It is tempting to idealize the early church. Yes, the early believers were a courageous, faithful, and unified group of people, passionate about teaching the gospel. But today’s account provides a reality check. There were hypocrites in the early church just as there are today. On the surface, Ananias and Sapphira appeared to follow the example of Barnabas, sharing their possessions with those in need (4:36–37). They sold property and acted as if they had placed all proceeds at the apostles’ disposal. In reality, they kept back some of the proceeds for themselves.
Their sin was not that they kept a portion of the sale. That land was theirs by right. They could do with it whatever they pleased. Their sin was being deceitful, and not only toward the church. “You have not lied just to human beings but to God,” Peter said (v. 4). The death of Ananias and Sapphira by God’s hand made a strong impression on those who observed the church from a distance. Verse 13 says, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” This seems to have been God’s intent. It was not only to make a statement to the church but also to discourage any person who might frivolously join this fledgling community.
The apostles continued to preach the gospel, accompanied by remarkable miracles designed to show that their message came from God. Unfortunately, as the church’s numbers increased, so did the jealousy of the Jewish high priest and his associates. When they arrested and imprisoned the apostles, a miracle happened. An angel opened the doors of the jail and set them free (v. 19)! Despite increased threats and pressing danger, the apostles continued to share the good news about Jesus.
>> Have you ever been disappointed by the insincerity or hypocrisy of other believers? The church may sometimes disappoint us but we must remember that we do not see the whole picture. God alone knows those who are truly His (2 Tim. 2:19).
Lord Jesus, we ask for courage to follow you boldly, honestly, without reservations. Give us grace to obey you without hypocrisy; make us people worthy of your calling.