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God Shows His Church How to Stay out of Trouble

The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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God shows us that: 1. Satan has a strategy (vs. 1-3). 2. Our integrity is important (vs. 3-4). 3. Our sin is serious (vs. 5-10). 4. We should grow in godly fear (vs. 5 & 11). 5. We must lean on God's leadership (vs. 3-4).

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God Shows His Church How to Stay out of Trouble

Acts 5:1-11

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Aug. 11, 2013


*When we looked at the early church last week, they had been severely threatened by the religious authorities in Jerusalem. But they took their troubles to the Lord, and saw Him answer in a powerful way. They kept spreading the gospel, and they generously helped each other every way they could.

*Acts 4:31-37 puts it this way:

31. 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.

32. Now 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.

33. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

34. Nor was there anyone 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,

35. and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36. And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus,

37. having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

*All was well, or rather all seemed well. But a new kind of trouble was just around the corner, and we read about it in the opening verses of Acts 5. With this background in mind, let's read Acts 5:1-11.


*I will always remember something that Lewis Bartet said on the radio years ago. He said, "If I searched and searched until I finally found the perfect church, then after I joined it, it wouldn't be perfect anymore."

*Sadly, there is no perfect church on this side of Heaven. Even the first church ran into trouble before too long. But God can use their trouble to help us stay out of trouble.

1. First: God shows us that Satan has a strategy.

*Satan has a strategy to hurt and hinder God's church, and Christians: All of us are in Satan's sights. We get a good look at the devil's strategy in vs. 1-3:

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?"

*What is Satan's strategy to attack God's church? -- We can see 5 things here that the devil still tries to do today.

[1] First he tries to deceive us.

*Before they tried to deceive others, Ananias and his wife were deceived by the devil. Satan told them they needed that money. Satan told them it didn't matter. It was just a little lie. And Satan told them that no one would ever know.

[2] The devil uses deception. He also uses our disobedience.

*He may not be able to steal our salvation, but if he can get us to disobey God, the devil can steal our friendships, our trust, our testimony, and our health.

[3] The devil uses our disobedience. He also uses division.

*Satan tries to do everything he can to divide God's church, and too many times he is successful. The devil could have used this incident to divide the church. I can hear someone saying, "Peter sure was hard on Ananias and Sapphira!" Thankfully, God made it clear that their punishment was in His Hands.

[4] But the devil uses division. He also uses discouragement.

*It would have been easy for the early church to get discouraged over such a big set-back. "Two people dropped dead in the service last week." That's not what you want to see in the church bulletin. And the devil has all kinds of ways to discourage us.

[5] He uses discouragement. He also uses distraction.

*It is easy to get side-tracked in church, and the devil does everything he can to make us forget what matters. Satan used all five of these strategies in the early church, and we can be sure he is using the same strategies today.

*As David Holwick says, "The Devil tried to tempt Jesus, and he will try to tempt you. He cannot steal your salvation, but he can ruin your spiritual effectiveness." (1)

*So we have to resist the devil, and the good news is that we can resist the devil! As James 4:7 says: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." And the devil has to do that, because 1 John 4:4 tells Christians: "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."

*God wants to help us stay out of trouble, so He shows us Satan's strategy.

2. But God also stresses that our integrity is important.

*Verses 3-4 make this truth clear. There Peter said:

3. . . "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.''

*God wants us to know the enormous importance of our integrity. Nothing can hurt relationships faster than dishonesty. And our dishonesty doesn't just hurt other people. It hurts God.

*What led Ananias and Sapphira to lie? It could have been lack of faith: "What if we need this money? Will the church spend it right? Will God take care of us?"

*It also could have been greed: "That's my money, and I'm not giving it to God!"

*What could have caused Ananias and Sapphira to lie? It could have been plain old pride, because this is one of the most tempting sins for spiritual people. David Holwick said: "Ananias and Sapphira lied because they wanted to impress the rest of the church."

*Most Christians struggle with pride from time to time. I know I do. Melvin Newland told the story of another preacher who got a Christmas card one year. This card had a note from a lady in his congregation. She was very complimentary about his preaching, and even compared him to Billy Graham. She finished by saying, "I think you are one of the really great preachers of all time."

*Later that day he showed the note to his wife. It was a big church, and his wife didn't know the woman, so she asked, "Who is that woman?" Her preacher husband replied, "She is a very intelligent woman in the congregation who loves great preaching."

*Then he then asked his wife, "How many great preachers do you suppose there really are in the world?" She quickly brought him back down to earth by answering: "One less than you think." (2)

*Maybe Ananias and Sapphira lied because of pride or greed or lack of trust. And maybe it seemed like no big deal to them. But they found out in a most shocking way how important integrity is in the sight of God. God wants to help us stay out of trouble, so He stresses the importance of our integrity.

3. He also reminds us that our sin is serious.

*Ananias and Sapphira learned this truth in a dreadful way. Please listen again to vs. 5-10:

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?'' And 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.

*Why did God strike Ananias and Sapphira dead? Were they saved? Lots of people would say no. But what about 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, where Paul was talking about the Lord's Supper and said:

27. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.

29. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

30. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

31. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

32. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

*Paul is definitely talking to Christians in these verses. And he definitely says that sometimes the Lord will shorten a believer's life to keep them from sin. So maybe Ananias and Sapphira were believers.

*And a wise man once said that the important question is not why did God strike Ananias and Sapphira dead? The important question is why He doesn't strike us dead when we do the same thing? Have you never told a single lie since you got saved? Have you never done anything wrong since you were saved?

*God's grace still amazes me! And we don't understand why He is so patient with us. But we should know for sure that our sin is a serious thing in His sight. Ananias and Sapphira teach us that.

*But the greatest proof that our sin is serious is not the death of Ananias and Sapphira. The greatest proof that our sin is serious is the death of Jesus Christ! God humbled Himself to become a man and die on the cross for our sins, because He loves us, and because there was no other possible way for us to be saved.

*That's how serious our sin is. But now we can be saved by receiving the Risen Christ as our Lord and Savior. That's why Paul could give this testimony to Christians in Romans 5:6-10:

6. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.

8. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

10. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

*God wants to help us stay out of trouble, so He reminds us that our sin is serious.

4. He also stresses that we should grow in godly fear.

*God is worthy of the highest reverence in our lives, and He mentions this godly fear twice in these verses. First in vs. 5: "Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things." Then in vs. 11: "Great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things."

*The "great fear" he talks about here is "mega fear" in the original language. And God is reminding us twice that He deserves our sincere, supreme reverence. He deserves the ultimate reverence from us.

*John Phillips explained what happened here in Acts 5: "A wholesome fear gripped the whole community. What heart-searching must have followed, what inner conviction, what inner examination of motives. Word of what had happened spread swiftly throughout the fellowship of the Lord's people and throughout the city.

*The Holy Spirit had acted swiftly. He had done something the Lord Jesus had never done. He had struck down human beings in judgment. It was a warning. It was one of those occasions when God makes an example out of a case in order to fully reveal what He thinks of a matter.

*It was thus He struck down Sodom and Gomorra for their sins, and it is a good thing God does not so smite every case. God exercises patience and grace in the face of much human sin. However, from time to time He makes a summary example to remind us that He is holy." (3)

*God is not to be trifled with! Yes, He is full of grace, but He is also full of glory, and He is not to be trifled with. But God wants to help us stay out of trouble, so He stresses that we should grow in godly fear.

5. God also reminds us that we must lean on His leadership.

*We can see this truth by focusing on Peter for a moment back in vs. 3-4:

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.''

*On his own, Peter didn't know that Ananias and Sapphira were lying, but God knew! John Phillips made this truth so clear, when he explained: "The Holy Spirit knew all about the trick. He had been present in their home, had heard their conversation, knew the market price of the property, knew all about their conspiracy.

*He was there when the land was put up for sale; there when the bargain was struck; there when the deed of sale was signed. He knew how much was paid for the property, and he was present when the bank deposit was made.

*He knew how much the conniving couple had decided to give and how much was still in the bank. He was present when Ananias kissed his wife good-bye that morning. He saw the knowing look that passed between them. He walked beside Ananias all the way to the church, prodding his conscience, troubling his soul. He stood sadly and silently by as the deception was consummated, and Ananias gave his gift. Then he flashed the whole lying picture into unsuspecting Peter's mind, gave him an instantaneous gift of discernment and told him what to do. How inexpressibly solemn! How easily we forget that the Lord God, the Holy Spirit, knows all the mundane details of our lives." (4)

*Peter didn't know what was going on, but God knew, and the Lord showed Peter exactly what to say and do. We too will face difficult and uncertain situations. But the Lord always knows exactly what to do, and we can always lean on His leadership.

*John Huffman told the story of a godly professor at Princeton Seminary. His name was Robert Wilson. One of Dr. Wilson's students was invited back to preach in chapel 12 years after his graduation. Old Dr. Wilson came in and sat down near the front.

*At the close of the meeting the professor came up to his former student, extended his hand, and said, "If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach. I only come once. I am glad that you are a big-godder. When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big-godders or little-godders, and then I know what their ministry will be."

*His former student asked him to explain and Dr. Wilson replied, "Well, some men have a little god, and they are always in trouble with him. He can't do any miracles. He can't take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn't intervene on behalf of his people. They have a little god and I call them little-godders.

*Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear him. You have a great God; and He will bless your ministry."

*Church, I want to tell you tonight: We have a great God!


*Troubles will come in the world and even in the church. But God wants to help us stay out of trouble.

-So don't be fooled by Satan's strategy.

-Remember the importance of our integrity.

-Remember the seriousness of our sin.

-Give God the reverence that He deserves.

-And trust in the Lord with all your heart.

*Let's go to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from Online sermon #1287 - "PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS" by David Holwick - Ephesians 6:10-13

(2) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Melvin Newland - Source: SermonCentral sermon "Dealing with Pride" by Lynn Floyd - Luke 18:9-13

(3) Adapted from "Exploring Acts, An Expository Commentary" by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, 1986 – Acts 5:5-6 - The seriousness demonstrated

(4) Adapted from "Exploring Acts, An Expository Commentary" by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, 1986 – Acts 5:3 - The source of the wickedness

(5) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Learning to Change" by Jeff Strite - Acts 10:1-48

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