Acts 5:1-11 – Satan at work

Easter is approaching and so your groups will need to work out if you’ll take a break or keep meeting and how to end your term together and how and when to pick it up again. I plan to meet for the last time this week with my groups and then reconnect in the week beginning 20th of April. That gives us a two week break.


A new movement has begun around Jerusalem where God-fearing Jews are turning to Christ because of the apostle’s teaching on the resurrection in Jesus’ name. Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 both share the excitement and joy that came from knowing God’s grace. This was the first Christian community anywhere in the world. They were all one in heart and mind and shared things graciously. One example of giving was selling property for the benefit of others. Barnabas (born Joseph) was a great example of an encouraging man who took care of people before property.


“Now a man named Ananias…also sold a piece of property.” Barnabas was a great example of the kind of things that the Christian community were doing but now, Luke, wants to tell us about Ananias. In contrast to a good example, we have Ananias. BTW: There are two other men named Ananias in Acts: the disciple of Jesus: 9:10-19; 22:12; the High Priest: 23:2; 24:1.

“With his wife’s full knowledge…” Ananias and Sapphira didn’t just make a miscalculation in MYOB – they conspired together (see v9). The issue in this event is not that they kept part of the money to themselves but that they paraded the lie that they had sold property and given all the money to the apostles. This was premeditated deceit, greed and pride.

“…put it at the apostles’ feet.” 4:36 describes what is happening here. The money wasn’t going into the apostle’s pockets or going toward a better sound system, it was being handed over to the apostles in order to be handed on to those in need amongst the believers.

“How is it that Satan has so filled your heart…” This is a remarkable allegation. A Satanic influence is probably what is in mind here rather than a Hollywood-style possession. It’s not exorcism that they need but a right attitude toward God and the gospel (see Mark 8:33) . They didn’t have hearts and minds influenced by the Grace of God (Acts 4:31-37) but by the lies of the Deceiver.

“…you have lied to the Holy Spirit…you have not lied just to human beings but to God.” A few things to pick up on here. Firstly, that the Holy Spirit is God. He is not an agent of God or a messenger from God but he is God – carrying the authority, uniqueness, and glory of God. Secondly, Peter is not concerned about himself being lied to but that God is being lied to – it’s not Peter’s kingdom that he is leading. Thirdly, the issue arising from this passage is that the church must be motivated by the gospel and not by copying others. Ananias and Sapphira owned the property and nobody demanded that they hand it over! Once the field was sold, they still had possession of the money to do whatever they wanted! The issue is not what they do with the money but what they think of God and His Spirit. Are the events in Acts the work of mankind or the work of the Spirit. A and S had the misunderstanding that this was a visible church only where charity displayed godliness. But it is actually an invisible church where we worship God is Spirit and in truth. The church ever since, has been mixed with true Spirit believers and those who are copying what believers do.

It is startling how direct Peter is with both A and S. This is not necessarily a prescription of how we should speak with one another BUT it is a temperature of how serious the situation is! I might reflect a bit on this in the application section.

“Ananias…fell down and died.” The two commentaries that I have on my bookshelf explain away this event as either a cardiac arrest after receiving the shocking challenge from the apostle or that the whole story is just legend! My bible just tells me that they fell down dead and then three hours later the same result happens to Ananias’ wife. It seems obvious that this is an act of God. I suppose modern day coroners may have done an autopsy and concluded that cause of death was unknown.

“…carried him out and buried him.” It is very unusual that they just buried the man straight away instead of organising a burial. It shows the finality of this event. The account is putting across the seriousness of lies and deceit, false religion and false faith. Reading this account teaches us to fear God – it’s not about fearing or mourning death.

“…is this the price…yes, that is the price.” This information in the story makes it clear that the issue is about lying – not about not giving enough.

“…How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Can you imagine the discussion at the dinner table the night that A and S made this decision together?

“We can be generous like Barnabas! We actually have MORE property than him!”
“Yes, we could definitely sell off that field over by the gully – nothing has grown there for ages!”
“Great! Let’s sell that and give the money to the church! People will see how generous we can be!”
“Well, hang on, that will be a lot of money. Let’s set some aside and use that for fertiliser, we’ll take the rest and put it at Peter’s feet. They’ll still have plenty and we’ll have contributed even more than Barnabas.”
“Good plan!”
“I’ve also got to give some blood to the Red Cross so I’ll catch up with you about three hours after you hand the donation over. I’ll see you at the celebration!”

