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Ananias and Sapphire - Acts 5:1-11


1.    Acts 5:1-11                click here for audio

We’ve already seen how everything was looking good with the believers having a strong bond with one another.  There was a generous outpouring of benevolence.   There was joy in the fellowship.  There was love and sacrificial giving. Such giving to the point land and houses were sold and the proceeds given to help those in need. People by the thousands were coming to faith in Christ. The Kingdom of God was growing and advancing with great power and great grace.  

We read of believers being “of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”  (Acts 4:32)      John Piper made this observation:

“Two of the effects of believing in Jesus are that the heart is loosened in relationship to things and tightened in its relationship to people. We see this in verse 32 of chapter 4  “NOW the FULL NUMBER OF THOSE WHO BELIEVED WERE OF ONE HEART AND SOUL’…There you see the first effect: believing in Jesus tightens the heart’s relationship to people ---especially other Christians. ….the other effect is this  “no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.’  Here the heart is loosened in its relationship to things. ….FAITH IN CHRIST CREATES A BOND OF LOVE TO PEOPLE, AND CUTS THE BOND OF LOVE TO THINGS.”[1]

One man in the church by the name of Joseph, we know him best as Barnabas (son of encouragement) was a tremendous blessing to the church.   He sold a field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:37)    He becomes a prominent leader in the early church. His encouragement in helping people was the reason for his nickname “son of encouragement” or Barnabas.  There were others who gave sacrificially, but Barnabas stands out, and  he didn’t control how his offering was used.  He humbly laid the money at the apostles’ feet trusting them to do as was fit and proper.

There was this fantastic fellowship.  It would be nice if it only continued like that.  But in the shadows was an adversary to the church.  A lion seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8-9)  The devil was on the prowl.  We’ve already seen how Satan tried to silence the church by bringing an attack from the outside.   Peter and John, you remember,  were threatened by their rulers and elders and scribes.  They were told  not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18)  Persecution from the outside was the devil’s strategy to put them out of business. Persecution didn’t work.   Down through the centuries persecution hasn’t stopped the church.  Even when it came to imprisonment, beatings and executions.

 It’s like one church father has said,  the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.   Persecution is like fanning the flame. 

The Devil has another strategy.  If persecution from the outside won’t stopped the church,  He will try compromise on the inside. It’s like the expression,  “if you can’t beat ‘em, join them.”    Satan will join a church with one purpose -  And that’s to defeat the church and permanently  put it out of business.   This is what we see in the opening verses of Acts 5 -  The devil brings his attack from the outside to the inside of the church.


The most devoted attendee at a local Bible believing church is the devil.  He’s not omnipresent, but he seems to be with all his demons at work on his behalf.

Paul addressed the Corinthian church on the matter of forgiving a repentant brother. Failing to be forgiving would open the door to Satan.

2Cor. 2:10-11

10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Satan cannot possess us because we are possessed by the Holy Spirit. If we fail to walk in the Spirit, stay in God’s Word, and yield to the Holy Spirit, we are targets for the devil to take advantage of us. 

Jesus urged His disciples,  pray that you enter not into temptation”.   Jesus told Simon Peter how Satan wanted to have him.  In Luke 22:31 we read

Luke 22:31-32

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

We know how Peter denied the Lord.  He sinned in denying that he ever knew the Lord. The devil tempted Peter to deny his connection with Jesus Christ.  The temptation was to lie.  Peter fell for it. He fell into sin, but his fall was not permanent. He repented and was restored.    The Devil tried to defeat Peter, but his faith remained true. 

In our text we see how the devil tempted Ananias and Sapphira to lie in the amount they gave in the offering.   That’s the purpose of Satan to make big hypocrites out of God’s people.  That’s the strategy of Satan.  Pretending to be someone we’re not, and becoming comfortable in living the life of a hypocrite.

That’s what we have here with Ananias and Sapphira.  We see first of all,  the Deception of Hypocrisy.

I.           The Deception of  Hypocrisy

READ Acts 5:1-2

1.    They were pretenders.     They sold a piece of property.   It wasn’t required for them to do this.  Selling property and giving the proceeds of the sale to the church was totally voluntary. Keeping part of the proceeds and giving only a portion of the money was completely permissible. They didn’t have to sell the property, and they didn’t have to give all the money.  They could have kept all of it, or even some of it.   The giving was voluntary.   The problem is this--- they only gave a portion of what the property brought, but gave the impression to everyone that they gave the total amount from the sale.  They pretended to have given 100%.

2.   They were glory seekers.     Ananias and Sapphira wanted to get in on the applause from others.   They saw the attention people were giving to Barnabas.  They loved the praise of men, more than the praise from God.   Maybe,  Ananias would be called “son of encouragement” like Barnabas, or maybe another nickname.   Maybe, Ananias saw people slapping Barnabas on the back, giving him hugs and high fives (if that’s what they did back then) and he wanted in on the action.   His motive in giving and pretending to have given all the proceeds of the sale was to receive honor from the church and the apostles. Ananias and Sapphira were glory seekers.

