Is the Holy Ghost a Gentleman?
Acts: The DNA of the Church • Sermon • Submitted • Presented
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Is the Holy Ghost a Gentleman? Acts 5:1-11 I don’t know how often I have heard that the Holy Ghost is a gentleman. It is often assumed that the Holy Ghost will not force His way on anyone. I use the older term Holy Ghost rather than the newer use of the Holy spirit because “ghost” comes from the German “guest.” We all expect our guests to behave and conform to the rules of our house. We extend hospitality to our guests and if we know something meaningful that would please our guest that is not our normal custom, we condescend to that. We certainly want our “guest” to feel at home in our house. And if the Holy Ghost is our “guest”, this means that we are in control. If our guest becomes unruly, we can ask him to leave. So coming to a passage like this in Acts 5 comes as quite a shock. Here Ananias’ house guest was expected to look the other way to their charade. They had seen Barnabas and others sell property and lay it at the Apostle’s feet. They saw the praise and coveted it for themselves. But they wanted it on the cheap. They wanted the praise of men without paying the full price. Now I think that the praise of men in the church was far from Barnabas’ motivation to give. Rather, as we can see from his personality, he was deeply devoted to the Lord and was willing to risk his life in the promotion of the gospel. The praise of men is a deadly trap which has ensnared too many of God’s children. And the spirit of covetousness became the true “guest” in their heart. This passage tells us that we better consider who this “Holy Guest” is. The first thing we must recognize is that He is Holy. Not only is He Holy, He is divine, the third person of the Trinity. We see this in that the text said that Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost. Then is say he lied to God. It also says they tempted the “Spirit of the Lord.” The Holy Ghost is no human visitor. He is the Sovereign God who along with the Father and the Son are glorified and blessed forever.So this lie was a gross insult to the majesty of God Himself. We remember that God is the Creator, sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe. It is His world, and we are His creatures, the sheep of His pasture. The fact that we have such an exalted status in the sight of this majestic God is purely by the will and grace of God. We must understand that we deserve nothing. In fact, even the very gifts we bring to God are already His. He owned them before we gave it back to Him. It is almost like the child who wants to buy his father a gift for Christmas. Having no money to buy one, he asks his father for the money to but the gift for his father. God smailes when we willingly give back to Him what He has given us. The church today has been saturated in a message of a loving God. We do acknowledge some brokenness or ven a lot of brokenness. But surely God will do us good anyway. We see a loving God who trivializes sin. So it comes as a terrible shock to our distorted view of God when He in His sovereignty acts against our expectations. We have forgotten the Scripture that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God. It is true that God is love. The Bible says so. But it also says God is Holy, Holy, Holy which is far more emphatic than love as it is trice repeated in the superlative degree in Hebrew. God does not wink at sin. In fact the Bible says his wrath is kindled against it. Sin is rebellion against the rule of God in one’s life. Sin kills. It is not a trivial matter. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira is proof of that. So what is so bad about a little white lie? After all, they did give to the church and the work of God, didn’t they? As pressed as the church always seems to be for funds, should not God be rather pleased with that? At most, God the gentleman should have tugged at the heart privately and made them feel guilty. But this public shaming! And not only that, killing them! To today’s generation, it seems so wrong. Have not other Christians sinned in far more grievous a matter and not have this happen to them? So true! But instead of condemning God for acting harshly, we should instead consider that we too are just as deserving as they. This should lead us to repent rather than to accuse God. If we were to examine this passage in its context, we see a brand new work of God, the church. Words like “in one accord” and “joy” prevail in the first chapters of Acts. The church was bound together in love for one another. Then we see the church persecuted from without. It is during persecution that the church needs to stand together. They prayed for one another. They shared their meager goods with one another. And God brought them victory. He shook the place they were praying. Peter and John who faced the prospects of death were instead beaten, warned, and released. The church came back to peace and grew. This challenge to the unity of the church was far more subtle, and therefore, more dangerous. Satan is seen in the serpent at the beginning of Genesis as one who was more “subtil” than the other beasts of the field. This temptation was not the outward use of force but the attempt of corrupting the church from within. But nothing is hid from God. He saw right through the matter and brought this subterfuge to the knowledge of Peter. Ananias and Sapphira played Achan. They held back part of the spoil. Israel was to give the entire plunder of Jericho to God, but Achan kept some back and hid it under his tent. As a result God was angry, and Israel was defeated by a very inferior foe at Ai. People died in that battle. The holding back caused grief and a breakdown in the unity of Israel. They were angry with God and began to accuse Him. But what was God’s response? Get the sin out of the camp? The perpetrator was found, and he and his complicit family was executed. Israel was back on the path to victory. Here, what Ananias and Sapphira threatened the unity of the church. I could only imagine what would have happened if God did not so decisively act. It would have been published that Ananias and Sapphira had made a great sacrifice and had given all to God. Then this might have gotten back to the person who purchased the field. He would know that the amount he had paid was greater than what was given. This would have discredited not just Ananias and Sapphire, but the entire church. The bible is so right when it says: “Be sure your sins will find you out.” The unity of the church would have been broken. Grumbling would have ensued. And the church would have been scattered against its enemies. But God acted, and the fear of the Lord was restored. The church was again united in love for one another. I will not speculate about the eternal destination of Ananias and Sapphira. Judgment is a matter which belongs entirely to God. Whatever, God will act rightly in that matter. We all deserve condemnation, but God has shown Himself willing to offer grace, an offer we should not take lightly. We are not wooed by a gentlemanly God to repent. Repentance is not a suggestion but a divine mandate. Jesus did not come preaching: “Please consider the gospel and whether you should repent or not.” Rather it is the imperative: “Repent and believe the Gospel!” The same can be said of John the Baptist and the Apostles. The church today is under assault. It seems to be poerless in the face of its enemies. May I add enemies which are far inferior to us as “Greater is He that is in us, then he who is in the world.” We are being scattered. People are dying in the church. There is no longer any reproof in the church. We wait for our scandals to be revealed by a hostile world. The greatest testimony we Christians present to the world, which is our love for one another is reduced to the charade of infighting in the church. It is time to rethink. That is what repent means. It is to see the situation clearly. This is what I have tried to present to you, the true picture. This is who God is. The Spirit blows according to His own will, the unified will of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. He might woo some. That is his prerogative. But He might burst aggressively on the scene as well. We do not control the Holy Spirit. Its time to stop grieving the Holy Spirit by which we are sealed until the day of redemption. We cannot have any power in our witness to the world. We wage a spiritual war and the weapons of our warfare are spiritual. But unlike Canaan land in which Israel was to annihilate them, we fight a war to save them. We must keep our weapons sharp. We must be united against the true enemy of our souls, and theirs, Satan the deceiver. We cannot let our guard down. Lets stop fighting over the color of the carpet or some minutia of doctrine and start being the church again. It is time to get past the blindness and our gouged out eyes which seems more concerned to grind grain for the Philistines and realize again who were are and our special calling. Like Samson in the temple of the Philistines, let us pray to God for the strength to cast down every stronghold, not to die with the Philistines, but that the Philisines might come to life in Jesus Christ our Lord, even as we.