Of course, I don’t know how they went about conspiring but they probably expected to be welcomed with their gift instead of rebuked and terminated.

What stands out in this passage, I’m sure you see it, is the extreme retribution for such a subtle sin. The contrasts in the passage are huge. Rather than praises, they receive death. Rather than a white lie, they are accused of befriending Satan. Rather than insulting the church, they are directing their insults at God.

“Great fear seized the whole church…” Another contrast is that previously, great praises and amazement had filled the church – now it is fear. To fear God is not out of place even for Christians. He is loving, merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love, but he is also Judge and the giver, sustainer, and taker of life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be the name of the Lord.

Note that this is the first occurrence in the scriptures of the word “church” being applied to Christians. This word means assembly. In the OT the equivalent word referred to the synagogue and the assembly of God’s people meeting there. It’s good to see that the word here doesn’t refer to a building (see Acts 5:12) but to the believers.


The power of God continued to be with the believers as some among them demonstrated their allegiance to Satan and his deceitful lies rather than the gospel of grace. God’s true church will not be mishandled by those still seeking their own kingdom.


  • Pray for our church that those amongst us who are still manipulated by Satan and influenced by his thinking will see the glory of God in the power of the gospel.
  • Thank God that he has revealed to us who he is. That the Spirit is God as the Christ is God and as the Father is God. Not three gods but the one God – three persons – one God.
  • It’s important that we are not scared of Satan but that we do fear God. Satan’s influence comes again and again in the scriptures as being able to deceive us and steer us away from the grace of God. God is the one who is the author of life and the author of new life. While the believers were celebrating and rejoicing in their new life in the Spirit, Ananas and Sapphira were only aware of this life – their goals and priorities showed it.
  • Contemplate what it means to be part of the church. Does your mind take you to property and ceremony, to certain days of the week and tithing…or does it go toward a new living community that is experiencing and practicing grace-filled love and caring? In other words, is church a duty or a community?
  • The Spirit of God put an end to the false charity of A and S. The Spirit was blunt about the response to this fake love. We don’t have the same qualifications as the Spirit of life but we can contemplate how much patience we are to have toward people who give to the church without truly understanding the grace of God. This is an opening statement to a longer conversation but what Acts 4 and 5 has shown is that God is creating saved souls alive for the gospel – not a money gathering organisation.
  • Where is your heart? Has God captured it? Or is Satan still flirting with it? (or vice versa!)
  • As I write this blog, I’m struck today by a few people I’ve met who just don’t understand the gospel. Of course, many people – thousands in our area – don’t understand the gospel and need to be introduced to Jesus. But I’m struck by those who have been a part of the church – our church – for many years – and who have mistaken gospel service of others with just good human spirit. They have embraced a theology of self-improvement and hoping that God loves them instead of embracing Jesus. It makes me sad and a little angry – rightly or wrongly.

Prayer for the week

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for the new life that has come from your mercy and your grace. We pray that our community of believers in Campbelltown will grow in their knowledge and love of you so that we put to death the lies of the devil and embrace true worship of you. Amen.

Acts 4:32-37 – Grace So Powerfully at Work


It’s the time in history after the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord. The promised Holy Spirit has been poured out, creating a rich gospel movement in Jerusalem. Peter and the eleven other disciples are known as the Apostles who have been performing signs and wonders in connection to their message about the LORD of all who the Jews crucified but whom God has raised from the dead.

In chapter 2, a large miracle occured with the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached about Jesus’ Lordship   and the Spirit captured 3,000 souls for life that day. Then the church experienced a time of great fellowship and learning together (2:42-47). In chapter 3, a great miracle occurred with a lame man healed, Peter preached about Jesus’ being the Messiah who will bring refreshing and restoration one day – 2,000 more believers were added to the church but the rulers and authorities (chapter 4) came down on the apostles and ordered them, and threatened them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. What we have in 4:32-37 is a similar end to the whole cycle which resembles 2:42-47. Are there differences? What is unique about this section which contributes to the overall narrative of Acts. Note that in chapter 5, we will see a different kind of threat to the church – not persecution from the outside but lies from within.