READ  vv.3-4

3.   They were liars.

Peter finds out.   How does he know?   Maybe someone who was keeping the books told him.  I believe he had discernment from the Lord.  I also believe this particular kind of discernment was unique for the apostles.  Ananias was lying to God.   (v.3) why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit……?      Lying to the Holy Spirit is the same thing as lying to God.   Some teach that the Holy Spirit is a force.  Here it is clear the Holy Spirit is God. 

“You have not lied to man but to God.”


Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not.  It’s wearing a mask.  It’s living a lie.  

In Proverbs 6:16-19, there’s a list of 6 things God hates.  The 2nd one on the list is a lying tongue.


4.   They were exposed.

Ananias and Sapphira  may have thought their lie would go undetected.  It  was exposed by the Holy Spirit. 

Psalm 90:8   You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

“It may be a secret sin on earth, but it is open scandal in heaven.” - Lewis Sperry Chafer


Why was exposing their lie so important?    First for their own benefit.  But wait a minute.  They both died because of their lie.   How can that be a benefit to them?   I will explain that later, but just know,  the Holy Spirit will expose our sin for our benefit.  First to us, if we are so blind to what we are doing. Then we can confess it to God, and experience cleansing from the sin.

Exposing this sin was important for the church. God had to step in and make an example of Ananias and Sapphira for the sake of the purity and holiness of the church.    If hypocrisy was left unchecked, with no accountability,  then the church would lose credibility and respect.  They would drag God’s name through the mud.   God’s honor is at stake. 

Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples about hypocrisy:

Luke 12:1-3

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Hypocrisy must be exposed for what it is.  It’s like leaven, or yeast, that spreads to the entire batch of dough.     Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian church. He warned of those who were troubling them and saying to be saved they had to continue the Jewish ritual of circumcision.  Paul said in

Galatians 5:9     A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

For the benefit of the church,  hypocrisy and lying must be exposed, or it will eventually suck the life out of the church. 

God taking the life of Ananias and Sapphira was for their own benefit.  What God does is right!  For them to continue would be to bring greater disgrace, greater damage to the cause of Christ.  God killing them was for God’s glory!   AND really for their benefit.

1Cor. 11:12   But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.


READ vv.5-11


II.       The Danger of Holiness   vv.5-10


READ (vv.5-6)   When Ananias heard these words…..

A.    The judgment was quick.     

The judgment on Ananias was instant.   We might think,  “wasn’t this a little extreme?”   I mean, couldn’t Peter had just move on and not even go there?    At least a donation was coming in, and we don’t want to put a damper on the good positive feeling in the church.  Confronting Ananias is a small thing.  It’s not like he’s doing anyone harm. He’s not hurting anyone. He’s not a potential church shooter.  With his donation  he’s actually helping out.   Why didn’t Peter just forget it?

Peter could not let it go, because the Holy Spirit (who was in control ) would not let it go.   

The judgment on Ananias was so quick. There was no time for someone to catch him. He was dead in a flash.   It happened so fast.   There’s another occasion in the book of Acts  when quick judgment fell upon a person. It happened to Herod.

Acts 12:21-23

21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

B.     The judgment was severe.      

How severe was this for Ananias?   He died.  God killed him on the spot.   Having the Lord to discipline you by putting you flat on your back for a few weeks is bad, or withholding blessings in someone way is not fun,   but with Ananias and Sapphira it was severe.   Instantaneous, severe judgment.

Hebrews 10:30-31

……The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

C.     The judgment was a warning.

      1---- It was a warning to the church.     Notice in v.5 (last sentence)  And great fear came upon all who heard of it.      This was a lesson for the church to remember -- it’s a dangerous thing to play around with the Holiness of God.      GREAT FEAR came upon the church because upon this church had come GREAT Power and GREAT Grace.   Here the church is in its pristine moment.  The Holy Spirit is moving powerfully.  Signs and wonders are being performed by the Apostles. Thousands of people are being saved.   The holiness of God was upon them.  Ananias and Sapphira dared to discredit the sincerity of God and His holiness.

The sudden and severe death of Ananias and Sapphira was a WARNING TO THE CHURCH.  Look at v.11 And great fear came upon the church and upon all who heard of these things.

    2-----It was a warning to unbelievers.     (v.6) the young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him ….   This is what the Jews did.  Burial took place on the day of your death.  They didn’t practice embalming as the Egyptians.  A quick burial was also done because of the rapid rate of decomposing in that part of the world, funerals and burial were immediately.

Taking him out probably a good distance from where they were meeting would have drawn the attention of unbelievers.   Can you imagine the questions?    

·         Who died?      What happened to him?

·         Response may have been -  He was caught lying?    Right at the time of taking up the offering he was confronted by Peter?   BAM!  He was dead on the spot!

Fear and respect was given to God even by unbelievers.   (v.11) GREAT FEAR came … Look on down to v.13  None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.


