S151P4 – When the sun sets: the early Church

Acts 5:7-11

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.”  And she said, “Yes, for so much.”  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?  Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.  When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

The early Church seemed to be doing pretty well.  We read about them truly being a community where no individual is greater than another.  They each sold what they had and used the proceeds for their mutual benefit and provision. [4:32-37] They took on each other’s burdens in such a meaningful and practical way, and they showed the love of Christ we are to emulate.  Their lives were about how they could live well for the Lord together.  Their purpose was one united.  Yet, even with such a devoted community and such great camaraderie, the Church was not devoid of those who thought of themselves first.  The question is how that individual behavior would affect the whole.

Ananias and Sapphira committed sins not against their fellow believers but against God himself. [v. 4]  The other believers could have become disillusioned about that community because of their behavior.  They could have become disillusioned about their faith and the Lord.  Instead, what happened was that their fear of God increased.  They understood that the sins committed by these two people were no reflection on their faith or their God.  They were simply a reflection of the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira.  We have no record of anyone walking away and turning their backs on Christianity because of this event.  In fact, as the believers continued their work, they would experience many great miracles and wonders. [v. 12-16]

I have seen the sun shine on many powerful ministries only then to see the sun set as those ministries are destroyed by sin and betrayal.  I always wonder whether any of those who must endure this kind of disappointment will end up just leaving the Church.  It has happened before, and I am sure there is no shortage of former believers who cite to the sins of men as their reason for walking away from the Lord.  We must be wise enough to know that our ministries and the people within them very well might disappoint us, but our love and devotion for the Lord and his Church should not change.  Father, keep us gracious toward the Church and faithful to You when we are disappointed or even betrayed by our fellow believers.