Skip Heitzig - Acts 4:23-5:42
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I'm just looking around to see who would whether the rain and come out. Interesting choice of a worship song, Holy Spirit Rain Falling Like a Flood. I thought it was particularly appropriate for tonight. Whenever it rains like this, and I'm one of those people who say bring it on. I love this weather. I love this rain, but I think of what the prophet Isaiah said. In chapter 55 when he said, as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth that it might bring forth and bud. So that it gives seed to this sower and bread to the eater, so is my word that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it will accomplish that which I have sent it to accomplish. So that's what we're about tonight.
We're in the book of Acts, the word of God. We want to sow that into our hearts. So turn in your Bibles. I hope you brought one. It's important as we study the Bible, thank you for raising that Bible up like that. It's important to follow along. If you don't have a Bible, you've got to remedy that. You've got to get a Bible, and we can steer you in that direction, but we're in the book of Acts, chapter 4. I'm always, well, I'm positive in thinking that we're going to make it through an entire chapter, which we should be able to do by now. I've grown up. So you'd think I could make it through a chapter, but I slow down a little bit. So we're going to pick it up in verse 23-24 of Acts chapter 4 and see how far we get. Let's just leave it at that. Let's pray.
Father, we want to now bring to You, in prayer, our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, which is our reasonable service. We're not beginning this with prayer simply as a formality, or because we feel it's our duty, but because we have a relationship with You. That has been established at the moment we placed our trust in the Lord Jesus to pay our sin, our penalty. And make us right with You, so that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, and we are now Your children by faith. And so we can freely talk to You, knowing that You hear us. And Father, we pray that, just like Isaiah predicted, the word of God, like rain, would water our hearts and would strengthen our lives, and it would bring forth, our life would bring forth and bud. So that we might produce seed for this sower and bread to eater, we would be satisfied, and we would strengthen others with it. We pray, Lord, that we would have ears to hear, as Jesus said. It's in his name we pray, amen.
As we pick back up, in chapter 4 of the book of Acts, there's just a couple of incidences in my life I wanted to tell you about. When I think of understanding, as a young believer, that not everybody liked what I believed in. And I was so excited, thinking I'm going to tell everybody about Jesus. They're going to be so happy that their sins can be forgiven, and they can go to heaven. People are just going to get so excited with this, and I couldn't be more wrong.
People really weren't excited about getting their sins forgiven or having a new life. They didn't really want anything to do with what I believed in. And it was a rude awakening when I was a new believer, and I was a bass player in a Christian band, and we were doing an opening concert of evangelism in the city that I grew up in. And there were a group of kids who hated what we were standing for, and they hated it so much, they thought it would be a good idea to set the building we were meeting in, that concert, on fire that night.
So they decided to go take a motorcycle, out in the parking lot, put a T-shirt in the gas tank, light it on fire, put the motorcycle against the wall of the building. The motorcycle blew up, and the walls started catching on fire. Now, to make matters worse, not only was I in the band, but that was my motorcycle that they blew up in trying to start it on fire. So that was like the first time I realize, there's people out there who don't like us.
Then, another incident that sort of drove this home to me is, a few years later, I was in the country of India. We were down in southern India. I was out with some brothers and sisters, Christian brothers and sisters, out in the field doing street evangelism, and we were surrounded by a group. Our group was surrounded by a group, and the group surrounding us, our group was like this.
Their group was like this, and they just had those foreboding looks and angry intense countenances, and they moved closer and closer to us. And I started getting nervous, and so I said to one of our brothers, smiling, from India I said, what's happening? He goes, I think we are going to get beat up. And I'm thinking, this is not good.
So here's my reaction to those two incidences. My reaction to incident number one is understanding for the first time that the world doesn't like the Christian, doesn't like the message of the Christian. And I was really bummed out, because it was a great 450 Honda double overhead cam, and that just went up in flames. But the second incident, my reaction was I'm going to get physically hurt, perhaps. And it didn't happen, because if I don't say that, you're going to say, oh, what happened? The Lord, we prayed and the Lord dispersed that angry crowd, but it doesn't always happen.
There's a lot of our brothers and sisters in the world who suffered tremendously for the cause of Christ. So with that in mind, what is the Christian to do when threatened, hassled, treated poorly, billed too much, whatever it might be? What are we to do? Well, when we come to verse 23 of chapter 4, we get some insight. And being let go, this is after they were threatened, after they were treated poorly, after they were persecuted.
