Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Recently, I heard Dr. Ted Burleson point out that the book of Acts reveals three men named Ananias. The first one is in Acts five, the second one is in Acts nine, and the last one is in Acts 23. Those three men are very much unalike from one another in some basic, important ways.
The Ananias in Acts 5 was a Christian known for lying to Peter and to God about his offering. On the heels of Barnabas’ publicized and praised generosity, this man conspired with his wife to deceive the church about how much they were giving. While we do not read his words or even read that he spoke, it is implied that he did talk this over with Sapphira. His entire legacy is of a liar! Isn’t it tragic that the rest of his life, including his conversion, are completely omitted. This is all we know about him. What a sobering object lesson that I can undo a great deal of other good in my life if I let sin reign in my heart!
The Ananias in Acts 23 was the Jewish High Priest Paul stood before after he was arrested in Jerusalem. “Ananias was High Priest from A.D. 47 to 66, when he was assassinated by the Jews because of his support of the Romans during the Jewish uprising” (Newman and Nida, 432). We also learn that he was “famous for bribery and plunder of temple offerings” (Gangal, 386). Then we see, “His action (having Paul struck on the mouth, NP) was completely in character. Josephus depicted him as one of the very worst of the high priests, known for his pro-Roman sentiments, his extreme cruelty, and his greed” (Polhill, 468). He is known both in Scripture and out of Scripture for being unscrupulous. He will lead the attack against Paul before Felix (Acts 24:1-9). Not only does he refuse to accept Christ, he persecutes and attacks Christ’s messengers. He went out into eternity a sworn enemy of Jesus. At the Judgment, he will stand before Him! He reminds me that life is about preparing for eternity, and it is tragic to live for self in this life and reject the One who died for me.
The Ananias in the middle, in Acts 9, is completely unlike the other two who shared his name. He is introduced to us as a “disciple” (10). The Lord chose him for a choice mission, to go preach to Saul of Tarsus (10). As fearful as that task understandably was, he obeyed the Lord and went (11-17). Acts 22 adds that he was devout (God-fearing)(12), well-spoken of by other Jews in Damascus (12), and a faithful preacher (14) who was bold in message (16). Jesus did not convert Saul on the road; He chose a human messenger on earth to preach to him. Of all the disciples he could have chosen, this Ananias was given the opportunity. This man seized the opportunity and helped give the world the greatest preacher, save Jesus, the world has ever known! Nothing is said about this man after he preached to Saul. Whatever else happened in his life, Ananias is praised for his courage and faithfulness. He is forever linked to this eventual apostle, the man who baptized the ultimate world evangelist whose name we all know 2,000 years later.
There are other “Neals” in the world today. None of us have our names in the Bible, but which of us will have our names in the “book of life” (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5)? Of course, the same is true of you whatever your name is. How we respond to the Lord’s grace as well as His will matters. Ask Sapphira’s husband. Ask Paul’s antagonizer. Ask Paul’s preacher. We have one life to prepare for the next life. May we so live that our name will be associated with the Name above all names (Phil. 2:9-10)!