Conversatio Divina

Part 4 of 10

Jewish Christianity Attacked From Without and From Within

Originally given in a Sunday School class at Woodlake Avenue Friends Church

Dallas Willard

A study of the book of Acts for a Sunday School class at the church where Dallas Willard and Richard Foster met. Exposition of Acts 4:1-6:7

Dallas: I trust that in this freshness of the study, you will not be totally lost and you would be able to renew it as you concentrate on the Word of God. Let’s try to come especially if you want to discuss, at 15 minutes after 9, there will be coffee and something over here in the kitchen and then we will gather over here; we are starting to meet in here to get out of the way of the other Sunday school at 9.

Now, let’s stop for a moment and turn our hearts to God in prayer. Then we will get right into the Scriptures—“Blessed Holy Spirit, we are so thankful that we can address you and pray to you even at the same time as we pray through and we ask you to come into this assembly. We would not direct you as to how you should do it but we would ask that you would prepare the hearts of all the people in this room to receive you in your fullness.

Oh Lord, forgive, forgive the many years wasted; remember not the wasted years as we have wandered and babbled in the flesh and its ways and relied upon the arm of the flesh and looked to man and worried about him and left you unconsidered. Forgive, Oh Lord and come among us and once again, whatever would be today’s equivalent of those days long ago that we have been studying, cause us to dwell together with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising the Lord and having favor with God and with man. On behalf of Christ we pray for this. Amen!” [2:20]

Now you’ve seen the preparation and seen the initial coming on the Day of Pentecost into the prepared community. Last Sunday, we concentrated upon the initial impact of the Spirit of God as it came in a way, which it had never come before because it had never found a group into which to come such as it found in this time.

We saw how there were strange, supernatural, unusual striking manifestations of the presence of God and how these called for an explanation and how Peter stood up and knocked down the explanation that was given—mainly that “these people were just drunk” and explained that this was the fulfillment of the promised Joel and he went on to preach that the one who had recently been hung on a cross and killed outside their town was the Messiah and to preach to them in such a way that they felt that they had done it. [3:24]

He uses the second person there. He says, “ . . . you with wicked hands have taken and slain . . .” (Acts 2:23) They believed that and they said, ”What can we do?” and Peter told them what they should do in order to straighten these things out. Towards the end of the 2nd chapter “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) We are going to see how this principal of community works as we go along because we are going to see an infraction of it in today’s lesson and you’ve been studying so I am not going to comment on that at this point. We will take it up in a few moments.

“And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple. . .” (Acts 2:46) The temple was their locus of worship. We are not yet to Christianity, as we understand it as something distinct from the Jewish religion. This was Jewish religion. It was practiced in the temple and everyone understood it to be Jewish religion. “. . .they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house. . .” What does that mean? Eating with each other. Eating with each other—sharing and sharing the word too. That’s right. That’s a good interpretation of it because the bread is not just physical food; it’s the Word. Jesus is the bread is life. They shared the Word together as they broke the bread together and here again, we see how the physical is a vessel for the spiritual reality. [5:24]

The physical eating together—hospitality, by which we have just about totally lost the art in our time. Losing physical hospitality—we lose opportunity to break the bread of life with one another—“ . . . did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” That is, there was one thing on their mind. What was it? Well, the tremendous things that were happening in their presence. The fact that this Jesus whom they had fellowshipped with had gotten Himself killed and had triumphed over death. The fact that He had taught them by means of the Spirit when He wasn’t even present with them but He could talk to them. And then He’d come to them and then He had ascended and then after He had ascended and set it up precisely for the introduction of the Spirit of God, it happened just like that. [6:37]

When the Spirit of God came, they had expected it; they had been told. It was just like a letter of introduction to the Spirit of God so they had no need to worry about making the right connection. And then the wonderful affect of the Spirit of God, not only upon a community of believers but also upon those unbelievers around about. They were in the presence of God at work. That’s what was on their mind—singleness of mind—singleness of mind—“gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor.” (Acts 2:46)

I want to stress this word—“ . . .and having favor with all the people. . . ” (Acts 2:47) Very often, we are given the impression that if we are just religious enough and if God just really baptizes us enough, nobody is going to like it. Isn’t that true? We’ve become so “kooky,” “so nutty,” so whatever that nobody is going to like us. That is not true! It’s only when we are living in the Spirit of God that we have the kind of sanity and beauty, which can make us really bearable to people. It’s only the love of Christ dwelling in us that fits us to live with one another. “Having favor with all of the people.”

