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Ananias & Sapphira – A Closer Look (Acts 5)

October 3rd, 2007 · 17 Comments · Acts of the Apostles, Bible, Christianity, Doctrine, God, New Testament, Old Testament, Proverbs, Religion, Theology

After the earlier post on The Providence of God in Acts 1-10 I received the following email that I thought was interesting and I wanted to address it here to see if anyone had any other thoughts on the matter…

Good Morning Matthew …

As a “New Garment” Christian, I don’t allow myself to fall for many of the “old garment” fables.

For instance … claiming that God “killed” Anannias and Sapphira is not true because scriptures does NOT support this. For instance, we all know perfectly well that neither the OT or the NT state a thief or a liar should be SENTENCE TO DEATH. On the contrary, Eph 4:28 and Provs 6:30 both say to “put the thief to work”. Further, it is also not written anywhere that liars should receive death. In fact, Peter LIED THREE TIMES about knowing Jesus, and Judas STOLE from the money bag…and neither were “killed” by God. (Judas killed himself.)

Please be also advised the Hebs 13:8 states God NEVER changes His mind or His ways. And He will not DEFY His own word … not even to illustrate a point just once ! ! !

Therefore, it would be truer to say that … the devil killed these people. Based on John 8:44 Jesus said anyone who “works” for the devil “belongs” to the devil. He also identifies the devil in John 10:10 as the true killer of mankind. Therefore, the devil owned them “legally” and was in fact their “father”. Additionally, they were married and of one flesh. This means they carried equal parts of the same demon spirit … which is why they dropped dead, exactly the same way!

Please do not think for one moment that the devil cannot kill people and “collect them” to hell whenever he wants to. Notice that hell is stacked full with MILLIONS of people as we speak, whom the devil claimed and collected … legally.

While I applaud the attempt to keep a systematic view of God’s dealings with people I think there are a few things that need to be addressed.

The overarching principle behind her argumentation is that God cannot change and will not contradict himself. Heb 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Because of that she says God would apply the same punishment to a thief and/or a liar across the board. Peter lied three times and he didn’t die so God couldn’t kill another person for lying since he didn’t kill Peter for it. She then appeals to two verses that say thieves should be put to work, not death. If all of that is true you would have to draw the same conclusion she did. If God didn’t kill them who did? The devil?

Hebrews 13:8 in context is an exhortation for the Christians being written to to continue in their faith and not waiver. In 13:7 they are told to, “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. In 13:9 they are told to not be, “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings…” Why not? Because just as Jesus Christ has always been the same, we are not to waiver. In context this verse does not say God or Christ cannot change their mind or deal with people differently (See Romans 9!). God never changes who he is or his attributes: such as holiness, omniscience, etc. But God does and has dealt with people differently even in the pages of scripture.

If there is even one case where God punished two people differently for the same offense in scripture then the above argument that God could not kill Ananias and Sapphira cannot stand. Again, I respect the angle taken to come to that conclusion and think there are some really good motives to think that way but I don’t think it really stand when the context of the scriptures mentioned and additional scriptures are taken into account.


  • What God said – Numbers 35 is clear that someone who murders another is to be punished by death.
  • God doesn’t always do it the way he laid it out:
    • Moses murders an Egyptian in Exodus 2:11-13 and receives no punishment from God.
    • David has Uriah murdered and commits adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12). Nathan’s charge against David, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own…” (12:9). It is clear that the guilt for this murder is on David’s hands even though he did not personally kill him. God sees him as guilty of murder.


  • What God said – Lev 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
  • God doesn’t follow through with that toward David & Bathsheba (see references above)


  • What God said – Leviticus makes it clear that the punishment for stealing is restitution and often a repayment of more than what was stolen (Exo 22:7, Lev 6:1-7, etc)
  • This is not the case with Achan who stole at Ai and was punished with death (Joshua 7)
  • God said what Achan had done – “They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions…” (Joshua 7:11) Achan’s confession of his sin – “I coveted them and took them…” (7:21). The penalty – “Then all Israel stoned him…” (7:25).

What about Jesus who forgave people of their sins unlike others who had committed the same sins but had to offer sacrifices? The list could go on and on. The point is, God doesn’t treat everyone the same. Does that mean God changes? Of course not.

