Acts 5:13-14 - A Dangerous yet Attractive Church
No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.Acts 5:13-14
The Lord sometimes did shocking things in the Bible to teach people something. That is the case with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Their deaths were meant to teach everyone in a very dramatic way that in the church of the Lord, you have to do with the Holy Spirit. The church that keeps the Word is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). And no one can fool the Spirit of God. He knows the deeds and hearts. He displayed that in the young New Testament church with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.
What happened? They lied to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who took up residence in the church at Pentecost, is a person of the Godhead. You can grieve Him, or withstand Him. You can also lie to Him. Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, lied to Him. They let everyone know that they were giving the complete proceeds of a sale of land to the church. In the meantime, though, they secretly put some of the money aside for themselves.
They wanted to look good in the eyes of others, and still do what they wanted. The other church members would look up to them for giving such a large sum, making such a sacrifice. At the same time, they still had some, for they had not given away all the money raised by the sale of the land. They could still keep some for themselves.
The Holy Spirit, however, through the apostle Peter, exposed their sanctimony. By the end of the worship on that day, both Ananias and Sapphira were dead. They fell down dead when they maintained their lie over against Peter. The Spirit showed in dramatic fashion that He cannot be lied to in the place where He dwells.
This incident was written for our instruction too. In the post-Pentecost church of Christ we have to do with the Holy Spirit in all we do. He sees our hearts. He also sees all sanctimony and hypocrisy. That should make us very humble. God hates it when we make ourselves look more pious than we are.
God may not strike us down on the spot like Ananias and Sapphira, but He is the same then as now. All sanctimony is sin before Him, and He will condemn us for it if we do not repent.
That is the message the general public in Jerusalem got when the news of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths spread. It says in Acts 5:14 that no one else dared join them, though they were highly regarded by the people. The people understood that the church of Christ is a dangerous place. They were sympathetic to the church for all kinds of reasons, good or not so good. But they were afraid to join. They realized that joining the church means that your life is an open book before the Spirit. You can fool people by acting pious while still holding on to sin, but you cannot fool the Spirit of God. The post-Pentecost church is a dangerous place.
You might think, now, that would also make the church an unpopular place, and that people would not want to join it. But look at Acts 5:15. It says there that nevertheless more and more people believed in the Lord and joined the church. The Holy Spirit makes people afraid, but he also makes people want to join the church in faith. How can that be?
Well, a church which is a dwelling place of the Spirit, where the Gospel is proclaimed and kept, and where the members realize that they have to do with the Spirit who sees everything in their lives, is a church where people are honest and humble. If we know we cannot fool the Spirit, we will also give up trying to fool people and the Spirit Himself with false piety. The result will be a church that is dangerous, but at the same time one in which there are open, unpretentious, natural, unobtrusive people. They know they have to do with the Spirit of God in the church
Many churches today think they can make themselves attractive to others by giving others the impression that everything is nice and happy and friendly in their church. And in the meantime the Gospel is watered down and Biblical discipline is no longer maintained. It is too harsh, too scary.
But Acts 5 gives a different way to be an attractive church. Be conscious of the fact that in the church we have to do with the Holy Spirit. And act accordingly. In preaching and discipline. Also in our personal lives. Then as church we will be attractive. The outsiders will see people who are not all pious talk but impious walk. There is nothing that turns outsiders off to the church more than people who speak and act piously on Sunday, but who curse and act selfishly during the week. But if we know ourselves to be the dwelling place of the Spirit, we will show that we are a dangerous church, but also an attractive one – attractive to people who are looking for the home of the Spirit. They will realize, this is the real thing.
It is a high and difficult calling to be such a church. This calling can only be fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Spirit make us such a church.