Winners and Losers: Part 17 - ANANIAS and SAPPHIRA

Ananias and Sapphira: Two Who Underestimated God’s Standards

Kathy's Sunday School Lessons Written for Young Boys and Girls by Kathryn Capoccia

© Copyright Kathryn Capoccia 2001. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold.

Ananias and Sapphira were two people of the New Testament whom God used as examples, in the same way He used Uzza (1CH 13:10), to show His holiness and the standard of holiness to which He expected believers to cleave. They were not especially remarkable in their persons but achieved a position of uniqueness because of their experiences. Ananias and Sapphira are remembered for the judgment they received when they tried to deceive the Jerusalem Church; they pretended to offer them the whole price of a field they had sold while withholding some of the money. They lied to men and they lied to God, underestimating both and the standards God expects Christians to keep. Like James and John, “the sons of thunder” (MAR 3:17), they did not know “what kind of spirit they were of (LUK 9:55). Let’s turn to ACTS chapter 5 and read about their story.

I. Who Were They? Acts 5:1-11.

A. What were their names? Ananias, a common Jewish name, means, “Jehovah is gracious” in Greek; Sapphira means, “beautiful” in Greek.

B. Where and when did they live? They lived in Israel in the 1st century A. D.

C. Who were their people? Scripture is silent on their history but they both had Greek names and they may have been part of the Hellenistic Jews of the Church (ACT 6:1).

II. What Did They Do?

A. They were members of the Jerusalem Church.

1. What was the Church in Jerusalem?

a. A body of Christians who grew in number:

1) ACT 1:14,15; the brethren were, “about 120 persons…devoting themselves to prayer”.

2) ACT 2:47; those who were daily being saved and joined the Church fellowship.

3) ACT 2:41,42; 3,000 souls (Hebrew and foreign speaking Jews) ACT 2:9-11) were added who were “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”.

4) ACT 4:4; 5,000 total believers.

5) ACT 6:1, Hellenistic Jews from the dispersion.

b. The “called out ones” (ACT 5:11; “church” means “ekklesia”, those who have been called out from the world to form an assembly).

1) Those who are united through Christ (EPH 4:3; GAL 3:28, 4:1-6).

2) Those who were “born again” (JOH 3:5-8; TIT 3:5)

3) Those who are holy:

a) positionally holy (EPH 5:27).

b) practically holy

i. devoted to God (MAR 10:3,4; ROM 12:1)

ii. imitating God, “Be holy for I am Holy” (1PE 1:16).

iii. conformed to Christ (ROM 8:29, 12:2).

iv. pleasing God (2CO 5:17).

4) Those who evangelize (MAT 28:19,20).

5) Those who fellowship (HEB 10:25).

a) worship (1CO 1:2).

b) celebrate communion (ACT 2:42-47, 20:7-12; 1CO 11:17-20).

c) discipline sinning Christians (1CO 5:2,7, 13:2; 2CO 2:5-7; 2TH 3:14; 1TI 1:20; TIT 3:10).

d) pray (ACT 2:42,46, 4:31).

e) study the Bible (ACT 6:4).

6) Those who do good works (EPH 2:10).

c. Not a particular location: the disciples met in various places;

1) an upper room in Jerusalem (ACT 1:13).

2) a “place” for Pentecost (ACT 2:1).

3) Solomon’s Portico in Herod’s temple (a colonnade running down the E. side of the outer court of the temple: ACT 5:12).


2. Who led the Church?

a. the Apostles; the 12 (the 11 Apostles plus Matthias; ACT 1:25,26) who “devoted themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word”(ACT 6:2).

b. the elders (ACT 15:6).

c. James the LORD’S brother, who died in A. D. 62 (ACT 12:17, 15:12-21, 21:18; GAL 1:19, 2:9, 12; 1CO 15:7; JAM 1:1, JUD 1).


3. How did Ananias and Sapphira become part of the Church?

Scripture is silent about their conversion but we may guess that they were perhaps part of the great mass of Greek speaking believers after Pentecost.


4. How do we know they were believers?

a. They are included in “the congregation of those who believed” (ACT 4:32).

b. They obviously had a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

c. God used them as an example to teach other believers about the folly of sin.

d. Death is the final chastisement for sinning and unrepentant believers (1CO 11:30-32; 1JO 5:16).


