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The Power of the Spirit is a Double-Edged Sword

Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:34
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Main Idea

The Gospel comes with two sharp edges
This passage of scripture and the formulation of the main idea of the text got me thinking about swords. I love swords… even at age 40. All kids love swords. I bet you did when you were younger. Want me to prove it? Think back to when you were in elementary school and you were out playing in the woods or on the playground with friends. When you found a nice, sturdy stick, what did it automatically become? That’s right… when you picked it up off the ground, that simple stick was instantly transformed into one of the mightiest swords in all the land! You know it’s true.
So, it got me wondering about the nature of a double-edged sword. As you know, there are many single-edged swords like the katana, so what were the reasons for making one with two sharp edges?
Better for thrusting attacks
better penetration of armor
keeping the enemy from grabbing the blade
allows the user to swing both ways
This also made me think of Hebrews 4:12, which says:
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
So, we see that the Word of God has some of the advantages listed above. It thrusts to the core of our being, separating good from bad, holiness from sinfulness, and truth from error. It is also dangerous to the enemy, so as to be cut by its power, no matter where they attempt to grab it.
And, as we will see today, the passage of scripture will do just that.

Outline & Passage

- The Penalty for Lying to the Spirit [vv.1-11]
- The Restoration and Healing from the Spirit [vv.12-16]
Acts 5:1–16 ESV
1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 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. 3 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? 4 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.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. 12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

The Penalty for Lying to the Spirit

Ananas & Sapphira lie about their giving. The very first word used here is BUT. Why you ask? Well, have you said to your spouse, “I love you, but...”? How did that work out for you? Yea, that’s what I thought. The word but connects this section with the section before it. Meaning, as opposed to the generosity, genuineness, and honesty of Barnabas, these two were doing something different. As many were doing at that time, they laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles. This would have been another example of radical generosity, however, they decided to keep part of the profits for themselves despite telling the Apostles that it was 100% of the profits.
Why did they do this? Who knows! Perhaps they needed some of the money to live on. Nothing wrong with that. We all need money to put food on the table. Perhaps they also wanted to show their generosity to the community. Again, there isn’t anything technically wrong with that, however, doing that will always muddy the waters. Purposefully showing your gift-giving begins to reveal the true motivations of the heart. When you start to show your giving to others, there is an easy temptation to make the gift about yourself, rather than about meeting the needs of others and honoring God.
Unfortunately for these two, they went to the extreme and lied about their giving. What they did was sell their property for X amount of money, then present less than X amount of money to the Apostles while saying that it is the full X amount. This clearly shows that they wanted the praise of the people and recognition of being overly generous. It was selfish giving meant to attain praise for themselves rather than glory to God, which was no different than the Pharisees belting long-winded prayers in public for their own glory rather than God’s.
This was a boneheaded move.
And, as we see, this was a far worse offense than the Pharisee’s prayers, because it was a bold-faced lie… not just to the Apostles, but to God Himself.
Peter calls Ananias to the carpet through a miracle. We often overlook this miracle in the Bible, because it is so subtle. Peter knew this couple was lying. The implication from the text is that the Holy Spirit made this known to Peter. How? Because Peter (and the others) were about the business of being filled with the Spirit. As a result, He imparted supernatural knowledge in this particular instance. Knowing they were lying, he quickly called them on it, saying, “Why, bro? Wasn’t the property yours to do whatever you wanted with it? Wasn’t the profit yours to do whatever you wanted to do with it?”

