How could a loving God do such a thing? Is the great Creator of all life as petty as the Greek god’s of mythology? That must have been a shocking regression of thought that spiked the fear-meter of the early Christian Church into the red zone.
A well thought of couple, who excelled in their generous support of the less-well-off members, had just been suddenly struck dead at the feet of the Apostle Peter. And for what? Not because of some terrible violation against others, or some blatant rebellion against God.
Ananias and Sapphira had been struck dead for something that is hardly any different than the type of white-lie errors, selfishness, prideful self promotion and corner-cutting that infects every single one of us – that is, at least every one of us that is honest enough to admit our imperfections before God.
That is why we are told that great fear seized the early church. It was not because God strikes some people dead without warning, but because they each realized that such sins are common to all believers.
That could have been me!
Our Claiming Christ family Bible study reviewed several passages from the book of Acts in consideration of what the Bible actually says about the true meaning of Christian’s being “in him”. Specifically in the above verses, we compared the popular teaching that once someone comes to faith in Christ they are guaranteed salvation with how that doctrine looks next to the judgment of Ananias and his wife who lied to the Holy Spirit.
In light of Jesus’ admonition that “unless you repent, you also will be destroyed”, it is little wonder that Christians are put on notice, as the prophets record, to “tremble before the word of God”.
The potential of our salvation, the extent of our eternal hope, the reality of our transformation from sinner to saint is entirely an act of God’s grace both in our initial conversion and even thereafter in our walk as Christians. We don’t ever deserve his forgiveness. In this life, we don’t ever become un-struck-dead-able.
That truth should motivate us just as it did those early believers in Jesus. That fear of what they deserve and the potential that God might well give them what they deserve, did not immobilize them into inaction. Rather, it spurred them on.
Great miracles and healings were performed. Many were added to their number. And a genuine seriousness developed about who they were in Christ and what that ought to mean for how they lived their lives.
In our relatively plush American culture, and our commonly relaxed atmosphere within many of our churches with regard to how we deal with observed sin in our midst, God’s warning remains poignant.
Fear is the beginning of wisdom. This life is not about becoming perfect before we can enter the Kingdom of God, even though we do pursue Christ-like perfection. It has far more to do with being honest about who we are, about our desperate and ongoing need for complete healing and transformation, and about acknowledging the holiness of God.
God is love, even when we get what we deserve. It is that truth that gives us hope, because a truly loving God treats his children with extraordinary grace and not with petty vengeance. He demonstrates himself in our midst with self-sacrificial love.
The Cross proves his love beyond anything else. He will go to the extreme for us. He will even raise the dead to life.
His righteous judgment may rightly cause us to tremble; but his love ought to also inspire our hope and joy in his promised redemption of us from our struggles with sins that could easily end our time-line as it did for Ananias and Sapphira.
Come to your holy God. Come with a humble and broken heart. Allow yourselves to potentially be thought less of by those around you, unlike Ananias. Seek his love and grace, in spite of whatever sins that haunt your past. Throw yourselves upon his mercy. And be prepared to be amazed.
Love is certainly an expression of who God is, but more than that, he is holy. That was a hard lesson for ancient Israel, and a hard one for the early church who had to witness God’s sudden judgment upon their fellow church members. Don’t presume upon his grace that you can disobey his word and still benefit from his preservation. God is holy, and he therefore commands that his followers “be holy”.
Do you change the meaning of “fear of God” to a more modern preference of “awe”, or do you hear what the Holy Spirit that was lied to has to say about biblical fear?