Monday, November 6, 2017

What if Acts 5:1-11 was a common occurrence in today’s church?  Allow me to refresh your memory.  A man and his wife wanted to be bragged on as much or more than Barnabas (Cf. 4:34-37).  Brother “encouragement’s” giving was for the right reason, theirs wasn’t.  Their thinking got them noticed, but not how they wanted!  The husband attended the early service.  Peter was in charge and asked him why he was lying about his contribution.   It wasn’t the sermon Ananias expected.  He had a drop-dead response.  You could hear jaws dropping.  It was now a wide eyed, attentive audience.  Too emotional for some!  The church’s burial committee took over that part of the worship by taking the body away for the unscheduled funeral. At first there had been an awkward shock of silence.  This was followed by a congregational gasp, trailed by more silence.  Then a buzz of assembly whispering ignited, rising to a more excitable level.  Peter called for silence, then discussed why God’s Spirit had taken this course.

Three hours later, sister Sapphira made her grand entrance to the second assembly, expecting accolades.  Since Peter had double duty that Sunday, he immediately questioned her about their contribution.  All eyes were locked on her.  She suspected nothing.  She had everyone’s attention, but not because of her “generous” gift.  Peter’s face wasn’t showing appreciation nor were his words filled with praise.  He was asking, not congratulating.  Her replies were no better than her husbands.  She joined his journey!  A reporter from The Jerusalem Daily had been invited by a friend to attend.  Shock almost stole the story unfolding before him.  He was expecting two songs and a prayer type service.  He recovered from this surprise and rushed out to publish about this Christian worship service.  The burial committee returned.  Although tired from the last church job, they threw themselves back into the Lord’s work and carried her body away.  They didn’t wait for the closing prayer.  The rest of the membership yearned for that prayer, so they could tell others about the great worship service they had been in!  Two deaths in one day at two different assemblies.  A record had been set!  This event put fear in both church members and those who weren’t.  Some wondered if this was a plague whose boundaries would not end with a closing prayer?

If the happenings of Acts 5 took place today in our political correctness atmosphere, would some in the congregation demand an audience with Peter to inform him to “cut it out.”  Would the church develop a new slogan, “Dead members do not a living church make”!  Would their cry be, “People will be afraid to attend our assemblies!”  A prepared leadership might respond that no one had anything to fear unless they were lying about their contribution!  Being sensible, concerned saints would recognize that answer as reasonable.  But, the next Sunday, they probably would keep the burial committee on standby, just in case.

Some might have wondered, “If a lie about my contribution gets me killed, what about a lie concerning my failure to attend?”  “What about a lie concerning the amount I am giving which I could increase if I didn’t want what I don’t really need?”  “What about all those ‘reasons’ I’ve been using about my influence, which I know are just lies?”  Yet, despite the shock and fear being expressed, people were being added to the Lord.  They were also being healed (5:12-16).  Growth not exiting was the results!

If Acts 5 was played out in modern assemblies, not everyone would be required to attend the earliest one.  If Sapphira’s attendance is a hint, the first one lasted almost three hours.  Was that also true of the second, third and fourth assemblies?  After all, the church had eight thousand plus members.  They would not have the architectural plans in hand, much less be started on construction.  Wherever they were meeting, there was no clock on the back wall to remind Peter to cut it short!  That also means that the synagogue Jews beat the Christians to Hezekiah’s Cracker Barrel!

We also notice the absence of several things in these two assemblies that we often see in ours.  I’m not sure when those things began nor why.  They were later additions.  I’m not sure why no further deaths are reported.  Maybe people stopped lying about their contribution?  Years later, two older members were heard to remark, “We just don’t have gospel preaching like we did when Peter was in the pulpit.”