D.    The Judgment was delayed.      I see in the 3 hour interval  a delay in God’s judgment.

READ  v.7

We don’t know why Ananias and Sapphira were separated.  For some reason Sapphira was not present and she had no knowledge as to what had occurred three hours prior. She did know about the offering.   Maybe she wanted to make a grand appearance after the offering was taken up. The three hours would have been enough time for word to circulate about her generous donation.   She may have wanted to see all the looks and whispers as she paraded herself through the door.   Maybe she needed the three hours to fix her hair and do her nails.

She did not know what had happened.

READ v.8  And Peter said to her,  “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.”

Shouldn’t Peter have warned Sapphira?    Should Peter have said,  “before you give me your answer, let me tell you what happened to your husband, Ananias.”   No.   If she knew what had happened, her response would not be for the glory of God,  it would be to save her skin.  Besides, it wouldn’t have been fair for Ananias.  He didn’t get a warning.


Wouldn’t it have been great to hear Sapphira say something like,  “you know I’ve been away for about 3 hours, and I haven’t seen my husband. I want to honest with you,  we really didn’t donate the full value of our property, we only gave a portion of what we’ve made.  I’m repenting of my sin of lying and of putting on a pretense.”      You know,  if she had thought this through during those three hours and truly repented,  it would have been a different story for her.

She had three more hours to repent.

There is a “delay” in God’s judgment.

God’s punishment may be quick, but there may be some delay. For Some people  He may give another three hours,  or three days, or three weeks.  To some people God gives three more months, or three more years.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  2Peter 3:9

You heard of the Titanic.  Did you know that before the Titanic sank somebody wired the ship and warned them of huge icebergs in the area?  The operator on the Titanic wired back these words,  “Shut up!  We’re busy.”

How many people today upon hearing about God, and the urgent need to change their ways respond in similar ways?   Shut up! I’m busy.   No time for God,  I want to have fun.  Go away.


Sadly, for Sapphira she lied   just like her husband

READ vv. 8c-10    “….and she said, “yes, for so much.”   But Peter said to her,…….

·         God is no respecter of persons……(Acts 10:34)

·         God shows no favoritism

She died, was carried out and buried next to her husband.

It’s a dangerous thing to trifle upon the holiness of God!

·         Achan’s sin -   Joshua 7   resulted in his death…He took silver and gold hid it in his tent.

·         Nadab and Abihu – Lev. 10 -  offered strange fire -  unauthorized fire for the sacrifice, they disregarded the holiness of God.

·         Uzzah’s sin -  2Samuel 6:7    And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

·         Church at Corinth – some were disrespectful at the Lord’s Table –

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.  30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.   1Cor. 11:28-30

·         SIN Unto Death -  1John 5:16   The “sin unto death” is willful, continuous, unrepentant sin.  Not losing salvation.  God disciplines those He loves…



III.    The Duty of Hearing

Read v.11      “and great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things…”

The Church heard of this incident of Ananias and Sapphira.  They have a duty to hear God’s truth and to hear warnings of the danger of playing around with God’s holiness.

Not only must the church HEAR clearly,  they must FEAR reverently.    Another group who must HEAR  is all those who are not a part of the church.  They must HEAR God’s truth.   They must hear God’s warnings!   They must hear this true story of Ananias and Sapphira.   This is an example of what happens to people who trample over the holiness of God.    People get very comfortable around the things of God.  

God warned Moses of where He was stepping at the burning bush in Exodus 3. 

Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.        Exodus 3:5-6

God is saying….  I’m not playing around!    I’m dead serious!  

Before God could use Moses, Moses had to learn to LISTEN to GOD.  

Peter had to learn how to fear God and listen to the Lord.

Luke 9:28-36

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.          HEAR HIM! 


v.11 in our text…  I see two groups of people     (1) the whole church    (2) all who heard these things

Here is the first time we see the word  “church” in the book of Acts.   The church was born on the day of Pentecost back in chapter 2.   HERE’S  THE FIRST TIME   see the word  CHURCH !


The Church has the DUTY….and  even the priviledge  to   HEAR FROM GOD……


Yes,  Ananias and Sapphira died,  but you don’t have to follow their steps.  They are an example of what happens when you make light of the things of God!

Jesus Christ came to die in your place.   God nailed your sins to the cross of Jesus.

The death of Christ satisfied the holiness of God.  In faith we received the gift of God’s salvation.

If you don’t know Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to call upon Him in repentance and faith.  We will be glad to talk more with you.   For Christians ….May the Lord expose the hypocrisy in our hearts.  I pray we will be sincere in our devotion to Christ.



-----Outline for the church bulletin-------------

1.    The Deception of Hypocrisy      vv.1-4

a.    They were pretenders.

b.    They were glory seekers.

c.     They were liars.

d.    They were exposed.


2.    The Danger of Holiness            vv.5-10

a.    The Judgment was quick.

b.    The Judgment was severe.

c.     The Judgment was a warning.

d.    The Judgment was delayed.

Nadab & Abihu – Lev. 10       Achan’s sin – Joshua 7

Uzzah’s sin – 2Sam. 6:7        Sin unto death – 1John 5:16

Corinthian church’s sin- 1Cor. 11:28-30


3.    The Duty of Hearing                 v.11



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