Tell us about a time when you had to take an oath—such as being a witness in court, saying a pledge to join an organization, or getting married. What private thoughts do you remember having at that time?
The Book of Acts is literally a book of acts. It’s been called the “Acts of the Apostles” and the “Acts of the Holy Spirit”—both for good reason. The Spirit is heard and seen in rushing wind and flames of fire on the disciples’ heads (Acts 2). The Spirit is also in Peter’s powerful preaching, which results in multiple conversions and a miraculous healing (Acts 2-3). The story we pick up in Acts 5 occurs early in the Early Church. Thousands in Jerusalem—both residents and pilgrims at Pentecost—have responded to the message and healings of the God-empowered disciples. The church had become an ecclesia, a congregation, as Jesus intended. This church “shared everything they had” to welcome strangers and care for widows and orphans (Acts 4). The community of believers participated in the saving work of Jesus where egos would be abandoned, and a common purse was adopted to bless others.
Finding My Story in God’s Story
1. If you attend a church or worshipping community, how do you compare it to this Early Church in Acts 4, where “there was no one in need”?
- Hey, we have bills to pay.
- Wish our group cared for people like that.
- The poor deserve what they get. They need to find a job.
- That would be an amazing time to be in the church.
- Other __________.
2. What do you think motivated Ananias and Sapphira to withhold part of their land sale money from the community?
- They didn’t expect the community to the support them in need.
- They were just cautious people, looking for a tax-write-off.
- They believed that “God helps those who help themselves.”
- They wanted to look good to others without giving it all away.
- Other ___________.
3. If you were one of the young men who carried Ananias out, what would you have been thinking?
- “I could tell by the look on his face that this guy was lying to Peter.”
- “Holy cow, Peter is one strict judge!”
- “Holy God! This God of Peter scares me to death.”
- “This is too tough a punishment. I’m not sure I want to remain in this group.”
- Other __________.
4. How do you think Sapphira would have responded to Peter’s first question had she known what had happened to Ananias three hours earlier?
- “No, but the amount was enough to please God, right?”
- “No, but I thought God is a God of mercy. Isn’t he, Peter?”
- “No, but best to look out for No. 1 and not be a burden to others, right?”
- “No, but won’t the death penalty scare people away from God? Yikes!”
- “No, but __________.”
5. How does the story in Acts 4:32-37 help you better understand what happened in Acts 5:1-11?
- It doesn’t. I’m still confused and cannot justify killing anyone for failure to do good.
- The failure to do good is not what got them killed; it was lying to the Holy Spirit.
- The good that came out of this was that people learned to fear God.
- The good deed of Barnabas was exceptional, as was the bad deed of Ananias and Saphira.
- Such exceptions are not the norm but prove the rule that __________.
6. What do you think this story says to today’s church, remembering the historic context?
- The examples made of Barnabas, Ananias and Saphira were unique to the 1st
- You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.
- You can’t fool God at any time, so always tell the church (and its leaders) the truth.
- Never cheat on your taxes or charity, always give to Caesar his due and to God his due.
- Other __________.
7. When have you participated in a community such as described in Acts 4:32-37—either on the giving end or the receiving end?
8. When have you been the subject, or object, of discipline for perjury or not telling the truth at home? … at church? … at your workplace? … before civil authorities? … on social media?
9. What oath or promise are you willing to make now before God, as the group bears witness with their support?
10. Close your group time in prayer for one another by applying the principles of community, charity, and integrity. Thank God for those who set examples we can follow and ask God for help to always tell the truth, no matter the cost.