Why doesn’t Acts 5 (Ananias and Sapphira) occur today with acts of hypocrisy?
While the dramatic and sudden removal in death of individuals because of hypocrisy may not be a common event in our day, we dare not presume that God has changed His standards or “grown soft on sin.”
The events of Acts 5 take place during the early days of the Church age and tremendous blessing and growth had been seen. The revelation of God’s power and grace in salvation had been experienced by thousands, but the early church also needed to understand the absolute holiness of God and the great need for purity within the church. A pure church is a powerful church, but sin and hypocrisy affects testimony. As the psalmist wrote, “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever” (Psa 93:5).
It is noteworthy that the God of holiness revealed His absolute character at the beginning of many of His “large works.” The removal of Adam and Eve from the garden at the commencement of man’s history made our first parents aware of the tragic consequences of sin. Early in the journey from Egypt to Canaan, two priests, Nadab and Abihu, were dramatically removed in a fiery death because they offered “strange fire” (Lev 10:1-2). Later, the nation had hardly entered Canaan before Achan’s covetousness and disobedience resulted in him being stoned to death. Thus, in view of all these “early events,” the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 are not inconsistent with God’s dealings in the past. He desires that all of us might know the fullness of His character – holy, righteous, gracious, loving, and immutable – that the “fear of the Lord” might mark our ways and govern our actions.
The result of God’s righteous judgment of hypocrisy in Acts 5 had a marked effect upon the early church as well as others, for “great fear came upon all the church and upon as many as heard these things”(Acts 5:11). Not only were the early Christians impacted, but the sudden deaths were also a deterrent to easy believism among the unsaved. They quickly learned that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints” (Psa 89:7) and, interestingly, no further event of this nature was recorded again in the book of Acts. Peter, who exposed the deceit and pretence of Ananias and Sapphira, likely had this event in mind when he wrote years later that “judgment must begin at (from) the house of God” (1Peter 4:17). Our God is still judging the sins of His people today as 1 Corinthians 11:30 reveals. The disorder and disregard of the holiness of His house had resulted in both sickness and death coming into the assembly at Corinth and even in our day, unusual events – sickness, death, accidents, and spiritual barrenness may well be the evidence of the Lord’s chastening hand.
One more feature of the question needs to be addressed. Hypocrisy or pretence is a serious matter as Acts 5 reveals and we need to be honest in admitting that it can easily mark all of our lives. It has been said that we are “like the moon – that is, we all have a dark side!” It’s not hard to appear to be spiritual when we are with others, but if the truth were known, we are carnal and worldly in our private lives. God is a God of reality: “He desires truth in the inward parts” (Psa 51:6) and it is only when we are transparent before the Lord that we will know His blessing and presence. While God has not changed His standards and certainly does not gloss over sin, we can be thankful for His abundant mercy and grace in His dealings with us. If Acts 5 were carried out for every act of hypocrisy, all of us would have been “carried out dead” by the young men!