Testing Times

Acts 4:32-37; Acts 5:1-16

The power of a Church will be according to the measure by which that Church is filled with the Holy Ghost. When a Church is of "one heart and of one soul," it is an evidence that there is no controversy among them; then they look every man "not on his own things" (Acts 4:32-37). The proof that we love God is that we "love our brother also." The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an unquenchable beacon of warning to all who would live godly; it is like some terrible hand with five dreadful fingers. Here they are-

1. Human Deceitfulness. Ananias and Sapphira had beautiful names, but they had crooked and deformed natures. Like the other disciples, they sold their possession, but, unlike the others, they "kept back part of the price." They put on the sheep's skin, but they were still goats at the heart. They went a long way in the Christian life in laying a part at the apostles' feet, but they went the wrong way in pretending that they were giving all. Like Achan, they hoped to enrich themselves by deceiving the Lord. The heart must be "deceitful above all things," for it would deceive the very God of Heaven.

2. Satanic Influence. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie against the Holy Ghost?" (Acts 4:23). This "Liar from the beginning" still seeks to deceive by filling the heart with thoughts that are opposed to the Spirit of God. Beware of his "fiery darts"-those burning desires to honour self more than God. With regard to the service of Christ, first thoughts are usually best. Their first thought was to give all, their second was to keep back part of the price. Whatever would hinder us from seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is of the world, the flesh, or the devil.

3. Unexpected Detection. It must have been an awful awakening to Ananias when he had laid the money at the apostles' feet, expecting their benediction to hear instead those soul-piercing words, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie against the Holy Ghost?" The sins of the heart cannot be hidden from God any more than the blood of a murdered Abel. Men filled with the Holy Ghost, like Peter, are quick to detect the lying spirit of the devil in a false professor. Try the spirits, whether they are of God (1Jn 4:1). Remember Lot's wife, and also the man without the wedding garment (Mat 22:12).

4. Divine Judgment. "Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost" (Acts 4:25). There was but little time, between the flash of conviction and the stroke of vengeance. He may not even had time to say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." He that hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be cut off. He that covereth his sin shall not prosper. He may go a long way round about, but some time, and that suddenly, the great searchlight from the Throne of God will break in upon him, bringing irretrievable self-condemnation and death. Let false professors beware, for no human disguise will ever hide a heart-lie from Him who is the Truth.

5. Fatal Disappointment. It is extremely sorrowful to think of his wife coming in about "three hours after, not knowing what was done," expecting, perhaps, to find her husband exalted to a place of honour, and with the same lie on her lips and in her heart, to be met with the same sudden and overwhelming retribution. God is no respecter of persons; the same sin meets with the same condemnation. Sapphira may have been a beautiful woman, as her name indicates, but outward comeliness is no shelter for inward deceit. This startling vindication of the holiness of God had a very salutary effect in putting a wholesome fear into the hearts of many (Acts 4:13), and magnifying the power of God in the life and testimony of the apostles (Joh 14:12).


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More expository sermons on Acts Chapter 4