The Agreed Resolve The Sermon Continued Acts 5:1-11 Ananias & Sapphira “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4) 8| Consequence of Hearing | Acts 5:5 “Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things” (Acts 5:5). There is controversy clustered around the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and the lack of details has fostered theological disputes. Due to the story’s gaps, a person can inject his theological bias into the Scriptures. This lack of information suggests the story might not be historically correct, raising questions about its authenticity. However, the purpose of Luke’s writing answers all of these supposed problems. Luke writes to declare and demonstrate the Spirit-filled life. It is a declaration of the New Covenant where God and man merge into a new creature. We know that Luke wrote his Gospel account and the Book of Acts at the same time as one book. He did not propose two themes. In the Gospel of Luke, he presented the New Covenant as seen in one Man, the prototype. Jesus is the first Kingdom person; a man merged with the nature of God. The Trinity God displayed His heart in Jesus; He is the visible image of the invisible God. The Book of Acts is not an alternate theme. Perhaps we can accept Jesus as living a Spirit-filled life, but are we on His level? We shake our heads at the disciples’ display of self-centeredness. The contrast between the disciples and Jesus is so vast it seems it could never be bridged. Luke’s first chapter in the Book of Acts prepares us for the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in chapter two. The Holy Spirit fills a group of mean, nasty people, just like us with the Spirit of Jesus. As the Trinity God merged the Man Jesus with His nature, so He merged the disciples with the same nature. The power, purpose, and program of redemption flowed from their lives because they were kingdom people. God birthed the early Church from the completeness of this merger and displayed the reality of the new kingdom creature in hundreds of transformed lives. But then we come to Ananias and Sapphira, who knew the fulness of Jesus but ended up dead. Luke did not write a historical account with the cultural involvement of his day. In our passage, Ananias heard the words of confrontation from Peter. “Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last” (Acts 5:5). Some scholars have pointed out that Peter did not give Ananias a chance to repent; God simply struck him dead. But this theological suggestion is an interpretation and not a statement of the passage. Everything we know about the character of God through Jesus (Gospels) demands the opportunity for response. The fact that Luke did not state that opportunity does not mean it should not be assumed. The passage does say that God struck Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, dead. Death did take place, but Luke does not tell us the cause. Another actively debated issue in our passage is the burial of Ananias and Sapphira. It seems strange that they buried Ananias without the presence of his wife, Sapphira. However, in the Greek language, none of the verbs (“arose,” “wrapped him up,” “carried him out,” “buried him”) are in the present tense. They are all in the Greek aorist tense, often translated in the past tense. However, here it is a focus on the action of the verb instead of the time it occurred. Luke used the same Greek tense for the death and burial of Sapphira. He never used this tense to tell us when an event or action occurred, but only that it happened. Luke is not relaying information about the burial process, but he reveals serious violations against the merger between God and man. It would be wise for all of us to focus on the story’s purpose instead of the historical details. The story’s purpose is the focus of our passage. “Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last” (Acts 5:5). “Then” is a translation of the Greek word “de,” a continuative conjunction with contrast as the primary function. However, “de” can mean to add to something already in place. In our passage, we must interpret the meaning. As a contrast, Peter confronted Ananias with truth, but Ananias had no response of repentance. Instead, the death of rebellion against the blaring light of God brought physical death. As a continuation of ideas, there is a weaker but the same thought. When truth is presented but does not get a proper response, it always produces death. The main verb of the statement’s translation is “breathed his last” (ekpsycho). It is in the aorist tense, which highlights the occurrence of the action and ignores the time element. “Ekpsycho” is a combination of “ek,” which is “from” or “out” and “psycho,” which most often refers to “soul.” There are seven different words used for “dying.” They are used over 400 times in the New Testament. However, “ekpsycho” is used only by Luke and only three times. As a doctor, Luke gave details. The emphasis is not just on Ananias’ death but on the “soul” of his being. What Ananias heard affects the core of his