Ananias and Sapphira – A Closer Look

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then 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? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

~ Acts 5:1-11

I spend (probably too much) time reading comments and posts on subjects of interest to Christians, and in one of them a few days ago, someone pointed out that this passage doesn’t say that God put them to death.

It doesn’t.

It doesn’t even say that Peter told them they would die (“carry you out also” is said to Sapphira), let alone instantaneously. Though I think Peter knew what was about to happen.

This person went on to posit the possibility that the shock of being impossibly discovered drove one or both Ananias and Sapphira to sudden, fatal cardio events — heart attack or stroke.

I would accept that as a possibility.

But I would also posit the possibility that Ananias and Sapphira simply could not live with what they had done.

In allowing “Satan to fill [their] heart[s]” and thereby rejecting the Holy Spirit, they had conspired to lie to him, judging what was selfish and evil (secretly keeping some of the money) to still somehow be generous and good. They had called evil “good.” They were lying to themselves. They were lying to the Holy Spirit.

By lying to the Holy Spirit, to human beings and to God, they had in a sense blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31) within them, who gives life to the believer (John 6:63; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6). In that moment when convicted by the truth, the Spirit-who-gives-life, the Pneumatos, was done with His work and gone.

They rejected the Spirit. They rejected life.


5 thoughts on “Ananias and Sapphira – A Closer Look

  1. Yes, a natural event. Cf. Exodus 14:21, where “a strong east wind” blew all night, pushing back the waters of the sea, probably not with the flamboyance of Cecil B. DeMille.

  2. “The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door”

    Do you think it strange that Ananias was buried and his wife did not know about it?

    That said I have to agree with the sense that the deaths of these two were more natural than supernatural. Hard to see God killing them for the sin of lying to Him when so many of us have lied to God and are still alive.

  3. I’ve always been taught that God zapped Ananias and Sapphira. To me that seemed incongruous with the rest of the NT. The more I have been wrestling with interpreting parts of the OT (conquest of Canaan particularly), the more the account of Ananias and Sapphira has jarred with me. Glad to read another way of interpreting it which gels more with how I read the NT.

  4. In that society, as even today among Orthodox Jews and practicing Muslims, burial occurs as soon as possible, preferably before sundown. There was a case some years ago of a woman’s being buried alive even though, in haste, she was thought to be dead, before she was heard knocking on the coffin lid. Jerusalem was also a big city in an age long before cellphones. Thus Ananias’ interment prior to his wife’s knowledge of it is entirely understandable.

  5. The deaths of Annaias and Sapphira were announced in prophetic play-by-play by Peter complete with commentary of the immediate past, the present and the imminent future a mere seconds away for both of them. This announcement by Peter was as a spokeperson of God, not Satan or anyone else. Would anyone accept it was Satan who struck them dead for lying to God?

    The death of our brother and sister in the faith that is in Christ Jesus for lying to God was no worse than many of us have been guilty on the same or similiar cases. We tend to equate the sentence of their deaths as being equal to damnation. However, their deaths seem reminiscient of Moses. Although Moses was not struck dead in the moment he rebelled against God and failed to honor him at the waters of Meribah his sentence was that he would not lead Israel into the promise land.

    There is nothing in scripture including Jesus words concerning Moses which suggest Moses is not in the bosom of the Father despite his sin of rebellion. Unless we are prepared to reject that and apply that that place of rest to Moses than what is the basis of our reasoning if we deny the same place of rest for Annias and Sapphira.

    Certainly, it was no small matter that they lied to the Holy Spirit, but the greater lesson was for us all how serious God is about lying and all sin. Was their sin any more acceptable to God than Peter’s hipocrisy concerning his eating habits with the Gentiles. We are vastly indebted to him for his grace by which we are spared being strucked down immediately when we sin.

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