It’s just like that fruit of the spirit, Paul said, “against such there is no law.” Speaking wryly, “against such there is no law.” And likewise, when the Spirit of God who produces those fruits come, you can find favor in one another’s eyes—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance—that causes favor and when I find that people are in trouble on the job, in their family, or when I find that I’m in trouble on the job or in the family, I find that that could usually have been remedied if the fruit of the spirit was being born. [8:45]

“Having favor with all the people, and the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved.” The Lord’s business is still in the church.  That’s not my business. That’s not your business. That’s the Lord’s business. The church is the Lord’s creation. It isn’t our business to add to it. That’s a very important point and requires a lot of elaboration but I think the best thing to do to elaborate is just to go on through the book Acts and maybe be can talk about it after we see it in practice for a long while. [9:31]

Now then, as they dwell together—let me just interject here—the book of Acts in the early chapters is extremely cherry (unused?) about any temporal indication. We don’t know exactly how long such and such events took. One of the best of New Testament scholars, A. C. McGifford estimates that up to the desert season, this time elapsed here was somewhere between one and two years, certainly no more than 2 years up to the time when Stephen was stoned. But I think it’s important to say this because my impression is that many people have the idea that this happened in a few days. It very clearly didn’t and there are indications that you can pick up as you go along if you read carefully that it didn’t happen all that fast but just the point, a simple point here because I want to get into the events of chapters 4 & 5 that there are no clear indications of time lapse. [10:33]

When we read the next chapter, Peter and John went up to the temple to pray, we want to have in mind that at least several weeks, maybe months had passed now while these events that I have just read in the verses concluding chapter two were being described as a time when they were all together. They had things in common so that the session continued daily with one accord in the temple with breaking of bread and so on—this had been going on for some time.

Then one day, Peter and John are going up at the hour of prayer, which was about 2:00 in the afternoon and as they walk into the gate, there is a man sitting there, as was the custom to beg alms. They didn’t have social security numbers and so they had to take their bowl and go sit down by someplace where people would come by and beg for an alm. This man cried out and Peter turned to him and said, “Look on me.” He wanted to get his attention first and he said to him a most striking phrase, “ . . . Silver and gold have I none but such as I have give I unto thee. Rise, take up thy bed and walk.” He took him by the hand and raised him up and the man started jumping around and hollering.  Everybody could see him. And he grabbed ahold of Peter and John and was half beating them to death with joy and the people came running and Peter said, “Now, folks, look, this was no power or piety of ours that produced this. This was the One; this is the One that took on death.” [12:36]

Now, my point here and there are many points that could be made in reference to this story but the point I want to concentrate on is the two fold point that first of all, Peter and John witnessed to this man just before the simple goodness of this act. They didn’t do it. They didn’t say, “Boy, we are going to heal this guy and that’s really gonna turn Jerusalem on its ear.” [Laughter] They didn’t say, “Isn’t it wonderful what we are going to do here with this strategy for adding to the church daily or whatever, you know.” They just said, “We are just gonna do this. We are gonna just help this fellow.” That’s all. We are just going to help him. It’s simple goodness.

This man who had been lame from his mother’s womb had apparently never walked or perhaps had only gotten along in such a way that after a few years, he just couldn’t carry on with it and decided to give it up as a bad deal. Peter and John just gave “such as they had” but the help was the power of God. God was on the move—the God who is the God of help and wholeness and sanity, who has given us love and a sound mind as one of the epistles said and the God who made that body that was very lame. God was present in Peter and Peter said, “I’m just going to give this God over to you” and so he did. [14:13]

Now then, as a matter of fact, this event did bring glory to God. The people wanted to know but I think we can be sure that God is liberal enough that even if He hadn’t, it wouldn’t have made any difference. He just wanted the report of goodness to go with them. That was characteristic of Jesus. Why, he would do that for people and tell them, “Don’t say anything about it.” He would heal a man and send them to the priest and say, “Now, go through the rituals of purification but don’t say anything about me.”

