"Not more than three hours later his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, 'Tell me, were you given this price for your field?'
'"Yes.' she said, 'that price.'
"Peter responded, 'What's going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door and you're next.' No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband. By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with." Acts 5:7-11 (The Message).
What a pity that everyone, insiders and outsiders alike, does not have a healthy respect for God today. That was Paul's diagnosis of the state of his world in the first century and it is equally true of the people in our world today.
The death of these two interlopers should carry a strong message for us in the church today. Just because God does not act as decisively against offenders in the church as He did then does not mean that He disregards the seriousness of this kind of behaviour.
There is something distasteful about the sin of presumption. In Psalm 50 the Holy Spirit, through David, said this: "These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you." Ananias and Sapphira presumed that they could deceive the apostolic leadership and the whole church and get away with it. They did not reckon on the work of the Spirit we call "spiritual gifts".
Those who are sensitive and in touch with the Holy Spirit's voice within, and that includes every believer, not only the spiritual "elite", have access to a range of "gifts" which are intended to enhance the smooth functioning of the church.
These gifts include insight into things only the Holy Spirit can reveal, like the deception these two people were trying to pull off on the church. These abilities to function in the realm of the supernatural are essential to minister help and hope to believers as well as to keep the people's hearts open before God and to keep interlopers from polluting the fellowship. (Unfortunately some streams within the church have claimed these "gifts" as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (especially speaking in tongues) and elevated those who practise them to the level of "Spirit-filled" believers as though this is a qualification for God's special attention).
Peter was quick to pick up in his spirit the deception Ananias and Sapphira were trying to pull off on the church. It takes confidence and courage to speak out against what they had connived to do. What if he were wrong? What if God had killed him for wrongly accusing them? The fact that they were caught out and taken out points to God's concern for His own honour and Peter's accurate discernment of their hearts.
Moses suffered the same consequences, though not as dramatically, for not upholding God's honour in front of His people. When he displayed his irritation with the people for their unbelief and struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it, he disqualified himself from taking the people into the Promised Land. He was barred from completing the work he had begun and he died outside the land he so longed to enter.
What would God have to do today to purge the church of people who presume on the grace of God so that they do what they like and think that they will get away with it? When the church of the Lord Jesus returns to living in the fear of the Lord, perhaps the world will begin to take the church more seriously.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10 (NIV).
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