Life in the Fellowship

MEMORY SELECTION: “With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” —Acts 4:33

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:32-35; 5:1-11

WE FIND two contrasting pictures in this week’s lesson. The first shows the communal spirit of love which existed in the Early Church and also the generous nature of Barnabas. (vss. 36,37) The second presents the account of Ananias and Sapphira, illustrating a deceitful spirit.

The spirit of love prevailed in the Early Church to the extent that those who were poor or crippled were cared for by those who were blessed with more abundant provisions. All were accepted on the common grounds of brotherhood, with peace toward one another.

Barnabas, whose name means “the son of consolation,” was a devout man, who possessed a high degree of love and sympathy for the Lord and for his people. Although he had land he was ready to sell it and give the money to the apostles to be used toward the expenses of the brethren and toward the proclamation of the truth. This showed his generosity of heart and the proper spirit of fellowship and love for the brethren.

Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, displayed the opposite nature. They too were associated with the brethren in the Early Church. Although neither they nor the rest of the brethren were under any obligation to sell their possessions and take the proceeds to the apostles, Ananias and Sapphira did, nevertheless, wish to convey the impression that they had done so. That was the spirit which was wrong. The Apostle Peter attempted to warn them along these lines of deceitfulness. Peter possessed the power of the Holy Spirit of God and was able to discern the deception. He was also able, because of close acquaintance with the situation and because he was acting under divine guidance, to reprove Ananias and Sapphira. “Peter said, ‘Ananias, how was it that Satan so possessed your mind that you lied to the Holy Spirit, and kept back part of the price of the land? While it remained, did it not remain yours? When it was turned into money, was it not still at your own disposal? What made you think of doing this thing? You have lied not to men but to God.’”—Acts 5:3,4 (NEB)

The seriousness of such a deceitful act is illustrated in the fact that Ananias, upon hearing Peter’s words of reproval, dropped dead at the apostle’s feet. Those who were nearby and witnessed the event were struck with terror and quickly carried Ananias away and buried him.

A similar fate awaited Sapphira, who had conspired with Ananias in connection with the holding back of some of the money. She had been away and did not realize that her husband had dropped dead at Peter’s reproval. “About three hours passed, and then his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. Peter turned to her and said, ‘Tell me, were you paid such and such a price for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that was the price.’ Then Peter said, ‘Why did you both conspire to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Hark! there at the door are the footsteps of those who buried your husband; and they will carry you away.’ And suddenly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead; and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”—vss. 7-10 (NEB)

Seldom has such a remarkable display of divine disapproval been seen. There was an important lesson to be learned by the Lord’s people—those in the Early Church who actually witnessed the event, and those who have lived since that time down through the Gospel Age. Whether Ananias and Sapphira were consecrated or not the Scriptures do not tell us. However, those who have given their hearts to God in consecration must search their hearts diligently, for they are responsible. Deceitfulness and lying are an abomination in the sight of God. These are appetites of the fallen nature and are of Satan.

The apostles acted as special servants in the Early Church. So long as they lived they watched over the Lord’s people in a very special way.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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