serious matter. Thus, God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead right there on the spot.

Here are some interesting side-notes worthy of our consideration, especially in light of how we relate to this incident of Ananias and Sapphira.

While some teach that Jesus did not literally mean “sell that ye have, and give alms” (Luke 12:33), that His language was figurative (“sell out for Me”), His audience took Him literally. They actually sold their possessions and had all things common in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-37. Hence, Peter declared to the lame beggar, “Silver and gold have I none!” (Acts 3:6; cf. Matthew 10:9). The Jerusalem saints pooled all their wealth together and lived for each other’s benefit, just as Jesus instructed, while those Jews who did not have their heart in heaven simply ignored Jesus.

Jesus literally meant for His Jewish disciples to sell their physical possessions; Ananias and his wife Sapphira were a tragic example of those who disregarded Jesus’ literal words. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Ghost and did not relinquish all of their wealth—remember, it was so serious that God actually struck them dead (Acts 5:1-11). They were money worshippers, idolaters, and they were indicating they wanted to remain a part of Satan’s world system, they preferred false gods instead of the true God. Had the Antichrist shown up in early Acts, and had our dispensation not postponed Israel’s program, Ananias and Sapphira would have most likely followed the Antichrist!

Later, when a great famine troubled the whole then-known world (Acts 11:28), and because there was no interest associated with the common account, the Jerusalem Messianic Jews grew poorer. Moreover, their kingdom program and their kingdom prosperity were delayed (since God had just instated our Dispensation of Grace). Thus, Paul’s Gentile converts repeatedly sent financial relief to these poor Jerusalem saints (Acts 11:28-30; Romans 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Galatians 2:10).

Therefore, dispensational Bible study is important. God’s Word to us—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon—never instructs us to sell all our possessions and share one bank account. We are expected to work in order to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; cf. Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8). Still, the Apostle Paul also warned about loving and worshipping material goods, for “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:3-19). While it is not a sin to be materially rich or poor in this the Dispensation of Grace, let us remember that we in Christ are—and always will be—spiritually rich in Christ (Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 4:19).

Also see:
» What is “the Dispensation of Grace?”
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?
» Are we obligated to tithe 10% of our income?

In light of Galatians 1:8-9, was the Apostle Peter “accursed?”

SINCE PETER PREACHED THE KINGDOM GOSPEL, WHY WAS HE NOT UNDER THE CURSE OF GALATIANS 1:8-9?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“In light of Galatians 1:8-9, why was Peter not under a curse since he preached the Kingdom gospel?” What an interesting question! Let us turn to the Word of God and search it for answers.

Lest anyone not know what we mean by the expressions, “the Kingdom Gospel” or “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” we will briefly search the Scriptures for the definition.

Luke 16:16 quotes Jesus as saying, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Before Jesus’ earthly ministry even began, John the Baptist preached, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Later, we read about Jesus preaching during His earthly ministry, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Verse 23 continues, “And Jesus went about all synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people.” Mark 1:14-15 says, “[14] Now after that John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, [15] And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” In Matthew 24:14, the Lord Jesus predicted, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Christ used the expression “this” to indicate that “the Gospel of the Kingdom” was the title of the Gospel message associated with His earthly ministry—it was that Gospel that John the Baptist preached, that Gospel that Jesus preached during His earthly ministry, that Gospel that He had commissioned His 12 apostles to preach.

After ordaining the 12, Jesus commanded them, “[5] Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. [6] But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:5-8). Basically, the Gospel of the Kingdom focused on the fact that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah-King-the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29; Luke 2:11; Luke 4:41; Luke 9:20; John 1:41; John 4:25; John 4:42; John 6:69; John 9:22; John 11:27), and that He was coming to establish God’s earthly kingdom; the nation Israel needed to prepare herself by confessing their sin of idolatry and then being water baptized of John (Ezekiel 36:25; Matthew 3:6-12; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 7:29-30; Acts 13:24).