Being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said, Lord, You are God who made the heaven, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. Who by the mouth of Your servant David have said, why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ. For truly, against Your holy servant, Jesus, whom You anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. And now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that, with all boldness. They may speak Your word by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant, Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Notice that verse 23 does not say, then being let go, they gathered together, rallied together, stormed the Antonia Fortress, wrote a letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post. They didn't protest, they prayed. They gathered together, and they appealed to God. They immediately went to prayer. Their reaction, against the world, was to pray for the world.
Now, that to me is striking, because that would not be in my natural makeup. That would not be my first reaction. I would think of retaliation. How can I get back at them, or how can I put a stop to them? How can I get a law passed? And those, especially that last one, may have its place in the right context, but what I want you to see is that, first and foremost, the early church were a group of spiritual activists, spiritual activists. They were active. They were activists, but they were spiritual activists. They got together, and they prayed to the Lord for the world that had persecuted them, and we're going to examine this prayer. We're eavesdropping on it. We started looking at it last time, and then we closed it off.
But if you've never read any of the writings of our R.A. Torrey, Reuben Torrey, I just commend them to you. R.A. Torrey has a great quote. He has many great quotes, but R.A. Torrey said, pray for great things. Expect great things. Work for great things, but first and foremost, pray. And so that's what they did. They prayed, and we looked just briefly last time, and now we want to look a little more deeply, as we finish off this chapter, at their prayer.
First of all, their prayer had backing. They're appealing to God, and they're not just throwing up words. They're not just spouting out words. They're not just talking into the air. They have the backing of heaven. It says that they raised their voice and said, Lord You are God. And the last time, I told you the word Lord is the Greek word despota or despote, the autocrat of the universe, the ruler of everything. And I may have even mentioned the prayer of Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 32, and he said, ah, Lord God, You made the Heavens and the Earth with Your great strength and Your outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for You. And what I want you to see is that, when you pray, the first thing you and I must do is recognize to whom we're speaking.
We're not speaking to somebody who is weak. We're not talking into the air. We're not talking to somebody with even earthly authority. We're talking to the sovereign God, of whom nothing, nothing is too hard. Nothing is too hard. So when you elevate your prayer by recognizing to whom you're praying, it inspires faith. If you go, God, I don't know if You're up there. You're not going to really be praying with faith. When it's like, Lord, You made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. Oh, OK.
Now, I just framed it with the framework of faith. I put God in the right perspective, and it's important to do that, because too often, you and I, we carry our limitations over onto God. What is hard and impossible for us is so easy, breezy for God. We have faith when it's a cold. Our faith diminishes when the sea is a cancer, not a cold. Oh Lord, this person has inoperable cancer. Well, I can tell you that, to God, He would look at both and go, so? I can fix a cold or cancer. I created the human body. I made everything on Earth. So it's first of all important to have backing in your prayer.
Second, they had basis. Notice that they quote Psalm 2. Who by, verse 25, the mouth of Your servant, David, has said. Now, it's a direct quote out of Psalm 2, but I'm going to show you a little difference. They quote, why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things. The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.
If you were to look at the actual translation in your Bible, in Psalm 2 it says, they've gathered together against the Lord and against His anointed. Here they use the word Christ because it's the same word. The Hebrew word, in the second Psalm, for anointed is moshiach or messiah. And Christ is the English equivalent of Christos in the Greek, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew moshiach. So anointed, messiah, Christos, Christ, it's all the same.
They quote a messianic Psalm, the first of the psalms that is considered messianic. So they have a basis now for what they're praying. They're praying realizing that God is the autocrat of the universe, controls everything, made everything, and even predicted that what is happening in Jerusalem that day was predicted in the scripture. They've gathered together, like the Psalmist said they would gather together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, like the Psalmist said would happen. Even though that Psalm will have its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom age, at the second coming of Jesus Christ, Revelation 19. When He takes all the kings of the earth that really were against Him, will be against Him at the end of the great tribulation period, judge them, and usher in the millennial kingdom.
It also has an in the meantime application, and that is what was happening in Jerusalem that day was predicted. So it elevates prayer. Prayer is being elevate. They're coming to God with a request. Before they get there, they realize who they're talking to. So it has backing. They're quoting the scripture. So it has a basis for what they're asking.
