Acts 5:1–11 (NA28)
- It is certainly true that the story introduces us to a different world of thought from that of today. It is a world in which sin is taken seriously, and in which a person convicted of sin against the Spirit might well suffer a fatal shock at the thought of having broken a taboo.
1Ἀνὴρ δέ τις Ἁνανίας ὀνόματι σὺν Σαπφίρῃ τῇ γυναικὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπώλησεν κτῆμα
Now a certain man by the name Ananias together with Sapphira his wife sold a piece of property
- Contrast this with Barnabas who gave full proceeds
- But the amount is not important
2καὶ ἐνοσφίσατο ἀπὸ τῆς τιμῆς, συνειδυίης καὶ τῆς γυναικός, καὶ ἐνέγκας μέρος τι παρὰ τοὺς πόδας τῶν ἀποστόλων ἔθηκεν.
And he kept back some of the proceeds, and his wife was aware of it, and brought a certain part and placed it a the feet of the apostles.
- the use of a rare Greek verb (nosphizomai, v. 2) to describe his action in holding back part of the money. The verb means to pilfer, to purloin, to embezzle. One does not embezzle one’s own funds but those of another, in this instance those that rightfully belonged to the common Christian fund. 
- Significantly, the same rare verb occurs in the Greek version of Josh 7:1–26, the story of Achan, who took from Jericho some of the booty “devoted” (i.e., set aside for God) for sacred use. Achan received a judgment of death from God himself, and Luke may well have seen a reminder of his fate in the similar divine judgment that came upon Ananias and Sapphira.
- Kept back (ἐνοσφισατο [enosphisato]). First aorist middle indicative of νοσφιζω [nosphizō], old verb from νοσφι [nosphi], afar, apart, and so to set apart, to separate for oneself, but only here, verse 3 and Tit. 2:10 in the N. T. 
- This couple wanted acclaim without sacrifice and comfort without commitment. They caused the first demonstration of defeat within the ranks since the betrayal of Judas and denial by Peter. The outward act seemed so appropriate. Notice the identical wording in 4:37 and 5:2: Put it at the apostles’ feet. What appeared to be public generosity was actually family conspiracy, but God was looking.
- He wanted praise for giving all and yet he took care of himself by keeping some. Thus he started the Ananias Club that gave a new meaning to his lovely name (God is gracious).
- Malachi 1:14 (NASB95)
- 14“But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says the Lord of hosts, “and My name is feared among the nations.”
- John 12:6 (NASB95)
- 6Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
3εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος· Ἁνανία, διὰ τί ἐπλήρωσεν ὁ σατανᾶς τὴν καρδίαν σου, ψεύσασθαί σε τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον καὶ νοσφίσασθαι ἀπὸ τῆς τιμῆς τοῦ χωρίου;
But Peter said, “Ananias for what (reason) (has) satan filled your heart, you lied to the Holy Spirit and keep(kept) back (some) of the proceeds of the piece of land
- Filled (ἐπληρωσεν [eplērōsen]). The very verb used of the filling by the Holy Spirit (4:31). Satan the adversary is the father of lies (John 8:44). He had entered into Judas (Luke 22:3; John 13:27) and now he has filled the heart of Ananias with a lie.
- Apparently, the Holy Spirit revealed this deception to Peter. The Spirit had created unity in the church and was now offended at its rupture. We are amazed to discover that Satan can fill the heart of a Christian, especially since Luke uses a verb for fill which also appears in Ephesians 5:18.
- We see immediately that the sin lay not in failing to give all the money, but rather in pretending to do so. The basic issue here was lying, not only to the church but to the Spirit. Above all, the church had to maintain integrity in its alien surroundings, and this behavior could quickly erode the shields of that credibility. Integrity describes those standards of moral and intellectual honesty on which we base our conduct and from which we cannot swerve without cheapening ourselves.
