The first “negative” story in the life of the early church brought about some good questions from our listeners this past Sunday. Let me take a shot at these as we hopefully glean more from the tragic narrative of Ananias and Sapphira.
1. How do we tie this together with 1 John 4:18 about the fear of God? Actually, 1 John 4:18 isn’t about the fear of God, but rather quite the opposite — the fear of man (even the fear of ourselves at times). And its God’s perfect love that drives out this fear. So there is no need to try and “tie this together;” there is no textual connection.
I might add, however, that where there is a healthy and biblical fear of God, there will be no fear of man. Since his justice and love moved him to satisfy his wrath against our sin through the crushing of his only Son (Is. 53), we who are in Christ need not fear future judgment by God or current “disapproval” by man. God’s grace in Christ secures us perfectly!
2. Why did Peter first say Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit? Why not “lied to God?” The text doesn’t tell us, but my guess is that the Holy Spirit was the “main thing” going on in the life of those believers, so Peter’s mind was naturally (or maybe supernaturally) leaning in that direction. After all, Pentecost had just occurred, they had been endued with new power, and spiritual gifts were being exercised. So my opinion/assumption is that Peter was simply in a “Holy Spirit” frame of mind, so that was the name he used first.
3. Was looking good in front of the church the only motivation for lying? Or was there something deeper, like hoping for advancement in church leadership or a mistaken belief that God would bless them more if they seemed to give more? Hard to say; we don’t know anymore beyond the context of the end of Acts 4 (the story of Barnabas), which leads me to think Ananias and Sapphira were hoping to look as good as Barnabas. That’s not explicitly stated, but rather implicitly interpreted.
Yes, Barnabas was a leader in the church, as we see in Acts 13. So perhaps a perverse desire to use leadership wrongly was part of Ananias and Sapphira’s sinful plot. Or maybe they were of the mindset that giving is the avenue to getting. Regardless, all of these hypotheses, in my estimation, stem from a motive that is evil and mythical: Looking good in front of others matters more than doing right in front of God.
4. Why are there so many “fake” Christians? For example, when someone is at church they act like a Christian, but when they are at home they live a whole different life? Admittedly, there are probably numerous answers to your question. Satanic temptation, false conversion, human manipulation … and the list could go on. The fact is, pride makes people pretend; it’s at the root of all hypocrisy. Which is precisely why pretense will always be an issue.
Remember—Jesus said the tares and the wheat would grow along together until the time comes for him to judge between the two. So ask Jesus to help you, first and foremost, to live humbly and deal with pride in your own life, and, secondly, to live patiently with others until he returns.
5. What are some ways we can practically fear God on a day to day basis?
- Ask God to teach you what it means to fear him.
- Memorize key verses about the fear of God, such as Proverbs 1:7, Ecc. 12:13, Matthew 10:28, and Hebrews 10:31
- See every sin as what it is — an affront to the holiness of God.
- Recall with regularity the times when God was especially and visibly powerful in your life. Much like the Israelites set up stone reminders of God’s dramatic activity, you, too, can mentally do this and remember moments when God “got your attention” unquestionably and undeniably.
- Study all the character traits of God, not just the ones you like. For instance, learn about his holiness as well as his loveliness; his justice as well as his mercy; his omnipotence as well as his longsuffering. What you’ll find is that God is always all of these perfectly, and you will grow to appreciate and reverence him for all of who he is, not just part of who he is.