Question: But they did!

Dallas: They all did. That’s true. They all did but He wasn’t insincere, I’m sure in saying, “Please don’t say anything.” Remember the words said about Jesus? “He shall not cry or lift up His voice in the streets—a smoking flax would he not quench; a bruised reed, will He not break?”  We need to really lower the “horn blowing” that goes on.  God does not need anyone to “toot His horn” and we don’t either.  We just need to quietly go forward and do the good and let God “toot His own horn.” He will bring it to pass. [15:45]

Peter saw these people come; they wanted to know what had happened. There, in the 12th verse of the 3rd chapter and following, and so he explains to them. He tells them exactly who it was. He advises them in the 19th verse, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.” This is the witness, which was given forth now by the power of God to Peter. If you look at that outline from last Sunday, you’ll see that’s the main second thing. [16:23]

Now, this incident lead to another incident because when Peter preached this sermon, he spoke about the resurrection and he got people all worked up about the fact of the resurrection. This is particularly grievous to a particular class of people. You find them mentioned in the 1st verse of the 4th chapter—the Sadducees.

Now, the Sadducees were a group of people who were for all practical purposes materialists. Most, or at least a high percentage of the Jews that you will find today are Sadducees. They won’t take that name but if you look at their beliefs, you will find that they are Sadducees. They don’t stress the personal relationship with God. They don’t stress personal immortality. Their stress is upon the role of the nation, the role of the group in God’s plan.

Now, of course, there are exceptions to that. Within Judaism, you will find people even today who still believe in personal immortality, who believe in a personal relationship with God and who believe that the important thing, as Paul did, and as he, being a Pharisee, of course, he would because the great thing about the Pharisees was, they had all these laws and legalisms but they did have some beliefs that were right about the nature of God.  [18:00]

You see; God is Spirit. God is Spirit and the Sadducees do not believe in spirits. They do not believe in the resurrection. They don’t believe in angels.

All of this sort of thing was very much in the mind of the administrators. Now, you know, what’s been proven in history is really that the Sadducees make the best administrators and that’s why, if you will observe, denomination after denomination, which arises under essentially a Pharisaical thrust is taken over by Sadducees. It’s just much more solid and comfortable a position and you much less apt to work up some “wild eyed” and “wild haired” and running off here with some sort of weird experience and there are those that are not good as administrators. What you need in an administrator is an all together different type. What you have here is the fact as I say is proven throughout history, the Sadducees at the time were the leaders of the organized Jewish religion. [19:14]

Now, when they heard that there were some loud people down in the plaza here preaching the resurrection from the dead, they immediately thought they had better put their organization to work to “put the lid” on this thing. So, they got the chief security guard; that is the captain of the temple—he was a good man among the security guards for the temple and they came running, “ . . . being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) So here we have the first attempt to “put the lid on it”—the first attack from without. It isn’t really the kind of attack we are going to get into in the next lesson. [20:10]

Now, in the next lesson, blood starts to flow. In this, there is just more or less gentle administrative pressure—a tap—“now, why don’t you not do that again?” Sort of like the priest who told Amos when he went up and lowered the boom on Jeroboam, this little capital city up there where the local priests came out and said, “Now, why don’t you go back down to Toccoa and prophesy there and eat bread?” This is the kind of pressure—not really stern but gentle measures from gentle people.

So, the gentle people came and tried to put the lid on the announcement and they laid hands on them, they put “the hold” on them, and they in spite of the fact that “ . . . many of them heard this word believed . . .” as the 4th chapter, the 4th verse says, “And the number of men—they didn’t count the women yet—was about 5,000.” The number of men was about 5,000 that came in that time and as far as we can tell, the reference there is that particular time. [21:25]

On the morrow, these “gentle men”—these Sadducees came and they brought them and they asked them the great question. This is marvelous—the 7th verse—“Who are you in with?” “Who are you in with?” “Who ordained you?” “What’s your denomination?” That’s the kind of questions being asked. The word “power” here doesn’t convey it correctly. That word “power” there is also rightly translated “authority.” Who authorized you? Who licensed you to preach?