The third thing about their prayer is it has balance. Notice how they begin their prayer, and they move from adoration, worship, ascribing things to God, to their petition. The prayer moves from adoration to petition. Any good prayer has balance. Sometimes, we talk to God only, well, we talk to God. We come to God like we go to an emergency room. You know, as you drive by a hospital, that there's doctors in the emergency room, but you don't feel compelled to go in and talk to the doctor every time you drive by the hospital. You know they're there, but you'll go to the emergency room if there's an emergency. Some people, they know God's up there, but why bother him. But if there's an emergency in my life, if I need an aspirin or medication or a prescription, I'll go to God.
So their communication to God is so often imbalanced, almost like an emergency room physician. Wouldn't it be nice for you to call your emergency room physician, out of the blue, and just say, hey doc, you saw me a year ago. I just wanted to see how you're doing. You're just awesome. I just want to let you know that. Now, that probably never will happen. It should, but it probably never will.
But I wonder what God must think or feel like, and I don't even want to presume that, when his children can find communication only to petition, rather than adoration mixed with petition. How did Jesus teach us to pray? He didn't say, now when you pray, say our Father in Heaven, gimme, gimme, gimme. That's how you pray, and, then throw on an amen at the end because that sounds good. So when you pray, begin like this. Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Adoration before petition, so this prayer has balance as well, not only basis, but it as balance.
Now verse 29, now therefore, Lord, look on their threats. Grant to Your servants that with all boldness, they may speak Your word by stretching out Your hand to heal. That signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.
Fourth characteristic about this prayer, it has bearing. It has bearing. They're not just throwing out dusty, overused, ambiguous phrases like bless, lead, guide, and direct. They're very, very specific about what they're asking from God. Number one, they're asking God for boldness. By stretching out Your hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your servant Jesus. Oh yeah, I'm sorry, I missed it.
Verse 29, grant Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word. Now, I find this absolutely amazing. What got them into trouble to begin with? They're boldness. Going the streets of Jerusalem, being very bold about what they believe in. That got them arrested. Now, they're asking God to fill them with more of what got them in trouble to begin with. Lord, we got in trouble for our boldness. Give us more. That's very, very specific.
Number two, they are asking God for changed lives, stretching out Your hand to heal. That signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. Verse 31, and when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. This has always intrigued me. Don't know exactly what caused the shaking, not going to even try to guess. Other than to say it was a physical manifestation for the apostles, probably to bolster the faith of the early church, just like there were accompanying signs on the day of Pentecost.
So the place shook, and it says, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, notice that, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. He answered their prayer. Notice the correspondence. Boldness comes when you are filled with the Holy Spirit. I've told you plenty of times about my own first encounters with witnessing.
I told the Lord, I'm not a verbal person. I don't like to talk to people about what I believe in. Most people don't want to hear about what I believe in, and then I started reading the book of Acts, and I read this correlation. So I said, Lord, give me boldness. I don't know what to say, but give me boldness. Make me unafraid.
And so I remember talking to a guy that everybody thought was the coolest kid in high school. This is after I graduated. That's when I got saved, that summer. I was about 18, and I remember walking up to him to talk to him, and I was like shaking. And I thought, man, I don't know where the fulfillment of that promise is, because I'm not bold. I asked him for it, but I'm still scared.
But as soon as I started talking, I took the step of faith to actually say a few words, that's when the boldness kicked in. That's when the words came. It was a little awkward, at first, kind of a rough start, but then it got like really good. And then I started actually thinking, hey, that's good. What I just said, that was good, and I knew it was the Lord. I asked him to fill me with his spirit and give me boldness, and he did.
Now, the multitude, verse 32, of those who believed were of one heart. Look at this beautiful description of the first Christians in Jerusalem. The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul. Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common, similar to chapter 2.
And with great power, the apostles gave witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Nor was there any one among them who lacked. For all who were possessors of lands or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles feet. And they distributed to each as any one had need.
Now, I want to just reinforce something I told you a few weeks back. Some love to wear rose-colored glasses when reading the Bible, and look at this through the eyes of socialism. And say, see the early church, this was the pure form of communism. They couldn't be more wrong. This is not communism. This is common-ism, and there is a huge difference, a massive disparity between communism and common-ism. Communism is enforced. Common-ism is voluntary. Communism says, what's yours is mine. Common-ism says, what's mine is yours. That was the early church. It was a temporary fix. Why?
Well, most of the jobs in Jerusalem were related to the temple. Who in Jerusalem ran the business of the temple? The Sadducees. The Sadducees are the enemies of the early church. Remember, I told you that the Pharisees and Sadducees were the two groups? The Sadducees are the ones that are hostile toward the apostles. Why? Because the apostles say that Jesus rose from the dead. The Sadducees didn't believe in any spirits, didn't believe in heaven, didn't believe in hell, did not believe in a Resurrection. So all of those temple related jobs, all of those people who believed in Christ, were no doubt fired from their jobs. It was difficult to live their lives, having no income.
