We are looking at how to have the unstoppable faith that we see recorded for us in Acts 3-5. In our last lesson we saw the disciples praying for boldness and understanding that God will accomplish his purposes through the events that are happening to them. We live in a time where people do things to be seen by other people. Have you ever noticed this on social media how it just so happened that a video was recording this “private” moment of good will or charity? We are wired to want people to see the good things that we do. This desire, however, is a detriment to faith. But this is not a new problem in our culture. It has been an issue since the beginning of time. We will see this issue arise in Acts 4-5 and we are going to look at what we need to do to make sure that we are doing for the Lord is not for the show.
A Family Relationship (4:32-35)
Let the sentence in Acts 4:32 sink deeply into your heart and mind. “Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind.” Not a few of the group were of the same mind. Not some of the group and not most of the group were of the same mind. All of the congregation, the full number of believers, were of one heart and mind. I hope this kind of hits us in the face of what we see the church looking like. They did not see themselves as individuals who have their own faith operating independently of one another. They were joined together to have the same attitude, focus, and purpose. Remember that we have Christians from all over the Roman Empire, with all of their different backgrounds and worldview. They are not together because they all have the same opinions about the Jewish leaders, the emperors of Rome, or about the Roman Empire. They are strangers. They do not have some long relationship with each other from the past. They are together with one mind because God’s grace was working on them (4:33). What unites us together is the grace of God on all of us. They were not focused on the wrong things. They were focused on the one thing: the grace of God. Because God has been gracious to us, we can be joined together in one heart and mind. Further, because God has been gracious to us, we can be gracious to each other.
Notice what we see in verse 32. No one claimed their possessions were their own but had all things in common. This does not mean that no one owned anything. Rather, this means that they did not look at their possessions and wealth and think that it was only for themselves. They were committed to caring for each other. If you need something, then use mine. If you need something, then take mine. No one is saying, “This is mine and you cannot use it” or “This is mine and you cannot have it.” They are telling each other, “Here, you have this.” We see the outcome of this in verse 34. No one was in need among those Christians. These Christians made sure no one had a need. They did this because they were selling property and houses, giving the proceeds to the apostles, who distributed it to any of the Christians who had need. Would we stop and think about this for a moment? They were selling land and houses so that they could take care of the other Christians who were in need. Would we sell our possessions to help each other? Would we cut back in our expenses in a given month so that we could help each other? Experiencing the grace of God is to cause us to show grace to each other.
An Encouraging Example (4:36-37)
A man named Joseph is used as an example of what is happening. Joseph sold a field that belonged to him and brought to the money to the apostles to use for giving to the Christians who had need. But you do not know this man as Joseph. Verse 36 tells us that the apostles did not call this man Joseph even thought that was his given name. They called him “son of encouragement.” They called him Barnabas. How encouraging of man do you think he was that the apostles did not call him Joseph but called him “son of encouragement?” He is living up to his name at this moment. He sells a field and gives all of that money to the apostles for helping these needy Christians. This is one way we are an encouragement to each other. We show each other how much we care for each other when we do something like this. We see a Christian who needs help and we want to be the ones who do something about it. It is overwhelming when we can experience this kind of care from each other.
A Fearful Example (5:1-11)
A married couple also wants to help. Their names are Ananias and Sapphira. Together they also sold a piece of property. But rather than giving all the money to the apostles, they hold back some of the money for themselves and give the rest to the apostles. Verse 8 clarifies what the problem was. The problem was not that they kept back some of the money for themselves. Peter says in verse 4 that after the property was sold, it was at their disposal to do what they wanted to do with it. They did not have to give the money to the apostles at all. They had the right to keep back some of the money if they wanted to. So what was the problem? Verse 8 shows us that the problem was that they claimed to have sold the property for a particular price but that was not what the property was sold for.
What Ananias and Sapphira are doing is trying to look like Barnabas. Barnabas sold a field and gave all of the proceeds to the apostles to give to the Christians who were in need. Ananias and Sapphira also sold a piece of property and claim that they gave all of the proceeds to the apostles. But they did not. This is also observed in verse 4. “You have not lied to people but to God.” What did they lie about? They lied about how much they sold the property for because they wanted it to look like to everyone that they gave all of the proceeds from the sale just like Barnabas did. They lied about the amount for the show. They wanted credit. They wanted a wow factor. “Look at what they did! They sold property and gave all of it to these needy Christians.” That is what they wanted. The Lord immediately kills both Ananias and Sapphira so that fear will come on the whole church (5:5,11).
Not For The Show
They fell into a temptation that is easy for us to fall into. The trap is wanting people to see our good works and be impressed. We want to make sure that people know that we are doing good works. We want people to know that we give a lot. We want people to know that we are sacrificing to teach. We want people to know that we are helping others. We want people to know that we are giving our time to the Lord. We want some credit. We want people to think well of us. We want people to think that we are good Christians. We can easily have these kinds of motivations. But this prevents us from having unstoppable faith.
Here is the problem. If the only times that we show our faith is when other people are watching, then we are going to have a failing faith because it is really rare for people to know what we are doing. Let me put this another way. If we are doing what we are doing religiously is for the show, then not only do you not have unstoppable faith, you do not have faith at all. People struggle with what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. Is this not just an innocent mistake? No, it is rebellion to God because you are not serving God and you are not serving him from faith. You are fake and serving for the show. Twice the passage tells us that Ananias and Sapphira lied to God (5:3,4). You are not lying to others. You have lied to God.
For example, if you come to church because it is what you think you are supposed to do, or because you want people to think you look like a Christian, or because you do not want people calling you asking you if something is wrong, then you do not have faith. You are not coming for God. You are coming for the show. If what we do for God causes us to think about what others will think about us, then we are doing it for the show. We can sit here and it be a complete lie. But it is not a lie to us. It is a lie to God. If we give for the show, it is not a lie to us but a lie to God. If you serve by teaching, leading, or serving the church for the show, it is not a lie to us but a lie to God.
There is a great challenge to our faith that is presented in this text. Is what we are doing so that people will see that we are doing it? In short, it is not doing you any good or God any good if what you are doing is for the show. To make this point another way, God does care about our motivation. Or to say this yet another way: the ends do not justify the means. God does not just look at the outcome and say it is okay that our hearts were wicked. God does not look at Ananias and Sapphira and say that at least they gave a large sum to help out these needy Christians. God strikes them down because your motive matters. Jesus gave the same warning.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 CSB)
Listen to how the Gospel of John notes this problem.
Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42–43 NRSV)
Our challenge is to clean out any deception that we would have in our hearts. We must honestly ask ourselves why we are here. What are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Unstoppable faith does not care if other people see what we do. Unstoppable faith does not care if other people know what we do. Unstoppable faith says, “I care about the approval of God and not the approval of people. I do things for God’s glory, not to receive human recognition.” Everything we do must be for the glory of God. If it is not, then we are lying to him. We are trying looking like what we do is for God, but it is really for other people to see and hear. Barnabas had unstoppable faith because of the grace he had received from the Lord. Ananias and Sapphira died because they only cared about how their faith looked to everyone else. Is your heart right with God?