Based on Acts 5:12-16
Last week we saw two wealthy men contrasted against each other, Barnabas and Ananias. At the end of Acts 4, we were treated to either Barnabas’ conversion to Christ or his complete surrender to Gospel ministry. I tend to believe we saw the latter. I think Barnabas’, his heart moved by the love of God for His needy brothers, was blossoming into the “Son of Encouragement.” He was fully or partially divesting himself of his wealth in the sale of a productive piece of property that likely paid him residually year by year. Laying his patronage (large gift) at the apostle’s feet, He was probably saying two things. First, here is a gift for my needy brothers, and second, “here I am, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). That was the pattern of his life thereafter.
Not everyone was laying gifts at the apostles’ feet. That phrase occurs only three times, and each time it is used to describe the giving of large gifts. The people giving them could be considered patrons of the early church. People were selling houses and fields (productive properties), bringing their livelihoods, and laying them down at the apostles’ feet. It is next to Barnabas (Acts 4:37) and among the other patron givers (Acts 4:35) that we found Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2). They were attempting to place themselves among patrons, people of honor and sacrifice, yet they were cheating the Lord as had been the practice of many under the Old Testament. They tried to run a scam in the New Covenant church and paid with their lives. Like Nadab and Abihu in the Old Testament, Ananias and Sapphira stand as reminders to us all that, “‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified (treated as holy), and before all the people I will be glorified.'” (Leviticus 10:3). And that is what occurs after Ananias and Sapphira’s death. Twice last week, after each demise, Acts 5 told us,
And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Ananias and Sapphira are bywords now. They stand as warnings to all. While Barnabas denied himself, lost his life, and found grace, usefulness, and eternity, Ananias tried to keep his life and found a physical death along with his wife.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
The death of Ananias and Sapphira play a role in how we understand this week’s passage too I believe. Even though there is a scene change, their death echoes through Jerusalem and causes a change in behavior by at least one class of people. There are two back-to-back verses in our short five-verse text that, at first glance, seem to conflict. Let’s see if we can figure out what is going on together. Let’s read Acts 5:12-16.
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Blessings and may God be with you!