The world likes to record and memorialize its “firsts”–the first airplane flight, Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier, Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile, Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, and so forth. There are some firsts no one relishes. Oklahoma City was the site of the first federal building bombed by U.S. citizens. Nevada was the first state to legalize prostitution. Hawaii was the first state to legalize gay marriages. Andrew Johnson was the first president impeached. The 1919 Chicago White Sox was the first professional team caught losing on purpose for money.
Acts 5:1-4 records the first sin in the church. It was a sin concerning money. This sin, committed by Ananias and Sapphira, was written to warn us. It contains many lessons we need today. Consider a few of them.
The church was imperfect in the days of the apostles. The church was, is, and always will be imperfect on the “human side.” It is inevitable because we are all sinners (cf. Rom. 3:23). Yet, the divine side of the church was, is, and always will be perfect, as perfect as God is. The New Testament instructions and teaching about what the church is to be and do is not subject to change, for its Designer is divine. Yet, we will never find a “perfect church” here because it is filled with flawed humans like us.
The church is right, though some in it are wrong. There are some hypocrites in the church, as there are anywhere. There are liars in the church, as there are anywhere. There are covetous and greedy people in the church, as there are anywhere. These things are wrong! But it is not a refection on the purchaser or purchase price of the church. A church can have members who are less than they should be without such being the grounds for us rejecting Christ and His church.
It is wrong to cover up sin. God did not cover up their sin. He advertised it in Acts five. Sometimes, we are prone, when we see someone practicing sin, to look the other way or make excuses for it. How consistent is it for us to preach against the sin of those “outside,” then ignore that which occurs “inside.”
One can commit sin while doing good. This couple was giving to support the displaced saints in Jerusalem. They had a part in it, but they lied and thus sinned. The Bible reveals others who sinned while doing good–Nadab and Abihu were worshipping (Lev. 10:1-3). Today, there are good people who sin in their teaching and worship. What about those who sprinkle for baptism, add instruments to their singing, place women in positions of authority and leadership, teach salvation by faith alone, etc.?
There are many other lessons to be learned from this infamous couple. May we so live and labor that we will be remembered by the Lord on the last day, but may it be a remembrance for righteousness and not wickedness. Let us do right and for the right reasons!
(I believe these main points came as the result of a conversation I had with Flavil Nichols at least fifteen years ago).