system. “Ananias” is the subject of the sentence. The two remaining verbs in the sentence are participles, “hearing” and “fell down.” Luke used both verbs as adverbs to modify “breathed his last.” The Greek word translated “fell down” is “pipto,” which often has the connotation of worship. As used in our passage, “pipto” has the action of falling down, indicating Ananias recognized the truth of Peter’s confrontation. Ananias did not repent but admitted to the state in which he and his wife had fallen. The parallel to this is Judas. As the leaders of Israel led Jesus in His beaten condition, Judas became aware of the terribleness of his betrayal. He went to the leaders with his confession, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). When the leaders of Israel gave no resolve, in a sense, Judas responded just like Ananias. He fell down by throwing down the thirty pieces of silver and went and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). The Revealing The Verb Now we come to the pivotal issue of our passage. The problem is the verb Luke used as a participle, “hearing,” modifying “breathed his last.” “Hearing” is the translation for the Greek word “akouo.” In the English and the Greek language, “hearing” is a physical action of sound waves penetrating a person’s ears, communicating information to the person’s mind. “Akouo” is a general use of the word, which we find in the Scriptures. “So when he heard (akouo) about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant” (Luke 7:3). The centurion physically heard the news about Jesus. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, He explained, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear (akouo) the sound of it” (John 3:8). According to the Greek lexicons, while “akuou” involves physical action of the ears, it generally means “to come to know.” Engaged in the hearing is the communication of information or revelation. Ananias is in the state of receiving revelation. Luke distinctly stated this revelation using “akuou” as a participle in the nominative form. The verb “hearing” modifies and gives content to “breathed his last.” The subject of the sentence is Ananias, who is the hearing one! People could say many things about Ananias, but not at this moment. At this moment, the focus is on the wonder that God is communicating truth to Ananias. The communication of truth is throughout the New Testament. Paul declared that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord would find salvation. Then he asked a question. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard (akouo)? And how shall they hear (akouo) without a preacher?” (Acts 10:14). He concludes his thought by saying, “So then faith comes by hearing (akouo) and hearing (akuou) by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The emphasis is not on sound waves coming into a person’s ears but on the communication and understanding of truth; it is the revelation of truth! The Gospel accounts give no record and seemingly no concern about the physical appearance of Jesus. The first Christians showed no interest in such matters. How tall was Jesus? Was He slender or muscular? The Gospels focus on what Jesus said and did. What He did was spoken repeatedly; thus, it became hearing. Even when seeing is referenced, it is the seeing of His acts revealing the nature of His mission. The parables Jesus told that portray action are parables of hearing (akuou). The writers of the Gospels filled their accounts with what people saw; however, what they saw usually acquired significance in what they heard. In the Christmas narratives (Matthew 1, 2), the Angel of the Lord confronted Joseph in the night hour. The significance of this story is in Joseph’s obedience to what he heard. In the baptism account of Jesus, the critical happening is the voice of the Father speaking (Matthew 3:17). The Mount of Transfiguration climaxes in the sound of the Father speaking revelation about His Son (Matthew 17:5). “Hearing” (akuou) becomes the content and context of our passage. Ananias is the person hearing. Luke does not give us an exact word for word quote of what Peter said to Ananias. What we have is a summary statement of questions that display the heart of Peter’s communication. Think about the accumulated hearing Ananias and Sapphira received throughout their time in the early Church. Luke writes that the early Church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). He even said they continued “daily with one accord” (Acts 2:46). “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Ananias and Sapphira had received much truth! In our passage, the Greek word “akouo” is in the present tense. The main verb translated “breathed his last,” as well as the participle verb “fell down,” are in the aorist tense. The present tense depicts something that is happening in the present and has continual action; it is the action in the process. Ananias is in the state of hearing, and all the truth he has heard is thundering back into his life. There is a powerful revelation happening. I do not need