Now, see, that’s always the question he was asked. They asked that same thing of Jesus, didn’t they? They said to Jesus, “You are doing all of these things but who authorized you? Who sent you?” And you remember how Jesus answered that—He really put the stinger on them—He said, “You tell me one thing and I’ll answer you.” He said, “You tell me—was the baptism of John from Heaven or from men?” Now you see, that question was very well put because it wanted to bring to the front the fact that there are two sources of authorization—Heaven and Man. Two sources of authorization and the reason He puts that question that way is because He wants to point out that His own authorization is from Heaven and it is not from you. [23:08]

Those of you who remember the 1st chapter of Galatians and the ladies—we had a little study in this and you will remember that Paul points out that his authorization was not from men, right? See, this is a continuing theme that you find not only in the New Testament but also in the bridge—John the Baptist—and in the Old Testament alike. Who sent you? Oh, so many people are enslaved by that question. They don’t feel like they can do anything unless someone told them to do it. Not only someone but someone from the proper authority unless they’ve just got the right credentials so they stand around waiting for someone who could credential them. [23:55]

Remember in the second lesson? The second lesson we went into the point about the Kingdom and the power? And you remember, they said, “Will you at this time restore the Kingdom?” We pointed out that Jesus said, “It is not for you to know about the Kingdom but you shall receive power;” that is, you shall receive power without any earthly sort of authorization. You are going to have a power, which is Kingdom-less. But now that’s what is going on here in this line of questioning saying, “Where is your authorization?”

Let’s watch how this develops up to the passage, which I ask you to memorize for today. “ . . . By what power or by what name have you done this? . . .” (Acts 4:7) And Peter said, “Peter filled with the Holy Ghost,” that is; “Peter was possessed with a power which is beyond him and said unto them, ‘ye rulers of the people of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he was made whole? Be it known unto you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…’ ” (Acts 4:8,9,&10)

Now, don’t think this is some incantation; they didn’t look at the guy and say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—over and over and when you read in the New Testament, it says, “In the name of”—please believe it! That isn’t magic. It isn’t some kind of chant. Perhaps you have seen many people who will pray for 45 minutes of saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Jesus condemned that kind of prayer and He said, “Use not vain repetition as the heathen.” [26:00]

It isn’t the incantation of a name. It is standing in a call.  It is serving for a purpose. It is being a representative of. “Be it known unto you all and to all the people of Israel that in the cause of or by the power of, as representatives of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead even by him that this man stand here before you whole.” This, that is, this Jesus—this authority—this authorization—this is the stone, which was said, “hath not by you builders.” [26:55]

That is, you earthly authorities with the seminary degrees, with the doctor’s titles and the denominational backing and all of the other wonderful things that you can cook up from the human point of view, “you set him at naught.” You knew so much that you couldn’t recognize simple goodness when it stepped out unveiled before you. You knew so much that you could condemn a man because he would heal someone on the side, for example. “You set him at naught” and he has become the head of the corner.  [27:38]

In the book of Daniel, “there was the stone cut out without hands—the stone cut out without hands.” Do you remember that prophecy in the book of Daniel?—the dream of Nebuchadnezzar about the great idol with its feet of clay and wrungs, the legs and thighs of brass; breast of silver and the head of gold. At the end of that dream, there is a stone, which just comes out of the distance cut out without hands and crushes all of those earthly organizations. That’s the stone; this stone that has become the head of the corner. This stone in whom the whole building fitly framed together. Remember that line.

It was founded, set, builded on the foundation of the apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. OK. That’s the one, which has become the head of the cornerstone. The architects missed it, over looked it and there it is. This stuff which was said enough and neither is there salvation from any of it for there is none other name than Jesus—none other cause, none other power, no other organization under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. None other. Bring on all your candidates. Try them all out. None other and then of course when these people “ . . .saw the boldness of Peter and John, and when they perceived that they were unlearned, . . .” and as one version says, “ . . . unlearned and ignorant (common) men, they marveled. . . ” (Acts 4:13)  [29:26]

Why did they marvel? Because there were people standing here with no degrees, no pedigrees, no backing of any sort, no training, no nothing and they were standing here as bold as God Himself because they loved him. That’s why they marveled! And the next phrase is beautiful—it says they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Why? Because that was exactly the same thing that Jesus did; [pounds the pulpit] He stood there without a degree, without certification, without denominational backing, without anything. He just stood himself and ministered the word of God. They recognized that they had been with Him.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas:  Oh, that’s exactly the point. Exactly the point. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Why? Nazareth was full of hicks. There weren’t any good seminaries in Nazareth. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? That’s very good. That’s exactly the point. That’s exactly the point as to why they despise Jesus.

