The church had gathered in Jerusalem and after the breaking of the word and of bread, the apostles had made a call in their usual manner. The Church was growing faster than they could ever have imagined. Another need had arisen. It was announced in the previous meeting.
Silence prevailed again as brother Joses Barnabas stepped forward clutching a small bag of money. He was to declare the amount and the source of the money. His testimony was to be believed. The apostles agreed that there might not be any need to get people to verify his claim, given the circumstance. It was his own field and he had willingly sold it and brought the full price so that needs could be met in the congregation.
The Holy Spirit was there to guide them as Jesus had promised and if there were any discrepancies the Holy Spirit would reveal. Asking them to verify their claim by having other people follow them would be counter-intuitive. They were saved and part of the fold. Jesus was enough for everyone. The apostles liked to keep the church’s financial reception transparent.
Knowing full well the calamity that had befallen Judas Iscariot, it was important to keep it open to avoid the temptation of theft. Bro. Joses knelt down as the gathering of saints poured out prayers on his behalf. Apostle Peter rounded it up. Calling on the name of the Lord and asking God to honour the actions of Joses like he had promised, through Jesus Christ his son. The congregation chorused “Amen”. Peter announced that there still remained needs and that anyone whom the Lord had laid something in his heart should heed the voice of the Lord. They said the grace and the church dispersed. In the Congregation was Ananias, and his wife, Sapphira.
Two days later, an unconventional meeting is going on. Due to the crowd, the church had been split so that different batch of people came at different times and the Apostles took turns to lead the service. It is the morning session and Peter is the officiating Apostle. After the meeting is over, Peter announces the collection of donations. Ananias steps forward, clutching a bag of silver coins.
“I had a portion land but on seeing the need in the church, I thought that the church of God was more important. Moreover, we have where to lay our heads. I and my wife decided to sell it and this is the proceed. Please accept this of our hands.”
Normally, Peter would collect the bag, turn it out on the table and count it. But he didn’t. He asked Ananias to do it. Ananias was surprised, as was every other person in the congregation. But he proceeded. When he finished, he turned back to Peter. Then Peter spoke.
“Are you sure this is the amount you sold the land?” Peter asked Ananias as his stare fixed on him.
Looking Peter in the eye, Ananias replied in the affirmative.
Peter shook his head and the next few statements he made with a slightly aggressive voice drew gasps of varying intensity and dimension from the people who had gathered behind and were excited to see where this was heading to.
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to hide part of the price of the land? All the time you sold the land and packaged the money to bring it here, it was still yours couldn’t you have decided that you really wanted to give only half of it? How can you comfortably think of such deception in your heart?” Peter took a deep breath as his voice became laden with sorrow. “You have not lied unto me but God.”
Nothing prepared the people witnessing the event for what happened next. Ananias dropped to the floor instantly. His breathing seized. The crowd was silent as nearly everyone clutched their chest. They looked from face to face in total horror and shock. Peter left the altar area and took a seat while young men from the church steward came to wound the dead man up and to bury him.
Three hours later, Sapphira walks into the congregation, not knowing what had been done. No sooner she entered had she been summoned by the apostle.
“This is the money your husband brought to the church earlier today. Is this the correct amount both of you sold the land for?”
“Yes sir,” she said as voices rose in the congregation behind her. She turned briefly to look at them as heads wagged from side to side. She didn’t understand.
“How have both of you together agreed to tempt the spirit of the Lord? The people who buried your husband are standing at the door and they will carry you out too.”
Immediately, she collapsed and stopped breathing. The young men came in, found her dead and carried her out, burying her beside her husband.
The whole congregation was scared to the bone.
In the 21st century, if there is any portion of the scripture, particularly the new testament that has been surprisingly and selectively omitted, by a generation of Christian so focused on the New Testament, it is this part. The reason is not farfetched.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira makes very strong cases for judgment and fear, two issues that fly in the face of the prevailing and pervading gospel of grace, touted by most. It shows a side of God that they think should be confined to the old testament, only that in this case, it isn’t. But two very pertinent questions need to be asked.
1. What is the concept of Grace? Does the God of the new testament, A God of love, place emphasis on Judgement? How can we talk about a God of love, as explained exhaustively in the new testament, and talk of a God of Judgement in the same breath?
2. How did we get here in the first place?