Have you ever heard people talk about an Old Testament God and a New Testament God, as if there were two? You know – the Old Testament God is vicious and warmongering. He rains fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, slaughters the Canaanites and commands parents to stone their children for a bad attitude. His favorite is David who has “slain his ten thousands.” But the New Testament God, well, we know who He is too. God is love, right? This God is the God of the turned cheek, the God of the easy yoke and the God who commands that the path be cleared for children to sit on Jesus’s lap, for such as these make up His Kingdom.
And then you read Acts chapter 5 and your “two different Gods” idea gets destroyed. It’s the story of Ananias and Sapphira, a couple who take notice that Barnabas is getting some notoriety for selling a field and passing on the proceeds to the church. So, looking for kudos, they make the same move, but in contrast to Barnabas, they keep back some of the cash for personal use. Of course, passing on only half of the proceeds would have been a generous move, but the desire for man’s approval leads them to say that everything is there, and somehow, probably by the Spirit, Peter finds out, and calls Ananias on it…
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. Acts 5:3 – 5 (ESV)
Now you might think that Ananias just had a heart condition and that getting caught caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Not so, for his wife Sapphira comes in, gets questioned, gives the same answer, and then Peter even predicts her death, and she falls over and breathes her last.
It’s a powerful event in the life of the early church, and understandably…
…great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. Acts 5:11 (ESV)
It’s only speculation to wonder why this happened at this stage in the early church, but perhaps this is a clue:
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, Acts 5:14 (ESV)
Why do they come to Christ? Ultimately the answer is that the Spirit draws them, but perhaps we can say that they came to God…to be saved from God. You see, this story leads us to see something very important about Yahweh: He is just as holy in the New Testament era as He is in the Old. He hates sin just as much in 40 A.D. or 2015 A.D. as he did in 1,000 B.C. In fact, that last book in the New Testament will describe what you might call a fate worse than death – something called the second death…
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14-15 (ESV)
But in the midst of all this first death and second death, there is good news. Yes, He hates sin, but He hates it so much that He sent His Son to put it away forever, and this makes Him a God of grace and love who will save us from our sin, as Zephaniah the Old Testament prophet pointed out so beautifully:
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)
How about that…saved and quieted by the love of the Old Testament God! Who knew? All in all, it’s enough to make you think that there really is only one God; He is both perfectly holy and perfectly loving. And you might even go so far as to say that He is the “same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
For Tuesday, February 17: Acts 6