But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. - Acts 5:1-6
Satan had filled the heart of Ananias, yet Peter could ask why he had conceived this thing in your heart. Satan can influence the life of a believer, even a spirit-filled believer, but he can’t do your sinning for you. Ananias had to conceive it in his heart.
Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last: Peter did not pronounce a “death sentence” on Ananias. He simply confronted him with his sin and Ananias fell down dead. It is NOT the business of the church to pronounce a “death sentence” on anyone!
Notice that Peter said no word to Ananias about his death. I wonder if Peter wasn’t more surprised than anyone when Ananias fell down dead!
God struck Ananias dead for his sin. Doesn’t this seem rather harsh?
The greater wonder is that God delays His righteous judgment in virtually all other cases. We don’t like to think about this in our culture because it offends our sensibilities, but Ananias received exactly what he deserved; he simply could not live in the atmosphere of purity that marked the church at that time.
The physical means by which Ananias died was probably a heart attack. Ananias lived in a time, and among a people, who really believed there was a God in heaven we must all answer to. It frightened him to have his sin exposed and to know he was accountable before God for it. How many people would be frightened before God if confronted with sin like this? Today, too many people would yawn or debate or simply shrug.
We also have to see this incident in the context of its time. This was a critical juncture for the early church, and such impurity, sin, scandal and satanic infiltration could have corrupted the entire church at its root.
“The Church has never been as harmed or hindered by opposition from without as it has been perpetually harmed and hindered by perils from within.” - G. Campbell Morgan
The shock of being exposed was too much for Ananias. For many Christians in compromise, their greatest fear is not in sinning itself, but in being found out.
i. As much as anything, the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is that we presume greatly on God when we assume that there is always time to repent, time to get right with God, time to get honest with Him. Any such time given by God is an undeserved gift that He owes no one; we should never assume it will always be there.
God’s purpose was accomplished in the church at large, the story ends with these words, So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. Surely, this is one of the great understatements of the Bible!