With his wife's full knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds for himself, but brought a portion and laid it at the apostles' feet.
I. THAT A NEW ENTERPRISE MAY SURVIVE A VERY DAMAGING BLOW. It was a very serious misfortune to the new Church that two of its members should commit a sin worthy of death, and pay that terrible penalty in the view of all. The apostles must have felt that they and the cause with which they were identified had received a severe blow; but it was far from being a fatal one. It was one from which the cause of Christ soon recovered; nay, it was overruled "for the furtherance of the gospel." Let not any Church or any sacred cause be too much disheartened by a check at the beginning. With truth and God on its side, it will survive and flourish.
II. THAT VERY SERIOUS SIN MAY BE CONNECTED WITH AN ACT WHICH IS OUTWARDLY VIRTUOUS AND GODLY. To those who looked on as Ananias and Sapphira brought the money they did bring and laid it at the feet of the apostles, their action must have seemed pious and generous in a very high degree. But we know it to have been utterly and even fatally defective. It becomes us to search with fearless and faithful glance those of our deeds which men approve as most commendable, lest, while around us is approval and congratulation, there should be entered in the book of account in heaven a sin of great enormity against our name.
III. THAT WE MAY BE COMMITTING A HEINOUS SIN IN AN ACTION WHICH SEEMS VENIAL TO OURSELVES. In all likelihood, Ananias and Sapphira imagined that they were doing an action which, while it was calculated to win respect, was not very, if at all, reprehensible in itself. They probably reconciled it to their own sense of rectitude. Men do so now. In connection with religion and philanthropy they do guilty things which kindle the wrath of the righteous Lord, supposing that they are only departing a few degrees from integrity, or are even worthy of praise. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults."
IV. THAT IT IS A FALSE AND MOST PERILOUS THING TO SUPPOSE THAT THE GOOD CONNECTED WITH ANY COURSE WILL COUNTERBALANCE SOME ONE SERIOUS SIN THEREIN. Ananias and Sapphira may have thought that the piety and charity of their conduct would more than balance the sin of their deception. They were miserably wrong and were fearfully disabused of their mistake. If we willfully break one of God's plain commandments, supposing that the virtues of our action will cancel the wrong, and thus allow ourselves to fall into deception (as here), or into dishonesty, or into excess, or, into arrogance and pride, we shall have a sad and, it may be, a rude and awful awakening from our grievous error.
V. THAT THERE IS A FORGETFULNESS WHICH IS NOTHING LESS THAN FATAL. Ananias and Sapphira made a mistake which was simply ruinous. They overlooked the fact that the Holy Spirit of God was in close connection with his Church, and was acting through his servants. They forgot that when they were trying to deceive inspired men they were acting falsely in the face of the Divine Inspirer, so that when they imagined they were lying unto men they were really lying unto God (ver. 4). For this guilty oversight they paid the last penalty of death. Is not their sin too easily reproducible and too often re-enacted? Too commonly men guiltily overlook the presence and agency of the Divine Spirit.
1. A Church does so when it is resting in human and earthly advantages for its prosperity; when the minister trusts to his eloquence, the people to those arts and influences which are from below and not from above; when both are forgetting that there is an almighty power which is within their reach and at the command of believing prayer.
2. The human soul does so when it disregards the influences which are at work upon and within it; when it treats lightly the pleadings of the pulpit, the warnings of friendship, the prickings of conscience, the convictions and impulses which call it to newness of life. Is not this to sin against the Holy Ghost, and is not the penalty of it spiritual, eternal death? - C.
And kept back part of the price.
(G. T. Stokes, D. D.)Before the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira communism was the rule within the Christian fold. It was practised freely as a natural, nay, a necessary part of a whole-hearted following after Christ. After the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira communism ceased to be the rule — apparently it ceased to exist. In the very next chapter we find, not communism, but "charity," with all its paltry greeds and grudges. Why was this? What became of the communism? I say that Ananias and his wife killed it. Such a state of things depends essentially upon mutual confidence, and they killed that confidence. The fatal blow had been given: and what had been an actual working system, perfect in its principle, and boundless in its promise, faded at once into a beautiful dream Co-operation in the labours of life does very well for beavers, for they do not deceive one another, nor does one desire to grow fat at his neighbour's expense, neither does another wish to take credit for having done what he has not really done. Why cannot Christian men he as true to one another, and to the society of which they form a part, as beavers? Ask Ananias and Sapphira. Before they began, there were no suspicions, no grudgings, no wealth, and no poverty, "neither was there any among them that lacked." When they had ended there were rich and poor, there was "a murmuring" of one class against another, there was the foretaste of those monstrous evils which we deplore to-day. They only "told a lie," but that lie gave a mortal blow to the mutual confidence on which any system of communism has to rest. If it is only to-day that we are beginning to face the social problems of advanced civilisation in their naked ugliness, if it is only to-day that we are in a position to estimate the results of unlimited competition, and the reign of universal greed; if it is only to-day that we are becoming thoroughly frightened at the hideous contrast between the professed principles and the existing facts of Christian society; it is for this very reason only to-day that we are able to appreciate the true moral of that tremendous and unexampled judgment. The socialism of the first believers was the fairest work of the Holy Ghost — it was the truest following after Christ — it was the loftiest faith and the broadest charity translated into that simple language of everyday life, which must be read and loved of all men. The "Magnificat" is the inspired hymn of gospel communism, it is the Marseillaise of the Christian socialist. Striking at once to the heart of the matter, rising at once to the principle of the new order, forestalling (like all inspired strains) the end from the beginning, it pronounces without mitigation, it exults without qualification, that "He hath put down the mighty," etc.
(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
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