So the church got together to support one another during this difficult time, and it gets so bad that Paul will even take an offering of Gentile churches, that he visits on his first second missionary journeys. Take up a collection, and bring the money to the poor saints who are struggling through this, at the earliest church in Jerusalem. So it was all purely voluntary, as they shared what they had with one another.
Now, notice this, verse 36. In the light of that spirit of giving, and Joses, and I have an asterisk in my Bible, and it says, or Joseph, some of the newer translations see. His name was Joe. That was his name, Joseph. So we'll think of him as Joe. A guy named Joe in the early church, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles. So his name is Joe, but the apostles decided to give him a nickname. Now, why did they do that? Why do you think that the disciples said, hey, we have the right and the freedom to just sort of name people whatever we want. Why do you figure?
Here's my take on it, because Jesus did that. He said to Simon, hey Simon, I'm giving you a new name. Your name means hearing, but you don't hear all that well. I'm going to call you Peter. Not as in a big massive stone, you're not like rocky, but you're like a little tiny pebble, your pebble boy, little rocky. So Jesus had the freedom to do that. He also did that with the sons of thunder, right? He named the James and John, the sons of thunder. He did that on a few different occasions. Matthew he called Levi. So I think that friendly nicknaming caught on as a practice.
He said, we're going to name Joe. So let's call Joe Barnabas, because Barnabas means the son of encouragement, or one who encourages. And wherever Joe went, he would go up to people, go hey, my name's Joe. What's your name? Hey, how can I help you? How can I further your faith? How can I bolster your belief? So he is called a son of encouragement by the apostles, which is translated son of encouragement.
Now, notice this. He is a Levite of the country of Cyprus. Having land, he sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. Now, if you are shrewd Bible students, you read this, and you go, hmm. What's a Levite doing owning land privately? Because I know my Bible in the Old Testament. In the book of Numbers, where it talks about Levites not having any portion of the land of Israel, because God is their portion, numbers 18 tells us. So what's with this? It this a backslidden Levite? You know, we like to get very, pharisaical with our Bible characters. Well, you're right, shrewed Bible student.
It says that they're not to own land, but own land in the land of Israel. It says nothing about owning land on the island of Cyprus, which is where he's from. So he could own land on Cyprus, or perhaps he's married to his wife, whose family owns land in Cyprus. And they passed it on, and they gave it to him. There's a couple of different ways this could go.
Don't take this and demean his character as somebody who is a backslidden Levite. It had nothing to do with the priesthood. It just said he owned land. But the good thing, having sold it, he brought the money, and he laid it at the apostles' feet. So Barnabas, and you'll read more of him in the book of Acts, he encouraged people.
He first encouraged people by finances. Have you ever thought of your finances as a way to encourage someone? I know you're thinking, well, somebody could feel free to encourage me tonight, in that respect. I could always use a little encouragement with that. But it can be.
As Barnabas believed that what God had given to him, God has shared with him, he could give to others. That he was a Steward, he was a conduit of a blessing that God had done for him, and he knew that his brothers and sisters were in need. So I'm living here. I don't need the land in Cyprus. Let's sell it and give the money to those who need it.
There's an important principle in the New Testament about financial giving. In the book of Philippians, and we're studying that on Sunday morning. We'll get to it in chapter 4, but Lord knows when. So in that book, Paul writes to the Philippian church, and he says, when I departed from Macedonia, there was no other church that shared with me concerning giving and receiving, except you only. That's a way to say, no other group, no other church, financially supported me, but you did. I was on your missions role.
You supported me as one of your sent out missionaries, but then he said this. Not that I seek the gift, but I'm seeking fruit that would abound to your account. See, he understood the principle that when you give for the Lord's work, that God keeps the account books in heaven, and you will get fruit. The Lord will reward you, one day openly in heaven, and he'll reward you. And so he says, not that I'm looking for the gift. You supported me, and I thank you for that, but it's not like I want the gift as much as I want the fruit that God will write on his account books for you and reward you for it.
So we need to start looking at what have, what we own, as we're stewards of God, and he's keeping his own set of books, and he will hold us accountable for how we stewarded what he placed in our hands. So Barnabas thought it was good to encourage, and he was the son of encouragement. He first encouraged by giving his finances. Now, that's the end of chapter 4. We're, going to get into chapter 5 but let me just throw something out at you.
