Friday, February 10, 2012

Lying to God

You probably remember the account in the Bible. Acts 4:32-37 describes how members of the early Church agreed to share things in common, and those who had lands and possessions sold them and brought the money to the apostles. In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a possession of land and agreed between themselves to lie to Peter and the apostles about the amount they had received so they could secretly keep back part of the money for themselves. So Ananias brought only part of the money to Peter and the apostles, but representing it as the whole (verse 2).

"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God' " (Acts 5:3-4).

Notice, the wrong Peter accused Ananias of was not keeping the land or the money, but lying about it. Peter said that by lying to Peter and the apostles, he was lying to the Holy Spirit and to God. Why? Because Peter and the apostles had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

I have heard this passage used in teaching by ministers to warn members about the dangers of lying to ministers. That is certainly a valid warning. If we are being counseled by a minister or are communicating with our pastor about something, we should be careful not to try to lie to him or deceive him.

I have heard a speaker say that sometimes in the Bible, God makes an example of someone to show how seriously He views a certain kind of sin, but after that does not repeat the punishment in every case that follows. So not everyone who lies to a minister will immediately fall dead as Ananias and Sapphira did. But God did this that time as an example for us, to show us how seriously he views that particular sin. It is up to us to read the account and learn from that example and avoid the same sin.

But there is more to learn from this example than just the lesson, "don't lie to your pastor."

Look carefully at what Peter said to Ananias. Did he say, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the apostles and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? .... You have not lied to men but to God"? No, that is not what he said. He said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit ...". Ananias lied to God, according to Peter, not because he lied to the apostles, but because he lied to the Holy Spirit. How did he lie to the Holy Spirit? He lied to men who had the Holy Spirit in them, that is, the apostles.

In other words, what made the sin so serious was not the office or position of authority as apostles that Peter and the other apostles had, or the fact that they were ministers, but the fact that they were converted members of the Church of God having the Holy Spirit in them!

This raises questions to consider. Do only leaders and ministers in the Church of God have the Holy Spirit? Do not members have the Holy Spirit also? And therefore, is lying to another member of the Church, whether he is a minister or not, also "lying to the Holy Spirit" and therefore falls into the category of this sin that God considers so serious that He struck Ananias and Sapphira dead as a warning to us not to do what they did?

"Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds..." (Colossians 3:9).

Now take it a step further. If it is lying to the Holy Spirit, and therefore lying to God, to lie to a human being who is converted and has God's Holy Spirit dwelling in him or her, would it not therefore being lying to God for a minister or pastor to lie to a member of the Church who is converted and has the Holy Spirit? And would this not include, not only lying to a member personally in face-to-face discussion, but also lying to a whole congregation by twisting and misrepresenting scriptures in a sermon, or even lying to an entire fellowship and the Church of God as a whole by doing the same thing in published articles, booklets, or books?

Christ sometimes represents the wrong we do to each other, or the good we do for each other, as if it is done to Him personally. "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me' " (Matthew 25:40). See all of Matthew 25:31-46

We have a warning from God in the Bible. None of us, minister or layman, should lie to another converted member of the Church, whether in speaking or writing, whether to one person or an audience. Ministers, speakers, writers, and teachers in the Church of God should never deliberately twist scriptures out of context to make a point to Church members or lie concerning doctrine or anything else. Making honest mistakes is one thing. We all do that, God knows our level of knowledge is not perfect (1 Corinthians 13:9). We need to try our best to be accurate and true in our communications. But Ananias and Sapphira did not make a mistake about how much they sold their land for. They KNEW they were lying. In fact, they conspired together to lie. They agreed about what to say so their lies would match up! That would be like a pastor and a local elder, or a writer and an editor, agreeing between themselves to misrepresent a doctrine or a scripture to the members of the Church!

The impulse to lie to other Church members having God's Spirit, in Ananias's case, did not come from God but from Satan (Acts 5:23). "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).

I think that is one of the things God is warning us about in Acts 5:1-11.


Anonymous said...

Verse 9 in Acts 5 does give an additional detail about what they were doing with the lie, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?"

How would that lie also be tempting the Spirit of the Lord?

Norbert said...

I am not sure, except that by sinning one may be tempting God, or testing God as far as whether God brings a just punishment on the sinner. Or maybe it means that the person lying may be, without realizing it, testing the person who has the Holy Spirit to see if God's Spirit gives him the discernment to see through the lie, as in Peter's case.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there are any similarities between that event in Acts and those events spoken of during the exodus from Egypt?

Heb 3:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

Concidering that these two times shared powerful and public miracles, being used as a witness to the nations.

I do know this though. If you, I or anyone else applied for welfare from a country while deliberately hiding money from them. We should expect punishment upon being found out. Albeit the circumstances are not exactly the same, I believe there is enough of a parallel to make the comparison (Heb 12:22).