I was going to write this somewhere else but having thought of how it seemed to lead on from “The Voice of God”, I decided to post it here instead.
I have realised on many occasions, I have missed the boat of opportunity. Unlike Peter and John who seized the moment many times, I normally… miss it.
Yesterday, we looked at Act 4:32-5:11. We started off rather flat and I couldn’t quite understand what they were trying to get at. We were grasping at straws at first because we couldn’t see what was going on. First, why all this doom and scary gloom in-between all the displays of supernatural happenings and what was the point of it?
We said it was a dissection of the early 1st Century Church and for me, it was really dry that we looked at how the Church seemed to be mobilising, people giving all they had and all that. On top of that, why did Ananias and Sapphira have to die for what they did? We looked at the human aspect at the beginning. We saw people doing things which is not a bad thing considering people need to follow examples.
I remember many years ago, when I was at university, there was a time when I had opened the Bible to an Ananias and then in that same moment, flipped to another Ananias … all very spontaneous but freaky. I remember telling me chaplain I had no idea what God was trying to say since these two Ananias(es) were very different.
I guess for me, having just had that amazing experience earlier in the week and having heard from God and somehow being brought back into His presence not through my own merit but through His grace, I somehow felt that this passage, even though scary, was somehow Spirit-filled too and displayed the holiness of God.
I guess for me, and I shared this and suddenly in my opinion, the table was alive again … I totally seek glorification, something that God seemingly detests as we can see through Acts 5:1-11… but I can’t suppress what I felt inside.
For me, it was a display of God’s holiness within the Church. Sure the outpouring of supernatural splendor was a sight to behold, it meant that they must have had some of that substance within the Church. To me, it was as if God’s presence was in the Church and because of His holiness, people didn’t care about themselves but looked out for each other without thought of getting anything back in return. It was as if material possessions were not important in the greater scheme of things.
I remember we were discussing how people looked after the poor, a poor slant or perspective in my opinion, and very dry but perhaps it had a more pastoral aspect to it. Still dull, in my opinion.
The Holy Spirit was with them and because of His presence, it meant that people felt like sons rather than slaves. On top of that, the Spirit detested self-glorification which was the case with Ananias and Sapphira. Perhaps, their God-given faith was insufficient and they felt they had to work for it and that meant to get some of the glory… they thought they could deceive the Church by telling the people they had given all they had when actually, they had kept some and were hiding from the rest.
In my opinion, at the beginning, when we were talking about the dry stuff, it really sounded like a cult, this 1st Century Church and that is what could and can happen if we are not Spirit filled. We go through the motions, doing what is right but then going the wrong way at the end.
The point was, they wanted to take away some of God’s glory and we know that is impossible when in God’s presence. But God had none of it but did God have to strike them dead? I thought it was the presence of the Holy Spirit, just like that time when that guy touched the Ark of the Covenant. In that same manner, the Holiness of God although not in a physical tangible object, it was now around and surrounding them. God was and is serious business.
In my opinion, I really liked this passage for what it was. It was like a follow-on for me. I thought of myself having heard the Voice of God and being so confident and knowing without a doubt that it was Him and then reading this passage and seeing Him right there amongst the 1st Century Church. Hearing from God didn’t need me to do anything and being in His presence doesn’t mean you need to do anything. Plus, if you are not wholehearted about it, God might just strike you dead. One has to wonder if that can happen today in this day and age and I would say the ground we had to stand on would need to be truly anointed by God.
It just struck me that perhaps that was the representation that God wanted to portray. The 1st Century Church, or its people, were the New Temple.
It made so much sense to me while reading the passage and I got annoyed when we were talking about how it wasn’t just that the Church was rich but there were probably more poor people around them and it was something like God’s economy or something along those lines – yes, really dry stuff.
For me, like someone had said, it was the outworking of the faith or even of what Jesus Christ had talked about in the Sermon on the Mount and all that and what they were experiencing and seeing was the outpouring of all that.
It wasn’t something they could negotiate. God’s presence is straightforward. If you hide or think you can trick Him, he calls you out. I thought it was strange that Peter knew they had lied. What more that they called them out on it. Because in God’s presence, you cannot lie. That was how strong His presence was. I thought it was amazing. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in that presence now that I am living as I am but perhaps when we are, we would rather confess first then let it eat us up. I don’t know.
Some people get so technical but perhaps it is the curiosity of it. They wonder if Ananias and Sapphira were Christians but if you think of it, how many of us have lied and still had faith? Perhaps, they were meant to die to save themselves rather than tread further and we should see that then as a blessing. Plus, they died in the presence of God.
I mean, it would be unfair to just talk about the healings and awesome things they were doing without seeing what was happening within the Church or seeing God move inside the Church. It wouldn’t be a correct depiction plus it might paint to some a not very rosy picture of this 1st Century Church but that’s the thing about God and His judgement. It is not fine and dandy and anything goes. As we studied in the Minor Prophets last year, God cannot be gray… Truth is truth. You can’t hide from God because God will smoke you out. You can’t trick Him because God will call you out.
I loved it. And although the people were fearful I think it was good that they were fearful of God. I mean, isn’t that we should all be? We should all treat God with some reverence knowing that He is sovereign? How many of us are fearful of Him? I know I’m not. We talk of Him as our friend or sing love songs to Him like he’s our lover but the truth is, God is also Almighty Majesty, our King.
I really liked last night’s study because of the revelation I got through my experience with Him. Oddly the experience wasn’t so overpowering but it was like a light switch that made it all bright, like I was brought back into His presence through His voice. In the same way, I could easily walk out of that light so I hope I don’t do it too soon. Even though it is tempting. It warms me inside to think that such a simple revelation from Him can have such powerful effects. May God not only enlighten us but draw us into His holy presence.