Daily Devotional

September 27, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 4:32 through 5:16

“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?” (Acts 5:3)

One of the restitutions I had to make after getting saved was confessing to my older sister that I had lied to her. She had drawn a picture of a girl complete with big eyes, freckles, and sticking-out pigtails, but in my opinion, she hadn’t drawn the mouth quite right. As a six-year-old accomplished artist (at least according to my Mom), I was sure I could do better. However, my sister rejected my offer of help and insisted that I could not even touch her drawing. When she left the room, I saw my chance. Grabbing an eraser, I carefully deleted the less-than-perfect mouth and drew what I deemed a much-preferable rendition. Of course, my sister detected the alteration as soon as she looked at her picture again. However, when she accused me, I flatly denied having anything to do with her precious drawing. That lie eventually had to be made right!

Most people would consider my lie about my artistic endeavors to be “small.” By contrast, shortly before World War II broke out in Europe, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, in which the two countries agreed to take no military action against each other for the next ten years. The agreement fell apart in June 1941, when Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler had lied, and his lie was “large” — it impacted thousands upon thousands of people.

Numerous studies show that lying and deception are prevalent in all age groups, cultures, occupations, income brackets, and levels of society. One such study, conducted by Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts, stated that 60 percent of the people interviewed lied at least once during a ten-minute conversation, with most of them telling two or three lies during that timeframe.1 Studies by Aldert Vrij and Bella DePaulo indicate that 75 to 82 percent of lies go undetected, while researcher Vasudevi Reddy found that children as young as six months often learn to deceive through certain behaviors.2

Why do people lie? At times, perhaps a lie is told to please someone or to avoid embarrassment. It may be done to gain benefits, to be accepted, or to influence others. In fact, lying has become so commonplace that some people simply lie out of habit!

In our text today, lying brought immediate punishment. The Early Church had been experiencing a time of great unity. Many of the believers were combining their possessions to share with fellow members as needed, including proceeds from the sales of their houses and lands. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, were among those who sold a piece of land for that purpose. Although they were not required to give the proceeds to the church, they determined to hold back part of the profit while making it look like they were giving the full amount. They obviously felt nobody would know of this deceit, but God knows everything, and as a result, Ananias and Sapphira both forfeited their lives through God’s judgment.

God hates sin, and the sin of lying is condemned throughout Scripture. This is not to say God will punish an innocent omission or an unintentional misstatement. He looks at the heart. He knows the motive behind the words or behavior, and whether or not there was an intent to deceive. Though some might consider my childhood lie to my sister “innocent” or a “white lie,” it was intentional, and I had to make it right.

Even though we live in a society where lying and deception are commonplace, we need to remember that God cannot lie, and He wants His children to be truthful at all times. Telling the truth isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is the right thing to do!

Background

This portion of text can be divided into three segments. Verses 32-37 of chapter 4 describe the oneness that existed in the Early Church, resulting in the members being sensitive to each other’s needs, with some selling their possessions to meet those needs as they arose. Acts 5:1-11 covers the deception and punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, while verses 12-16 detail the signs and wonders done by the Apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 33 of chapter 4 states that the unity in the church resulted in great power as the Apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. Since the Jews thought that the death of Christ meant He could not have been the Messiah, one vital mission of the Apostles was to convince the Jews of the reality of Christ’s resurrection.

In verse 36, Barnabas (who later traveled with Paul) is singled out as one who sold his land and gave the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute as needed. Since Barnabas is the only donor mentioned by name, the acknowledgement of his endowment may have been what caused Ananias and Sapphira to want similar recognition. His action was in contrast to their self-serving attitudes.

In Acts 5:1-2, Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession and gave the impression that they were offering the full amount for God’s use while holding back part of the proceeds for themselves. The Greek word translated as “kept back” in verse 2 also means “to set apart, withdraw covertly, appropriate for one’s own use.” This couple’s deceit and hypocrisy was a direct threat to the church’s unity and spiritual success, and resulted in swift punishment from God. Peter made it clear that they had not lied to man, but to God.

Verse 12 states that the believers were “all with one accord at Solomon’s porch.” While the Early Church met in homes and other venues, the signs and wonders done by the Apostles had resulted in the number of converts growing to where they started to convene at “Solomon’s porch.” This was a covered walkway on the east side of the Temple compound within the area known as the “Court of the Gentiles.”

Verse 13 indicates that while the people held the Apostles in high regard, those with impure motives did not dare join with them for fear of what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira. However, multitudes of men and women did believe, and the church continued to grow.

According to verses 15-16, the people were so impacted by Peter’s ministry that they brought those who were sick and laid them on cots or pallets in the streets, hoping they would be healed by the shadow of Peter when he walked by. There was no supernatural power in the Apostle’s shadow, but God honored their genuine faith, and as the multitudes of people from cities surrounding Jerusalem brought those who were sick and possessed with unclean spirits, they all were healed.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The witness in Jerusalem
    C.    The witness of the Apostles
        1.    The power of the Apostles (4:32 — 5:16)
            a.    Through their witness (4:32-37)
            b.    Through judgment (5:1-11)
                (1)    The setting (5:1-2)
                (2)    Ananias (5:3-6)
                (3)    Sapphira (5:7-10)
                (4)    The result (5:11)
            c.    Through miracles (5:12-16)

A Closer Look

  1. According to Acts 4:35, on what basis did the Apostles distribute the funds that were offered by the believers?

  2. What do you think caused the people in the Early Church to willingly share their assets with those in need?

  3. What steps can you take to ensure that you are truthful in every circumstance?

Conclusion

God’s Word makes it clear that lying is abhorrent to Him. In order to please Him and avoid His displeasure, we must always openly declare the truth in both our words and deeds

 

1 R.S. Feldman, J.A. Forrest, and B.R. Happ, “Self-presentation and verbal deception: Do self-presenters lie more?” Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 2002:24, pg. 163-170. https://www.umass.edu/, accessed April 26, 2019.
2   Pamela Meyer, “10 Research Findings About Deception that Will Blow Your Mind,” Liespotting.com,   http://liespotting.com/2010/06/10-research-findings-about-deception-that-will-blow-your-mind/, accessed April 26, 2019..

Reference Materials