to describe this to you. We have all had this happen to us. The amazing grace of God captures us, revealing spiritual truth. We are unable to deny or refute it. We are in a state of revelation, which brings us to our next reality. Revelation The Direct Object The participle verb “akuou” has an accusative. An accusative in the Greek language is like a direct object in English. This direct object receives the action of the verb. The “hearing” directly acts upon “these words.” Ananias is in the state of hearing. Peter is confronting, and God is revealing the truth to Ananias contained in “these words.” The questions and statements of Peter are in verses three and four, but the truth is in the complete story. “These words” are a summary without extended detail or explanation. The focus of “akuou” is in its revealing thrust. In the Old Testament, the rabbi connected hearing (akuou) with the Scriptures. The duty of man was to hear God, and the method by which man heard was the Scriptures. “And Moses called all Israel and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them” (Deuteronomy 5:1). In the following chapter, Moses focused on the great commandment of the Scriptures. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The hearing (akuou) acts upon the Scriptures and brings revelation to human life. The emphasis is not on seeing God, for no one will see God, but upon hearing Him through the Scriptures! “These words” bespeaks the revelation that comes to Ananias’ heart. “These” is a translation of the Greek word “toutous,” a demonstrative pronoun. “Toutous” singles out an object or person and often acts as an adjective. The revelation Ananias and Sapphira experienced contained all the truth Peter taught through the Scriptures. Would this revelation not also include everything they studied in the Old Testament and learned through their Jewish culture? The present words of Peter highlighted and focused Ananias on the revelation of the Word! “Words” is a translation of the Greek word “logos.” “Laleo” is the Greek word that focuses on the act of speaking. “Lego” is the Greek word focusing on the content of the words spoken. The root word for “logos” is “lego.” The emphasis is not on the tone of voice or the length of speech, and there is no desire to highlight the effectiveness of Peter’s commanding voice. The focus is on the words of the revelation! Jesus is the content! The Response The Indirect Object The “revealing hearing (akuou)” brought revelation (toutous logos) to Ananias. God moves through His word and brings salvation to every person who responds. Although there is no recorded appeal from Peter to Ananias for repentance, it is innately present in the “hearing these words.” To deny this reality would be to deny the essential nature of revelation, the heart of God. This story maintains the primary message of the Gospel. “For God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16). Yes, God gave His Son, who is the “revealing hearing” of His person and nature. The result of the hearing is an advanced and complete revelation of God’s heart. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). To not apply the reality of God’s confrontation of Ananias, through Peter, would be an unforgivable violation of God’s revelation! God did not strike Ananias dead as a punishment for his embezzlement or lying to the Holy Spirit. There is no place in the story (Acts 5:1-11) that indicates this. The story is of the loving heart of the Father trying to reach a child who has strayed. The Father is desperate and will not allow Ananias to continue, but confronts him with truth from the Word, which brings conviction and possible conversion. Again, we see a parallel between Ananias’ experience and Judas. When Judas realized the result of his betrayal of Jesus, the truth confronted him. Aware of his sin, Judas cried out to the leader of Israel, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). The leaders responded with no concern. “What is that to us? You see to it! Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:4-5). Revelation confronted Ananias and Judas, making them deeply aware of their sin. The response in each case was death! Please, do not attribute to God the death of either man. Is God able and willing to forgive (Matthew 12:31)? Absolutely! In the case of both Ananias and Judas, it was not just repentance for a single act. The deed of sin for each was only an expression of the lack of their heart’s surrender. Ananias had not merged with Jesus and allowed Him to invade every area of his life; Ananias had not come under the influence of Jesus. He had not found his security in Christ alone, and his sin expressed this vacancy. We are brought again to the central theme and message of the story. Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. It is all or nothing. Feeble attempts only work when we define Christianity as “doing.” We can do better at some times than others. But Christianity is a merger with God’s nature. All of God must indwell and permeate all that I am so that I can be like Him!