But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,…
1. The case of Barnabas and that of Ananias sprang from the same movement and illustrate the same principles, yet they are reciprocally opposites. It is as necessary to moor a buoy over a rock or sand-bank as to show a light in a line with the safe entrance to the harbour. Barnabas is a light at the pier head; Ananias buoys a rock where many have perished, and warns the mariner from the place of doom. Both examples are useful. We may reap profit alike from the truth of the true and from the lie of the false. When our Lord taught His disciples how to pray, He placed near the humble suppliant of mercy a solemn hypocrite. When He taught the blessedness of pressing in while the door was open, He taught also how dreadful it is to be, even by a little, too late. This dual method is adopted everywhere in Scripture to enforce moral lessons. In morals as well as in physics you exert greater power when you apply an attraction on one side and a pressure on the other.
2. "But a certain man." The little word "but" is the hinge on which great issues turn, e.g., "The righteous is cast away in his iniquity, but the righteous hath trope in his death." The door that swings on this sharp pivot opens and shuts the way of life. Sometimes, as here, it turns from light to darkness, and sometimes from darkness to light.
3. The deep, sad cause of the conduct before us was the stirring of the religious emotions without a corresponding quickening of the moral sense. There may be much devotion of a certain kind where honesty, truth, or purity is feebly rooted and liable to die out. It is often said in certain quarters that a non-professor is more trustworthy than a professor, the common fallacy of magnifying a few glaring examples into a general law. If those who count that all piety is a mask worn to gain an end would only think, they would find that their theory destroys itself. Because honest men seem to be religious people trust them. But if it were the common rule that religious men were dishonest, they would cease to obtain credit; it would not pay a villain to assume religion, and when it ceased to pay he would cease to assume it. So the argument goes to prove that pious men, as a rule, are honest; and yet there is truth in the calumny, and because of this it lives. Apart from conscious scoundrels there are those who, although moved in a period of religious fervour, have not acquired a proper sense of the binding character of the Ten Commandments. The Anti-nomian is not a dried fossil in tomes of polemical theology; he is a living species. But true believers need not faint. Tares grow up with the wheat, but the wheat prevails even here, and at the end the separation will be complete and eternal.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,