So far, in the book of Acts, we have seen the Lord adding to the church. Right? Acts 247, the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. That's what the text says. The Lord has added so far, chapter 2. We've also seen the Lord multiply.
In chapter 4 verse 4, thousands upon thousands more were added to those who were initially saved on the day of Pentecost. So we go from adding to the Lord multiplying. Now, we're about to see the Lord perform another math function, subtracting. Two people in the church, he's going to subtract, as Alan Redpath call it, a blessed subtraction. And the Lord does add, and the Lord does multiply, and the Lord does subtract.
There's one thing the Lord never does, he never divides. He never divides a church. People do that. We're good enough at doing that. We're good enough at creating division and animosity. God never does. He'll add. He'll multiply, and yes, he will subtract. So verse 1 chapter 5, but, not a good word to begin, after reading about a son of encouragement, such an awesome dude. Gave his finances. Joe was Barnabas, but a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession and kept back part of the proceeds. His wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet, a certain part.
The word Ananias, in Hebrew, the name means God is gracious, beautiful name. Sapphira is an Aramaic word that means beautiful. Talk about two people that really didn't live up to their names, mister gracious really isn't so gracious in his lie here, and miss beautiful does something that's not so beautiful. Now, when I read about Ananias and Sapphira, can I just play with this a little bit? Could you just go back in your mind and think of them meeting for the first time?
And then, as they courted together, the butterflies they would get when they were around each other. As their relationship blossomed and grew, and they had those puppy love eyes. As Ananias, mister gracious, looked at miss beautiful, and she swooned, not knowing how they would end up. And as they said their vows to one another on their wedding day, especially that part, till death do us part, they had no idea that they would die within a few hours of each other on the same day. And that their names would go down in history as the two that the Lord subtracted from the church to make it pure. Well, that's what this first part of the story is about.
Acts chapter 5 is the third miracle in the book of Acts. Do you remember the first? The first miracle was a man by the gate beautiful who was lame from birth. That's the first miracle. He was healed. Peter raised him up. Peter and John going into the temple. He was walking and leaping and praising God. That's the first miracle recorded in the book of Acts. Second miracle recorded in the book of Acts is in chapter 4, when the building shook. It was miraculous.
This is the third miracle. Now, why am I bringing this up? Because do you know how often I hear people say, man, I wish we could see more miracles, like they had in the book of Acts. Do you really? Because you're about to read of another miracle in the book of Acts, but I bet this is one miracle you're thankful to God that you don't see.
Interesting story, some of you will know the name, if you're read in biblical commentaries, the name Donald Grey Barnhouse. Donald Gray Barnhouse, many years ago, was the pastor at the 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Donald Barnhouse felt very strongly, he had deep convictions, about the hymns that his church would sing. And there were certain hymns, certain verses of hymns, that he did not want his church to sing, because he knew that you couldn't sing them without being a hypocrite.
And Barnhouse use to say, if God, if the Holy Spirit, acted today in the same manner he acted in the book of Acts, that you'd need a morgue in the basement of every church and a mortician on staff. Imagine if we were singing, I surrender all, but if God the Holy Spirit we're acting with the same level of purity that he did here. Because if you're not surrendering all at that moment, if you're holding something back, and you're really not surrendering all of your life, but you sing it, just one person, boom, down. And you could hear the security guards, yep, row three, she's down. Boom. Oh man, that couple's down in the back. Wow, a whole bunch of people are falling over, not slain in the Spirit, slain by the spirit. I mean flat out dead, killed. Well, let's see it.
They sold a possession, verse 1, and kept back part of the proceeds. Now, at first, as we get into this chapter, it would seem like Ananias and Sapphira were doing the same thing Barnabas did. Barnabas sold land, laid it at the apostles' feet. Ananias and Sapphira perhaps even had good intentions at first, and said, you know honey, we ought to do that. We've got some land we're not using. Let's sell it in, and let's give it away. Let's give them money. No problem. It's just like Barnabas.
The failure here that you're about to read, that we're about to see, was not that they didn't give the right amount. Like well God is going to kill you, because you didn't give a big enough offering. It has nothing to do at all with that. It's they misrepresented what they gave. They said they gave one number, but they were giving far less.
