In Acts 5:1-11 we read about two believers, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold some of their property to give to the poor. Their only problem was that they both decided together to secretly keep some of the money for themselves and not tell the disciples about their evil deed. Little did they realize that the Holy Spirit knew of their plot and, in dramatic fashion, quickly brought it to their attention by taking their lives for lying to Him, the Apostle Peter, and to the church as a whole.
This incident so important because it shows that the Holy Spirit is aware of everything humans do and will not let wrong doing go unpunished. Ananias and Sapphira lied not only to the Holy Spirit, but to Peter and therefore the entire church. John Stott, in his book ďThe Message of ActsĒ, remarks that this sin was very grave on many levels. What the couple did wrong was by lying; they were hypocrites; their consciences were obviously not bothered by their deceit; and their hypocrisy would have undermined the integrity of the church if they had not been corrected publically in some way (p. 111-112).
The lessons for us to learn from this incident are clear. As Christians, we have Godís Holy Spirit within us to guide us and to also correct us when He feels that we are straying from the path of righteousness. Everything about us is open to the Spiritís scrutiny Ė our attitudes, our beliefs, our morals, and so on. With the Holy Spirit in our lives we find that obeying God brings Him pleasure and to us blessings. But when we disobey the Spirit, we must expect to be corrected in some way by Him. If this incident teaches us one thing, it is that we must always be truthful and obedient to Godís word. By doing so, we not only please God through His Holy Spirit, but we show others the integrity of God by how He guides our lives in His plan. When unbelievers see our obedience to God and Godís response to that obedience, they, too, just may want to know more about Him, and may one day find salvation through His Son as they see His Son being proclaimed by the way we live.
In Acts 8:1-40, we find the incident of Phillip being sent to speak to the Samaritans and then to speak with an Ethiopian dignitary who was reading the scriptures on Isaiah the prophet. There are similarities and differences between Phillipís work among the Samaritans and with the Ethiopian? In the case of the Samaritans, Phillip was sent to speak to the city after other believers had already made Jesus resurrection known to the people there; in the case of the Ethiopian, Phillip was sent by an angel of the Lord to speak to a dignitary who wanted to know what the scriptures meant about Jesus. In Samaria, Phillip performed miracles and kicked out evil spirits to show Godís power; the Ethiopian only needed the word of God to be explained to him for him to become a believer. The Samaritan believers were not baptized until Peter and John went to see if what Phillip was doing was successful; the Ethiopian was baptized immediately after hearing the truth of the Gospel. The Samaritans were Jews; the Ethiopian was not. In the case of the Ethiopian dignitary, he was able to get a hold of the scroll that contained the book of Isaiah, a scroll that the Samaritans would not have read since they didnít believe in the prophets of the Jews. The one similarity that comes through these two is that the word had spread and people were responding to what they were hearing.
Today, we must always be flexible in our evangelism so that we will respond to the Holy Spiritís call for us to go wherever the Gospel needs to be revealed. Philip embodies this principle in that he went to find the Ethiopian as instructed and found a man eager to know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What must change is our desire to see the Gospel preached everywhere in the world, even if we are the oneís called upon to go wherever the Spirit sends us. But what must never change in the zeal we first felt upon our own conversion experience and to use that zeal for the expanding of the Kingdom of God. We have been changed by the rejuvenation of our spirits and souls for the express use of the Lord our God. In Phillip we find a man whose zeal for the Lord changed lives; a man who made a difference in the best way. In Ananias and Sapphira we find two people who lost their zeal for the Lord and misplaced it in their own deception and lies and had their lives changed for the worst. Only the changes that God makes in our lives are worth holding on to and incorporating into our joy and zeal for him. We must all be a Phillip and never an Ananias and Sapphira.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.