- Genesis 3:13
- Numbers – The Law of Vows, Numbers 30:2
- Deuteronomy 23:21-22, notice how the issue is not the amount, it is the vow
- Ecclesiastes 5:4
4οὐχὶ μένον σοὶ ἔμενεν καὶ πραθὲν ἐν τῇ σῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ὑπῆρχεν; τί ὅτι ἔθου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου τὸ πρᾶγμα τοῦτο; οὐκ ἐψεύσω ἀνθρώποις ἀλλὰ τῷ θεῷ.
No remained to you and remain yours when it was sold was it at your disposal? How (is it) that you have contrived in your heart this deed? (you have) not lied to people but to God.
- Peter’s words make it clear that Ananias was entirely at liberty to keep or sell his property as he thought fit. His sin lay in his lie to the Holy Spirit, and thus consisted not in giving merely part of the proceeds to the common fund but in alleging that the money represented the whole and not just part of the price of the property. Nor was it simply an attempt to deceive the human leaders of the church. The leaders were men inspired by the Spirit, and so they were God’s representatives.
- Peter reminded Ananias that he had been under no compulsion (v. 4). He did not have to sell his land. Even if he sold it, he still could have retained the proceeds. The act of dedicating the land to the community was strictly voluntary. Once pledged, however, it became a wholly different matter. It had been dedicated to the community. In lying about the proceeds, he had broken a sacred trust. 
5ἀκούων δὲ ὁ Ἁνανίας τοὺς λόγους τούτους πεσὼν ἐξέψυξεν, καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας.
But when Ananias heard these words he fell down and died, and great fear came on all those who heard about(it)
- How did he die? Was it from shock from overwhelming guilt and remorse upon the exposure of his sin? Was he struck down by God? The text does not say. The note about the fear that came upon all who heard about it, however, would indicate that they at least saw the hand of God in it all.
- The death is no doubt to be regarded as a divine judgment upon his sin, although there is no sentence of death contained in Peter’s words.
6ἀναστάντες δὲ οἱ νεώτεροι συνέστειλαν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐξενέγκαντες ἔθαψαν.
So the young men stood up, wrapped him and carried him out and buried him.
- The manner in which his funeral was handled would likewise indicate that a divine judgment was seen in the whole affair. The young men arose, wrapped up his body,94 and carried him outside the city to bury him. They wasted no time in ceremony, for they were back in three hours (vv. 7, 10). This was most unusual procedure. Burials were often fairly hasty in Palestine, but not that hasty, not, that is, except for death under unusual circumstances, such as suicides and criminals—and judgments from God.
- First aorist active indicative of συστελλω [sustellō], old verb, to draw together, or contract (1 Cor. 7:29), to roll together, to wrap with bandages, to enshroud as here. Nowhere else in the N. T. Frequent in medical writers. They may have used their own mantles. The time for burial was short in Jerusalem for sanitary reasons and to avoid ceremonial defilement.
7Ἐγένετο δὲ ὡς ὡρῶν τριῶν διάστημα καὶ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ μὴ εἰδυῖα τὸ γεγονὸς εἰσῆλθεν.
And it happened that there was an interval of about three hours and his wife not knowing what had happened came in
- The interval of about three hours can be reckoned from the death or the burial. Sapphira is portrayed as not knowing what had happened. Critics have insisted that this is quite impossible, and that the detail has been thoughtlessly invented to create the right situation for the ensuing conversation. The normal customs with regard to burial and mourning may not have applied, however, in the case of a sinner struck down by what must have seemed to be the hand of God.
- The description of the interval as about three hours long gives evidence of historical research on Luke’s part. Such an unnecessary detail isn’t likely to have been manufactured out of thin air
8ἀπεκρίθη δὲ πρὸς αὐτὴν Πέτροςεἰπέ μοι, εἰ τοσούτου τὸ χωρίον ἀπέδοσθε; ἡ δὲ εἶπεν· ναί, τοσούτου.
And Peter said to her, “tell me whether this much you both were paid for this piece of land, and she said, ” yes, this much.”
