DO NOT TEST THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
Acts 5:1-16 KV 9
“ Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.””
Thank God that through the trial of Peter and John we could learn how the entire church saw these events from God’s point of view and called on the name of the sovereign Lord. Lord, please help us today to call on your name and see everything as in your hands and be one in heart and mind in the name of Jesus.
Today’s passage deals with a tough issue—testing the Spirit of the Lord. We are use to tests in school, for our driver’s license, even to become a citizen of this fine country. Study hard—do well—but one test I beg you not to make is to test the Spirit of the Lord. Today we want to learn about the Holy Spirit—who protects the church and we want to learn of the God who is living and active, watching over his church—finally we want to learn how to examine our hearts so that we may not end up like Ananias and Sapphira. Lord, please help us to honor your name always.
Part I – The Spirit of the Lord (1-11)
The early church was strong because they were committed to the name of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the apostles. When intimidated they did not rely on their own experience and knowledge but instead they relied on the word of God and had faith in God to keep preaching the name of Jesus. The apostles rejoiced that they could be counted as worthy of participating in the remaining sufferings of Jesus Christ—here on earth.
Today’s passage introduces us to two people: Ananias and Sapphira. What do we know about them? From what we can tell they were Jews, members of the early Christian believers, and a married couple. Beyond that this is the first (and last) mention on them. But these things tell us something about them—being part of the early church was a trivial decision in the lives of Jewish people at that time and even today. Needless to say at this time there also weren’t any casual believers.
Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property and came to lay the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. This picture looks wonderful! Imagine selling your house (or your parents house) and giving all the money to support the church and its charities. Well that would be great but when we look at verse 2 we see there are some dark motives here. Look at verse 2, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.” Why did they lay the money at the apostle’s feet? Verse 34 and 35 from chapter 4 tells us, “that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” In this case Ananias and Sapphira conspired to hold back a portion of the proceeds, yet still tell everyone they gave the entire price.
Those who had been moved by the Holy Spirit wanted to use their resources to support the early church and support other believers—they were of one heart and mind in Christ and saw no problems sharing resources to help others. But Ananias was not moved by the Holy Spirit to help others at this time. Look at verse 3, “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” The other believers’ hearts were filled with a sense of charity and sharing—filled by the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus. But Ananias’ heart here was filled by Satan.
Why? Perhaps Ananias saw the apostle’s give much praise to Barnabas when he sold his field. Perhaps Ananias had some desire gain a position in the church. Perhaps Ananias was a capable but proud man who thought he was smarter than others. In the end all we know is that he had some unrepentant sin of wanting the praise on men and the sin of lying to the Holy Spirit.
How did Peter know what was in Ananias’ heart? Why did Peter say his heart was filled by Satan? That is a serious accusation. Yet Peter knew—by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter knew firsthand what it meant, Luke 22:31 says, ““Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” Peter was there with Jesus when Satan influenced Judas to betray Jesus. Peter knew what the power of Satan could do to an unrepentant heart. Whenever we have any unrepentant sins then Satan can fill our hearts. Whenever our motives before God are impure Satan can fill our hearts. When we do not have a holy fear of God—Satan can fill our hearts.
At this point please don’t focus on the money—this passage is not about money or offerings—it is about the Spirit of God and the Church. Here we see that when Ananias was not right before God it caused Satan to enter his heart. Look at verse 3 again, “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” Satan had caused Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit. How foolish! The Lord Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth, (Jn 16:13) How can you lie to the Spirit of Truth? Ananias’ actions were wicked in the sight of God.
In the first place the proceeds of the sale belonged to Ananias—he was under no compulsion to give the money to the church. Look at verse 4, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing?” Peter rebuked Ananias here for lying to God. By lying to God they were trying to gain the praise of men. They were manipulating God’s church and God’s people for the praise of the congregation—not for the glory of God. This was not a casual sin or a mistake—but premeditated attempt to deceive God’s people and make a mockery of the Holy Spirit. But Peter replied in verse 4b, “You have not lied just to human beings but to God.””
By the power of the Holy Spirit—Peter knew that Ananias and Sapphira had lied about offering all the money from the sale of their land. Peter equated it with lying to God. More importantly we see the grave error and grave sin of trying to lie to God. Adam lied to God in the garden when asked if he had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. Cain lied to God when God asked him, “Where is your brother?” In those cases what happened to them? Lying to God is indeed a great sin.
But you may say, “Well this was one little lie, no problem, we do it all the time.” Well this one is a serious one. Why is it a serious thing for believers to lie to God? Joshua 24:19 tells us, “ Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.” And Leviticus 19:2 tells us, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” God is holy and man is not. God cannot stand in the presence of sin. God also protects his people and will not let sin spread amongst them. Imagine if Ananias had been able to fool Peter and the apostles—Ananias would then be able to manipulate God in a sense, and many would be encouraged to follow him—destroying the hearts of those filled with the spirit—to be filled with the spirit of Satan. Then the church becomes just like any other political band. Just like the pagans and the religious leaders who sought the influence of man.
What then happened to Ananias? Look at verse 5 and 6, “When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.” God acted providentially. Some people mistakenly think that the Old Testament is all fire and brimstone and the New Testament is all “hippy style peace and love.” The Old Testament is all about God’s mercy on his people and the New Testament shows through today’s passage how the Holy Spirit holds God’s people accountable—even to the point of death.
