My Thoughts. . .

Monday, February 18, 2019

There was a man named Ananias.  His wife’s name was Sapphira.  Ananias sold some land which he had, and from the sale, he gave some of the money to the apostles(Acts 5:1-2).

Acts 1 is pre-church preparation.  Acts 2 is God’s Open House to receive members into the church.  Acts 3 is the church’s miracle that upset City Hall.  Chapter 4 is City Hall’s failure to silence the church.  Chapter 5 is the church service no one wants!

According to some the two acts of worship out of five that must be performed on Sunday only are 1) partaking of the Lord’s supper and 2) giving.  1 Corinthians 16:1-3 is quoted as proof of the Sunday offering being authorized and Acts 20:7 is cited as the validation for a Sunday only communion.  Mentally the word “only” is added in both passages.  Acts 5 is an example of a contribution being given in a church assembly on the first day of the week.  However, some deny this is a collection being taken up in a first day assembly.  The following are reasons for that conclusion.

1). The expression “first day of the week” is not mentioned in the passage.

That is true.  Neither is that expression found in the following statement, “The group [multitude] of believers were joined in their hearts and they were united in spirit. . .Everyone who owned fields or houses sold them.  Then they brought the money and gave it to the apostles” (Acts 4:32, 34).  The “group” or “multitude” in verse 32 is in the context of verse 31 that speaks of them being “assembled together.”  Vine also points out that “multitude” may be translated as “assembly.”  This view would have us to believe that this group or multitude was not the assembly meeting to pray and give upon the first day of the week.  Wouldn’t that be admitting more than one wishes to divulge?

If Acts 5 is not a “first day of the week” assembly, then you have “giving” as an act of worship which is not restricted to Sunday “only.”  This would mean that 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 would not have a mental “only” added to it.  If “first day of the week” in the Corinthian passage does not mean “Sunday only,” then “first day of the week” in Acts 20:7 would also be understood in that same way.  To deny that Acts 5 is the church in a “first day of the week” assembly, is to admit that neither the offering or the communion is restricted to Sunday only.  Without that added restrictive interpretation, Acts 2:42 and 46 allows the expressions “breaking of bread” and “breaking bread” to be the communion which was continued daily.  It would do the same thing in Acts 20:7 and 11 with “break bread” and “broken bread” to mean the Lord’s supper.  Some want the first “breaking” in each of these passages to be communion and the second one in each to be “a common meal.”  The expression “a common meal” is a man made addition to the text as is the word “only.”

Peter informed Ananias that the total amount was his to keep if that is what he had wanted (v.4).  He was not required to give anything from the sale of his land.  He and his wife knew he had kept back part of the money and was not giving the full amount to the Lord (v.2) as Barnabas had done (Acts 4:35-37).   Their actions were not against man (the church), but against God (v.4).  Ananias lived long enough to hear Peter’s last words on the subject (v.5).  Thankfully a burial committee was available to handle such members.

Keep in mind that all this happened on Sunday during the assembly!  In fact, during the process of the membership laying their gifts at the apostle’s feet.  What if you were in that specific assembly and observed this “drop dead” event?  You had not yet laid your offering at the feet of the apostle.  Would you have second thoughts?  We go through all kinds of suggestive loops when dealing with this subject.

1) “We’re not under the Old Testament, so do I have to give a 10th or tithe?”

2) “I’m to give as I’ve been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2), so how much is that?”

3) “I should give at least a tithe or 10th.  Is that from my gross salary before taxes are taken out, or is it based upon what I actually take home?”

4) “Do I give a tithe or 10th and an offering in addition to that amount?”

Each has to answer those questions for himself.  None of those were this couple’s problem.  In chapter 4 we read, “Joseph owned a field.  He sold it and brought the money and gave it to the apostles” (Acts 4:37).  Ananias and Sapphira wanted to mimic Joseph but lied about the amount.

This passage is excellent in illustrating the modern habit of reading our practices into the scriptures as though they copied our way of doing things.  Luke writes, “About three hours later, the wife of Ananias came in (v.7).   Due to our modern interpretation, this cannot be an assembly of the church on Sunday since there is a spread of three hours or a “come and go” atmosphere.

2). The church came together in ONE undivided assembly.  Since Sapphira entered 3 hours later, this is not the 1 Corinthians 11:18-20 Lord’s supper assembly. 

