We are all familiar with the story, even Atheists and sceptics know it too well and usually quote it when they want to tell us how wicked and unruly ‘our non-existence’ God is.
If Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God, we would say it was because they dishonoured Peter and the Church. They also lied before God. But, is that the case? Does God kill? We know that many Pastors and members have equally lied about money before God, some have asked us to sow a thousand dollars to unlock the windows of heaven but none of them dropped dead!
We have all at some point lied before God and we should be as good as dead if that is how God deals with those who lie. As much as God wants us to live an honest and truthful life, he doesn’t strike us dead. The reason is simple; God is consistent with his character, he doesn’t kill, he gives life.
Jesus said in John 10:10:
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Jesus isn’t the thief. Jesus wants you to have a rich and satisfying life.
We also know that the character of God is summed up in Jesus and anything we can’t find in Jesus shouldn’t be attributed to God. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 1:3
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
What this means is that if we want to understand God better, we look at Jesus. There is the nature of God; that is, the natural state of God, we can’t see his exact nature in the Old Testament, we can only see it in Jesus. Jesus isn’t merely a representation of God but the exact representation. In other words, Jesus is the complete representation of God.
Now, looking at God in Jesus, would we still say God killed the duo? That would be a gross contradiction of God’s word and the character of Jesus. God can’t be the thief who is good at killing and destroying, he only gives life and life to its peak!
What killed them wasn’t because they despised Peter, or because they lied before God. Jesus was despised, the ministry has always exposed men who are given to it to insults and despise. Countless times, believers have lied to their Pastors and countless times Pastors have lied to believers but they don’t fall and die. The Church would have been nicknamed “the land of death” if that was the case.
There is only one instance of such in the entire New Testament and therefore we cannot build a doctrine on that. If God goes about killing people, I would be afraid to invite people to Church meetings because I’d be scared they may drop dead.
Nowhere in the Bible have we been promised that we will do ministry without people hurling insults at us or lying to us. So, while we encourage believers to honour those who labour in the word, Ananias and Saphira’s case isn’t valid for this discourse. For the reason that the Bible clearly shows us the character of God, of which the death of the two doesn’t come in, we can investigate other reasons for their death but leave Jesus and his words out of it.
Like I noted earlier, we all have disrespected God, we all have disrespected ministers of God including those who are in the government but we haven’t been struck dead. God does not kill, Jesus didn’t, the Apostles didn’t and the gospel doesn’t minister death to believers and unbelievers.
The same Jesus who said “I have come that they may have life…” couldn’t have been the one who killed the duo. The Bible didn’t say God killed them, the Bible says “they fell and died”.
Let’s see that portion of the Bible bearing the rest of the New Testament in mind. Let’s read:
“As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.” Acts 5:5
“How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” Act 5:9
“At that moment she fell at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” Act 5:10
So, what exactly killed this two?
As much as we know that God doesn’t kill, we also know that God permits death. Death is called an enemy of God, not the character of God. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:26:
“And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
This means that death will be utterly destroyed in its time. God’s enemies serve God’s purpose even when they do not mean it, death can serve God’s purpose too but God isn’t to be given the credit of death, we can only agree that he permitted it.
In the story of Moses (Exodus 12), we read that the spirit of death passed through in Egypt and killed every firstborn except those who had the stain of blood on their doorpost. Another way to understand this is that death killed every firstborn except those who obeyed God and put their trust in him. If there were any Egyptian who obeyed that command given to Israelites, his household would be spared because they are under the protection of God.
They credited the deaths to God in the Old Testament because they didn’t understand the character of God as Jesus had not been revealed. Throughout the Old Testament, even the Angels were referred to as ‘Lord’. Yes, the Spirit of death served a divine purpose that night in Egypt but no, God didn’t kill them, they were simply outside his protection.
What we can confidently say is that sometimes God allows death or that sometimes, people walk away from God’s protection and expose themselves to the ‘radiations’ of the devil. It is like going out into space without space shield, it is like exposing the earth outside the ozone layer which protects us from radiation. When the ozone layer is pulled off, would we say the earth’s atmosphere killed us? No, it only lost its protection.
Let’s bring this down to the subject we started.
