Who Is This Holy Spirit, and What Is His Power?
Ananias and Sapphira “You have lied to God.”
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
Joseph was a property owner from Cyprus, and a Levite. The disciples called him Barnabas, meaning Son of Encouragement, and as time moved forward, the name stuck. Joseph “sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).
A man named Ananias heard about Barnabas’ generosity and saw how much the apostles appreciated the gift. He visited with his wife about it, and he and Sapphira agreed to sell a property. They also mutually decided to keep back part of the funds and share only some of the proceeds, which was their right to do. But they both wanted credit for giving the whole proceeds from the sale, putting them on a path of deceit. Ananias and his wife surely thought Peter would never know the difference. It is probable Ananias and Sapphira thought they could get the credit and the Holy Spirit could be deceived too.
Do you know a modern Ananias?
This story was birthed in a Satanic plot to dispute the Holy Spirit as Deity and test the limits of the Holy Spirit’s power. Ananias and Sapphira were willing participants in the scheme.
When Ananias laid the money at the apostles’ feet, he claimed credit for giving the whole asset. He also woefully misjudged the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-2).
Peter was a strong leader who understood the principle of gospel confrontation that motivates people to make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision about following Jesus. Peter said to him: “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4).
When Ananias heard this, he fell and died! “Young men came forward, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him” (Acts 5:5-6).
Then, “about three hours later, Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened.”
Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” (Acts 5:8).
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price” (Acts 5:8).
Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also” (Acts 5:9).
In the moment of Peter’s speaking, she fell and died too, and the young men buried her beside her husband.
One can easily imagine how the word of what happened spread rapidly in Jerusalem, and “great fear” seized all who heard about it (Acts 5:11, KJV). The Greek words translated as “great fear” communicate the idea of mega or exceeding alarm. The word terrified also fits.
“You have lied to God.”
Who is this Holy Spirit? The Apostle Peter made clear the Spirit is God, and His job description includes holding divine power as a member of the Trinity, life and death power. This is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible of the Deity of the Holy Spirit in the Triune Godhead.
What is the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power? It certainly is deeper than the mutual lies of Ananias and his wife. Satan’s direct involvement shows up in the plot, and the Holy Spirit revealed it to Peter. Satan had set this couple up to test the Holy Spirit.
Satan had been this involved in a similar plot against God when he made his entrance into the Last Supper and possessed Judas, urging him to carry through with his betrayal of Jesus. Judas walked out of the Lord’s Supper heart to heart with the devil (John 13:27).
It is probable also Satan was testing Jesus the night of His arrest, trying to goad Him into doing something prematurely, like sending Judas to his grave with a word. Rome’s Caesar and Pilate too would have done just that. But it would have shut down the Father’s plan to save the world; instead, Jesus tolerated Judas.
In the Ananias story, Satan was testing the Holy Spirit. Peter spoke God’s answer to Ananias: “Satan has filled your heart so that you have lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3).
Yes, this scenario was more than lies being told by a couple in the infant church wanting to get praise and acclamation. It was also a Satanic test and the couple in their hunger for praise became willing pawns eager to cooperate (Acts 5:9). They simply did not believe Peter, or the Holy Spirit, would know the difference.
The story also shows how the Spirit talks to people, shares information, and gives instructions. Peter obviously did not know the facts until he discerned them by the Holy Spirit; then Peter confronted Ananias first, followed by his wife.
The Holy Spirit established in those moments His claim as all-knowing Deity; the Spirit is God and cannot be deceived. A new Spirit was in the earth, capable of discerning spirits. The Holy Spirit was leading the believers in the Early Church. Jesus Himself identified the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17). In the church, discerning of spirits is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10).
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira surely put the fear of God in the temple leaders. Thereafter, they handled Peter and the other apostles carefully, lest the same judgment should fall on them.
Some might think this was a harsh penalty, but not so. The Holy Spirit cannot be lied to successfully and is not to be trifled with. If Satan had won that round, the Holy Spirit would have been proven limited and weak, and no match for Satan’s schemes. Peter too would have come through as a weak leader who did not know what was going on behind the scenes. Satan would have seen to it the full story would have come out as public information, and to Peter’s embarrassment. Peter would have been greatly shamed for giving praise to God and honor to a couple for a gift that was wrapped in a lie. Failure here would have been a heavy blow to the Early Church. Instead, the news of the two deaths spread like wild-fire, and the church kept growing. It also meant Holy Spirit protection for the apostles; the religious leaders did not want to face Peter and then fall dead at Peter’s feet! This could explain why when persecution started and the believers in Christ were forced out of Jerusalem, the apostles stayed safely in the Holy City.
Who is this Holy Spirit? This story shows the role of the Spirit in the Godhead is broad. The Holy Spirit is God, and His curriculum is to teach all things about Jesus. The Spirit knows our inner thoughts (John 2:23-25). The Spirit is a divine Person to whom no one can lie successfully, as the Ananias story shows. The Spirit certainly empowered the forward march of the Lord’s church giving guidance and direction to the apostles. The Spirit also holds life and death power. And the list goes on.
Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit, and experienced recently the guidance of the Spirit in your place of kingdom service?
Come Holy Spirit I need you.
Come sweet Spirit I pray.
Come in your strength and your power.
Come in your own special way.
By: Rosemary Siemens