The Lie in the Church (Acts 5: 1-11) - Prof. Benne Holwerda
Note about the translator: This sermon was translated by Willem Amoraal of the Free Reformed Church of Armadale Western Australia.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sermon by Prof B Holwerda from the Dutch book 'Tot de dag aanlicht’ Oosterbaan & Le Contre NV Goes 1950
Reading: Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37
Text: Acts 5:1-11
Beloved of out Lord Jesus Christ,
At Pentecost the most beautiful thing ever seen under the sun, appeared into this world. For at that time Christ built His church through the Holy Spirit. We speak of this and confess it as often as we say: I believe one holy, catholic church, the communion of saints. At that time Christ was going to show the world that the church is His body!
A body means that there are many parts which do not all have the same function. And therefore you will find in the church a wonderful diversity of offices and jobs, of abilities and strength. (needs work) But at the same time it means that all those members are connected into one organism so that one member can never say to another "I have no need of you."
For you know Paul and the way he speaks about the miracle of Pentecost in 1Corinthians 12. He says there that the body has many members and yet remains one body. And exactly like that, so says the apostle, it is here with the miracle of Pentecost. We were then baptized by one Spirit into one body, Jews as well as Greek, servants no less then the free person.
The Spirit makes a connection between people of an entirely different nationality and He also makes into one body people who socially have very different levels of standing in the community. And just as the eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you’, the head is not allowed to pipe up and pretend it has nothing to do with the feet. Neither is someone in the communion of saints allowed even for a moment, to pretend as if he lives by himself.
Paul says: just imagine that the whole body was one eye, how could you hear still? Or if the whole body was only hearing how could you smell something? It would not be very well if the believers were exactly like that and all had the same office, the same function and task. We cannot all be ministers for the church also needs workers and business people, patrons and laborers, politicians and economists, doctors and officials, Australians and other nationalities.
Yet the unity is just as much a reality for the church. Nobody can or may live as if he was satisfied by himself and satisfied with only his own salvation. There is not one hour in which he is independent of the other members.
Oh no, my eye does not always look at my hands. But if my eyes did no longer see my hands or did not want to see them any more, if the living link between eye and hand was broken, then I would need to see the doctor urgently. My head does not think every moment about my feet; that is not possible and there is no need for that. Yet every second the same blood flows through my head as flows through my feet later.
Every moment those two are connected into one body by the spirit of life. And as soon as that connection is broken I am lamed or dead.
The same goes for the church. Everyone has his own task in life, everyone goes his own way. And yet every second he is member of the church, connected in his whole being with the other members.
Nobody is allowed to think even for a moment "Am I my brothers keeper?"
Because Paul confesses Pentecost, he can also in one breath follow up with the ‘Song of love’! Even if I spoke the language all peoples and of angels, yet I would not have love, I would be like clanging metal and a noisy gong. (check text) Even if I knew all the hidden things and had vast knowledge, yes even if I had faith so great that I could move mountains, yet I would not have love, I would be nothing. You know that wonderful song about love: she does not seek herself, she is not bitter, she thinks no evil and she does not take pleasure in unrighteousness but she rather takes pleasure in the truth. She covers all things, she believes all things, she hopes in all things and she endures all things.
Without such love the church too is reduced to nothing, as would be the deaconry and any Christian undertaking. Then we are finished, even though we may advertise ourselves, we make ourselves very busy, we come out of church saying to one another "what a marvelous sermon and a well paid collection". Even if the membership of our organizations increases with leaps and bounds and with our political parties achieve a great number of votes, even if we see everything flourishing and we speak many good words about standing shoulder to shoulder, as soon as love disappears Paul says, it is all no more then empty vessels, which sound the loudest. Love then is crucial, a love which never forgets or ignores the other; love which is not selfish but endures all things; love which never rejoices in unrighteousness but rather in truth.
When we sing such a song of praise about love we say to ourselves: That is beautiful! But at the same time we think :"a bit idealistic really". You can never bring it out like that! The Christian community too will never achieve it. It is like faint music from heavenly heights which will never become reality on earth. We then become sober and practical people again who every now and then think of 1Corinthians 13 as the ideal situation, but who at the same time settle in on and adapt to the reality which is quite different.
