1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
"sold a possession" - In order to demonstrate their liberality for the Truth and their desire to conform to the will of the ecclesia. There was no compulsion so to do; it was a voluntary act of "graciousness" (cp. the name Ananias), by which they would show themselves "pleasant" (Sapphira) to the ecclesia.
Here were a husband and wife who, to all outward appearances were exemplary in the Truth. They had evidently observed the action of Barnabas (ch. 4:36-37), who by his sacrificial act had gained due praise and honour for his selfless concern for the progress of the Truth.
However, Ananias and Sapphira were driven by the desire for personal advancement. They
thought it possible to obtain the respect of their brethren more cheaply! They saw wisdom,
respect and honour, as a "thing to be grasped at" (Phil. 2:6) as did the husband and wife in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3). In so doing they sold their true birthright for a mess of pottage
(Heb. 12:16) as did Esau.
Like Judas, they were more interested in "keeping the bag" and taking from what was rightfully God's for their own mercenary gain (cp. Jn. 12:6).
In trying to serve both God and Mammon, they lost both. Their opportunity to serve the
Truth deteriorated into hypocrisy, deceit and covetousness, when they tried to gain the reputation of a saint without the application of holiness.
The Christadelphian Expositor - Acts
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
But in the general enthusiasm of generosity that prevailed, Ananias and Sapphira did not wish to appear to be behind others, nor did they want to clean out every penny, so they took the middle and dangerous course of misrepresentation - alias lying. The heinousness of the offence was increased by the fact that it was an attempt to deceive God.
"Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God."
Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead on the spot, one after the other, which naturally made a deep impression on the believing community, at the time very numerous in Jerusalem.
"Great fear came upon all the ecclesia, and upon as many as heard these things."
If it be said there can be no "learning" for us in circumstances so out of the run of our experience, the answer has to be made that the lesson is not limited to the particular circumstances nor to any circumstances. It is a lesson affecting all characters and all time. It may be expressed in the simple words:
"Never try to appear to be more than you are. Be simple and modest and true."
Ananias and Sapphira would have come out all right if they had said, "We cannot afford to give more than half." The mistake was to attempt to gain the credit that did not belong to them. This mistake may be made, and is made, in many, many matters besides giving; and it is here where what is written is fruitful for "our learning" in this sad case.
Let us avoid with scorn all attempts to seem wiser than we are, to know more than we know, to be better than we are, to be more generous, or to be of more consequence than we are.
"He that giveth, let him give with simplicity"
and truth, guarding in the main against letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing.
Seasons 2.96 / Sunday Morning No. 260
11 And great fear came upon all the ecclesia, and upon as many as heard these things.
"Members of the church" is an unhappy designation of the saints, and objectionable on several grounds. It is not a New Testament phrase, except in so far as it may be constructively borrowed from Paul's illustration of the body, as to which the remark is obvious, that it is inexpedient to found a permanent form of speech on an extraneous and momentary aspect of a matter.
It is principally objectionable, however, as embodying the cold and false notion of the sects. "Membership" is with them a skin-deep affair, having to do merely with the ecclesiastical organization and its outer relations. A man may be a "member" of a church, and yet devoted to the schemes of the flesh in pleasure and business, not troubled by a thought of "earnest heed" to "the things of the Spirit."
This is not held to be inconsistent with his membership, but rather otherwise, for the very church itself is a mere institution for the display of "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." "Membership" consists in paying pew rent, subscribing to the chapel fund, or giving his name as one of the people that "go" to such and such a place.
Churches are congregations of unjustified sinners, some "pious," but very few; some honest, but fewer still; and a few indifferently sociable, but all of them without God and without hope in the world.
"Brotherhood" or "saintship" carries a very different idea from this. It pierces to the joints and the marrow, and proclaims that those, owing to the designation, are
"not their own, but bought with a price," and "no longer the servants of men;" "a people," "zealous of good works;" "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world, looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus the Christ," whom, having not seen, they love.
Let our correspondent, then, discard the ecclesiastical language of this ungodly time, and speak of "the brethren," or "the saints," or "the believers." The phrase "members of the church" sends a shiver through the sensitive man of the Spirit.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1872
32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The Holy Spirit in Our Day
The Holy Spirit was given in the days of the apostles as a divine witness to the truth of their testimony to the resurrection of Christ (see Jno. 15:26, 27; Acts 5:32; Heb. 2:4; Mark 16:20). The apostles were the "witnesses" to that fact (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31), and theHoly Spirit confirmed their testimony so that men might have a basis for faith.
No such purpose could be served now, for there are no witnesses' testimony for the Spirit to confirm. There is only the written testimony of the apostles which has already been abundantly confirmed. No doubt it would be a powerful confirmer of faith if God gave the Holy Spirit to believers now as he did in the days of the apostles; but we must remember that God condescends to such special displays of power only at great turning points when it is necessary to show his endorsement of events for the confidence of subsequent generations.
Faith is the great thing he aims to produce. The constant exhibition of His power would be "sight" not faith. The time will come for this, but that will only be when a sufficient number of Adam's race has been influenced by faith to become obedient.
"Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).
He grants so much confirmation of the testimony as is necessary to enable men to have faith in the thing testified in sufficient numbers for His purpose. Beyond this, we might desire, but cannot expect Him to go.
The Christadelphian, July 1898
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
What, then, was necessary to equip these new converts for the work of introducing the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Jews of Rome? It was necessary that all things they had heard from the apostles should be brought to their remembrance; and that they should be guided into all the truth (John 14:8-14).
This was as needful for them in Rome as for the apostles in Jerusalem. But more was required than this. It was necessary that what they affirmed as truth of Deity issuing from their mouth, should be acknowledged by Him as such; that their hearers might be-lieve for the work's sake.
In this case, their faith would "stand not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of the Deity." In short, it was necessary, that they should have all "the diversities of gifts" constituting "the Manifestation of the Spirit;" such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith as it were, to remove mountains, gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-10).
Now, these gifts they would no doubt receive by the imposition of the hands of Peter, after the manner recorded of him, when the apostles sent him and John down to Samaria for a like purpose; who, when they arrived, "prayed for them that they might receive holy spirit: then laid they hands upon them and they received holy spirit" (Acts 8:15-17). In this way the gifts were imparted when apostolically and evangelistically bestowed...
"From whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working of the Spirit in the measure of every part (whether a prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher) maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:9-16).