1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
2 And he 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.
3 But Peter said, “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?
4 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? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.
6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.”
9 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.”
10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
But (v.1) — In contrast to Barnabas in 4:36-37
Ananias (v.1) = “The Lord is gracious”
Sapphira (v.1) = “sapphire” or “beautiful”
kept back (v.2) = put aside for oneself — with the sense of doing so clandestinely — used in the Septuagint of Achan (Joshua 7:1)
also being aware (v.2) — Sapphira knew of and shared in the deception.
laid it at the apostle’s feet (v.2) — the same phrase used of Barnabas in 4:37 — the outward actions of the two were identical
why (v.3) — Ananias could have resisted the temptation.
filled your heart (v.3) — complete possession
The power of Satan is revealed in the event. What Ananias and Sapphira did was suggested to them by Satan. Vain glory was in their hearts; they followed pride to win fame and get the praise from man. They had the root of all evil “the love of money” in their hearts and yielded to it. Acting thus in the flesh Satan came and suggested the lie to them. Their eyes were then blinded and they lost sight of the great truth so well known to them that He who is “perfect in knowledge” dwelt in them and in the midst of the congregation as Jehovah had dwelt in the midst of Israel. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, page 105
remained (v.4) — unsold — The believers were not required to give to the apostles. Peter makes it clear that Ananias could have kept his land, or, having sold it, kept the money, or even kept part and given part. His sin was giving part of it to the apostles while claiming he was giving all of it.
conceived (v.4) = laid as a plan. The deception was deliberate and premeditated.
In verse 3, Ananias is said to have lied to the Spirit. In verse 4, he is said to have lied to God.
The motivation behind the deception for Ananias and Sapphira may have been to have the assembly look upon them as it looked upon Barnabas after his sacrificial gift.
hearing these words (v.5) — While Ananias was hearing Peter’ s words, he fell down dead. — Judgment was sudden and immediate. Peter pointed out the sin, but God did the punishing.
breathed his last (v.5) = expired — a medical term, also used in 5:10 of Sapphira and in 12:23 of Herod Agrippa I (and nowhere else) — a sudden, judicial death
carried him out (v.6) — probably outside the city
three hours (v.7) — how long it took the young men to bury Ananias — they were just returning
answered (v.8) — perhaps answering her surprise after seeing the faces of those in the room
for so much (v.8) — perhaps the money was still lying on the floor and Peter pointed to it (or he may have mentioned the amount)
test (v.9) — try whether the Spirit would discern their hypocrisy
church (v.11) = assembly — used here of believing Jews and not the Body of Christ. (See 7:38, where it is used of the Israelites in the wilderness during the time of Moses.)
all who heard (v.11) — others not of the believers
Most commentaries, in my opinion, totally miss the point of this passage. For example:
In those early days the Church walked with God in holiness and righteousness. Today, alas, the Church has gotten so far away from God, and there is so much sin and hypocrisy and unreality, that God (I say it reverently) does not think it worth while to deal with people like this, for the Church refuses to listen to His voice. — Lectures on the Book of Acts, by H.A. Ironside, page 132.
So, the reason God isn’t punishing sin these days is because there is so much of it? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Ironside’s view is not supported by Scripture in any way that I am aware of — he makes no attempt to do so — and he confuses the Body of Christ with the Kingdom assembly.
In my opinion, this event was an example of what will happen during the Kingdom when anyone goes against the Divine order. The Law will be written in the hearts of Israel in the Kingdom, so sin will be a very deliberate rebellion against the Spirit — as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira who had received the Spirit in the Kingdom sense (Acts 2:17-18). For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Hebrews 8:10).
This is, I think, what the writer of Hebrews was referring to in Hebrews 6:4-6 — For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6). — referring to those who sin after receiving the Spirit as He will be manifested in the Kingdom (and was for a short time after Pentecost).