But we should know what we are doing. If this love through the Spirit is the ideal, something which only in our best moments set our hearts on fire but does not fill and permeates us every day, something which will not become reality in our lives and we have more or less given in to that idea, then it is all over! Then the church is gone, the deaconry, the political and social organizations. It is not Christian when all that is left is an ideal of the communion of saints. A communion can only be called Christian when people start to live according to this law of love.!
And if love does not underlie the relationships, there the Spirit will come and rule and shatter appearances. He unmasks the lie and destroys life. For only because of Pentecost where the Spirit founded the communion of saints, only because of that event there is also the story in the book of Acts, about Ananias and Sapphira who did not regard the truth in love.
The Spirit of Pentecost enforces Himself as the Spirit of love Who loves the truth.
Our text then mentions 3 things in this context:
1 The sin which Ananias and Sapphira committed
2 the sin as Peter characterized it
3 the sin as the Holy Spirit judged it
1 Our text is far from easy. Anyone reading the Bible will have some difficulty with it. For Ananias and his wife only told one lie. Yet Peter attacks them strongly and a little while later both accused drop down dead.
When you read that you become uneasy. When in the church things are taken so seriously then you hardly dare to come back again. If today things happened like that still, perhaps none of us would survive this service: for who among us would not have lied at some stage?
And when you were to look up the commentaries you would immediately discover that most of them are not really sure what to do with this text. On the one side they say: This was only a relatively small misdemeanor. Of course, lying is never right. But did Peter now have to react so strongly?
Christ too has been very strong in His preaching. But on the cross His first words were: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. That is Christ: He has prayed for transgressors! Now put Peter over against that: What a difference!
Jesus? Once they brought a woman to Him who had committed adultery. He then drew pictures in the sand as if it did not concern Him. And then He asked the accusers: those among you who are without sin should throw the first stone at her. And to the woman He said: "Neither do I judge you." Well should Peter then not have kept quiet?
Did they lie? Indeed they did. But will Peter then punish them? How many weeks ago was it that one evening, somewhere in Jerusalem, in the palace of the high priest, someone lied thundering lies? He even did so three times: I do not know that Man! He even enforced it with swearing and cursing. That man was Simon Peter!
A gross sin this lying? But I can remember that next to Jesus a murderer hang on the cross. And a murder is still somewhat worse then a lie. Jesus however said to him: Today you will be with Me in paradise. Yet Ananias and Sapphira where wiped away?
Therefore on the one hand they say: this is not the spirit of the Gospel. This is not Christian. And for the rest it is easy for them: they rip this part of Scripture from their Bible. They have used this method before.
But those on the other side can not do that. They want to humbly believe the Bible. And if we were to scrap this story then more would follow. Therefore you will see in those circles a sincere attempt to find the meaning of this report in the Bible. They say then for example: but this was not just any lie. This was very serious because it was a lie against the Holy Spirit!
But if you then ask them: do you mean to say that they blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, and so committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness? you will receive an evasive answer. This sin is then said to have come ‘very close’ to this fatal sin against the Spirit. But it was not really exactly that particular sin.
You will see the difficulty. Where exactly is the line between sin which can and can not be forgiven? If I lie, when do I lie ‘normally’ and when will I do so against the Spirit? When I read this report here then I still find the lie of Peter in the palace of the High Priest many times more gross and serious in character. But for that sin there was forgiveness!
And therefore beloved all we can really do is to calmly and exactly read what is written. And also patiently consider the context in which this text appears.
Now it may be clear from what we read at the start that the context here is the practicing of the communion of saints. Through the Holy Spirit the whole congregation was of one mind, as we read.
That is then exactly the same as what Peter says later on: All organs form together one body.
And therefore this communion of saints was not merely a matter of the Sunday only but for the whole week! On Sunday they came together and met in a building where Peter or someone else preached. But this communion did not stop at the church doors. They did not sit together in order to listen, to pray and to sing. And then at their parting say to one another: See you next Sunday, only to ignore the others from Monday to Saturday. They were one body, on Sunday, but also on Monday!
For had not the Spirit come to live in them? That Spirit would not at the end of the service again ascend into heaven till next week, would He? And the body of Christ would not explode into a collection of little pieces at the end of the Sunday would it?