Some theologians believe that Ananias and Saphira were not believers and some believe they were believers. However, regardless of the school of thought where you fall into, we know that Ananias and Sapphira were living in disbelief, they conspired between themselves to test the Spirit of God.
This means that aside from the financial fraud they wanted to carry out, there could be other agenda on their list which would have had a very negative impact on the infant Church. If they had trusted God and meant well for the Church, would they have wanted to swindle the Church?
Just in case you do not realize, the couples were scammers. The early church usually brought their wealth together so that they can share it equally among themselves. Ananias and Sapphira saw it as an opportunity. They would bring only a small part of their wealth and still share in the wealth of the Church. They weren’t interested in the furtherance of the gospel, they weren’t interested in the welfare and growth of the Church, the Bible didn’t tell us in specifics if they were believers or not but we know that they came to scam the Church.
Peter saw their fate by revelation, as they entered the building, Peter was aware that they were not under God’s protection, death was hovering on their heads and God was much more interested in protecting the infant Church from being victims of their fraud and conspiracies.
As at this time, the Church was still transitioning, the gospel of Jesus haven’t been fully grasped and understood by the Church including its leaders, we see a lot of inadequacies in the early Church. They were still switching between law and grace, they were in the state in which Paul found the Galatian Christians and called them foolish! While many of Peter’s communications expressed these inadequacies, Ananias and Sapphira weren’t killed by Peter or his pronouncements, he only foretold what he saw in the Spirit.
We see a slightly similar case in Acts 8:20-23. Simon was a member of the Church, he was following the Apostles and yet he was practising sorcery. At some point, he thought he could buy the anointing with money and he offered to pay money to purchase the anointing but Peter rebuked him and said
“May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
Here again, we see the inadequacies in Peter’ communication because the early Church was still in its transition phase, the truth of the gospel haven’t been fully grasped. For example, Peter said “…in the hope that God may forgive you…”, but we know that God forgives and we have every assurance that he forgives and has forgiven us. It is not under probability.
This isn’t a means to discredit the ministry of Peter, no! Not at all but this is to show us that the ministry was handed over to men who weren’t perfect but consistent in growth. Paul once rebuked Peter for being hypocritical, yet Peter was an Apostle!
Look at those verses above carefully, Simon was a member of the Church, he was supposedly a believer and yet he was practising sorcery. He would have been a better candidate of death if God kills. I think we should stick to what the word says instead of writing our ideas and meanings into it. They “fell and died”, not “God killed them”.
Here are things we must pay attention to
- The Bible said “they fell and died”, the Bible didn’t say God killed them.
- Peter said “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie..” We surely know that satan doesn’t fill the heart of believers. Rather, God’s love has been shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
- Peter was aware by revelation that the couples would die but what we didn’t see in the Bible is that God killed them. God permitted their death, he didn’t kill them.
- Ananias and Sapphira were out to deceive the Church. They brought only a part of their wealth hoping to get an equal share of other people’s contributions. By revelation, Peter saw that they had conspired against the infant Church and they would pose a greater threat to the Church in the future.
- While God didn’t kill them, their death was used to caution others.
- If they are believers, although death came upon them, they’d still be saved even while their existence on earth is shortlived.
Let’s discuss briefly honour as we summarize.
Some people think that Pastors and Church elders can pronounce death on believers who do something wrong or dishonour them but that is not true. Peter didn’t pronounce death on the couples, he only revealed what he saw in the Spirit. We shouldn’t use threats of death to force people to honour our ministry, if we have to do so, we are being very carnal. We must follow the steps of Jesus and the Apostles, we do not see them cursing or threatening people.
Honour is not something we demand, it should come naturally, it also comes as believers mature in the knowledge of truth and when we are not honoured, we don’t need to lord it over people or threaten them. We have been called to preach the gospel, we are life-givers and not ministers of death.
If you have found yourself exhibiting the character of Ananias and Sapphira or you have committed terrible wrong against the Church or a believer, you can repent of it, knowing fully well that God loves you and wants you to enjoy the best of life!
The case of Ananias and Sapphira doesn’t apply generally to all people, we do not know why God permitted it to happen that way, we do not know the danger that they were going to pose in the future but all we do know is that God didn’t kill them, Peter only revealed what he saw in the spirit concerning their fate and by choice, they were not under the protective arms of God.
Hope this blessed you? Share your thoughts.