When God Strikes Someone Dead

When God Strikes Someone Dead
Death of Ananias by Raphael

In the fifth chapter of the Book of Acts we read one of the more interesting and chilling passages in the New Testament. A man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sell a piece of property, keep part of the money and give the rest to the church. Trouble is, they tell the church they are giving the full price received for the land (Acts 5:8).

As a result of this deception, God struck both of them dead. This has always seemed harsh to me. While it’s true the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), that payment is not usually required on the spot – thank goodness!  Why so in this case? Of all the sins we see recorded in scripture, why instant death for lying about the price of a piece of property?

The answer can be found by looking at the context of this passage in the Book of Acts and how God deals with His people throughout scripture.

This passage comes between the first arrest of the Apostles by the Jewish authorities (Acts 4:1-31) and the second (Acts 5:17-42). From her beginning the New Testament church was under attack.  The Enemy tried to destroy her one of two ways – the same two ways he does today – either from within or from without. When the first attempt to stop the spread of the gospel using the external threats of the Jewish leaders failed, there was a change of tactic. Satan tried to weaken the church from within using the deceit of Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:3) and the Holy Spirit dealt with that decisively. This was God protecting the church in her infancy.

God takes the purity of His church seriously. A pure church is a powerful church. So it’s no accident that right after Luke tells us about the purge of Ananias and Sapphira we again read about signs and wonders done by the apostles and the increase in the number of believers.

You see a similar pattern in the Old Testament.

Shortly after the Levitical priesthood was inaugurated, the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, failed to follow God’s instructions regarding the fire used for burning incense before the LORD. This was likely because they were drunk (Leviticus 10:9). As with Ananias and Sapphira, God immediately struck them dead and their bodies were carried outside the camp (Leviticus 10:4). Then, right after the conquest of Jericho, the very first battle in the Promised Land, the disobedience of Achan was dealt with similarly. He and his entire family were stoned to death at the LORD’s command (Joshua 7:15).

In each of these cases, a new chapter has begun in the history of God’s people. In each case as well, an internal threat to that new work arises and the Lord takes decisive action to address the threat and provide an example for others. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira lead to a healthy fear of the Lord within the church (Acts 5:11).

It’s significant that it was not the Jewish officials persecuting the church who were struck dead on the spot but two church members. The lesson is that internal threats to the church are far more serious than external ones. External persecution tends to strengthen the church whereas internal threats tend to weaken her.

When churches die or apostatize it is virtually always because they failed to take seriously deceit, false teaching, personal sin or other disobedience to the Lord within their ranks.

The Trojan Horse is more dangerous than the battering ram. To remain healthy churches must, as Jude tells us, “contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 3).

Does Leviticus 27 Teach that Women are Worth Less than Men?

Does Leviticus 27 Teach that Women are Worth Less than Men?One of the charges leveled at the Bible and at Christianity is that it devalues women. In support of this belief, certain proof-texts are often trotted out.

One such passage is Leviticus 27:1-8. In this passage, Moses gives the Israelites instructions for how to “redeem” a person who has been dedicated to the LORD’s service. In Old Testatment Israel, it was possible to make a vow dedicating yourself or one of your children to the LORD. This person then served full time in the temple. You see an example of this in I Samuel chapter one. Samuel’s mother Hannah dedicates him to the LORD’s service and Samuel goes to live in the temple beginning right after he’s weaned, eventually becoming Israel’s last Judge before the monarchy is established.

However, in this passage in Leviticus, Moses explains how, by paying a specified amount to the Temple, the person dedicated to the LORD can be released from the vow. A value is specified for each type of person with the value to redeem females set lower than the value for males. Gottcha! The Bible says women are worth less than men!

But, there’s more to it than that. As you read the passage, notice there are differing values for several categories of people. The most valuable is a male between the ages of 20 – 60. After that is a female in that age range. Then for younger males and females there are lower values – the younger the person the lower the value. The same is true for those in advanced age. People over 60 are valued less then people between 20 – 60. But still, within each age group, the value placed on females is less than that placed on males.

While that seems to say women are not as valuable to God as men, I submit these amounts have nothing to do with the intrinsic worth of the individuals. This is a value based on financial or productivity considerations. In an agrarian, manual-labor intensive society, young, strong men were worth more to the culture than were women, children and the aged. Even when younger or older, a man, because of his strength, was worth more compared to a woman of the same age. But, it’s interesting to note, a woman in the prime of health (between the ages of 20 – 60) is worth more than an older or younger male.