Verse 32 shares two attributes of the believers at this time: a) they were one in heart and mind and b) they shared everything that they had. I wonder if either of these statements could be true without the other being true? ie, one outworking of being truly one in heart and mind is that ‘things’ are just ‘things’ and the trust shared means that things are also shared. Put it the other way: to be willing and able to release your hold on the material things that you own and be so free to share it with a community of people, wouldn’t there need to be a unity in the church that could only be described as one in heart and mind? I suppose the alternative is a forced community that demands all things be shared whether you like it or not! The beauty of this community is that it was a oneness in heart and mind that drove the sharing.

Oneness in mind: the ESV (and the original Greek) uses the word for ‘soul’ or ‘life’ instead of ‘mind’. The description is capturing more than simply a shared phylosophy – like atheists or greenies or even protestants! But that the multitude of believers were at rest and peace with one another. This is one of the profound blessings of life with God and what He is determined to fulfill among us – read through Psalm 133; Eph 4:1-6 (and 7-16); 11 Peter 3:8-9 (and 10-12). Has Christ died in order for us to pursue our own gains separate from community? Or did Christ die in order to create gospel community?

“They shared everything they had.” Re-read Acts 2:42-47 and ask yourself if the picture is of nobody actually owning anything or if it is of everybody releasing their grip on what they own. Is there another way of seeing this? Verse 34 explained that “from time to time” people sold what they had and gave it to the disciples. I suspect that we’re reading here a reflective summary of what the community was like rather than a prescription of how to do community. This must of course challenge us. Our Western culture has thrived on individual success and material accumulation. Is there a way that our Christian community – starting with our Growth Groups – can repent and live differently? Here’s a couple of suggestions:

  1. Talk together generally about giving – be sure not to be competing with one another but it could be helpful to share the principal of how you give and share your wealth with others.
  2. Make sure your group has an understanding of what the church actually does with the offertory and income it receives.
  3. Perhaps discuss opportunites in your group to raise funds OR equipment/resources for a charity. The charity may even be someone in the church that you can seek to care for.
  4. Ask one another what channels do we use when we need help ourselves? We live in a country with a relatively caring and generous government – healthcare, centrelink and other systems are in place in our country to assist people. What role does the church play here amongst believers?

Verse 33

The principal of the church had not been moved: to bear witness to the risen Lord. Their testimony was given among the believers and to all who would come and listen.

“With great power” – this could refer to signs and wonders that have been accompanying the Apostles’ message but the context suggests that it is the boldness and courage that the believers prayed for in 4:29.

“God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” This statment is followed by the description of sharing and caring with those in need amongst the church. ‘Grace’ emphasises the giving with no assumption of repayment at all. By Grace we have been saved – God has paid the price for our sins and we have contributed…nothing! We repay God…never. Christ died so that we could live – He was regarded unrighteous for our sake so that we could be called righteous in his name! God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The multitude of believers who received such abundant love from the Father were so stoked to give to others in the same manner.

Verse 34

“That there were no needy persons among them.” The world is full of poverty and it has been pointed out somewhere that if every wealthy person would give a percentage of their wealth and shared it globally, then there would no longer be any world poverty – poverty would be beaten. I’ve heard somewhere that even if just the Christian churches showed generosity, then the world would be a much better place! I think this is a great challenge to the Christian church BUT I notice too that the description in Acts is not for the removal of world poverty but that all the believers were looked after.

34-35 are summaries of what has been described already and they also work to setup the next story in chapter 5 when we read of when this is all done for show and not from the heart. Verses 34-35, however, are driven from that oneness in heart and soul that only Christ can win over.

Verses 36-37

One example of this happening was from a man named Joseph. He sold a field and brought all the money from the sale to the apostles’ feet. The grace of God was so powerfully at work in him that he released his ownership on a field and shared it with his fellow believers.

This man was known as Barnabas – not Barabas who was the murderer released instead of Jesus – but Barnabas who was well known in the community of believers for his encouragement. This word ‘encouragement’ means to build up. Ephesians 4 is full of what it looks like to build others up. Barnabas was a man who looked for ways to encourage, strengthen and help others in life and in the faith.

This Barnabas went on to be a close missionary companion of Paul’s (Acts 9:27; 11:22-30; 13:1-3; 14:1-3; 15:1-2)


Receivers and believers in the grace of God have their lives tranformed by a gospel heart and soul. The grace of God brings salvation to the believer and a united community of saved believers.