It is so simple: One heart, One soul, One body. For just consider your own body parts. When you have a tooth ache you do not say: my mouth is really bothering me but for the rest I feel very well? No, but because that small tooth is still connected with all other parts by means of blood and nerves, your whole body feels miserable. You cannot get away from that, you can not sleep either. A patient who suffers from appendicitis does not say: a bit of pain in my abdomen but for the rest I feel great! For that small body part drives up a fever in the whole body and if nothing is done about it not only that one small part would be destroyed, but the whole person would succumb. That shows how vital it is that all members form one body.
That is now how it is with the church also!
Oh yes I know that many will say with a bored voice: Ah, always that church again. But let us be careful: Church is the communion of the Spirit. Church means love. Church means that there is a body here. And when one member is having problems and anxiety, then it touches us all. For when one members suffers, all suffer along.
Once more will I refer to the example of Peter about the eyes and the hands. Here in the church hands and eyes work together. My eyes see the approaching collection bag and my hands help to fill it. My eyes close in prayer while my hands fold at the same time. They cooperate here. But does that stop at the church doors? Tomorrow my eyes will read the paper which my hands are holding up. It is a coordination in a different way then here yet their unity is the same. My hands later on may wave goodbye later on, not my eyes.
That is how the young church experienced it. Sundays they sat together, they listened together and prayed together. Members of one body, adjusted to each other, dependant on each other and tuned in to each other. But then it concerned them when on Monday one of them would have no clothing or if a mother was not able to provide food for her children. They did not then say: that is her problem; we are not in church today. For they knew that a member of the church was suffering, a member of the same body to which we belong. They themselves then also suffered along with the pain and the need. It concerned them all. And just as in the body, the healthy parts react very strongly against sickness which may be festering in a particular body part, and the powers of life muster themselves against the powers of death, so it happened also in church.
Well then you can understand what they did in Jerusalem. There they always had many poor people. Yet the temple was rich and therefore the care for these poor was not a big problem. This changed somewhat when many joined themselves to the church of Christ. They no longer had access to the temple funds and the care of the needy became a bigger problem. But they had a solution.
Those who were a bit better off sold some of their possessions and so everyone still received enough for their needs. That was not communism as is often said. Peter says to Ananias: if it had remained unsold would it not be yours? And even once you sold it, it was yours to with it as you pleased. There is then no evidence that everything was sold and deposited in one central account, making an end of personal stewardship. There was no obligation to sell, neither was pressure applied to have proceeds of a sale made available to the poor. As long as one knew himself connected with the other members and showed this to them in a practical way but the actual way in which this was done everyone had to work out for themselves. Each had to see for himself how best he could fulfil his calling.
Now there had been a certain man in Jerusalem by the name of Barnabas who had been felt the needs of brotherhood. He thought: I still have a piece of land, I will sell it and give the money to the apostles. And his example made others follow.
So also Ananias. He too has a property and he too sees the need of the brotherhood. He talks about it with his wife and together they decide to also sell and bring at least part of the proceeds to the apostles. A part of it they will however keep back for themselves.
Why did they do this? Honestly beloved, I do not know. Were they too much attached to their property? Did they do it out of concern for their own keep in old age? Or, and that is another possibility, did they have other obligations which made it impossible for them to hand over the whole lot?
In any case, it is peculiar that Peter did not admonish them for being selfish, or for being over anxious; he only mentions the lie. We therefore have no right to make them look worse then is shown.
Had they not joined out of conviction? Did they not really love the brotherhood? I would not like to say that. For you must not forget that being a Christian in those days was all but without danger. The Nazarene had been bitterly hated; the apostles had only recently been summoned before the Sanhedrin and it had been very unpleasant. Everyone understood that persecution was in the air. And if you did not accept that risk with stern conviction you would rather keep a safe distance.
That Ananias and his wife had joined themselves to the church when it was dangerous to do so, speaks for them. They too had received the Holy Spirit, they too loved the brotherhood. The only thing which was punishable in them was that they pretended to be giving it all. I do believe that they brought the money with love. But they were a little worried for their good name among the others if they were to find out that not the full amount was offered. They did not want to be seen as misers and they could not really go around and explain the situation to all either.
