But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,…
As the shadow follows the light, so Christianity has been marked in its progress by a deep and broadening shadow of hypocrisy. After the glorious picture of sunny days of the Spirit's life in the preceding chapter, a dark view of human deceit is presented. The root of bitterness springs up amidst the Divine delights of the time, and many are troubled.
I. THE SIN OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. Essentially it was the acting of a lie. The part of the produce of the sale was put before the apostles as if it had been the whole. Many will act lies who will shun to articulate them. But the value of actions in a moral point of view lies in the expression they give to feeling. The motive cannot be left out of consideration. This action was intended by the guilty pair to pass with others as having a moral quality it had not. The understanding was that the whole and unreserved produce of the sale of property should in every case be given in. The act of the couple was intended to be received in this meaning while that meaning did not exist. We are responsible for the constructions which we know will in certain cases be put upon our actions. And the action of Ananias and Sapphira is typical of all those by which we dishonestly compromise with conscience, or seek to pass under false colors. There are times when it is a duty to abstain from action, if we know that our action will convey an impression that is false, have an appearance to which no reality corresponds.
II. PETER'S EXPOSURE OF THE SIN. His words are deep and mysterious. Let us not pretend to fathom them.
1. The dark source of crime - "Satan filling the heart." The deeds of sin are dark in every sense: they excite shame in the doer; they shun the light; they are lying in their origin, process, and consummation.
2. The struggle involved in sin. The opposition of the good, the striving of the Holy Spirit, is ever felt. No man lies to his fellow-men until he has first lied to the truth revealed within. Discussions about the personality of Satan and of the Holy Ghost are foreign to the spirit of the simple New Testament language, and only divert the mind from the solemn truth of immediate inner experience. The meaning of these dread figures of speech is sufficiently clear without any dialectics.
3. The peculiar aggravation of this sin. It had not the excuse of overwhelming temptation. They need not have sold the property at all. There was no law or special apostolic edict requiring it. The free spirit of love alone set the practice on foot. Certainly those sins which men commit under no pressure of necessity or of sudden and strong coincidences of opportunity with desire, are the worst. Gratuitous sin, so to speak, shows so diseased a moral state that it infers a person will require a temptation to do right, will go wrong without temptation at all. It was a fixed and deliberate determination, this act of Ananias, taken in the full daylight of conscience. In all probability it was the crowning act of u life long directed to counterfeiting goodness. For how true the proverb, that no one falls suddenly into the extreme of baseness! His life in Judaism had been a counterfeit, his conversion a sham, his participation in the joy and power of the time a mockery; the act which he intended to seal his Christian reputation fixing on him the damnation of the devil-led impostor. And through all or much of this there doubtless ran a vein of profound self-deception.
4. All moral offenses are irreligious. This is important, for the craft of the heart would often separate morality from religion. But a lie to men is a lie to God under all circumstances; it is he whose light is in the breast which falsehood confuses, his truth which is practically denied. There is no genuine morality which is not founded on reverence for the living God. And no security that men will speak truly or act rightly when the pressure of fear or the mechanical action of habit is not felt, except in the sense of the eternal imperative of God.
5. The complicity of the wife in the guilt adds another element of aggravation. The one should have restrained the other. The guilt of their joint act was like a mutual agreement of unfaithfulness. The sanctity of marriage rests on the recognition of the covenant between each soul and God; it is broken down and defiled by the common consciousness of a crime.
III. THE JUDGMENT. It was sudden, marking the interposition of God. It was received in both cases in silence - a tacit confession of its justice. Thus did sin long nourished in the heart at last come forth, full-born, only to meet death. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Great dread fell, as well it might, on all who heard and on the whole Church. It was like a bolt out of a clear and serene sky. And we should learn the solemn lessons that suggest themselves for every time.
1. Moral dangers lurk near every scene of spiritual manifestation.
2. The highest features of spiritual character and action will always find false imitators, and this in the very bosom of the Church.
3. Hence the need of heart-searching for ourselves (for we may be hypocrites without knowing it), of constant prudence and vigilance. "Our enemy goeth about." "Behold, I have told you before." - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,