on Acts 5 :9
To tempt the Spirit of the Lord? - So the Holy Ghost, God, and the Spirit of the Lord, are the same person.
on Acts 5 :9
Agreed together - Conspired, or laid a plan. From this it seems that Sapphira was as guilty as her husband,
To tempt - To try; to endeavor to impose on, or to deceive; that is, to act as if the Spirit of the Lord could not detect the crime. They did this by trying to see whether the Spirit of God could detect hypocrisy.
At the door - Are near at hand. They had not yet returned. The dead were buried without the walls of cities; and the space of three hours, it seems, had elapsed before they returned from the burial.
Shall carry thee out - This passage shows that it was by divine interposition or judgment that their lives were taken. The judgment was in immediate connection with the crime, and was designed as an expression of the divine displeasure.
If it be asked here "why" Ananias and Sapphira were punished in this severe and awful manner, an answer may be found in the following considerations:
(1) This was an atrocious crime - a deep and dreadful act of iniquity. It was committed knowingly, and without excuse, Acts 5:4. It was important that sudden and exemplary punishment should follow it, because the society of Christians was just then organized, and it was designed that it should be a "pure" society, and should be regarded as a body of holy men. Much depended on making an "impression" on the people that sin could not be allowed in this new community, but would be detected and punished.
(2) God has often, in a most solemn manner, shown his abhorrence of hypocrisy and insincerity. By awful declarations and fearful judgments he has declared his displeasure at it. In a particular manner, no small part of the preaching of the Saviour was employed in detecting the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and denouncing heavy judgments on them. See Matthew 23 throughout for the most sublime and awful denunciation of hypocrisy anywhere to be found. Compare Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Timothy 4:2; Job 8:13; Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 20:5; Job 36:13; Matthew 7:5; Luke 11:44. In the very beginning of the Christian church it was important, by a decided and awful act, to impress upon the church and the world the danger and guilt of hypocrisy. Well did the Saviour know that it would be one of the most insidious and deadly foes to the purity of the church; and at its very "threshold," therefore, he set up this solemn warning to guard it, and laid the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira in the path of every hypocrite that would enter the church. If they enter and are destroyed, they cannot plead that they were not fully warned. If they practice iniquity "in" the church, they cannot plead ignorance of the fact that God intends to detect and punish them.
(3) the apostles were just then establishing their authority. They claimed to be under the influence of inspiration. To establish that, it was necessary to show that they could know the views and motives of those who became connected with the church. If easily imposed on, it would go far to destroy their authority and their claim to infallibility. If they showed that they could detect hypocrisy, even where most artfully concealed, it would establish the divine authority of their message. At the "commencement" of their work, therefore, they gave this decisive and most awful proof that they were under the guidance of an infallible Teacher.
(4) this case does not stand alone in the New Testament. It is clear from other instances that the apostles had the power of punishing sinners, and that a violation of the commands of Christ was attended by sudden and fearful judgments. See 1 Corinthians 11:30, and the case of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:8-11.
(5) neither does this event stand alone in the history of the world. Acts of judgment sometimes occur as sudden and decided, in the providence of God, as in this case. The profane man, the drunkard, the profligate offender is sometimes suddenly stricken down, as in this instance. Cases have not been uncommon where the blasphemer has been smitten in death with the curse on his lips; and God often thus comes forth in judgment to slay the wicked, and to show that there is a God that reigns in the earth. This narrative cannot be objected to as improbable until "all" such cases are disposed of, nor can this infliction be regarded as unjust until all the instances where people die by remorse of conscience, or by the direct judgment of heaven, are "proved" to be unjust also.
In view of this narrative, we may remark:
(1) That God searches the heart, and knows the purposes of the soul. Compare Psalm 139.
(2) God judges the "motives" of people. It is not so much the "external" act, as it is the views and feelings by which it is prompted, that determines the character of the act.
(3) God will bring forth sin which man may not be able to detect, or which may elude human justice. The day is coming when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and God will reward every man according as his works shall be.
on Acts 5 :9