- The seriousness of the situation is underlined by Peter’s words. Instead of informing the widow of her loss, he goes straight to the matter of her sin. In view of the horror with which an ancient community would regard such a sin, we need not find this surprising, even if we would adopt a different attitude in our different cultural setting. Sapphira is given the opportunity to tell the truth and thus to show some sign of repentance from her former attitude. When asked whether the sum given to the church represented the actual price obtained for the property, she persisted in claiming that it was.
- For so much (τοσουτου [tosoutou]). Genitive of price. Perhaps Peter pointed to the pile of money at the feet of the apostles (verse 2).
9ὁ δὲ Πέτρος πρὸς αὐτήν· τί ὅτι συνεφωνήθη ὑμῖν πειράσαι τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου; ἰδοὺ οἱ πόδες τῶν θαψάντων τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἐπὶ τῇ θύρᾳ καὶ ἐξοίσουσίν σε.
So then Peter said to her, “how is it that it was agreed by you to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold(See!) the feet of those who buried you husband are at the door and they will carry you(out).”
- Ye have agreed together (συνεφωνηθη ὑμιν [sunephōnēthē humin]). First aorist passive indicative of συμφωνεω [sumphōneō] (to voice together, symphony), impersonal with dative; It was agreed together by you (or for you). “Your souls were allured together respecting this deceit” (Vincent). To tempt the Spirit of the Lord (πειρασαι το πνευμα κυριου [peirasai to pneuma kuriou]). Like “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” It was close to the unpardonable sin which was attributing the manifest work of the Holy Spirit to Beelzebub. The feet (οἱ ποδες [hoi podes]). Graphic picture by Peter as he heard the steps of the young men at the door.
- The action of the guilty couple is represented as an agreement to tempt the Spirit, i.e. to test God (as the Israelites did in the wilderness, Exod. 17:2; Deut. 6:16) to see how much they can get away with. Peter asks rhetorically what led them to do it.
10ἔπεσεν δὲ παραχρῆμα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐξέψυξεν· εἰσελθόντες δὲ οἱ νεανίσκοι εὗρον αὐτὴν νεκρὰν καὶ ἐξενέγκαντες ἔθαψαν πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς,
And immediately she fell down at his feed and died, so the young men came in and found her dead and carried (her) out and buried(her) with her husband.
- Sapphira’s narrative offers nothing new. In neither case did Peter pronounce a curse of any kind. Peter explained the sin, but God took care of the judgment.
- Let’s not confuse lying to the Holy Spirit with blaspheming the Spirit (Mark 3:29). There seems to be no parallel here between death as physical punishment and what has often been called the unpardonable sin. Nowhere in Luke’s record does he condemn Ananias and Sapphira to eternal punishment. Most scholars take the opinion that these believers retained their salvation and will experience eternal life. Surely, we must learn here the necessity for purity and unity in the body of Christ.
- Deuteronomy 13:6-11 – serving other gods
11καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας ταῦτα.
And great fear came over the whole (assembly) church and all who heard these (things)
- The death of Ananias and Sapphira brought two results: fear in the church and fear in the city. This is the first appearance in Acts of the Greek word for church (ekklesia). Perhaps Peter remembered this incident when he wrote: “It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). Fear in the city centered on the power of God and perhaps the ugliness of sin.
- As tempted as we might be to push this story into some dark corner of early church history, that would be a tragic mistake. It deals with money, greed, and deceit—all very popular problems in today’s church. Deceit, disunity, and duplicity always undermine the Holy Spirit’s work and always erode the effectiveness of the Christian community.
- It is in this inauspicious context that Luke uses the word church (Gk. ekklēsia) for the first time to designate the Christian community. The word means an assembly, and hence the people who compose it. The old view that it means the ‘called out’ people should be abandoned once for all, resting as it does on a false derivation of meaning from etymology. Rather behind the term lies the Jewish use of ekklēsia and synagōgē to translate Old Testament words referring to the assembly or congregation of God’s people.
- Here Luke for the first time uses ἐκκλησία(ekklesia) with reference to the body of the believers in Jerusalem, whether they were gathered in an assembly or not. 
- Jeremiah 32:38-40
 Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 480). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.