Example 1 – Barnabas
For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.Acts 4:36-37
Example 2 – Ananias & Sapphira
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.” Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened. The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.Acts 5:1-14
If we wish to understand any text of the Bible we must always look at it in context. A text without a context is pretext. For the sake of my readers who are using English as their second language, a pretext is a reason or excuse given to hide the real reason for something. We can use an explanation which sounds good and plausable to explain what we mean or to explain what the Bible means but unless we look at the whole context of what is being said, it is meaningless and not meaningful. All of us have had experience in dealing with people who take something out of context from what we said. They didn’t get the full story but rather assumed something on the basis of one sentence they heard. Newspaper reporters are notorious for taking something out of context and writing an article which is incorrect. The same is often true of our Bible understanding. Many preachers these days take one verse and say what they want to say about that one verse. However they never bother to anchor the verse in its context. Without the context all that is said is a pretext.
Notice what Luke has done with this passage. In putting the examples of Barnabas, Ananias and Sapphira together, he has given the passage a context. Both of these examples are given in the context of the verse before them.
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.Acts 4:32-35
The outpouring of the Spirit of God has brought a sense of unity and wonder to the believers. They have been moved by the Spirit to look after each other, even to the point of selling their possessions and giving the money to contribute to the needs of others. This is not new to us. Luke has told us about this practice before in Acts 2:42-47. It seems when the Holy Spirit comes in power, the end result is that all human relationships are put right. That is not surprising is it? After all, the two greatest commandments are, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength” and “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” It would follow that Holy Spirit action would empower those two commandments into action. Luke then gives us two examples of believers who were practicing the outworking of loving your neighbour as you love yourself. But notice the focus here. The example of Barnabas reiterates the principle set in Acts 2:42-47. That is the benchmark for action. I dealt with that passage in Gems 1376 to 1387. Yes, this principle is important and took 11 Gems to cover it. In this passage before us now, Luke briefly uses Barnabas to remind us of the principle and how we ought to apply it, then he introduces us to Ananias and Sapphira. Notice the contrast of the space or time given to the two examples. Barnabas has two verses and Ananias and Sapphira are given 14 verses. Where is the emphasis put? It is clear that the latter two are used in contra-expectation. Put in simpler language, what these two did was not expected. Their action was opposed to the work of the Spirit. Now look again at the highlighting I gave you for the Ananias and Sapphira story.
Luke tells us,
- “He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.”
- “You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.
- The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!“
- As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.”
- About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
- Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”
- And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”
- Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
- Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
- But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them.
- The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade.
- Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.
I don’t know what detailed questions you asked yourself or if you bothered to ask any questions at all. Some of you tell me that you don’t follow through on the suggestions I give you to ask questions. One reader has told me, “I just wait for you Ian to give us your questions because they are always full and complete. I don’t need to ask my questions when I know that you will ask all the questions for all of us.” Ah, but you missed the point. My suggestions are not given in order for you to help me; but for me to help you to learn to ask the right questions. It is as you put these principles into practice that God’s Word becomes more real and you learn how to do it for yourself. The operating principle of Deeper Bible is, “Give a person a fish and feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish and feed them for a life time.” I am more interested in feeding you for a life time than I am in feeding you for a day. I can tell you what I think on each passage in focus. But that won’t help you too much. You will still come back to me and ask, “What about this passage Ian? What does that mean?” I am trying to show you how to approach any passage in the Bible so you can understand it for yourself at a deeper level.
Have you also considered that one day into the future, Gems will stop? I know that shocks many of you because you (pl) have told me so. You have come to depend on the Gems for your Quiet Time. There are Gems readers in study groups around the world who use them as their starting point to discuss certain parts of the Bible. “Let’s see how Ian sees it.” There are a number of Bible Colleges around the world who use the Gems as their course material in their exegesis classes, even if they don’t use the word “exegesis”. It’s a Greek word which means to extract from a written passage the meaning which the author intended. Are you aware that there is “contra” word in Greek – “eisegesis” which means to read into a written context a meaning which the original author never intended. BE CAREFUL.
Well, I have successfully filled up a Gems with nothing of substance yet. All that to say nothing. That, my Deeper Bible 601 friends, is an allusion. I have actually told you a lot but just not focused on what Luke meant when he wrote these verses before us. I have given you a lot better understanding of what you need to do behind the scenes and why, rather than telling you all the details related to Ananias and Sapphira, I leave you come up with your own questions. The astute ones of you are thinking, Ian has brought back to the point of coming up with our own questions or input. I bet he hasn’t had any comments from people on the questions related to Ananias and Sapphira. You would be right.
Allow me to return to the point I made above. Have you considered the Gems will stop one day? Well, that day is sooner than you think. It is time for me to stop now. Momentarily. Tania and I are sorting and packing at the moment in preparation to heading back to NZ for a year to register for the NZ pension. My days are very full at the moment. I wake early to have my Quiet Time and write the Gems, then I sort, pack, meet people, have many farewell functions to attend, last catch ups with individuals, last moments with my elders from Ephesus (in other words my Deeper Bible Teachers, my Gems translators) and many others. So I have planned there would be a time that I would stop Gems and have a break until I am set up in New Zealand again. This time in NZ we will take a longer time to set up as we are moving into our own house that we have never lived in, but it has no wifi connection. So we can’t just enter and occupy and use the owner’s wifi. We are the owners and there is no wifi as yet. Hence Gems will start when they start.
This is a perfect time to stop. I have led you to the point of action. I have given you plenty to do. I have told you what you need to be careful of and what you need to understand. You need to ask your questions of this passage and then seek some answers in order to put it all together. Luke has given you all the clues you need. Learn to study the passage at a deeper level. So now you have the longest time I have ever given you on one relatively short biblical passage to exegete the text and discover what Luke and the Holy Spirit planned for you to know (and do).
“See you” when I write to you next from my own office desk with my library of books, that are currently in the care of my Hobbiton pastor.
I know you think you understand what I just said but I don’t think you do. You hear what you want to hear.Ian Vail
Sometimes I think I understand everything, and then I regain consciousness.Anon
Confidence is the feeling you have before you really understand the problem.Anon
It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.Mark Twain
What part of “Thou Shalt Not…” didn’t you understand?God
You’ll ultimately loose what you don’t understand.Jeffrey Rachmat
Life Is Not About Understanding Your Practices But Practicing Your Understandings.Robb Thompson
Our main problem to understanding the Bible is making sure we know what the original writer intended and not reinterpreting it from our modern, culture-restricted perspective.Ian Vail
I believe your understanding of a thing is dependant upon the degree to which you are willing to ask the hard questions.Ian Vail
Be careful in your quest for understanding to exegete and not eisegete.Ian Vail