Just to be sure we’re talking about the same woman, Sapphira was the second half of that infamous duo in the Bible – the husband and wife team who sold a property and made false asset declaration. The whole thing had to do with a guy named Barnabas so let’s take a look at Barnabas.
Barnabas was the guy who went on a missionary journey with Paul. But that’s only half the story. It was actually Barnabas who brought Paul “inside.” When everyone was skittish about the genuineness of his conversion Barnabas stood as surety. (Acts 9:26-27) Paul had gruesomely persecuted the church. Everyone was afraid of him. He was a vicious and highly motivated pitbull – had the maniacal focus of a man on a mission. People like Paul don’t do half measure. He’s a commitment guy and Barnabas admired that in him. They had that in common. They’d end up working together. Some of their adventures sound Indiana Jones. Remember that time the people of Lystra wanted to sacrifice to them? Paul had healed a cripple so they thought Barnabas and Paul were gods – Zeus and Hermes. (Acts 14:8-18)
Barnabas had this huge reputation and he had a profound influence on others, including Ananias. The guy was inspiring. Unlike many early believers Barnabas was rich, had assets. Barnabas was actually not his baptismal name. It was a nickname. His original name was Joe, as in Joses or the Greek variant, Joseph. He was probably named Barnabas because he kept on stepping up to the plate whenever the church had a need. He kept rescuing the church, giving towards projects. Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement.” He’s the kind of guy a Pastor thanks God for, hence “Son of Consolation.” But he wasn’t the only rich guy in church. There were other rich folks. The rich guys decided they wanted to help the poor so they set up a poverty alleviation fund. They sold assets and donated the yield. One of those rich guys was Ananias. As soon as he saw Barnabas donate proceeds from a major asset sale he became motivated. He sold a property but then became “smart.” “With his wife’s full knowledge and complicity he kept back some of the proceeds, bringing only a portion of it, and set it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 5:1-2) Which would have been okay if they had simply said they wanted to make a donation. But they made it seem like they were giving their all, like Barnabas. In truth they were kind of hedging their bet. No one really knew what this new religious movement was all about or where it was headed. It didn’t even have a name, no formal identity. The disciples won’t be known as Christians until much later. And that was in a Gentile city named Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The summary is that both Ananias and Sapphira died of heart attack, right there in church. Everyone became afraid: “By this time the whole church and in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.” (Acts 5:11) Don’t mess around with God. This “Christian thing” is potent stuff.
But here’s the challenge. Ananias and Sapphira were both under grace. These were first generation Christians, baptized with the Holy Spirit. Like Ananias and Sapphira, modern day Christians routinely lie to their pastors yet they don’t fall dead in church, why? Why was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira sin unto death? (1 John 5:16) The only other instance of sin unto death in the New Testament was found among the Corinthians. They didn’t honour the body of Christ at communion and so they started dying. They drank and ate God’s judgment upon themselves, the Bible says. (I Corinthians 11:29) Clearly Ananias and Sapphira didn’t honour the Body. And they not only lied to the Holy Spirit, they violated the Body – the principle of unity of the Body. The brethren were dwelling together in unity. (Acts 1:14) The unity of the Body and the operation of the Holy Spirit are coextensive. (Psalm 133:1-2)
However, there were other factors responsible for their demise – political factors. This was a politically epochal period for both Heaven and earth. It was the beginning of the Church, the formalization of the constitution of what we now know as the Body of Christ. Christ had taken up session in Heaven as the Sheblimini – the One who sits on the right hand of Majesty. Events on earth were being organised to conform to the new reality in Heaven – the Christ with a mystic body made up of humans. God had also just signed a new social contract with humanity. Human calendar had just changed, from BC to AD. The correction of the Adamic distortion had just begun. The Last Adam had just assumed federal status. The world was transitioning from the jurisdiction of the Law to the dispensation of grace. (Grace is a political dispensation, not some “I’m feeling good I can do whatever I like” stuff). The Holy Spirit had also just assumed Directorship on earth. This was a political role – liaison between citizens in Kingdom Annex and HQ. This was not the time to pull off the kind of stunt Ananias and Sapphira concocted. The earth was too politically charged. Everything was political at this moment, which is why a misdemeanor would turn into capital offence and criminal conspiracy. There was a convergence of political events and forces across dimensions. To crown it all, Satan had reared his ugly head again. The Bible says he inspired Ananias. (Acts 5:3) The boldness to test the Spirit had confounded Peter, but it was satanic: “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this?” (Acts 5:9) And it was all so stupid. If God is all-knowing, what’s the point of lying to him?
Even in the natural the church was seen as a political movement. We must remember the church had just received the first official censure from the religious leaders in Jerusalem. When Peter and John healed the cripple at The Beautiful Gate, the Council was alarmed. “But to keep them from spreading their PROPAGANDA any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” (Acts 4:17 NLT) And the prayer of the saints with regard to the threat was very political as well. They invoked Psalm 2: “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed One.” (Psalm 2:1-2) So the whole context was political. They were dealing with nationhood, not some Sunday school stuff. The church is a nation. (1 Peter 2:9) It’s why there was capital punishment. Only a state can administer that regime lawfully and morally.
Ananias and Sapphira died three hours apart. Sapphira apparently came to church three hours late. Service had begun. She didn’t know her husband was dead. But what if Sapphira had begged before pronouncement of judgment? What if she had fessed up? Truth is, the brain behind the scheme was Ananias. Sapphira was co-conspirator. It’s why the Bible specified Ananias – “But there was A CERTAIN MAN named Ananias, who with his wife, Sapphira sold some property.” (Acts 5:1) God gave a leeway to Sapphira. She was given an opportunity to recant. Peter questioned her directly. (Acts 5:8) But she didn’t know her husband was dead, didn’t want to rat out on him so she stuck to the script. In other words, Sapphira had a chance to throw herself at the mercy of God but she didn’t.
There are many lessons from this story. One, when we sin so badly before God we ought to fess up and throw ourselves at his mercy. The God of judgment is also the God of mercy. And Jesus is our High Priest in Heaven. He lives to make intercession for us before God. (Hebrews 7:25)
Two, the dispensation of grace is not dispensation of license. You can’t do as you like. You must be under authority.
Three, there is a sin unto death. Not properly discerning the body of Christ leads to death. Doesn’t mean the believer won’t go to heaven. But he self-terminates his programme on earth.
Four, we must learn to discern the times and the seasons.
May we like the sons of Issachar be able to discern the times and the seasons. And may we discern the Body, see God for who he truly is. And may we not be the vein the Enemy exploits into the Body. Amen and amen!
If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me Father. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.
© #Illuminare Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.orgThe dispensation of grace is not dispensation of license. Click To Tweet