So that was really the whole issue: not entirely honest because they were scared for their reputation. A little lie!
Do you see this as gross sin? I would ask you, can you not understand them? They were a little sensitive for their honor, well so be it. But it would not be very pleasant either if behind your back you are being gossiped about by people who do not really know the ins and outs of it all? Who among us would dare to say that they were guilty and punishable with death?
Is this the unpardonable sin of sinning against the Holy Spirit? Not at all! Then we would all be lost in my opinion. They did receive the Spirit and did love the brotherhood. They are not the sort of people that if they could also would again crucify the Christ and make him suffer shame. They do not even think about blatantly trespassing against the blood of the New Testament, the blood that sanctified them.
You are aware of the distinction we make in our talking about sins. There are the secret sins, there falling into sin and there is gross sin. There is sin which we fight against and sin we persist in. And I can assure you that about the sin we are dealing here, not one consistory would have know about. And even if it had leaked out then there would not be a consistory which would consider discipline nowadays. We would think a friendly, brotherly admonition would suffice.
2 Now you may well ask: why does Peter react so strongly here?
Just piece them together those strong expressions: Why has Satan filled you heart, that you would lie against the Spirit? You have not lied against men but against God. And to Sapphira a little later: why have you agreed together to tempt the Holy Spirit? In other words, the matter is far from trivial to Peter.
Yes beloved, you do have to leave all those strong words in the text. But at the same time I warn you no to slip on them.
For let us have a closer look at it now.
First of all: Why has Satan so filled your heart? No doubt that is very serious. But you may not now turn Ananias into a devil!
For what does the bible mean when it says that someone’s heart is filled with evil? Does that means that such a person is devilish, that no a shred in him remains of what is good? Just as well it does not mean that. for just remember the contrast. In the gospel of Pentecost we read: They were filled with the Holy Spirit. Does that mean they were made perfect, that no wrong thoughts entered them any more and no evil desire stirred them? We know better then that!
We confessed with the catechism that even the most pious in this life have only a small beginning of obedience. It is miserable so little they manage to do good. Yet they are filled with the Holy Spirit!
Or just think of the Lord’s Supper form where we read that all of us have to fight daily against the weakness of our faith and the evil desires of our flesh. Yet we believe that we are filled with the Spirit!
The Holy Spirit then can have filled our hearts and yet a lot of evil remains in our lives. Someone has once looked into
that expression in the bible. And he then found to have the heart filled with something happens or comes about when you have come to a certain decision. You know that in a particular matter you may have a real problem. You are tossed to and fro in temptation; the good clashes with the evil. As long as you are in limbo, your heart is not filled. But as soon as you come to a decision, one of the opposing forces gains the upper hand and you step into action.
And it now all depends what in such a case gains the upper hand. Does good prevail then the Spirit has filled your heart even though you yourself are very much aware of all the shortcomings. You only know too well that your motives are clouded and you are ashamed of yourself that even your best works are so imperfect and covered with sin.
But if sin prevails then Satan has at that time filled your heart. It does not mean that you do not partake in Christ any longer and that you are only a hypocrite. It may very well be that you are not at peace because your conscience accuses you.
That is now why Peter says: How is it really possible? That you have given Satan such authority in this matter! But are you of the opinion that it was the intention of Ananias and his wife to allow Satan to go ahead? Not at all. They though about their money and about what people would say. They did not think of the devil at that time. Peter says that they lied against the Spirit! But do you think they deliberately set out to do something so awful? They were concerned about peoples opinions of them. That they might be lying against God did not enter their minds. But that is really what it boiled down to!
Yes indeed Peter can say that they had agreed to tempt the Spirit. And to tempt means to do something to see how the other party reacts. Tempting always has an element of provocation, of challenging. But again: the agreement between those two people was not that they would defy the Spirit, that they would lie to see how the Spirit would respond to that. They did not think about the Spirit but they risked a lie against people.
No beloved I do not say this to take away from the strong words of Peter. But I do so to honestly show you how ordinary and common the sin committed here was. So every day like. Nowadays we would probably not get so worked up about something like this any more. If such a sin was found in someone and the elder went there to admonish him, nine out of ten would say: don’t get so hard on him straight away. Can you not approach him a with a bit more kindness and gentleness? After all he did not really mean it that way.?