They were both lying, so that people would think, wow, so extravagant, such a huge gift, like Barnabas. I'm certain that when Ananias and Sapphira watched Barnabas sell land and give the money to the apostles, they thought, notice how the people are responding to what Barnabas just did. Did you hear the banter that we are hearing in church? They're saying, man Barnabas, what an awesome, amazing, encouraging person. So spiritual is Barnabas, and Ananias and Sapphira thought, man, and I want to hear them say that about us.
So let's sell the land. Let's not give it all. Let's just say we're giving it all, but we'll keep back some. Now, that wouldn't be a problem. Peter's going to point out, not a problem. All you'd have to say is, hey Peter, you know, my wife and I sold some land. We sold it for this much. Our intention was to give it all to the people in the church who could use the money, but we just can't do that right now. We got to take care of some bills, and we just need some money to live on. So we're going to give this much. That would be honest.
The problem was their dishonesty with it. So they kept back part of the proceeds, and Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? Now, Peter's not smiling at this point. Don't think of Peter, the big old fisherman, Ananias. No, it's very, very somber here. Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own, and after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? Notice this. You have not lied to men, but to God.
Did you notice, in the first sentence, he says, you lied to the Holy Spirit. In the second, he said, you lied to God. OK, so it's easy to put those two together. What he means then is the Holy Spirit is God. Please notice that. You've lied to the Holy Spirit. You've lied to God. If you lie to him, you lie to Him. The Holy Spirit is not an ambiguous force, as we talked about. It's a real person. It's the third person of the Trinity.
I speak to people all the time who say, you Christians, you evangelicals, you talk about trinity. The word trinity isn't in the Bible. So the word rapture isn't in the Bible, but the doctrine of the rapture is in the Bible. The word Millennium isn't in the Bible, but the doctrine of the Millennial Kingdom is in the Bible. The word Bible isn't in the Bible, but I've got one.
The word trinity isn't in the Bible, but the teaching of the Trinity goes all the way back to Genesis 1:1, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God is the Hebrew word Elohim, plural in meaning, singular and usage. In the beginning, Elohim, that compound plurality, created the heavens and the earth. Verse 2, the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The first time a distinct personality of God is drawn up, it's in the second verse of Genesis, and it's the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters.
Same chapter, I think down around verse 26 or 27, God said, let us make man in our image. So in the image of God, He made man. The interchangeable use of the plural and the singular let us make man. God made, He made him. So the doctrine of the Trinity begins all the way back as far as Genesis and is developed and fully revealed in the new covenant.
So you've not lied to man. You've lied to the Holy Spirit, so you have lied to God. Then Ananias, hearing these words, I don't know what the look on his face is like, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. I can imagine. Can you picture what this is like? Ananias walks up in front of the meeting with his offering of money. The organist softly playing I Surrender All. Anonias puts that offering down, but suddenly he feels something in his chest grabs, and his breath is short and just, bam, falls over, breathes his last. He kicks the bucket. He's deader than a doornail. And so great fear came upon all who heard these things and the young men arose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
When I read about it, and I don't want you to think that Anonias went to hell, he just died. I think he was a true believer. My opinion, he is a believer in Christ, because he had faith in Jesus. He's not saved by works. He's not saved by selling land and giving the money. He's saved by faith through grace, period. It's like, do not pass go. Do not collect $200, just boom, die, heaven. But God removed him, a subtraction, and I think about somebody else who was not saved, and that is Judas Iscariot. Who also pretended to really be a caring individual.
When that woman broke that vase of costly ointment, and Judas protested, and said, what a waste. This could have been sold and given to the poor, and he said this because he was a hypocrite. And he kept the money, and he was taking from it for himself, without any accountability. Anonias was a hypocrite, and his wife was party to it as well.
So verse 7, it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, tell me whether you sold the land for so much. She said, yeah, for so much. Then, Peter said to her, how is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord. Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.
Then immediately, she fell down at his feet, breathes her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear, there it is again, came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. What kind of a meeting with this be? One dies, another dies, and then the young men who bury those two are looking around like, OK, who's next? You're just like, I ain't saying a word. I'm not given a thing. I'm just watching.
Sad when you consider that the very first Christian funeral in the book of Acts was for a hypocrite. Two of them, just a few hours apart, on the same day. Now, how should we give? When we give, we should give simply and honestly. As Paul writes, not grudgingly, nor of necessity, but every man should give as he purposes in his heart, for God loves a cheerful giver. Anonias and Sapphira, just be honest, come clean, say what you want to give. It doesn't matter how much. It should be done simply. It should be done sincerely. It should be done for the glory of God. All these things were not present in this gift.