B. They examples to the Jerusalem Church.

1. They outwardly imitated the brethren’s example (ACT 4:32-37).

a. Members of the Jerusalem Church would sell land or houses as there was need and give the money to the Church (ACT 4:34,35).

b. Barnabus (Joseph of Cyprus), sold a tract of land and brought the full price to the Apostles to be distributed to the needy (ACT 4:36,37).


2. They inwardly lied to the Holy Spirit.

1JO 2:21 “no lie is of the truth”.

a. How?

1. They deceived the Church: they kept back money from the Church.


a) The money was theirs to do with as they liked (ACT 5:4).

b) Personal property is no where prohibited in Scripture and participation in community goods was only voluntary (ACT 4:32, 34; 2CO 9:7).

2. They lied to the Church (ACT 5:2,4).

a) they conceived the deed in their hearts (ACT 5:4)

“After desire is conceived it gives birth to sin…” JAM 1:15).

b) they agreed to “put the Spirit to the test” (ACT 5:9). I e. “to see how far they could go in presuming on God’s goodness”, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, “The Ryrie Study Bible”, Moody Press, © 1978, pg. 1652.

c) Satan filled Ananias’ heart to lie to the Spirit ACT 5:3).

1) Does this mean that he was possessed by Satan? No, Christians cannot be possessed by an evil spirit because they are possessed by God.

i. Christians belong to God because they have been purchased with Christ’s blood (1CO 7:23) and no one can take them away from God (JOH 10:29).

ii. The body of a believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit who resides in it: it is His Temple (1CO 6:19).


2) What can Satan do to a believer?

i. he can tempt him to sin (1CO 7:5).

ii. he can become personally involved in the life of a believer (MAT 16:21-23; EPH 6:12; 1PE 5:8,9).

iii. he can oppress a believer.

3) What can a Christian do to defend himself/herself?

i. call upon the LORD, his/her covenant partner, to fight for him/her (see 1Sa 18:3ff to understand the symbols of a covenant and what they entail).

ii. resist the Devil (JAM 4:7).

iii. pray for God to rebuke Satan (JUD1:9).

iv. immerse himself/herself in godly thoughts by studying the Bible (PHI 4:8; 2CO 10:5).

4) What did they do at Satan’s prompting?

a) they “kept back some of the price for themselves” (ACT 5:2).

b) they “laid a portion [of their sale] at the Apostles’ feet” as if it were the full price (ACT 5:2).



The Church is comprised of those who have the Holy Spirit in them and is the Body of Christ; vs. 3,4 address the Spirit as God, so lying to the Church means they lied to the Spirit who is God.

b. Why?

1) They coveted praise.

“Pride goes before destruction” (PRO 16:18).

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor” (PRO 11:2).

a) their pride wanted spiritual prestige.

b) they envied those who were counted among the spiritual.

2) They coveted their money.

*It was not wrong for them to keep money that they needed or wanted because God gives us money for our daily needs, but their attitude about the money is like that of the “rich young ruler” whose money was his god (MAR 10:17-22): they could not give it all up because they did not revere God.

a) they wanted a cost-free sacrifice (see David at 2SA 24:24).

b) they wanted their money and a reputation for generosity too.

3) They loved man’s praise more than God’s (JOH 12:43).

a) they were hypocritical: there was no fear of God in their eyes.

b) they were like the Pharisees who did all of their “righteous” deeds for men and not for God (MAT 6:2).

4) They had a low view of God.

a) they thought He did not see (PSA 10:11), or:

b) they thought He would not act (2PE 3:9).

3. God struck them down.

a. God killed Ananias and Sapphira (ACT 5:5-10).

1. Ananias was slain and buried (ACT 5:5)

a) judgment for the testing of God was passed (DEU 6:6 ; see 2CO 11:2; EPH 5:27).

b) burial was swift for those who died of divine judgment (DEU 21:22,23; a normal burial was usually the same day).

2. Sapphira was slain and buried (ACT 5:10).

b. Fear fell upon the Church and all “who heard of these things” (ACT 5:11).

1. Their deaths were a deterrent to others (1TI 5:19,20).

2. God was glorified as believers realized the seriousness of sin.



III. What Can We Learn From Them?

A. God has the desire to have purity in the Church and the power and will to discipline sin within the Church (1PE 4:17).

B. We should be thankful that God gives us grace and does not immediately discipline us for all of our sins.

C. Lying is a heinous crime against God which He cannot ignore.

D. Hypocrisy is hateful to God (LUK 12:1; MAT 24:51; 1CO 8:12).

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons for Young Adults" by:

Tony Capoccia
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