What I am trying to say is that we should not be too lofty in our judgment and even think that something like that would never happen to me. For if I read this and see how ordinary this was and how understandable, such a small sin in our opinion, then I do not put myself above it. But then I place myself next to Ananias because I know that I have more on my conscience then he has. And if this is how matters are dealt with in church in cases of such small sins, then I shudder. God can at any time just blow me away out of this life.
And if I now have made you see and agree that you are not a hair better then those two, rather worse then them, then now I say to you: take those words of Peter very seriously.
For we so often approach the matter of sin so psychologically. We find many things so very understandable and consequently no so bad any more. Often times we find ourselves wondering if the person had really intended it that way.
Peter spoke differently. He did not ask what the members of the church intended to do but rather what the real result was. If I do sin, for example tell a lie, it may be very easily explained why I did it. The circumstances, the people, your character, your reputation with the people; all those factors also play a major role in our lives. How then do we explain a little lie in a certain situation? No that is not evil or devilish intent but rather a sin in weakness. But let us call sin sin and understand that at that moment Satan has filled our heart!
Very understandable when taking the circumstances into account? Peter says: How is it possible! For he considers the Spirit which is given us, the Spirit of love Who rejoices in the truth! How then is it possible to make room for Satan in our hearts, Satan who rejoices in the lie? I may not have intended it that way but in reality the devil has come inside and took hold of my heart, even in the smallest of sins.
Did they not really mean it that way? Yes but when they approached the apostles they did not just appear before men but in the first place before the Holy Spirit. Pentecost had come and the Spirit of Christ had come to live in the congregation had He not?
They did not think of it, well ok. But the Spirit was still there wasn’t He? And that lie was in the first place spoken in His hearing. Oh yes I know, they wondered if the people would ever find out. But the Spirit heard it and He was the One Who was forced into action by them. After Pentecost I can never again meet the brotherhood without also meeting God, the Holy Spirit!
Most likely I do not think about that half the time yet He is there, always. And whatever sin I commit within the communion of saints, great or small, hidden or public, it is a challenge to Him. A temptation which I do not consciously address to Him but one that still reaches Him and activates Him.
Who among you gave it a thought this morning, when we greeted one another in the pew, when we passed on the collection bag, when we sang and prayed, who among you gave it some thought that here you meet the Holy Spirit? Perhaps some among you are still in doubt whether they will receive the Spirit or not. Just the Word is in their opinion not enough. They have then no guarantee either that they will not only meet the Word but also the Holy Spirit.
But it is exactly the opposite. Never before have I had more opportunity to meet the Spirit! I cannot pass Him by any more. That is the joy of Pentecost: I now meet Him always in church. At the same time this now becomes very serious. If I now within this communion of saints do something wrong I have done it against Him and not just against people! I will no longer speak proud words against Ananias. I can only pray: O Father, be merciful to me, sinner! Where would I flee from Your Spirit?
Peter says it very pointedly. But even he himself is not far above such dangers. Later on in Antioch, as Paul tells us in Galations 2, Peter one time becomes dishonest himself in the church. First he ate with the Gentiles but when the Jews arrive Peter does not dare to do so any more and scared as he is of being rejected by them, he becomes a hypocrite. And Barnabas, the same man who here, full of the Spirit, sells his parcel of land, lets himself be drawn along by the hypocrisy of Peter. Then Satan had filled the hearts of Peter and Barnabas! Then they too lied against the Spirit and not merely against people. They too tempted the Spirit of the Lord.
That is how human it is, so very understandable! As soon as I forget that in meeting the brotherhood I am dealing with the Spirit, then I too will commit the same sin.
That is how tender this communion of saints is. When I read this, I hardly dare to take that word love in my mouth any more. For love is not a matter of friendliness, kindness and tolerance. It is a matter of utmost importance for I meet the Spirit. Not just on Sunday but also during the week. As you are aware, there is nowadays a lot of discussion about the cooperation in many areas. This cooperation received much attention during the liberation. The question was raised if, and in how far the church crisis has consequences for cooperation all sorts of daily cooperation. I can understand that such things tire you our. The church split is some years behind us and we have become used to it. Everything has settled down. I can understand it very well when someone complains" Does everything have to be broken up? For in such a complaint I hear the yearning for the communion of saints in its previous broadness. In it I also hear the fear as the approaching enemies comes closer, Christian life will be scattered even more then is the case already.
