Acts 5

As a home group we have been reading through Acts and got to the not-so-fun story about Ananias and Saphira.  We had a good discussion about it and I wanted to briefly share a few of my reflections:

Questions: Why was this story included in Acts?  Why did this even have to happen – doesn’t it just promote an Old Testament image of a God who smites people dead because they’re sinners?

My Attempts at Answers:
1) In striking A & S dead (not for withholding money, but for lying about it), God showed that even though he had left the earth in bodily form, he was still active in the affairs of men. 

2) Peter was shown to be an able leader, in tune with the Holy Spirit and having some form of leadership (in that he felt compelled to question Ananias).  When God responded to man’s deceit, this solidified Peter’s calling both in his mind and in the mind of the other Christians.  At least, I think so.  If I’d been a new Christian in a communal group of other first-generation Christians and this incident had happened, my respect for Peter would grow enormously.

3) This early in the life of the church there was no proper church discipline.  All of that came later.  This seems to have been the first big church issue that required discipline.  God showed that he was in control and can discipline when he chooses – whether on Judgment Day or right here, right now.  If God hadn’t intervened, I’m not sure how Peter and the other disciples would have handled it or whether this would have become a commonplace occurence.

4) Whereas I believe the other points are pretty accepted by scholars, I’m not sure if I’m going out on a limb with this one.  In my personal opinion (this is not exegetical, from the text, but my thoughts on imagining if I were there) it must have special to be a first generation Christian (many of them had seen Jesus, witnessed miracles, etc.) but also scary (having all things in common, losing security, not having older/wiser Christians to rely on).  Jesus had promised that his Holy Spirit would remain with them and the kingdom of God continued to break in through miracles and healings.  Still, the first hint of political trouble (being called before the Sanhedrin and ordered to not tell the people about Jesus) had occured.  Shortly after this event, Stephen became the first martyr and the persecution began (first at Paul’s hands, later in the arena).  What a comfort it must have been to see, with your own eyes, the supernatural.  To know that God does judge the wicked, that God does know what you are going through, and that he could, if he wanted, rescue you from trouble.  The story of A & S is one I would have thought about a lot during the troubled times to come. 

Going along with point #4, the rest of Acts Chapter 5 desribes how Peter and a few others are thrown in prison but God rescues them (literally transports them out of jail).  Later on, Paul spends a great deal of time under house arrest.  I can just see him thinking:  “Joseph spent a great deal of time in prison but through that, God was glorified.  Peter and the others were pulled from prison miraculously because God wanted them to be preaching the gospel in the courtyard.  Therefore, God is capable of moving me where he wants.  If he chooses to have me remain here, then he must want me here for a reason.”

Remembering that God is actively involved in our lives is good.  He is not a Computer Programming God.  He did not create the Universe, flip a switch, decide it was good and move on to another project (deism).  He is not a Sports Fanatic God.  He does not head to the couch at the end of a long day, turn on the news to see “the latest highlights” from life on earth and then begin the long process of flipping through his Tivoed programs. 

If we forget that God is active, concerned, and all-powerful, we too could become like Ananias and Saphira.

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