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CONSEQUENCES and TRUTH


 


 

BIBLE READING

 



 

ACTS 5


Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 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.


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? 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? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”


5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.


7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”


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.”

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. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.


12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.


17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”


21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.


When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.


25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”


29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”


33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”


40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.


 

Consequences and Truth

 

This is one of those chapters that makes you sit up and pay attention. The story of Ananias and Sapphira points to the reality that the opposition faced by the Early Christian community was not only external, but internal as well. That makes us take notice of this Chapter all the more, I believe.


Perhaps you recall from our reading on Friday of the last few verses in chapter 4 “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” You can imagine how were watching the results and reaction to people giving large sums of money, people who were selling homes and land to further the work of the growing church. The word for ‘kept back’ used here means ‘to misappropriate’. Titus records the meaning of the word as ‘stealing’. It is the same word used in the story of Achan in Joshua 7. Achan, you may recall, had stolen money and clothing after the destruction of Jericho. His deceit interrupted the victorious progress of the people of God. This too, is the outcome of the actions of Ananias and Sapphira.


This account as Acts 5 opens stands in stark contrast to the description of the community filled by the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:32-37 and 2:44-45. There in these verses is the picture of the generous fellowship, sharing everything in common with one another. This sort of generosity was not compulsory; it was the reflection of their mutual love for one another.

Let us be clear, it was their money to do as they pleased with, but the fact they said they gave all when they held some back was a choice that had severe consequences because dishonesty, and a lack of integrity has no place among God’s Community. I believe this chapter enforces the utter importance of truth. May our prayer be to ask God to uphold truth in His church and to help us speak the truth before others.


The writer of Acts, Luke, could have left this story out, perhaps you or I would have. Yet, Luke is describing a true picture of the early Christian community. Just like us that early Christian community was made up of real people who were pulled in different directions by some of the same tendencies that tug on us. What is described is a real congregation where we are likely, as someone has said, “to meet both faithfulness and foolishness seated beside each other 3rd Pew from the left.” Truth is what we have is an account of real people struggling to be faithful in the world which makes faithfulness problematic. Acts 5 tells us that in the “spirit-directed and led community” There will be disappointments, unpleasant situations, disputes, and some “who put their hand to the plow,” as Jesus talked about, will look back. Perhaps Will Willimon is correct “sometimes, those who are looking back, the Ananiases and Sapphiras of the church, are us.”


I do not know about you, but I do know about myself and there are times when I come to church wearing a mask of adequacy, but inside I feel very inadequate. Do you have experiences like that? When we are struggling with problems in our homes, or work, or in ourselves, but we don't want to tell anyone about them. We come to church and put on a mask that says everything's fine! Everything's wonderful! Yet deep down inside, we are struggling and weary, just trying to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.


We are told in verse 11 that “great fear gripped the entire church”. I’m not surprised about that, are you? It is interesting how the “hand of judgement” brought with it a growth spurt. In the next section, from verses 12-16, we read phrases like “more and more people believed”, and “crowds of people were brought along”.


We even read how the sick were carried out into the street so Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by and bring healing.

I think we would call that a Holy Spirit inspired ‘revival’. The same Holy Spirit, who is no respecter of persons, places or times, is the One Who lives in you and me. Could we join with faith to believe something like this “renewal, rebound and revival” can happen again?


Come on, let’s believe together!
 

OUT OF NEED and OUT OF CUSTOM


1 Out of need and out of custom

we have gathered here again.

To the gathering we are bringing

love and laughter, grief and pain.

Some believing, some rejoicing,

some afraid, and some in doubt;

now we come our questions voicing,

we would search these matters out.


2 We now come our masks displaying,

fearing that we shall be known,

foolish games forever playing,

feeling meanwhile so alone.

Let pretension’s power be broken,

to be open let us dare;

let the truth in love be spoken,

let us now the searching share.


3 We have heard the glowing stories

of the things that God has done,

of his power and his glory,

of his love in Christ, his Son.

God of human transformation,

for your presence now we pray;

lead us ever on the journey

as we gather here today.

 

PRAYER



God, we pray that you would uphold truth in your church, and in us, and help us speak and live the truth before others. Amen.


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