Thursday, February 4, 2016
April 27, 30 A.D.: To the Jerusalem Firm Advocate: Sunday was a great day for the Jerusalem congregation. We wish to report two responses. As you know, Sunday is a workday for Jews, so we have a continuous assembly beginning at 6:01 pm as the Saturday Sabbath ends and the first day of the week begins. This way, members may come and go as their work schedule allows. We have four-six hour shifts for those who preside. This epistle reports on that time when the apostle Peter’s shift took place (Acts 5:2).
Brother Cephas had just begun to delivering apostolic doctrine to us as folks were walking by him and laying their contribution at his feet (Acts 2:42). One of our wealthier and respected members, a brother Ananias, went forward to give the money he and his wife had received for a piece of property they recently sold (Acts 4:34-37). They reported that Barnabas’ gift the previous Lord’s day had inspired them to do the same thing. Sister Sapphira was not with our brother but had told him she would attend later.
My brother and I, along with several others had recently be appointed as interment servants. Since brethren Joseph and Nicodemus had buried our Lord, and since we have a large number of elderly poor, we thought that would be our work when we were needed (John 20:38-42).
As brother Ananias laid a hefty bag of money at brother Peter’s feet, you could not help but notice the looks of admiration on the face of each member. There were even a few soft “awes” and a lot of whispering! Brother Ananias also noticed and smiled and nodded at those who were assembled. As he started to return to where he had been standing, brother Cephas called his name. As brother Ananias turned to face the beloved apostle, I’m sure he expected Peter to praise him for the gift he and his wife were giving! I know my brother and I did!
What a shock to everyone when Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3). Brother Thomas of North Gaza was so surprised that he coughed real hard and had to catch his false teeth! You could have heard a pin drop after that initial shock. After Peter finished with, “You have not lied to men but to God,” we were in for an even bigger shock (Acts 5:4)! Ananias dropped dead! I thought he had fainted. No, the man was dead!! When Peter looked our way, it dawned upon us what our appointment was all about!
It took us just short of three hours to bury Ananias (Acts 5:7, 10). When we returned, Peter was speaking to his wife, Sapphira. When Peter finished speaking to her about the same lie, she dropped dead. We took her out and buried her. Wow, what an assembly that was!
What effect did it have on those present as well as those who weren’t? “Great fear seized the whole church” (Acts 5:11). No one after that sold something and then lied that he was giving the entire amount to the Lord!
I must admit, I thought this action would hurt the image of the church. I thought I would be reporting, not only that we had lost two members by death, but several hundred who disagreed with the way the Holy Spirit dealt with liars and decided to establish another congregation that did not engage in such questioning. Instead, we had two responses. The actions of Ananias and Sapphira have made it possible for the Jerusalem body of believers to stand together as one group of faithful believers, in spite of persecution, and to see “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
If we had been living in Jerusalem at that time, would we have desire membership in such a congregation?