Since Corinth was divided into four different churches (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) and this was destroying their unity, which also affecting communion, Paul warns them that their divisive ways are destroying that function.  The Jerusalem congregation began with about three thousand.  It quickly grew another five thousand without counting women and young children.  That’s an estimated twelve to fifteen thousand people.  A mega-church without a meg-building!  Some believe they had an 11 to 12 o’clock Lord’s supper service in the women’s Temple’s courtyard (Women were restricted to that area).  It’s hard to visualize a Lord’s supper partaking on a Jewish workday in that or any other Temple courtyard.  Also, arrests were being made when the apostles preached.  Persecution was beginning.  A large membership of twelve to fifteen thousand and growing would find multiple private house meetings more conducive than a busy public courtyard where the population came to sacrifice, dealing with money changers and either bringing their live animals, or buying sacrificial ones there (Acts 2:46).  Try working out the logistics of that each week by holding a Lord’s supper assembly of twelve to fifteen thousand on Walmart’s parking lot and see how well it progresses?

Sapphira entering three hours later shows the flexibility of the church’s meeting schedule.  Acts 20:7-11 shows it also in their meeting prior to midnight and continuing until the next day.  This suggests Jewish time being observed rather than Roman.  The Jews did not appreciate the Roman occupation of their homeland, Roman taxes and tax collectors, Roman paganism, nor their barbaric culture.  Night time meetings may have been required so slaves could slip away and attend.  Persecution may have been another reason.  The church accommodated the societies they were in.

3). Acts 5 does not mention the Lord’s supper so it could not be a Sunday assembly.

That may be true, but neither does the Acts 20:7 passage mention 1) singing, 2) praying, or 3) giving.  Since they weren’t mentioned, why wouldn’t the above argument also apply to Acts 20:7?  In fact, we could throw in Acts 2:42 since it doesn’t mention singing or giving per-se.  Singing isn’t mentioned in scripture for another twenty years after Pentecost.  Even then it is not the four-part harmony we practice which didn’t begin for another thirteen to fourteen hundred years.  Our practice as such originated from a Catholic/Protestant addition rather than a biblical pattern.

When Eutychus fell out of the window, the assembly did not have a dismissal prayer to end worship before going down to check on him.  When they returned upstairs, an opening prayer to begin that worship is not mentioned.  Would that not indicate that everyone going down to the courtyard and checking the boy’s status, was still engaged in their first day of the week “worship service?”  They did not dismiss it with a “closing prayer.”  We are very precise with “closing” and “opening” prayers.  I attended a Sunday worship assembly where an announcement was made that the worship would be ended with a closing prayer.  Then the assembly would enter into a memorial service for a departed member and we were informed that the second assembly would not be “a worship service.”  That “closing prayer” made the scriptural difference!  It was the same audience.  We sang hymns from the same song book.  Prayers were offered to the same God and ended in Jesus’ name by some of the same men.  Scripture was quoted from the same Bible.  The same preacher spoke.  He used the same Bible as his text to preach a sermon.  But the first assembly had been closed with a prayer and the second one labeled as “not worship.”  The impression was that after that “closing prayer” we weren’t worshiping God anymore.  If not, wasn’t what followed, vain?  Was God left out?  The Bible doesn’t follow our way of thinking or actions.  Having prayers that are specified as “opening” or “closing” a “worship service” is a later addition by men.  Nor do we have labels saying this is or this is not worship.  Who started that and made it “scriptural” is unknown to me?  I just know these descriptions and definitions we use are lacking in God’s word.   As far as I could determine, the expression “first day of the week” is found in Acts 5 just as many times as it is found in 1 Corinthians 11.

4). Since Peter questioned Sapphira in that assembly and she replied, it could not be the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 assembly since women are restricted to “silence.”

If the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 assembly forbade Sapphira from answering Peter’s question, because she would violate the “silence” of that assembly, why do we allow women to violate that silence with singing and confession?  If today’s preachers may ask a woman a question and expect a response in the Sunday assembly, why could Peter not ask Sapphira a question and expect an answer in that same assembly?  We contradict ourselves when we allow her to respond to questioning in our Sunday assemblies, but refuse to allow an apostle to ask and expect a response in his.

After Peter asked and she replied, he informed her, “Listen!  Do you hear those footsteps?  The men who buried your husband are at the door!  They will carry you out in the same way.  At that moment, Sapphira fell down at Peter’s feet and died(vs.9-10).  “The entire congregation and all of the other people who heard about these things were filled with fear” (Acts 5:11).

If during the collection, this same action of questioning and results took place today, would you want to be a member of that kind of congregation?  Would you mind serving on the burial committee?