Grace in the Midst of Judgment

S (Scripture): Acts 5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. 5:2 He kept back for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge; he brought only part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? 5:4 Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!”
5:5 When Ananias heard these words he collapsed and died, and great fear gripped all who heard about it.

O (Observation) and A (Application): Wow! I’m totally befuddled. What a harsh response from Peter. I get the fact that Ananias’ holding back from the Lord and the community is a bad thing, but deserving of death? And Sapphira suffers the consequences, too.

Perhaps this is God’s corrective measure. Compare this story to the end of Acts 4 (vv. 36-37), in which Joseph sold his land and gave the proceeds to the church community. The first word in Acts 5:1 should be “BUT,” not “NOW.” This should show two similar stories, Joseph sold his field and gave all to the church, BUT, Ananias sold the field, gave some to the church AND KEPT SOME FOR HIMSELF. Perhaps he wanted the ego boost…we don’t know, but we know that the main aim was that he lied to God.

Satan has figured out: if I can’t destroy the church from without, I’ll destroy it from within. And we see God’s response: the death of Ananias and Sapphira.

Yet there is hope and grace, even in the midst of this harsh story. I credit this sermon for the quotes that follow:

So why were they put to death for their actions? Aren’t all of us at some time or another guilty of the same sin? The answer is “Yes, we are”. So why aren’t we punished with a death sentence? The short answer is the grace of God.

If the coming of the Kingdom means restoration for mankind and creation and all that God chooses to bless with his grace, it also means destruction for that which is evil. Without grace we all deserve death. The death of this couple is not “extraordinary” its, dare I say, “normal” in a restored world. The destruction of evil is as real as the restoration of mankind and creation. So why them and not others? That is not a question to which we are given an answer. Our only response to all of this should be, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

In the end, this is what I believe we need to hear in our text. This story of judgment must ultimately open our eyes further to the grace of God in Jesus Christ towards us. God has come among us in his Son in order to restore the world and usher in a New Creation. In this restoration that which is “good” is sanctified by the Lord’s grace. That which is “evil” is destroyed. Grace comes upon those whom God chooses to show mercy. Each day that we wake up and go about our daily routines is a gift of his grace. It is the undeserved favour of God shown to us. Each day is a day of grace. A day to bring glory to God by repenting of our sins and asking for his Holy Spirit to guide us in all our living. God is sovereign. He is holy. He fills us with his HOLY Spirit. We in turn becomes agents of his grace wherever the Lord calls us to be in this world. Amen.

(If you read the whole sermon, you see the preacher make a connection to the miracles in Acts, as God healing through the disciples as a way of restoring creation. Seeing the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira through that lens is a very intriguing view. Bringing the new creation into being means putting sin to death. I commend to you the reading of the entire sermon.)

P (Prayer): Lord, your will, not mine, be done. Amen.


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