Now notice; okay. You’ve got the Kingdom over here and the power over here. What does the Kingdom say, “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (Acts 4:14) The Kingdom just sort of has to fold up and walk off. So, let’s see, this is beautiful what they do. It is so lame; you can just see the defeat dripping off of them—at least momentarily—and rage.

In the 15th verse, “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves. Saying, what shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all of them that dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it. But that is spread no further. . .”   Now, you ask yourself—why wouldn’t they want that to spread?

That’s like someone finding salt vaccine saying, “Now, let’s make sure this vaccine doesn’t spread any further. We don’t want this good thing to get out. We don’t want all the cripples healed. We don’t want all the people with their minds and hearts all screwed up. We don’t want them straightened out. We don’t want people walking around in boldness and confidence knowing what they are doing.” We want to keep them independent upon the Kingdom so that we will be able to dispense what they need to keep them in control.

Now, you watch that because we are going to see envy, envy, envy, envy, all the rest or the way through the book of Acts and we know that Jesus was delivered by the priest because of envy. I have the references in this study and as you work through the outline that I have given to you today, you will be able to see that. [32:39]

Notice what they did. We don’t want this to spread any further, so what we are going to do is “ . . . to straitly threaten them, . . .” (Acts 4:17) Remember, these are nice people—the nicest of people. They are nice people. Nice people are the ones who crucified Jesus, though. They were the nicest people in the world. This is something we never want to forget and I have said it to you before but I want to stress it; these were nice people. They were the best people in the world and unless you understand that, you are never going to understand what it means when it says, “Christ was the end of the law for them that believed.” (Romans 10:4) You will never understand it. Because, see, you have to understand that it wasn’t the worst that men turned from, away from Israel to Christ—it was the best. It was the best. The best that men could do—crucify Jesus Christ. The nicest people in the world were saying, “Now, we’ve got to keep this under control. [33:47]

Power, it has been said, “corrupts” and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is what happens when the organization is man’s organization. It is almost impossible to conceive no matter how good the person or how good the cause of anyone surviving the exercise of power without being corrected and this is why the power, which came upon the disciples was not through an organization and not through an authorization. It was God’s power. They were never allowed to claim for themselves and Peter could only say, “if not by any power or piety of ours that this man stands before you whole” and you see that written all through the New Testament. The power that is exercised is God’s power. [34:46]

So they threaten them and they tell them not to teach and Peter and John say, “ . . . whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than to God, you be the judges.”  In other words, they said, “We won’t argue about this. There is not point in arguing about this. We are going to leave it up to you. You just decide.”  If a man tells you to do something and God tells you to do something else, you decide which one you should obey and he just leaves the decision up to them. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

So, they threaten them further in the 21st verse and turn them loose and “ . . . all men glorified God for that which was done.” (Acts 4:21) “For the man was about forty years old, upon whom this miracle of healing was shewed.” So they went home and had a prayer meeting and they came together and they had a victory celebration and they just praised the Lord for deliverance from this pressure, this attack from without that had come upon them and as they prayed, they quoted the scriptures here and there is one passage I wanted to—this 27th verse; it takes the second Psalm, I believe it is and he quotes this and says, “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, thou hast anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together,” They took that 2nd Psalm and said, “Boy we have seen it written in the newspaper today. Exactly what happened.”   “ . . .To do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:28) [36:26]

But, of course, they saw from this that it didn’t take God by surprise. That’s what they were saying. “ . . .now, Lord, behold their threatenings . . .” They referred back to the threatenings they had gotten. I think the next time they get a beating. This time it’s a threatening. And so it says, “ . . .behold their threatenings . . .” and what? Make them shut up?  Not at all! “ . . . and grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word. By stretching forth thine hand to heal . . .” See, they had gotten—they had learned a lesson—they had learned the power of God and Jesus “by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy Holy Child, Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul, neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own (anything belonged to themselves); but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:29-32)  [37:30]

