Saturday, March 26, 2022

2022.03.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 4:32–5:11

Read Acts 4:32–5:11

Questions from the Scripture text: How many had believed (Acts 4:32)? In what were they united? What did no one say? With what did the apostles witness (Acts 4:33)? To what? What was upon them all? What did none of them do (Acts 4:34)? Who did what? What did they do with the proceeds? Where did they lay them (Acts 4:35)? What did the apostles do with it? According to what? Whom does Acts 4:36 mention? What was his new name? From whom? What does it mean? Of what tribe was he? From what country? What had he had (Acts 4:37)? What did he do with it? And what did he do with the money? Whom does Acts 5:1 introduce? What did they do? What did he keep back (Acts 5:2)? Who was aware of it? What did he do with the rest? Who speaks to him (Acts 5:3)? Whom does he say has filled Ananias’s heart? To Whom does he say Ananias has lied? Who had a right to the possession (Acts 5:4)? Who had a right to control the proceeds? But what had he done? Who heard what (Acts 5:5)? Then what did he do? What came upon whom? Who arose in Acts 5:6? What three things did they do with Ananias? How much time passes before Acts 5:7? Who came in? What didn’t she know? Who says/asks what in Acts 5:8? How does she answer? What does Peter ask her (Acts 5:9)? What does he say are where? What will those who buried her husband do? What does she do (Acts 5:10)? Where? Who come in? What do they find? What do they do with her? Where? What comes upon which two groups (Acts 5:11)?

Boldness for the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:31) goes hand-in-hand with unity and generosity in the body of Jesus (Acts 4:32), and witness to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 4:33). These things come not from man’s goodness or power but God’s: “great grace was upon them all” (verse 33). This all comes by the promise of Jesus (Acts 4:34): “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

Persecutions, they certainly had. And even those who did not lose lands by persecution were voluntarily “losing” them for Jesus’s sake and the gospel’s sake (Acts 4:35–36). But there are some who wish to be admired for preferring Christ over all who are not actually preferring Him. That’s the problem in Acts 5:1–11. Ananias heard about Joses’s new nickname: Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36)! Perhaps he wondered to himself what wonderful new nickname he or Sapphira might receive from the apostles.

Reading through self-approving eyes, we may think ourselves very different from Ananias and Sapphira. But are they really so different from the family that indulge in entertainment late into Saturday night, wake up grumpy and unspiritual of soul on the Lord’s Day, are at each other’s throats all the way to church, and then try to put on a good face as a “good Christian family”? In many such situations might we rightly hear from this passage “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3) and “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4) and “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9). 

They wanted “spiritual” credit before the eyes of men. “He kept back of the proceeds, his wife also being aware, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:2). That laying at the apostles’ feet was so ceremonious, and so holy-looking. Just like they wanted!

How desperately we need to learn that there is no “spiritual credit” for what is before the eyes of men. There is spiritual fruit like what God produced in the boldness and in the unity and in the generosity and witness to the resurrection. And that spiritual fruit must redound to the Spirit Who gave it.

For us to embrace persecutions in this life and eternal life in the next, we must have eyes to see that the spiritual and eternal are real. Ananias and Sapphira didn’t, and their divine executions are a wakeup call to us. God is holy and just and insists upon our taking Him and spiritual things seriously. So, we mustn’t rejoice in the praise of men but in the genuine presence and praise of God. May He deliver us from craving the approval of men!

When are you most tempted to seek the approval of men? How can you foster honesty before God and seeking His favor in order to combat the temptation to man-pleasing?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how we thank You that in You we have a hundredfold in this life: hoses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands. Forgive us for when we seek instead the esteem of men and commit the deadly sin of lying to God. Grant instead that we would rejoice even in persecutions and enjoy the favor that Christ has earned for us and the fruit that the Spirit works in us —which we ask in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Abide” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”

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