Following the Lord Jesus Christ’s instructions, the Apostle Peter and Israel’s other apostles preached the following salvation message in early Acts: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). This is the Gospel of the Kingdom that John the Baptist, Jesus, and His apostles preached in Matthew through John (change your mind, accept Jesus as Messiah, be water baptized), except there is now the addition of the Holy Spirit being poured out on those believers following their water baptism. Even as late as Acts 3:19-26, Peter continued preaching about the issue of Israel’s earthly kingdom and her need to get right with JEHOVAH, that she can then be His ministers to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in that literal, physical, visible, Davidic kingdom. Israel repeatedly refused the Holy Spirit’s testimony through the apostles and prophets in early Acts (chapters 1-7).

Once Paul’s ministry came on the scene (Acts chapter 9 and onward), but technically in Acts chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2), the Apostle Peter (as well as James and John, and the other Israeli apostles) learned the further revelation from God that Paul had been given. At that time, Apostles Peter, James, and John finally gave up their ministry to Gentiles (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) over to Paul. Since Israel was not cooperating, God enacted a plan that He had in mind long ago: He would minister to Gentiles without Israel and her earthly kingdom, and the ascended Lord Jesus Christ would reach Gentiles through Paul’s ministry (Romans 11:11-13). Paul preached “the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24). That message focused on Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is totally separate and unique from the Gospel of the Kingdom. (One day, that Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached again; Israel’s kingdom program will resume after our Dispensation of Grace; Romans chapter 11.)

Now, we can focus on the passage in question. We will read Galatians 1:6-9: “[6] I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: [7] Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. [8] But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. [9] As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

To be “accursed” here does not mean to be damned to everlasting hellfire (as commonly taught); it simply means, “separated” or “something (or someone) to be avoided.” In other words, Paul did not want anyone else preaching to the Galatians. After the Apostle had left the region of Galatia, false teachers and false preachers came into those Christian assemblies and mixed law and grace. The Galatians had gotten so confused doctrinally he actually called them “bewitched” (tricked, spellbound, memorized) and “foolish” (people who were not thinking clearly) (Galatians 3:1-5). They returned to a performance-based acceptance system (works-religion) and ignored Paul’s Gospel, God’s grace (Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork) as sufficient payment for their sins. The Holy Spirit through Paul wanted the Galatians to separate themselves from false religion; He did not want them to have fellowship with someone who did not preach Paul’s Gospel, the Gospel of the Grace of God. See Galatians 5:12: “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” Paul wanted the Galatian believers to “cut off” fellowship from those preaching another gospel. (If we did this today, most pulpits would be vacated!)

Now, the question at hand is, Did Galatians 1:6-9 apply to the Apostle Peter?

Remember, according to Galatians 2:9, Apostles Peter, James, and John (Acts chapter 15 onward) confined their ministry to the “circumcision” (Israel’s believing remnant), and they agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles). “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Galatians 2:9).

Exactly who was preaching a Kingdom Gospel (legalism) to the Galatians, we do not know; the Bible does not identify them by name. We have no Scriptural evidence that Peter, James, or John ever visited Galatia. In fact, the Scriptures do reveal that, by Acts chapter 15, Peter, James, and John had already confined their ministry to Israel’s little flock, and the letter to the Galatians was written after Acts 15 (because Galatians chapter 2 alludes to the same event as Acts chapter 15).

Peter was not under any “curse” for preaching a false gospel to the Galatians because he had already learned in Acts chapter 15 (prior to the book of Galatians) that he had no ministry to Gentiles anymore; he learned that Paul was now God’s man to reach the lost Jews and lost Gentiles. As per agreement, Peter was not preaching a Kingdom Gospel to the Galatians, or to any other of Paul’s converts or Gentiles; the phrase “let him be accursed” in Galatians 1:6-9 refers to someone other than Apostles Peter, James, and John. It applies to those who were attempting to overthrow Paul’s ministry—that certainly would not be a reference to Peter, James, and John. Interestingly, we do read about “false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4). Perhaps it was one of these “false brethren” who misled the Galatians; Galatians 1:6-9 would certainly apply to these legalists.

Also see:
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Could you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» We are saved by faith, but are we blessed by works?