Now, brothers and sisters, again, I remind you that we are talking about something here which I think, in all honesty we just have to say, we are not ready for; ready for it and not ready for it in a sense that most people in churches today wouldn’t even want it. It would scare them to death to think of it but it is good to see here what had happened in this time and when the power of God came upon the community in such a way that they had all things in common. “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:33-35) [38:29]

Now, this is not communism. Communism is a social and economic system, which takes by force from every man and gives without reference to the will of the people. This was not communism. This was theocracy. This was the government of God in these people.

Barnabas, bless his heart, dear old Barnabas, one of the best men you’ll ever meet. Barnabas means just “Son of Consolation.” When they had someone who had a particular trait in those days, they would name him bar—whatever it was. If he liked watermelon, why they would say, he was Bar-watermelon or something like that. Bar means  “son.” It’s just the Hebrew for Son. [39:29]

You will remember that when John and James were thundering around one day and saying, “Lord why don’t we call down a little fire here and wipe out these people?” They were called by Bar-Jonas—Sons of Thunder—Sons of Thunder. Why? Well, they wanted to “thunder around” a bit, you know? So they said, “Bar-nabas, Son of Consolation.” That is, Barnabas just “oozed” consolation. “Encouragement” would be a better translation for what Barnabas was. He was just so encouraging to be around. He could just lift your heart. Barnabas, bless his heart. He was a greathearted man and you watch him now as we go on through the book Acts. You see what role this man plays and how he is able to reach out and touch people and get over bridges, which other people will stand on two sides and glare at one another.  Old Barnabas—he can just go over and bring them together. He was a native of Cypress and apparently he owned land and sold the land and gave the money to the apostles—sold it and brought it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Now then, there were a couple of people who didn’t have the things down quite right and we don’t understand all of their background. We don’t know, for example how long they had been with the community whether they were acquaintances of Jesus or whether they were not. [40:55]

They had a little conference in the kitchen and they said, “Now look, we’d like to get in on this. We’d like to be right in with the community here, but gee, if we sell all that land and give all that money, where is that going to leave us because it was simple.  See, you would just sell it and would give so much. They would just pretend like that’s all of it. They didn’t have to bring it and say, “Now, this is all the money, folks!” That’s what everyone was doing and it was assumed that when they brought the money; that was all. So, all they had to do was just hold back, so they did that. “ . . . a certain man named Ananias and Sapphira, his wife sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it. . . “ That is, it was a thing they had worked out or understood between themselves “. . .and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Undoubtedly, this was a public situation when this happened and they were meeting together and in come Ananias and Sapphira and laid the thing down. [42:08]

“. . . Peter said to Ananias, Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost and keep back part of the price of the land?” Peter here is very clear in the next verse about the conditions under which it was given. For example, there was no general directive; you’ve got to give it all. There wasn’t even a general directive that you had to go out and sell your land. Peter says, “Whiles 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. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the Ghost; and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (Acts 5:1-5) and the same thing happened with his wife. Again in the 11th verse, “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord on Solomon’s porch.)”  [43:20]

Now, just a very few points. Why did they lie? Well, they lied because again they wanted to bolster their ego up by doing this nice deed and they wanted to hedge themselves off and not trust God by holding that money back and they trusted in the money instead. So, they got the glory and they liked that—glory of getting right in there with the group and then they also had the additional advantage of having a nice little sum of money which would be handy in case God let them down. And so they lied for that purpose.

