Gracie Loretta Williams York
Wednesday, 9 February 2022
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. Acts 5:1
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Acts 5 now records a rather negative incident in the development of the early church. It is an event that somewhat contrasts that of the account of Barnabas. Introducing such a negative incident at an early point like this was also not uncommon to the giving of the Mosaic Covenant. Two specific instances, that of a Sabbath breaker and that of a blasphemer, are recorded (see Leviticus 24:10-23 and Numbers 15:32-36).
Even before looking into the coming account, it should be remembered that it is descriptive in nature. It prescribes nothing concerning the handling of such matters. Further, what occurs is obviously not normative. We cannot expect that the same outcome will occur every time a comparable event happens.
One of the most common questions concerning the two that are about to be introduced is, “Were these saved believers?” Although it is impossible to say because the Lord alone reads the hearts of man. The answer leans very heavily in the direction of “Yes, they were saved believers.” The account would have little reason to be included otherwise. Instead of the outcome, one would think the matter would have been handled in a different way.
The point isn’t that unbelievers had wormed their way into the church, but that the heart of man, which is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), can work against the purposes of the church when it is not focused on what is right and proper. The epistles are well marked with such people or with warnings of such attitudes. Their words refer to, or serve as warnings to, saved believers who walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit.
With that, the verse and the chapter begin with, “But a certain man.” The Greek word de is a conjunction that is added to statements opposed to a preceding statement. It can be translated as “and,” “but,” “now,” and so on. Regardless of the translation, it is a way of setting this account as a contrast to the previous one. Of this certain man, it says he was “named Ananias.”
This is a transliteration of a common Hebrew name, Khananyah. That comes from khanan, meaning to show favor, or be gracious, and Yah, which is a contracted form of Yehovah, the Lord. Thus, the name means, “Yah has been gracious.” He is noted along “with Sapphira his wife.”
Her name is derived from the Hebrew word sappir, a sapphire. That is derived from saphar, to count or recount. The reason for this may be that the sapphire is an especially hard stone that may have been used to scratch other substances. As such, a tally could be made when counting. As she is the wife of Ananias, the account demonstrates that deceit of the heart can be something that spreads to others. It is not something isolated when it has its influencing effects. As such, it says that they, husband and wife, together “sold a possession.”
The word signifies something belonging to the individual, as if landed property, a personal possession, and so on. It will be noted as land in verses 3 and 7. The point is that it was under their authority, and they had the right to do with it whatever they wished. In this case, they wished to sell it, and so that is what they did.
Life application: Whether Ananias and Sapphira were saved or not can be argued over until the second coming, but what should not be at all debatable is whether this account is to be taken in a prescriptive manner or not. If it were, the number of dead bodies of those in the church would fill every generation, even to overflowing. In fact, the church would never get anywhere if the Spirit took out every person whose heart went astray.
The point isn’t that we can expect to keel over if we have deceit well up in our hearts. Rather, the point is that the Lord is aware of our hearts. He knows the motives behind our actions, and He is there with His people in their struggles of this life. David was guilty of no less a crime than what these two will be seen to have done. He coveted another man’s wife, he took her, and he then had that man killed to cover over his actions.
The Bible doesn’t hide the faults and failings of the people it highlights. Rather, it highlights those faults and failings along with them. In this, we should see our own shortcomings and recalibrate our lives and actions to work in accord with, not opposed to, the will of the Lord. Accepting the premise that these two were probably saved brings the account into a much more personal nature for those who are willing to admit their own failings.
Heavenly Father, Your word is like a mirror on our own lives. The faults and failings of each of us are highlighted through those we read about, because they share in the same human limitations that we do. Thank You that we can see our own weaknesses, and then see how to rise above them by applying the lessons You have provided. And above all, thank You for the grace and mercy we receive, even when we fail You. Amen.