  • Where is your heart when it comes to money and material things?
  • The teaching of God’s grace ought to lead to transformed lives of graciousness. This is gospel explosion. It doesn’t follow that generous giving makes you a Christian. Note the source of the generosity is the understanding of the gospel of grace.
  • What needs are you aware of in and around the church community? Can you or your Growth Group jump into action to share and encourage?
  • The parish are caretakers of property that we do not own – the diocese actually owns it. We have the responsibility to upkeep this property for the purpose of proclaiming Christ as the risen Lord. How can we take the principals of Acts 4:32-37 to work together to keep the gospel work progressing in the Campbelltown area?

Prayer for the week

God of grace and love, create in us hearts and souls that are driven by the power of the gospel. Deliver us from greed, selfishness and fear of the future. Give us a shared love for one another that stems from your love for us. Help us, dear God, to protect, encourage and love one another from the heart. Amen.

Acts 4:1-31 – No other name


The church is growing in number and in excitement. People are flocking because of the convincing message of Jesus as Lord, because of the resurrection, and because of the signs and wonders shown through the apostles. Peter has preached publically on two occasions now, attracting great interest in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He and John performed a miracle in Jesus’ name by instructing a lame man to walk. He showed his trust in the name of Jesus by jumping to his feet and walking. Peter told the crowd that Jesus is the prophet like Moses who everyone needs to listen to.


Verses 1-4

Peter and John had been preaching near the temple where the lame man was healed. The Priest, the Sadducees and the temple guards appear to have all come out of the temple area to hear the comotion and deal with what was troubling them. Ie, the events of Chapter 3 were all outside where they were.

What exactly disturbed them? Was it the teaching about the resurrection? Was it about Jesus being the source of the resurrection? Was it that the apostles were simply teaching anything? The rest of the story seems to show that it’s the name of Jesus that they are unhappy with.

It was evening. The healing of the lame man happened at about three in the afternoon. They’d been teaching around the temple for a number of hours. The events of that afternoon were not quiet and small and blown out of proportion over time – it was big and eventful and went on for a while. The lame man was still with them right to the end. Note 3:11, 4:14.

Another 2,000 people were added to the church that day.

Peter and John were placed in prison. It seems to be a Jewish prison instead of something organised by the Roman soldiers who are not present. When you collect all the details from this paragraph, it seems that Peter and John were still preaching and those in the temple who were not interested in becoming followers came out with security to see what was happening. They then heard what was being preached, didn’t like it and put the preachers in lock-up until they could work out what to do with them.

Verses 5-7

All the “kings horses and all the kings men” came to sort out what was happening! Anyone who was important in the Jewish hierarchy were gathered to discuss what to do.

Their issue: what name did you do this? They don’t debate what has been done, but they want to know where they got their power from. Not a completley stupid question. If they answered something like: the Dark Lord! then we’d happily see them be thrown back in prison or told to stop!

Verses 8-12

Their answer is: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! The miracle was all Jesus. He is the foundation stone that has been rejected. He is the only name we need to bother with because salvation comes from him and him alone. Did I mention Jesus?!!

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. We might ask, wasn’t he already filled with the Spirit? Yes he was. This is an example of the Spirit enabling a servant for a specific task. The Spirit lead Peter’s speech to say exactly what he should say. Remember Luke 12:11-12!

What exactly is the church being singled out for? An act of kindness on a lame man? No! The problem the rulers have is with Jesus and the teaching about him.

Compare 4:10 with 3:15; 2:22-24 – Peter’s sermons have a very familiar focus and it is to do with Jesus Christ and the resurrection. It is very significant that the emphasis in all of this is the resurrection and not the cross itself. This is not that Peter thought nothing of the cross – no – he knows that the cross is significant (2:38, 3:19, 4:12). Peter knows and preaches that salvation from sin is what it’s all about – but the emphasis is on the resurrection because this is the proof that Jesus is Lord! Although the rulers rejected him, God raised him from the dead.

“No other name” – it may be obvious to us but there is no other religion or faith that people can rely on except the faith in Jesus. He is it!

The trouble is that Jesus can be rejected and this is what the Psalm 118:22 quote refers to and it is what is happening from the rulers. The name of Jesus is being dismissed and rejected.

Verses 13-17

This is an amazing paragraph. Look at what the rulers find astonishing and compare that with what they think is just notable! They were astonished that these “ordinary men” had such courage! But when they talk about the miracle of the lame man they simple “could see the man who had been healed…there was nothig they could say.” What about “Wow! How did you do that! That’s amazing!” And then they described the miracle as a “notable sign.”