A similar principle is seen later in the chapter with regard to valuing land (Leviticus 27: 22-25). The closer in time to the year of Jubilee, the less was required to redeem the land because there was less productive time left before the land reverted to the original owner. Exact same parcel of land but differing values for redemption based on the amount of productive output expected.

So what’s being recognized here is that young, strong men are worth more when you have manual labor to do than are their female counterparts.

You have similar valuations based on skills today. A doctor is “worth” more from a financial standpoint than a sales clerk. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the person but with what they bring to the culture skills-wise. Sometimes the value is based on circumstances.

Is a plumber “worth” more than a doctor? Yes, if I have a broken pipe pouring water into my basement.

Is a young man in ancient Israel “worth” more than a woman? Yes, if I have a field to plow.

While the Bible speaks of differing roles for men and women, it does not teach that men and women have different worth in the eyes of God simply because of their gender.

Leviticus 18 and Homosexual Practice

Leviticus 18 and Homosexual PracticeOne of the many passages in scripture dealing with sexual immorality is Leviticus 18. In this chapter, we have direct quotes from God on the subject as spoken to Moses. This is a mark of Leviticus in general. Throughout the book passage after passage begins “The LORD said to Moses…” For this and other reasons I believe Leviticus 18 is the strongest passage in the Bible that addresses the morality of homosexual practice – even though only one verse in the chapter mentions it.

The majority of the chapter is devoted to inappropriate heterosexual relationships.

Verse 6 says: “No one is to approach a close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.” Then, from verse 7 through 18, what is meant by “close relative” is fleshed out. Verses 19-20 highlight two additional circumstances where heterosexual sex is forbidden for the people of Israel.

Then in verse 22 we read: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

This one and only mention of homosexual behavior in an extended discussion of sexual immorality is significant. Up to this point, male / female intercourse is presented as the standard, otherwise why list exceptions? God is saying, do not practice male / female intercourse in these particular ways (the implication being, there are other, non-forbidden ways to engage in heterosexual sex). Notice also that a male audience is assumed for all the exceptions. Do not have sex with your sister, aunt, sister-in-law, etc. Notably, nowhere is sex with a brother, uncle or brother-in-law forbidden. Why? Because homosexual activity is sinful per se. There is no need to list exceptions because there are none. Verse 22 is a universal condemnation of all homosexual practice.

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Full stop. The biblical prohibition against homosexual practice is not just with regard to temple prostitution or non-committed relationships as is sometimes alleged. It is something God forbids in all circumstances.

Jesus Is The Line

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:43-44

There are only two categories of people in the world – those whose father is God and those whose father is the Devil. While we are all created in the image of God, we are not all children of God. In John chapter 8, Jesus says it is belief in Him that separates the children of God from the children of the devil.
Jesus Line

Men want to substitute all kinds of things for Jesus. They want to make the line of demarcation between the ungodly and the godly good works or sincerity of belief or belonging to a particular religion or denomination. Jesus is clear, however, that we move from the left side of the line to the right side only through faith in Him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

The Bible says by nature we are on the left side of the line, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). But the good news is we don’t have to stay that way. By repenting of our sins, admitting there’s nothing we can do on our own to move from the left side to the right side, and placing our trust in Christ we can be saved.

Are you willing to abandon all effort to make yourself right with God and throw yourself on the mercy of Christ?

Are You “Unclean?” Then Rejoice for He is Willing!

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on
his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” – Luke 5:12

Are You "Unclean?" The Rejoice for He is Willing!This simple statement, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” sums up the gospel. Often we concentrate on the first part of the verse concerning Jesus’ willingness and rejoice in that – as well we should! But there are two things to notice here. Not only is Christ willing to cleanse those who come to Him but those who come are always aware of their uncleanliness and their inability to do anything about it apart from Christ. This man knew he was unclean and knew he had no hope of dealing with that uncleanliness unless Christ did a miracle in his life.

The same is true for us. When we recognize our sin and our bankrupt state we need never fear rejection by Christ. He has come to call not the righteous but sinners (Luke 5:32) and He is always willing to cleanse and set free those broken over their sin.

Do you see your need for Christ? If not, pray that he will open your eyes to your true condition then throw yourself on his mercy, for He is willing.