Online Bible Commentary
Lying to God
Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." 9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. (NKJV)
The New Testament church is now an up and coming reality, in the A.D. early thirties. There were now at least five thousand believers that made up the worldwide church. The new believers shared a love of Jesus and a love for their fellow believers. Out of this love came a desire to share their belongings with one another.
In this passage, we see where such sharing was open to abuse. “Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession” (v. 1). They decided to give a portion of their proceeds to the church. This generous act of giving to God’s work was a wonderful thing and would have been greatly blessed by God.
However, there was deceit in their hearts. They decided to lie and pretend that they were giving all of the proceeds instead of just part (v. 2a). When Ananias brought the offering to Peter, he lied that they were giving all that they had received from the sale of the possession (v. 2b).
Peter knew better and asked “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself” (v. 3)? Peter said “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control” (v. 4a). This was a somewhat convoluted way of saying that the land prior to the sale and the proceeds after the sale all belonged to Ananias. In other words, Ananias knew exactly what he had received for the land.
Peter continued by asking why Ananias had “conceived” this lie (v.4b). He said that Ananias had not lied to men, but to God, the Holy Spirit (v. 4c). The money was being given to God, for the Holy Spirit to do His work on earth. Therefore, the lie was to God.
Ananias, upon hearing these words from Peter, was struck dead and those watching were struck with “great fear” (v. 5). The body of Ananias was then taken off to be buried (v. 6).
Three hours later Sapphira showed up, not knowing what had happened (v. 7). Peter asked her what the land had sold for and she also lied (v. 8). “Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out’” (v. 9). Then Sapphira also was struck dead and was buried beside her husband (v. 10).
When those in the church heard of these events “great fear” came upon them (v. 11). The early believers realized early on the seriousness of sin. They saw the earthly consequences of sin.
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they did not give all of the proceeds from the sale of the land to the church. They were free to give a portion, or even none at all, to the church. The sin was one of deceit, specifically lying to God.
While we may think that the consequences of their sin seem to be drastic, we can only suspect that God was making an example of them for all the church to see. All believers, from the beginning of the church until Jesus returns, have this example available to them. There should be no misunderstanding of the seriousness of lying to God.