I see a lot of similarities between Achan and Ananias/Sapphira. They both stole (God says that his people had lied as well which points toward Achan). Both moments were times when God’s people were trying to define themselves as a holy people/nation. Achan’s sin came as the people were finally going into the promised land and God was teaching them to be holy. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin came as the church was being established and God was teaching them to be holy. God doesn’t need to use Satan to do his dirty work. Satan doesn’t need to be legal to kill someone. The point is, God doesn’t contradict himself to treat two people different. It happens all over the place in scripture and doesn’t mean there are contradictions or violations.

Any thoughts?

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • sista cala

    It wasn’t the fact that they lied, it was to Whom they lied. It wasn’t a man that they lied to, it was the Holy Spirit. For me that was akin to the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In other words, they ignored the Holy Spirit’s ability to see their actions, discern their hearts, and inflict judgement.

  • Steve Hopkins

    Late to the discussion…but the death of A/S just seems excessive. Not doubting God but trying to understand it. Some times it seems safer to be God’s enemy than one of his children. I’m reminded of 1 Sam. 6 when the ark had been returned to Israel after being in Philistine hands, the men of Bethshemesh looked inside–a no-no–and a bunch of them died. All that happened to the Philistines was boils and their god Dagon got knocked over a couple of times.

    David committed adultery and murder and lives; Moses commits murder and lives. Peter denies the Lord 3 times, and lives but A/S lie, who are supposedly under the grace of God lie to the HS (not a good thing to do BTW) and are dead. Seems inconsistent. Try8ng to make sense of it

  • Michael Buckingham

    I believe you misread or mis-interpreted the chapter. It reads in Acts:5:5 “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost:” and in Acts:5:10 it reads “Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost”. Nowhere in the chapter does it state that almighty God killed them. There own guilt cause them to die, not God. Welcome to the Body of Christ.

  • Michael Buckingham

    Followup – it states that Ananias GAVE up the ghost and Sapphira YIELDED up the ghost. I omitted this sentence in the earlier reply.

  • mattdabbs


    Would it surprise you to know that the verb “gave up” is not even in the Greek in Acts 5:5 and “yielded up” is not in 5:10? It literally reads, “He died.” Then in verse 10 when it came to Sapphira, it has the exact same verb in Greek and reads “she died.” It is the same verb for Ananias and for Sapphira – εξεφυξεν

    So making fine tuned theological points out of an English translation (KJV) doesn’t work here. I have no idea why they translated the exact same word two different ways but the Greek text does not support your point.

    Why would Peter predict what was about to happen to Sapphira in 5:9 if he didn’t think God was able to do it? Did he just figure they would be so afraid that they would die? And also, why would the believers who saw it (and even those who just heard about it) respond with “great fear” if it was only their fear itself that killed them and not God? The whole point of the fear was that they were responding to God’s wrath. This is not a new thing. We see it in several places in the OT (Achan, Nadab/Abihu, and others) so why would it be so hard to say God wouldn’t do it here?

  • Kristy

    Okay heard a sermon on this and the preacher said that the term “certain man” refers to a person that was not Christian. So God killed them because they were trying to decieve the Christian people.
    Anyone got any thoughts on this view?

    • mattdabbs

      Sounds like grasping at straws to make a point that is much easier made without having to resort to minutia. Did he point to other places “certain man” refers to non-Christians or was it just a blanket statement with no support? That does not seem to be Luke’s point. I think it is funny when people think they can get so much of the authorial intent out of so little. Just my two cents.

  • Archytas

    They were murder by the torture and violence of Peter who wants to force them to reveal where there money is hidden.

    Probably in the garden as I don’t think that they are digging for the corpse.

    What is happening in the Acts is rather clear.

    • mattdabbs

      Nice spam answer…I guess if you wanted to toss out 2 thousand years of history, theology, ecclesiology and all common sense you could be right. But no sane person is going to agree with that 😉

  • Bruce

    beloved, what is happening here? it is about two people who were trying to put forth a scheme to the early church to be in the light as it were. They were told by peter that they lied to the Holy Ghost, not man, but to Him. Not good. Then they died. if God had not killed them the church would have been corrupted from the very beginning and God would not allow same . Remember, great fear came on all the church .in other words, don’t mess with God or try to change His plan for the church or else. Love you all.

  • V.E.G.

    Ananias and Sapphira lied to God. Just like M. Wesley Swearingen said, “(whistling) you’re gone.”

  • Robert

    The Holy Spirit can’t be deceived. Why A/S lied was out of greed. Had they not tried to test the Holy Spirit, they might not have died. Did they feel remorse once they committed the act? Did they sense a deep need to repent; whether prior too or during the inquisition? Nope.