The Penalty Shows The Reality of the Human Heart

Then, Peter’s comments reveal two important truths about the human heart:
1- Satan can influence it.
“Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” These are heavy words.
Peter knows all about how this works. In his zeal to protect his Master and attempt to stop Jesus’ arrest, Jesus’ reply was, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Peter also knew that Satan had influenced Judas to betray Jesus for money.
And here, the Spirit is showing Peter that the same Enemy is at work here, only this time, the price Ananias must pay for this lie is his own life.
Notice, however, that Satan didn’t make him do it, but rather, Satan influenced his heart. There was a spiritual attack that targeted the passion and desire of the heart.
2- Your sin can influence it.
Though Satan played a role, Ananias was still held responsible for his actions. Peter made this clear by saying, “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart?”
This shows us that we are still inclined to act upon our own sinful desires. At the end of the day, Ananias lied because he wanted some of the money from the sale, and he wanted praise for being generous. Period.
So, Ananias can’t simply say that ‘the devil made me do it’ and he can’t claim human error in miscalculating the real profit. The Spirit has revealed the true intentions of his heart and his judgment was swift and final.

The Penalty Called People to Fear God

Ananias was struck dead and immediately buried. At face value, this seems rather harsh. The man lied and he dies for it? Dude.
There is no escaping the difficulty of this passage. This was divine judgment. Peter didn’t pronounce a curse on Ananias. When Peter called him out on his lie, he immediately fell to the ground as dead as 3-day-old roadkill.
This causes us to ask some serious questions. Why was his judgment so severe? Isn’t this just a little unfair? Why didn’t he have a chance for repentance?
The only answer we are given is this: “You have not lied to man but to God,” and in His perfect judgment, He decided to act immediately. Maybe Ananias was to serve as an example of God’s complete hatred of sin and wrath against it. This is certainly possible, given the crowd’s reaction. Great fear came upon the whole church, so this was meant to communicate to them specifically.
What we do see is a swift burial, that is just as immediate as his death. Clearly, the rest of the crowd acknowledged this as a judgment since they wasted no time in putting him 6 feet under. It was over in less than 3 hours! There was no ceremony or time of remembrance. He was a marked man and they wanted nothing to do with him.
Sapphira falls dead as well. In that 3-hour time span, Sapphira came back, completely unaware of what happened to her husband, and was confronted by Peter. However, this time, it seems as though she had a chance to come clean since Peter asked if what she gave was the full sale price.
Sadly, she stuck to her guns and lied just as her husband had done and suffered the same fate when Peter said those chilling words, “the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
And just like her husband, she immediately fell dead, was carried out, and buried beside Ananias. This is significant, because you can’t just explain this away as a random heart attack. Maybe you could if only Ananias died suddenly, but it would be impossible to walk away with that conclusion with both of them dying the same way. No, this was clearly God’s judgement.
God hates sin. - What are we to take away from this? That God is mean and unfairly smites? Of course not. God hates hypocrisy & pride. It goes completely against his holy and perfect nature.
We have to understand this in its context. This is year one of the existence of the church. This is the infant body of Christ growing and forming, and according to God’s perfect knowledge, he decides to act like a gardener and prune diseased branches.
Or, to put it another way, God was acting like a surgeon, cutting out destructive cancer in the early church to maintain the health of the body as a whole.
That is one edge of the Spirit’s sword. Now, let’s look at the other edge.

The Restoration and Healing from the Spirit

In the previous section, we saw God act as a surgeon, cutting out cancerous desires and actions. Now, we see the polar opposite. In this section, we will see the restorative part of the Spirit’s power. On one hand, we witnessed death. Now, we are witnessing fullness of life.
Signs and Wonders from the Apostles performed regularly. They were doing what Jesus did. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and healed nearly all who came to Him. The power of signs and wonders was given by the Spirit to authenticate the Apostles as followers of Christ and leaders of this new movement.
Not only did it authenticate them as servants of the Messiah, but it was also a constant witness to the Jewish Leadership that they were on the wrong side of this fight. Miraculous healing like what was done for the Lame Beggar pointed to God’s restorative power, and now, it was being done on a daily basis! The members of the Sanhedrin had ZERO rational justification for bucking against God’s work. They only had their sinful, jealous pride.
Peter’s healing shadow shows just how Spirit-filled he was. This brings to mind the power that flowed from Jesus to the woman who pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of His robe. Now, a similar effect has been given to Peter’s shadow, and later on to Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons were used to heal people. I believe this is because the book of Acts follows two core leaders: Peter (ch. 1-12) and Paul (ch. 13-28). These leaders are following lock-and-step with their leader: Jesus.
This was also a direct answer to their prayer from 4:30. The gathered believers prayed for boldness while God extends His hand to heal and for signs and wonders to take place.