And if someone were to bring up these things out of selfishness, out of bitterness, out of haughtiness or revenge then I say to them they what they want is not from God but from the devil. And we do well do ensure that also in this matter the devil will have no authority over us. But at the same time I say to those who see the threatening powers of Satan approaching, brothers are you still aware of Satan coming from within your own ranks and from within yourself?
If your heart is longing for the communion with all believers of the Christ, is that then motivated from a Babylonian perspective of ‘together we stand strong? Or is it a very serious matter to you, a matter not of men, voters or membership numbers, but of God the Holy Spirit?
Do you still believe that Satan is not only capable of filling the hearts of unbelievers but also of church people?
Do you still believe that in our own Christian actions we could be tempting the Spirit and be lying to Him? That we can even agree together to do so?
Do you still believe that when something unholy works its way into the exercise of the communion of saints, the Spirit is challenged to turn Himself against us?
I do not speak here about our intentions but I do ask how the practical christian communion really is with us. What do the facts look like, not for man, but as the Spirit sees it?
We love a nice atmosphere and appreciate the peace. If it were a matter between people ah well then in the other groups you find people with many shortcomings and much misery but then you find them among us as well. Then I find with others those who hope to be saved and with us it is the same really.
But now a straight forward question: When you seek to cooperate with the others, in the church, in politics in social life and other areas, then you seek them as brothers don’t you? Then you are seeking them in the Holy Spirit are you not?
In our political life we do not work together simply as a number of individuals who on the basis of a platform work together in order to stop communism or so, do we? Also in those things we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire aren’t we?
Are we not people who in everything want to resist Satan because and after we have first banned him from our own circles? In no way can we rejoice in unrighteousness. And it is a matter of life and death that we do not tempt the Spirit because of untruth in our mutual relationships.
Oh when I regard these things from a human point of view I would be inclined to say: leave it be, please do not make more fuss over it, no more division; Let us try to bring together whatever we possibly can. But Pentecost has come. The hand cannot say to the foot: I have no need of you. There can not be an excuse for me to say: Am I my brothers keeper? For whatever I do to my brothers I am doing against the Spirit!
If we are not careful we will be lost because we peddle feelings and we forget that all brotherly relations are a matter of the Spirit. So let us take it serious!
What I cannot understand that one marked as a rebel today, tomorrow is greeted by the same people as if he were no rebel. That men today hold up the form of the Lord’s Supper against the same people whom they tomorrow welcome in again as faithful coworkers in the Kingdom of Christ. Or that those whom we declare suitable for excommunication today are tomorrow sought after for work in Christian organizations.
Something is amiss here. Isn’t the truth being compromised here? Does not here the sin of Ananias knock on our door?
I do not say you have to withdraw from everything. All I am asking is: What is happening in our Christian lives? How can all these things be? Does not this question touch the core of every organization as well as the possibility of cooperation? Is it not of the Spirit?
And why can that not be brought up and discussed further? Why can people who want to act in a brotherly way, not dispense with all the nice words and rather do that brotherly deed of clearing away that which prevents cooperation?
For how do you practically work in all those organizations for example when they pray together and at the same time the problems remain? Is that not tempting the Spirit?
Did they not really mean to do that? Scripture says: What does it boil down to? Do we say Yes and do No in the eyes of Him Who will not let Himself be tempted?
Why was Ananias not allowed to bring in the lie when he wanted to contribute for the poor and needy,but we are allowed to bring it in in our prayers? I only wished that we would show show as much reverence to the Spirit as we see to give to these existing organizations.
For it is not at all a matter of someone feeling hurt by something. Rather, what do we really still believe of the Holy Spirit when we start organizations? Can I on Sunday say of the hand: rip her off and cast it into the fire’, and on Monday" that hand would come in very useful’? It is not a matter of people but of the Spirit and of Satan.