What was wrong with their deed? It was not just the overt action as Peter aptly explained. It wasn’t just the fact that the community didn’t have that money. The community would be supplied. God would take care of that. It was, again in the pride and fear, which actuated the lack of trust, not only towards God, but towards one another because these always go hand in hand. When we find ourselves filled full of fear and mistrust towards people, it’s because there is a lack of trust and there is a good amount of fear often between us and God, so it is the same thing that is wrong. [44:39]

Now, I do want to stress there is no indication necessarily that any special act of vindictiveness or punishment was applied here to Ananias and Sapphira. People, in times of great spiritual concentration, things happen that don’t happen when everything is just rolling along in its own natural, fleshly callous course and what it seems like is that these people were simply overwhelmed with the enormity of the thing which they had done and it is not unknown for people in other circumstances simply for their hearts to stop causing them to die. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that God was not punishing them. I am just saying there is no need to see in this story as it is told here any special vindictiveness or punishment.  If God wants it that way, that’s fine, but we needn’t see it here—and as far as we know, they were simply overwhelmed with the enormity of the deed, which they had done and that they died because of this. [45:43]

Now the effect of these events on the community again started with each of these things having happened; we see, the effect of all as recorded. Luke takes great care to record the affect of these acts and the effect is always what? Victory. Now, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Now, notice what happens. “Great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs among the people wrought.” (Acts 5:11&12) The deed is recorded in the consciousness of the people and because of this deed and its recording; the church goes on stronger and uses that event for further witness in all of these cases. [46:35]

We are going to have to conclude today and I am going to have to ask you now to take the last two sections of the outline and work through them carefully. I’ll have some comments on the last portion, the second attack from within—racial and cultural discrimination—as it is seen in the 6th chapter but on the next occasion, I want to get right into the sermon of Stephen and the work of these two astounding deacons or assistants, if you wish—Stephen and Philip in the propagation of the ministry. [47:10]

Now, as we think over these four attacks that I have outlined in the lesson for today and as you study these and as you think about them, the important thing is as always to study them in relationship to the church as you know today.

How does this relate to the fellowship of believers that you know? Are we in such a state today, for example, that we are not apt to have anyone calling us in question because of the power of what we do? Can the devil and the world and the flesh pretty well just neglect what is happening around us today and not get worked up about it? Are there any Sadducees anywhere who are unhappy because of our lives? Is there enough power of God in us and in our community to rebuke those who bring lies and present them to God? Is there enough power in the ministry of the group that we know to make those who are not in that group envious and make them wish to persecute and prosecute? Is the cultural discrimination expressed in so many forms—is it being amply dealt with in the ministry in our group—racial, religious, social?—forms of putting people down and beating them to pieces? These are the things we need to be thinking about. We need to answer those questions honestly and then as we live now together in prayer, we want to pray over those specific things. [49:15]

Did you get a list in the mail today of names today of people in the group? I beg you to use that. Now, let me tell you. We meet here for just a few moments every week. This is not going to bring the kind of unity which we need, which we have to have in order to receive the Spirit of God but if these people on that list are on your lips in prayer day by day, then very possibly, we are on the way to seeing something happen. If there are names on that list that you don’t know, we can arrange an introduction. I’m sure there are some people who don’t know others in the group but it’s all-important that we take that list of people and that we simply hold them up daily before God. I looked over that list. God has been good to me in allowing many of you to share your burdens with me. I look over that list and I am so conscious of the heart break that we have among us today—wounds which has been given and that helps me pray. If I were just to come here on Sunday and see your presence and perfumed presences, I wouldn’t be able to pray very well but I know some of your hearts that are back of those presences and I can pray that for you. I know some victories that have been won.  I know some changes and in that knowledge of one another, I am able to pray. Let’s get to know one another. Let’s share with one another and then let’s pray.

Now, if there is a name on that list that you don’t know, spend your time with it. Spend your time with those you know and then next Sunday you come and let’s say, I don’t know who so and so is and let’s make that introduction so that we will have someone real before us as we pray. In the upper room, they prayed. That was the main thing they did. They prayed. As they tarried in Jerusalem, they didn’t just twiddle their thumbs and peel apples and cook pancakes; they prayed. They prayed and they prayed. [51:49]

Now, if you are sincere in your desire to see the work of God go forth and you want to see the kind of power which is manifested in these four occasions which I have asked you to study for this week, then you pray. And if you don’t pray, you might as well be honest and admit that you don’t care. You just don’t care. Excuse me but you know it’s so. [52:20]

“Lord, be with us now as we go forward into the after service and into this week and by your direction and your provision for every day and every hour, lead us, oh Lord! Lead us and let the travail of your soul be fulfilled in us until there is formed here a people in whom you delight and who really love and have favor with men and their God and may the praise be thine and thine alone for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.”