They cannot deny that this miracle has happened but they are determined to stop it from spreading. If I was a lover of religious ceremony and that was the sole motivator of my participation with God then I might also think that we don’t want any more of this miracle business and certainly not entertain further conversation about resurrection in Jesus name. We’d definatley have to put an end to any further talk of restoration and blessings through the seed of Abraham so that our way of life was not interupted!

Verses 18-22
The Rulers: Stop it!
The Apostles: No!
The Rulers: We’re warning you!
The Apostles: OK, we’ll let our people know but they’re not going to listen to you when God has clearly spoken!
Verses 23-26

When Peter and John are released and tell the church what has happened this brings the church to pray. By “church” I mean the people who had joined with the apostles to follow Jesus. The count at the moment is 5000! So what we are getting from Luke is likely to be a snapshot of what people were saying. How Peter and John communicated with so many people is not clear – they may have gathered together at the temple courts, or in an open space, or communicating to groups through their networks. The specifics are not important, the key is how the followers responded to the threats – they prayed.

Their prayer acknowledges God as the creator of all and then continues to declare how foolish it is for people to try and rise against him.

The theme of the prayer is taken from scripture. I love how their prayers model for us how scripture guides and informs our requests to God.

Also, the theme of the prayer is about who’s the boss. God is referred to as Sovereign Lord – a double reference to God’s rule over everything. He is the boss and sovereign king. The prayer then engages with the challenge God has with the rulers of this world. And completes with the disciples asking God to show his power and might.

Verses 26-28

The quote from Psalm 2 is used to describe exactly what is happening now – the leaders banding together against the anointed one (Jesus) and it is used to reflect on how the rulers treated Jesus. What is happening to the disciples is reflective of how Jesus was treated (John 15:18-21).

Herod and Pilate and the people of Israel are a band of unlikely coworkers. But because of the name of Jesus, they worked together to conspire against Jesus.

The anointed one. This is the equivalent to “the Messiah” or “the CHRIST”. All have the same notion: God’s chosen king. All the rulers will band together to take down the one true king.

Verses 29-31

I love this bit! The prayer has moved from adoration (v24) to understanding (v25-28) and now to supplication – they come to request action from God.

What they ask for is twofold: 1) that God enable his people to speak with boldness and 2) that God continue to heal and show signs and wonders. They are calling on God to s how his strength and power against these puny kings and rulers! Bring it on God! Just notice that they pray for God to work more healings.

The prayer is immediately answered – but not quite what was asked for. Part A was granted in that they were aided by the Spirit to speak boldly the word of God. Part B however was answere by a sign that God is powerful – but more healings are not granted.

I love it because it points to God’s priority in having his word spoken and not for the church to grow through miraculous healings. He doesn’t remain silent in the powerful signs category though. The place where they were meeting was shaken. This was a sign directed at the prayers. It’s like God replied, yes, I am powerful and I want you to keep preaching the word. Keep speaking in the name of Jesus.

Verses 1-31

The name of Jesus is important to this whole section. It’s what got the disciples into trouble. It’s what they were threatened to stop preaching. It’s what God empowered them to continue to speak with boldness. It’s the name that the nations band together to reject and hate. It’s the name that is the only name by which all men can be saved.


The believers receive the same rejection that Jesus experienced. Teaching in the name of Jesus will result in those who believe (v4) and those who reject and refuse his kingship. People will see Jesus the King and people will see Jesus the problem.

  • There’s no sure fire way of growing God’s Kingdom. The same technique will produce believers and unbelievers.
  • At the root of sin is the rejection of the true King.
  • A great response to persecutin is to pray.
  • We pray for God’s help because it is his kingdom, his gospel and we depend on Him for growth and boldness.
  • Religion in general is inoffensive. It may seem foolish (as the leaders of the temple showed with their response to the miracle) but it is often not offensive.
  • It’s Jesus name that calls believers or calls persecution.
  • Nothing has changed in this world. Persecution still exists. See for information about the persecuted church around the world.
  • Clearly we can pray for boldness to talk about Jesus into our world.
Prayer for the week
Sovereign Lord, you have created us and shown us your anointed King, Jesus. Help us to tell the world that Jesus is Lord. Help us to tell the world that salvation comes from Jesus and only him. Give us boldness and strength, commitment and perseverance to praise your name in all the world. Amen.