Now, I want to just focus on something for a moment, because we read this and we go, man, people actually died? That's kind of harsh. Well, if they went to heaven, if you wake up in heaven, would you go, man, that was harsh. Yeah, this is harsh. Awesome, but harsh. Totally cool, but harsh. No, I don't think so. It seems to those left, yeah, this is harsh. We know them. We're going to miss them, but why would the Lord do this? Well, let me make this even a little harder for you. Not only does this happen here, but it would seem that physical death, in the form of God judging believers in the early church, was not unheard of, even as the church developed.
When Paul writes to the Corinthians, do you remember when he talks about the Lord's supper and people gathered together? They don't take it with the right intention, the right motivation, mixed motivations. And he said, for this reason, many among you are sick and have died. So it wasn't unheard of, even in other congregations besides Jerusalem. And then what about when Paul writes to the Corinthians and he said, concerning unrepentant ones in the church, deliver them to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh that their spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Remember that in first Corinthians 5? I think that's the text. If you look at it later, that's the text, and that's it.
So he says, you deliver one to Satan, to the realm of Satan. You deliver that believer to the world, that their flesh may be destroyed, that the spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, perhaps meaning that the physical death was in punishing them for being an unbeliever. But because they were believers, lest they fall any further and influence any more, that the Lord would take them off this earth. That their spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps, that's what he was referring to.
So great fear, verse 11, came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. And through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people, and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch, not the coffee shop, the temple. Yet, none of the rest dared join them. You can't blame them. I'm not going to that church. I know it's welcome weekend, but I ain't going to that church. People die there. None of the rest, probably meaning the rest of onlookers, mixed motive people, unbelievers, didn't dare join them, but the people esteemed them highly. Hi, God bless you. Stay away from me. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.
See on one hand, you have people who are not going to join the bandwagon, and just do it because they have, It's something other than the purest of motives, but on the other hand, true believers did join. They were increasingly added to the Lord. Multitudes, so the Lord's multiplying after he has subtracted. And I have discovered that when God subtracts, he does it in order that he might multiply. The Lord adds. The Lord multiplies. The Lord subtracts, but when he subtracts here, he does it that he might multiply. So multitudes were coming, both men and women. So they brought the sick out into the streets and lay them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.
Also, a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. What's up with Peter's shadow? Was it mystical and magical shadow? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Only the shadow knows. Do you remember that television show? You're dating yourself if you know it. See, I remember it. You remember it? On what? Radio plays, yes, so it's an old black and white thing, isn't it? So I think it might have even been before my time, but I saw reruns, how's that?
Peter's shadow, I believe, provided a point of contact for people who had a disease to release their faith, nothing magical about Peter's shadow, nothing mystical about Peter's shadow. But people thought if Peter's shadow falls on me, I'm going to be healed. So when Peter walked by in the shadow hit them, they released their faith, and they were healed. That's what I believe is happening.
I think it's much like the hem of Jesus' garment. The woman said, if I can just touch the hem of his garment. Is it because he had a magical garment? Is it because he had mystical powers? No, because she believed there was power with Jesus. She believed that Jesus wanted to heal her, and all she had to do is touch the garment, and I believe now is the time. This is the rationale behind pouring oil or putting oil on somebody who is sick. The Bible tells us the elders of the church lay hands on them. There's nothing magical about my hands. It doesn't have anything in it, except germs. There's nothing magical about oil. It's just that we do it, and it's a point of contact.
The laying on of hands, the smearing are pouring on of oil, for you to release your faith. And we do that in obedience to what the Bible tells us to do, and we have seen the Lord in the affirmative heal people, not without exception, but often. And so we do that. And so the Peter, the Peter of shadow, the shadow of Peter falling somewhere healed.
Verse 17, then the high priest rose up, and all who were with him, witches of the sect of the Sadducees, and they laid their hands on the apostles. Put them in the common prison, but at night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, go stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. So this is the first jail break, and it's the angel who sprung them. And when they heard this, they entered the temple, early in the morning and taught. But the high priest, and those with him, came and called the council together. That's the Sanhedrin that we talked about, with all the elders, the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
But when the officers came, and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported saying, indeed we have found the person securely shut, and the guards standing outside before the doors. But when we opened them, we found no one inside. When the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. Man, where is this all going to lead? Just when we're getting our council together to put an end to this, it gets worse.
