The fact remains that Satan is still attacking the believers, and as he does, he uses a dual plan: deception from within (Acts 5:1-16) and persecution from without (Acts 5:17-34). Satan is a liar and a murderer, and we see him operating in both spheres in this chapter. The main purpose for this material is to do an expository study on Acts 5:1-16 with an emphasis on reflecting on the opposition within. Here, we see Satan operating as the serpent, using believers within the assembly to hinder the work of the Lord.
The sin of deception (verses 1 – 2)
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to gain the reputation for being more spiritual than they actually were. When the others brought their donations (4:34 – 37), these two were jealous and wanted the same recognition. Please keep in mind that their sin was not stealing money from God, because Peter stated in verse 4 that it was in their own power to use the money as they wished. Their sin was hypocrisy, trying to appear more spiritual than they really were. They had wanted others to believe they had sacrificed everything when they had only given a portion.
The Spirit of discernment at work (verses 3 – 4)
Peter was a man with Spirit – given discernment. Sin is always discovered in one way or another. This couple had not mentioned anything openly, but the terrible sin was in their hearts. They had lied to the Spirit of God who was graciously working in the hearts of the believers, leading them to sell their belongings and share with others.
The consequence of deaths (verses 5 – 11)
This was not a case of “church discipline” since God dealt with the sinners directly. The two deaths illustrate the kind of judgment the Messiah will exercise during the kingdom (Jeremiah 23:5 and Revelation 19:15). Unlike local church discipline, where the pastor and the church investigate a matter, give an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness, and seek to restore the erring ones, this was a definite case of divine judgment. It is interesting to compare this chapter to Joshua 7, where the covetous Achan tried to hide sin from God and was killed. Great fear fell on the church (verse 11) as people saw the hand of God at work.
The testimony (Acts 5:12-16)
The assembly was now unified and magnified, and it therefore multiplied. This will always happen when an assembly is purged of sin. Satan works inside the church and tries to divide it, disgrace it and destroy it. But if we let the Spirit work, we will detect the devil’s operation and avoid church problems. A local church must have standards and must let the Spirit lead. Note that Peter is the key man at this period of church history. Even his shadow was thought to bring healing.
Satan still opposes the work of the church from within. Paul warned the elders that wolves would come in from the outside to attack the flock. Also, men would arise “from among you” to harm the church (Acts 20:29 – 30). The greatest danger the church faces today is not so much opposition from without, but sin from within. Thus, it is important to seek God’s guidance in receiving new members and in disciplining those who stray.
- In which practical ways does Satan oppose the Church from within?
- To what extent can the sin of hypocrisy in the form of seeking attention hinder the growth of the local Church?
- How does the phenomenon of divine judgment in Acts 5:1-16 compare with that of church discipline practiced in some local Churches?
- Is it possible to lie to the Holy Spirit in the local Church and in which ways can that be possible?