    God brought us into this world and He can surely take us out but for a lie? Perhaps, but if this platform/bandwagon is simply arguing over who lies and who doesn’t…..then we’re all in trouble.

    If as Christians, or rather believers in Christ Jesus of Nazareth, we claim not to lie (about anything) then we truly are liars. And, if we lie about anything at all, does not the Holy Spirit know of it? i.e., when we lie, aren’t we decieving ourselves if we believe the Holy Spirit isn’t aware of it? After all, the Holy Spirit is God; the comforting part.

    When A/S lied, they we’re indeed lying to Peter but obviously not aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit they were testing, was capable of being grieved; hence the statement from Peter, ” Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost .” Obviously, A/S we’re pretty gullable types and easily taken; for sure they were decieved or maybe possessed to ruin the church’s reputation.

    But did they deserve to die? Hmmm….maybe we should ask the same for ourselves, because I’m sure everyone here is perfect…right? Absolutely we should be separated from Christ! But praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, God has a love that nobody understands and centers our salvation on Christ His son. Hallelujah! Uh huh, can I get an Amen? Come on people now….let’s get together….everybody get together….love___one another and now! Lol.

    In conclusion: It’s apparent that God used them as an example to show the new church and those in the community that greed and hypocracy, testing/mocking God ain’t such a good idea; especially when Peter was trying so hard to carry on the work of Jesus. Luke writes about Acts and the beginnig of the gentile Church so obviously God is extremely concerned about getting it off on the right foot. If Peter was unaware of A/S’s deceit, and the community knew about it …..then the Gospel’s/Church/Teachings credibility would be at stake and God wasn’t about to let that happen. Unfortunately, A/S were the vehicles the devil decided to use.

    So, I when we lie (and we will) it’s good to feel lousy/rotten/horrible and it’s right to pray about it. That’s the Holy Spirit letting you know He’s still in control. It’s not good however, to purposely test God. Hopefully, the Holy Spirit will convince/convict us of that daily. I think A/S didn’t have a clue. I’ve always told my kids when the media and entertainment types brazenly condemn believers and mock our Savior; God won’t stand for it and eventually deal with those people. Yikes!

  • Brother Don

    Paul turned people over to Satan and did not kill them. I think Peter judged harshly and then the devil actually “killed” A/S. John and James in Luke 9:54 wanted to call down fire on Samaritans and Jesus replied, “you don’t know what spirit you are of.” I believe James and John were referring to Elijah in 2 Kings 1:9-14 or Sodom and Gamorrah. Jesus’ never did anything similar and He is the exact representation of God. So I believe that Peter was operating not in the Spirit of God but operating in the devil and using the authority of a leader, and either commanded them to die or the devil killed them at his command. David Hogan has reported other similar cases.

    Every sin a Christian commits is usually arguing with Holy Spirit when they sin. He is trying to stop them and they are arguing or ignoring Him. In that sense A/S were not that unusual.

    So I think Peter will have to answer for a bad decision on the Day of Judgment.

    • myth buster

      There’s a difference between wrestling with God and lying to His Face. Their sin was like that of Cain, who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when God asked where Abel was, as though God did not know full well what he had done. There is a difference between a sinner’s shame, which causes him to try to hide from God, and the brazen arrogance of attempting to deceive God.


    The death of the two bright couples is a clear manslaughter, and we have got two suspects for the murder, 1. Holy Spirit, 2. Peter,,,We shall cross examine them one by one, beginning with the Holy Spirit,..

  • myth buster

    Lying alone does not merit the death penalty, but aggravating circumstances can. The Torah decrees the death penalty for committing perjury in a capital case, and it also says that a vow to the Lord must be fulfilled, no matter the cost. They died not because they lied, but because they took God’s Name in vain, and when confronted on the matter, they denied their guilt rather than confessing it.

    As for Satan, Satan has no power to kill anyone without God’s permission. God alone sets the length of our days, be they many or few. God determines the day of death for saint and sinner alike, and not a murder succeeds without God determining that the victim’s days are up. The same God destroyed Sodom and saved the holy youths from the flames. The same Christ decreed that Peter would die a martyr while John would die in peace, old and full of years. The same Lord decreed that David’s son would die as an infant despite David’s fasting and prayer, but Hezekiah’s life would be extended 15 years, though Isaiah had already foretold his death. No disease, no malice, no power of Hell can kill us before our time; neither has man any power to retain his spirit against God’s decree.

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