Some may say: it is their responsibility what they do. But when we here speak about brothers, does not Cain have responsibility over Abel? If they stumble, can I then leave them lie there because it does not really concern me?
And what about Peter? Has he let Ananias go and so exposed the whole congregation to the invasion of the lie and with it the judgment of the Spirit?
Even if we would not run hot over such things, the Spirit will not be tempted. Peter does nothing more to help them; he has not even had time to look up a form for discipline. And there lies Ananias dead at his feet and a few hours later his wife also.
3 That is how the Spirit punishes the lie in the church. That is terrible. Such a small sin we would say, and not even with such bad intentions. And yet both of them lie dead.
Yes it is very serious. But you have to read what is written. It does not say that the Spirit suddenly flung them in to hellish fire. The first death is in Scripture also a show of punishment which is very different from what is called ‘the second death’.
God in His anger also killed Moses so that he could not enter Canaan any more. Was he then doomed?
Later on in Corinth, Paul would give over to Satan an adulterer for the destruction of his flesh in order that he spirit would be saved. They were taken away from this life by the Spirit. But it is not impossible that they then entered into eternal joy. The question then is not if they were saved after all, for the Bible does not talk about that. But the question is ‘why does the Spirit strike them dead?’
And we can see that again from the contrast a little further on. There Dorcas is raised from the dead. The Spirit made her existence on earth and in this life continue. This sign was proclaimed to the congregation to show that the Spirit makes life flourish through Christ and that he also conquered death. But if He is tempted then He strikes dead and destroys the life here and now. Not to witness that those people are now forever lost but as a sign that He will not tolerate untruth for He will break life to pieces for it.
If we now do not become careful and become afraid also for the ‘small’ sins, then we will never learn.
It was rather tragic. Those two, they wanted to hold back some money for later, they also wanted to maintain a good reputation in the congregation and for the sake of those things they opted for the lie. With one honest confession all could have still been fixed up. But the Spirit wipes both of them out of this life in order that we should hate sin.
He is also merciful; we are not immediately lost for eternity. But He is also righteous. Because of unrighteousness he will turn life into death. That is our lives here on earth. Beloved let us now stand in fear. Fear of eternal punishment? Yes. But also for His judgment in this life! There is so much at stake if the lie enters into the communion of saints.
And therefore I ask you now, what are you now going to do concerning the communion of saints? You speak about love? Yes but that love rejoices together with the Spirit in the truth for she knows that otherwise life with be destroyed.
For this is the question which should keep us all busy: Not that we wonder if others will be saved or not. We should not appoint ourselves as knowers of the heart and should not for a second try to take place in the judgment seat of Christ. For He is so very merciful!
But this concerns us, that God today places us together with others who call themselves Christian. And to all men He says: be truthful in the exercise of the communion of saints. If another does not do that, do not participate in that sin and do not belittle it. Rather admonish him and impressing upon him how serious this is before the Spirit. For if he does not change, the Spirit will destroy his life and mine as well if we would together not respect the truth in love.
And as we then find ourselves busy with this issues of today, we realize that it would be foolishness to go around a hall in which a political or other sort of meeting is held, and to then look around and ask ‘Would they all be saved?" But the question does stand whether or not that cooperation, takes place in the Name of Christ and in adoration of the Spirit, a matter so very serious. A matter not of people but of the Spirit Who was given to us on Pentecost. Of the Spirit Who will not let Himself be tempted and Who will dash to pieces all our personal and congregational achievements if the lie remains.
For some speak much of cooperation and of a combined effort to throw up a dam against the threatening enemy. But I wish that we would still remember even a little of the Spirit in any cooperation we may want to get into.
If I search for the brothers in truth and do not lie against the Spirit of Christ, well then I may still not see exactly how things will come together but the communion will flourish! For if He builds who then will break down?
For I do indeed believe in God the Holy Spirit don’t I?
And therefore I follow up with: "I believe in a holy, catholic church, the communion of saints"
Followed by "the forgiveness of sins, also the sin of lying.
And lastly: " the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting"
If I have so seen the Spirit and loved Him and if I for His sake take the church and the communion very seriously today, then in political and social affairs I am also on the way to eternal life and in doing so I am in truth pulling along all the brothers.