Mainstream vs. Malpractices (Acts 4:32-5:11)
The ten commandments, especially the first two, along with the examples we see in Scripture, show us that it doesn’t only matter Who we worship, but also how we worship Him (Leviticus 10, Joshua 7). In this passage, we see two both an example of how we are to worship God and how we are not to worship God.
Mainstream Christianity (4:32-37)
These verses show us what mainstream Christianity looks like—what normal, biblical Christianity looks like. Both the great commandment to love God and the second commandment to love neighbor are on full display here in the voluntary, spontaneous willingness of the believers to share with each other. Because of their apprehension and enjoyment of what had been given to them in Christ, they were not characterized by a selfish, possessive attitude about material stuff. Instead, they had the regular and ongoing practice of providing for those in need and holding their possessions loosely. Love for their Savior drew them close to Him, and that same love also drew them into strong bonds of love between one another.
None of the mercy shown or charity given was separated from the preaching of Christ, which the apostles were doing as they were “giving testimony with great power and abundant grace” (v33). We must see and learn from this example that where there is true spiritual unity in Christ, there will be such radical transformation in people’s lives that everything—economics included—is devoted to serving Christ and His people. As an example of what was taking place in the early church, Luke gives the account of Barnabas, who gladly gave up his capital assets in order to care for God’s people.
– Does Christ reign over your possessions? Are you ready to part with capital resources? In what ways is a loose grip on your possessions evidenced in your life?
Malpractice Christianity (5:1-11)
Luke contrasts the generosity of Barnabas with the hypocrisy and greed of Ananias and Sapphira. While we might be tempted to accuse them only of greed, they are actually blamed for the sin of deceit. There was nothing wrong with them keeping some of the proceeds from the sale of the land; the problem was that they wanted to be seen as something that they were not. They were more concerned with manipulating their reputation than with their allegiance to God and His reputation. They wanted the reputation for generosity without the inconvenience of it.
Along with the examples in the Old Testament of Achan, Nadab and Abihu, Uzza, and others, the account of Ananias and Sapphira reminds us that God is committed to preserving his Name and His people. But while He is committed to the purity of His Name, He is also committed to showing patience because He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), which is exemplified by the fact that accounts like those of Ananias and Sapphira are rare exceptions in the Bible.
While “those who believed were of one heart and soul,” Ananias and Sapphira proved they were of a much different heart, giving evidence to the fact that they were not believers. As Christians, we should avoid the hypocritical malpractice Christianity that we see in them, and instead model the mainstream biblical form of Christianity we see in the example of Barnabas and the other believers.
– What made Ananias and Sapphira’s sin such a great offense to God? Why do you think they did what they did? What differences do you see between why they did what they did and why Barnabas was doing what he was doing? Are you tempted in any way to behave similarly to Ananias and Sapphira, merely seeking the reputation for being godly?