So one came and told them saying, look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple teaching the people. Then, the captain went with the officers and brought them notices without violence. They're smiling this time. For they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. There's people being healed. You're not going to easily brush this into a corner. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council, and the high priest asked them, did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? Remember back in chapter 4? A law was passed not to preach in Jesus' name in Jerusalem. Now, listen to this.
And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine. Oh, that the enemies of God today would say that about us. That we might have an accusation from the people in Albuquerque, man, you filled Albuquerque, in, New Mexico with this doctrine. I want them to say that. I want to fill this place up with truth. I want to let everybody hear the gospel. You say, well, how is that possible? Just get filled with the spirit and preach the word of God with boldness. They'll hear. Now, listen to this. Probably have to end here.
And look you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this man's blood on us. Interesting thing to say. You're trying to bring this man's blood on us, like it's our fault. It's interesting, because they asked specifically that this would happen, just a few weeks ago. I'm going to read to you, out of Matthew chapter 27, the trial of Jesus before Pilate.
This is Matthew 27 verse 20, the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, which of the two do you want me to release to you? They said Barabbas, and Pilate said to them, what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They said to him, let him be crucified. Then the governor said, why? What evil has he done? But they cried out all the more saying, let him be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather a tumult was rising, he took water, washed his hands before the multitude saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it, and all the people answered and said, his blood be on us and our children. Then, he released Barabbas to them, and when he scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
A few weeks later, in the same temple area, they're saying, what are you trying to do, bring this man's blood on us? They asked for that. Now, they're trying to kind of worm their way out of what they asked for. But Peter and the other apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you murdered.
This is almost a repetition of what he said in chapter 2, at that first message. Him God exalted to the right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit. Notice the relationship they have, cognizant of that person. The Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
When they heard this they, were furious, and they plotted to kill them. And one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them, men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago, Theudas stood up, claiming to be someone, a number of about 400 joined him. He was slain, all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
After this man, Judas of Galilee, rose up in the days of the census and drew away many people after him, he also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. Let me just say that what he is saying here about two previous uprisings are both corroborated by Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian in his historical works, with a little bit of variety, a little bit of different details. I say to you now, keep away from these men. Let them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing, but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest you even be found to fight against God. And they agreed with him, and they called for the apostles, and they beat him up, roughed him up. Told them that they should not speak any more of Jesus, and they let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
That's what I should have done when my motorcycle was burned, but seeing that double overhead cam 450 Honda, which I still wish I had to this day, go up in flames, never to be replaced. It was hard for me to rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. And I'll tell you what, in India, I rejoiced when God answered our prayer and they dispersed. But I don't know how to rejoice if I'd have gotten beat up. They got beat up, and they're just happy that they did it for the right reason, or it happened for the right reason.
And daily in the temple, verse 42, now we close. We got through the end. And in every house, in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that Jesus is the Christ. As we close, understand that the guy who stood up, Gamaliel, he was speaking to the Sadducees. But Gamaliel was a Pharisee, very respected teacher in Israel, the grandson of the respected Hillel, if you know Jewish history.
Hillel was a very esteemed rabbinical scholar. This is the grandson of Hillel Gamaliel, and he was the mentor of Paul the Apostle. And according to ancient Jewish writings, Gamaliel had only one problem, he said, with Paul the Apostle. And that is he couldn't supply this man, Saul of Tarsus, with enough books to read. He was such a voracious reader of books. He wanted to learn. He want to understand. Anything that was committed to writing, he wanted. He asked Timothy, or when he wrote to the second Timothy, bring the books and the parchments. The guy was a reader, and the Lord used him as one who spoke to a variety of audiences. So just a little FYI, we're over time. Let's pray.
Father, thank you that we could consider the whole chapter of this incredible book of Acts, part of chapter 4 and all of chapter 5. And Lord, to really be amazed at the example that is set by early believers on what they thought was important when they come to approach God. Like the pattern that was given by Jesus when he said, pray this way. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. And so they said, Lord, you are God. You made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. Who by the mouth of Your servant David. Lord, such a beautiful example of having all the right elements. Adoration as well as petition, peppered with scripture, so we have a basis of faith to believe that You the sovereign autocratic ruler of the universe can do anything. Being very specific in what we ask for, and then to see, not only did you answer that prayer by giving them boldness, but you shook the very place where they assembled. Lord, shake us up. Shake our lives. Make us bold that we might fill this city, our state, this country with your doctrine. In Jesus' name, we pray, and all God's people said, amen.