God Hates Sin

The takeaway for the believing community. There was great Fear (holy fear). None dared joined them - likely anyone who was superficial and not 100% sold out. God sets the moral bar high for his followers. The rest of them likely pertains to the crowd at Solomon’s Portico. They were onlookers who respected the Apostles but didn’t want to come anywhere near the fellowship because of the strict judgment on Ananias and his wife.
This fear extends beyond reverence and awe of a mighty God to a dread-like fear of God’s judgment on any offense to His holy and perfect character. To be honest, we have a tiny view of the Fear of the Lord in our churches today, because we minimize that window and maximize the love window. Even a child has a healthy fear of discipline from a parent. Why would we think our relationship with God is any different? Aren’t we told in scripture that discipline from God is a good thing and if He doesn’t dispense discipline on his own, they are illegitimate children?
God is not okay with the sin in your life. Hear that. His love doesn’t mean that He looks the other way. It does mean that He crafts a plan that will lead you out of it, but it may come at a cost.

God will build His church

The Lord added multitudes to their number. This is the 3rd wave of rapid growth in the early church. First at Pentecost (3,000), secondly after the Beggar was healed and Peter and John were tossed in prison (2,000 more), and now this (an un-numbered multitude).
It’s important for us to see this 3rd wave because their response was after both sides of the sword had made their cuts. The judgment of God that resulted in the Fear of God had come down on Ananias and Sapphira. During the same time, God’s miraculous healing of the Beggar and on the multitudes that were being brought to Peter, showed His extreme love and grace.
The skeptics and the curious onlookers stayed away, but those who recognized the power of God (in all its forms) came and sought.
Don’t be afraid to use both edges of the sword. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to see this and live it out in the midst of a culture that only wants to use one side of this sword. If we do not declare the judgment and wrathful side of God that despises sin alongside the proclamation of His love and grace, then we are not declaring the full counsel of God. We can’t be so concerned about offending another person that we fail to bring the full gospel to bear on their minds and hearts.
People came out of the woodwork for healing. Clearly, Solomon’s Portico was the main preaching pad for Peter. We have seen him there multiple times, and that makes sense since it was where many in the town would gather. Their fame and opposition began there, but now we see their influence broaden. Here, we see the beginnings of the ripple effect of Acts 1:8 flow beyond the temple in Jerusalem.
In fact, news of their miracles had extended beyond the city limits of the city out into the Judean suburbs. The towns that surrounded the city had gotten wind of these men because they were literally coming out of the woodwork to lay their sick and possessed loved ones at the feet of the Apostles.
This is clear evidence that the Sanhedrin failed miserably in their attempt to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only were their hands tied at the clear healing of the Beggar, but now, countless healings and demonic deliverances were being performed on their front porch, in their driveway, and in the streets outside of their neighborhood.
There is no stopping the spread of the gospel.
There is no thwarting God’s plan and purpose.

Conclusion

So, what are we to glean for ourselves from this passage of scripture? What nuggets of truth are we to feast upon this week as we digest this hard-to-swallow meal?
1- God hates sin in all its forms.
2- God is not okay with the sins you currently commit.
3- You should have a right view of God (seeing both edges of the sword):
a- to hold a healthy fear of God, who judges sin and disciplines His children
b- to adore Him for the abundance of grace and love that he shows you
4- Know who you are imitating.
Satan is the Father of Lies. Jesus is the Way, Truth, & Life. You can only serve one Master. Who are you imitating today?
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