If Ananias had made some secret plan and tried to deceive others that would be one thing—but he was not alone. You see his wife Sapphira was in on this as well. Look at verse 2 and 9a, “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself…” and, ““Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?”” Sapphira was an active participant in the foolish scheme to test the Spirit of the Lord. Just knowing that the two of them conspired together tells you of their lack of relying on the Lord—no wonder Satan filled their hearts—when conspiring to test the spirit of the Lord, Satan made a beeline for their hearts. Jesus himself rebuked Satan in Matthew 4:7, ““It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Even the Lord Jesus commands his followers not to put the Lord God to the test—yet Ananias and Sapphira did just that. It is not man’s place to test God—but to obey God. Her action was evil in God’s sight.
How should Sapphira as a God fearing wife have acted? Clearly God had a special role prepared for a wife. In Genesis chapter 2, we learned that woman came from the rib of Adam. In the body we know that ribs protect the vital organs—most importantly the heart. In the same way Abigail protected David from making the rash mistake of murdering Nabal and all in his household—that is the blessing of a god fearing wife. King Solomon wrote at the end of the book of Proverbs – “A wife of noble character, who can find? She is worth more than rubies!” But Sapphira failed in her duty and her sin was all the more wicked. Look at verse 10, “At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” Sisters, if I could speak to you—don’t be like Sapphira and go along with your husband or future husbands sins—gently correct his thinking and prevent his sin. Young men—I charge you to pray that God may send you such a noble wife that she may keep you from committing sin before God. Amen.
After these events the entire church was seized by great fear. In the movies we always like it when the villains get what is coming to them—but not here. Why was the church and all those who heard what had happened seized by fear? Great fear had seized the church. To “seize” means to grab tight and hold vigorously. Perhaps many people had been planning to deceive the church and gain the approval of men. After this event they were all shocked and realized that God is real and he is a holy God. Many also were griped with fear because they now recognized that the holy and powerful God was actively looking after and protecting his church. Even those who were not Christians but lived in the community heard and saw this and were gripped with fear of God’s people.
When God acts in a person’s life--others recognize it. Here we can learn that God will act powerfully to protect his people. I am so glad that there is the living God who has a sense of justice and protects his church. With our nation rapidly turning against the true faith in Jesus—we can rely on the fact that God will not let his church become poisoned. God will protect those who love his name and follow him, and all those who put the Lord to the test—well watch out, I wouldn’t stand too close to them.
Part II – The Apostle’s faith in God (12-17)
After the death of Ananias and Sapphira the apostles could have been scared of the work of God or worse become afraid of future lawsuits! But they were not afraid. Look at verse 12, “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade." They gathered continually and boldly preached the gospel together in public in the temple at Solomon’s Colonnade. Yet the passage says that no one else dared to join them. The people were used to seeing the useless power of the religious leaders and the mute idols of the pagan Romans that covered the city (1 Cor 12:2). No idol of stone, gold, or silver ever rebuked anyone for lying to the Holy Spirit. No modern philosophy or emergent religion ever convicted someone for having their heart being filled by Satan. Yet the people had never seen the living God intervene like that before—now that they saw and knew they were afraid to go near the apostle’s and the believers with any impure motives.
But nevertheless the number of men and women in the church continued to grow daily. When God is working—many people are moved and come to repentance and this sense of a holy community before God appears so desirable to those who are trapped in sin and trapped in injustice and in the dark parts of life and the world.
There is a pastor who was the director of a large Christian College apologetics ministry. He was well liked and loved by young and old. Plus he was the first Muslim convert to be a seminary professor in America. His conversion story which became famous after 9/11 was that he had been a trained Jihadist in Iraq and Lebanon who came to America as a teenager trained to hate Americans—endured persecution in high school as a Muslim. His father had multiple wives and his mother, a Swede by birth, had converted to Islam too. In high school he met a Christian friend who helped him come to Jesus and give his life to Christ. What a great story—except it is not true. The man was indeed born to a Muslim father—but his parents divorced by the time he was 2. He grew up in Ohio not Iraq and Lebanon. He was part of his high schools drama team, not a persecuted Muslim. The only part of his story that is true is that he indeed came to Christ in High School and brought his brother to believe in Jesus as well. That in itself would make a great testimony story. But this man is testing the Spirit of the Lord by inventing this persona and making the great work of Christ in his life take a back seat to his own invented testimony. Now Christians are divided over his lies and cover up and fighting each other instead of focusing on the gospel work. His false testimony desired to test the Lord and we are seeing the outcome of this sin across the country.
I thank God that he has granted me the privilege to share the words of God in this congregation. It looks fun to those perhaps—but it is not all fun and games. Every time I have to struggle not to make this story telling hour—full of jokes—and full of my opinions. I need to repent of all my sins so that you do not leave here thinking, “Oh he is a funny guy—or those were some great stories—but that you walk out clearly seeing the Lord Jesus Christ. A preacher who does anything else is surely testing the Spirit of the Lord. God may forgive my desires to gain the approval of man and help me to want to gain the approval of the Holy Spirit through holding onto the word of God in all that I do. Help me Lord not to test the Holy Spirit but love the Spirit and the work of God going on around me at all times.
Conclusion*** Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” What can we do brothers and sisters? How can we avoid the fate of Ananias and Sapphira? Fear not—God sent his one and only Son Jesus to set men free from sins. Jesus is the intercessor—our great high priest. When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins he will protect our heart from Satan. Jesus gave us his word in the scriptures, which Apostle Paul tells us is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, and training ourselves with (2 Tim 3:16) . We must come before the Lord with a pure heart—depending on the blood of Jesus alone. May our hearts be filled with love for the Spirit so that Satan cannot enter.