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Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Sapphira—Acts 5:1-10

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In the days which immediately followed the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, the tone of believers was very high, the standard of Christian life was formed on its true model, the life of Jesus, and these first converts learnt, from their very birth of the Spirit, not to live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again. (2Cr 5:15.)

Nothing earthly was to be gained, but everything to be lost, by their profession of faith in Jesus of Nazareth, who was known as an executed criminal; and thus it came to pass that a selfish life was almost unknown amongst them. "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." (Act 4:32.) O how it would startle these early Christians to know that great brewers and distillers, whose private houses are like palaces, are reckoned amongst the followers of Jesus in these days; how astonished they would be to know that grasping greediness and overreaching exists as much among some professing Christians as among worldlings! It was the common practice in those early days that "as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the Apostle's feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

These disciples feared to possess earthly things: most Christians of the present day fear to lose them. These primitive Christians lived "in the power of an endless life" (Heb 7:16), they counted their earthly life as nothing but a preparation for that which is to come.

In such an unearthly atmosphere, the carnal mind was very clearly discernible. "A certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession." Husband and wife had evidently taken counsel about the matter, and both were of accord concerning it. Ananias "kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it." Why should it be so distinctly stated that he sold a possession with Sapphira his wife, and that his wife was privy to it, if God did not count her responsible for participation in the sin? It is an easy thing for a wife to shirk all responsibility and throw all the blame of whatever happens upon her husband. There are some wives who knowingly enjoy ill‐gotten gains, and soothe their consciences with the assurance that they themselves are not to blame. Ahab sought to go scot free when Jezebel was the instigator of Naboth's murder, but the stern prophet of the desert, inspired by his God, came to the participator in the crime, and fastening his penetrating eyes upon him, said: "Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" (1Ki 21:9.)

In this deception of Ananias, Sapphira was a partner. God gave woman to be her husband's helpmeet. It is an awful perversion of true union in marriage when a wife's complicity with her husband strengthens him in wrong doing. If Sapphira had run the risk of her husband's displeasure, and taken up her cross in refusing to be a party to the crime, she might have saved, not herself only, but her husband also; and the sin of their lie might never have been committed.

O Christian wife, are you with your husband in any deception? Are you with him in any untrue way of conducting business? How much are you privy to which you do not wish to be exposed or known? "Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, neither anything hid that shall not be known and come abroad." (Luk 8:17.) It is, perhaps, one of the greatest crosses which a wife can take up to go counter to her husband, but if it is involved in the true following of her Master, she is bound to do it.

Probably Ananias was a weak man, weak in faith, weak in will, and if Sapphira had stood on the side of her God, the awful tragedy which ended the life of this couple might have been. spared. Peter, whose inward eyes were opened by the Holy Ghost, and who was, therefore, "of quick scent in the fear of the Lord" (Isa 11:3, margin), distinguished something that was not right. More open to communications from God than to dealing with man, he received his intimation, and boldly said:

"Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whilst it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men but unto God."

Poor, miserable man! Ananias was seeking to deceive his God, the Church of Christ, and himself, and the only one to whom he opened his heart, his wife Sapphira, helped him in this plot of deceit! He wanted to take the position of one who was utterly disinterested, and acting in the fullest faith in God, who should supply all his need; but that part of the price which remained somewhere in his possession, belied his profession. God must drag the truth to light.

The intensity of God's presence in these early days was such, that sin and death were almost inseparable. Ananias, hearing these few words, fell down, and gave up the ghost. Where every member of the Church was single‐eyed, the slightest crookedness became a grave offence against the Body of Christ. "Great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things." They saw how a holy God could not tolerate sin.

The corpse of the sinner was carried out and buried. Meanwhile, Sapphira, with the lie in her heart, utterly unconscious of what had taken place, came in. Peter turning to her, put the question:

"Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?"

Sapphira kept her compact with her husband. She might even now have drawn back, but Sapphira was with Ananias in his sin: she was "privy to it." True to her husband and fellow‐sinner, she said:

"Yea, for so much."

"How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out."

Without a moment to repent, or to take account of the august presence of the God whom she had dishonoured, Sapphira fell down straightway at Peter's feet and yielded up the ghost. She shared her husband's grave as well as her husband's sin!

Such was the fate of a believing woman who sinned against God with her eyes open in those days of primitive Christianity!


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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