Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 4:36-5:9-11
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 4:36, 37
vs36-37: In order to show us how costly such donations were for some, Luke tells us about a Levitical priest from Cyprus named Joseph. To begin with, for a Levitical priest to be baptized in Jesus’ name was a huge sacrifice in itself. Given the hostility the high priest and Sanhedrin were showing toward the church this must have meant the end of his privileges and service. As a tribe, Levites were entitled to receive support from the tithes of the people (Nu 18:21), and because of this the tribe was not allowed to own land within the borders of Israel. This means the field Joseph sold was probably located near his home on the island of Cyprus. In fact, it may have been his portion of the family estate.

Monday: Acts 4:36, 37
vs36-37 (continued): To have a Levite join the church would have been a notable event. Here was a man of high status and education, who had lived a privileged life, yet who was giving up all those things to follow Christ. Not only would he forfeit the financial support he was entitled to receive as a Levite, but now we’re told he sold a field he owned which must have severely reduced, if not eliminated, any financial security he had left. vs36-37 (continued): When reading this passage we shouldn’t overlook the amazing humility being expressed by this Levite as he placed his gift “at the feet of the apostles.” This educated priest was gladly submitting himself to the leadership of a group of men who were uneducated Galileans.

Tuesday: Acts 4:36, 37
vs36-37 (continued): The apostles nicknamed him “Barnabus,” which in Hebrew means “son of prophecy,” and when translated into Greek was rendered “son of exhortation or comfort” (paraklesis). He was a relative of Mary, the woman who owned the upper room in which Jesus and His disciples gathered (Mk 14:12-16; Ac 12:12). She must have been his aunt, either by blood or marriage, because Paul tells us John Mark, her son, was Barnabus’ first cousin (Col 4:10). In practice, Barnabus seems to take care of his younger cousin as though he were his uncle (Ac 12:25; 15:37, 39). This John Mark is the man who later wrote the Gospel of Mark. In time, Barnabus would be called a prophet and teacher in the rapidly growing church in Antioch (Ac 13:1). He would serve as Paul’s mentor (Ac 11:22-26, 30), and then as his fellow-missionary (Ac 13:2, 3). Both Luke (Ac 14:14) and Paul (1Co 9:6) would call him an apostle.

Wednesday: Acts 5:1, 2
vs1-2: From the remarkable generosity of Barnabus, Luke now turns to the deceptive selfishness of a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They too sold a piece of property, but for reasons that aren’t clear agreed to secretly keep a portion of the revenue for themselves. When they laid their gift at the feet of the apostles they lied and said it was the full amount of the sale. We can only guess at their motives, because the church did not require them to give any gift at all. Had they wished to keep the entire amount they would have been free to do so (v4). They may have been seeking to be admired for their generosity, or possibly were positioning themselves so they could be supported by the church’s benevolent fund in the future. Regardless of the goal, their action was selfish, but selfishness is a sin which afflicts most of us, yet thankfully God doesn’t strike us dead for it. It wasn’t their selfishness God chose to discipline, it was their lie.

Thursday: Acts 5:3, 4
vs3-4: Peter, who had become very sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, knew by a “word of knowledge” (1Co 12:8) what they had done and confronted Ananias. Ananias had came without his wife to present the gift, and no sooner did he give it, and say whatever he said to leave the impression that this was the total amount, than Peter asked, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and steal from the price of the land?” Even the wording of this question was prophetically inspired. Peter identified Satan as the source of the lie. He exposed Ananias’ heart and showed that it was “filled” with this lie. And he warned him that the arrogance that had dared speak such a lie before the church had offended the Holy Spirit. Peter marveled that Ananias thought he could lie in the midst of that intense spiritual environment and go undetected. Did he think God didn’t see what he had done? Did he think God would do nothing? It was as though he was challenging God to respond.

Friday: Acts 5:5-8
vs5-8: Peter did not issue a verdict or announce any form of judgement. He simply asked a question, and then God miraculously stepped in with a level of discipline which shocks us. No sooner did Ananias hear Peter’s words than he collapsed and died. There has been much speculation on whether or not his death was caused by a heart attack brought on by the trauma of being suddenly exposed. Such reasoning is an attempt to supply a natural, non-miraculous cause for the death. It assumes that there is an unhealthy man, who, when embarrassed publicly, had a heart attack and died. But this explanation loses credibility when Ananias’ wife, Sapphira, comes into the church gathering three hours later. Unaware of her husband’s death she is asked by Peter, “Tell me whether for such and such a price you sold the land?” and after answering “yes” indicating she was a knowing accomplice in the deception, she too collapsed and died. To claim that both died of natural causes seems to require a stubborn refusal to see the obvious, which is that this is a divine act of judgement in which God took their lives.

Saturday: Acts 5:9-11
vs9-10: Peter asked Sapphira, “Why is it that you agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?”, and once again, functioning in a “word of knowledge,” he announced, “Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” Then immediately she too collapsed and was taken out and buried beside her husband. One final observation we should mention concerning their death is that it seems unusual for two Jewish people to die and be buried without any family reaction or participation. You would have thought the young men would have carried their bodies home, not taken them out and buried them. The apparent absence of a formal burial ceremony or ritualized mourning is odd. Either they were from out of town, and it took time to notify family, or they had been abandoned by their families for becoming Christians, or they simply had no living family members left. v11: The result of their death was that “great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard these things.” Seeing God’s reaction made everyone who heard about it, whether Christian or non-Christian, afraid to try to hide anything from God. The event served to both purify and grow the church. Those who wanted to hide things from God stayed away (v13), while those who were prepared to be totally sincere with Him joined the church and must have quickly confessed any hidden sins (v14). 

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