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July 8 UPDATE from Pastors/Elders

November 24, 2019

First Discipline

Commitment to giving varies according to many factors. Listen or read to analyze your giving patterns.

Mike Gerhardt, 11-24-19, Scenes from Acts, First Discipline.

READ Acts 4:32–37. How many good habits were you taught growing up? How many do you continue to practice? If you were to list the top good habits, what would they be? Brushing teeth. Making your bed. Table manners. Healthy eating. Handling money. In several lists that I saw, being patient, wash hands, having breakfast, and not smoking…I guess a good habit is not to start a bad habit! One list I printed out for Janet had 36 important good habits to learn and practice: 36! I hardly have 6 or 7 good habits, everything else is hit or miss. There was another list of 30 weird habits that people somehow developed: If someone sneezes, I hold my breath 15 seconds till all the germs disperse. When I get in my car, I check the backseat, so I don’t get choked from behind. I speed when I go over bridges just in case it decides to collapse. I have nothing to hide but when showing something on my phone and they take it, I snatch it back immediately for no reason. If I’m home alone & I vacuum, I pause it frequently to make sure I don’t hear anyone breaking in. All doors and closets in the room must be completely shut when I’m sleeping. How about you.

In the spiritual realm, there are some habits worth cultivating like being thankful, being generous, being honest. Maybe a good exercise is to write down the good habits you have cultivated and ones you need to work on.

The Practice of Giving to the Lord’s work is one good habit we could always improve. Luke had reasons to introduce Barnabas to his readers and to show how Barnabas and the rest of the church contrasted with Ananias and Sapphira. This practice of presenting tithes (a tenth or determined portion) and offerings (above the tithe and sacrificial) to the Lord was a habit that the Jewish believers already practice. Luke often introduces a character in a minor role and then later brings him back in a major role. The believers were unified not only spiritually (one in heart and mind) but also materially, sharing their wealth. The selling of their goods was voluntary, and the distribution was according to need.

The Lord had answered their prayer for boldness. They boldly testified of Christ’s resurrection. Much grace is one of the numerous times grace occurs in Acts. You may have heard you can’t out-give God! Sacrificial giving is our response to God the Father’s greatest gift of Jesus’ death for our sins.  Joseph was nicknamed Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, because of his encouraging the downhearted. How could a Levite own property as Barnabas did? In Numbers 18, Levites were prohibited from owning property in the Holy Land? The answer may be that Levites could own land elsewhere. Barnabas may have owned land in Cyprus.

The Sin of Lying Ananias and Sapphira. READ 5:1–11. The sin of Ananias and his wife Sapphira is explained in verses 3–4, 9. They could have retained the proceeds from their sale of the property but in collusion with each other, they had lied, saying they had given all the money when actually they had given only part of the money. The phrase the apostles’ feet is the same as in 4:35, 37 and puts Ananias’ action into bold contrast with Barnabas’ action. 5:3 In response, Peter accused Ananias by saying: Satan has filled your heart. The verb filled (eplērōsen) has the idea of control or influence. The same verb is used in the command: Be filled with the Spirit Ephesians 5:18. Ananias, a believer, was influenced by Satan, not the Spirit! Peter asked: How is it that Satan had gained control? A good question to ask.

5:4 Peter referred to Ananias’ lying to the Holy Spirit; now Peter referred to his lying to God. This is an affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s deity.

The fact that believers had the right to keep their money shows that this was not Christian socialism. It was a free-will arrangement for the support of the church, used only temporarily because evidently the early church expected Jesus to come in their generation and set up His Kingdom. They figured if Jesus is coming tomorrow, why do I need a house, a field or a farm.

5:5–6 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. This is scary stuff. You slip up once and bam, you’re dead.

As Peter wrote later, judgment begins with the family of God 1 Peter 4:17. 1 John 5:16 refers to a sin that leads to death. This is different than Matthew 12:31 where Jesus states: Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. The death of Ananias was severe because it was to be an example to the Church to not lie to the Holy Spirit. 5:7–10 Then Sapphira, not aware of her husband’s sudden death, also lied about the amount they got for the land. Peter accused Sapphira of agreeing with Ananias to test the Holy Spirit, to see how much one can get away with before God brings judgment; it means to presume on Him, to see if He act in judgment. Deuteronomy 6:16 Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah. Matthew 4:7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 5:11 As a result of the discipline of this couple, all the believers and unbelievers who heard about it felt great fear, a consequence repeated here for emphasis. The purpose of this account in the narrative is diverse: It revealed God’s displeasure with sin, particularly dishonesty, in His body, the church. It marked the church off as distinct from Israel, for such discipline was not seen in Israel (think how the Pharisees and Sadducees lied). The word church (used here for the first time in Acts) refers to the universal church here (also in 9:31 and 20:28), and to local congregations (in 11:26 and 13:1). This drastic judgment indicated God was at work in this new group and was serious about holiness.

Do we take seriously what we give to the Lord’s work? Do we take holiness seriously? God is loving and forgiving, but Hebrews 12:5-8 let us know he cares so much about us that he will discipline us as a good father discipline his children.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one, he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.