April 8, 2021

Your Heart May Deceive You or Others, But It Won't Deceive God.

Acts 5–8

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Ananias and Sapphira

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it...

Ananias and Sapphira

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you 1 sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Many Signs and Wonders Done

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

The Apostles Arrested and Freed

17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Seven Chosen to Serve

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists 2 arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, 3 pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Stephen's Speech

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

23 When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

30 Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

35 This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
    during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43  You took up the tent of Moloch
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

44 Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 4 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

49  ‘Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
    or what is the place of my rest?
50  Did not my hand make all these things?’

51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together 5 at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Saul Ravages the Church

And Saul approved of his execution.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city 6 of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Simon the Magician Believes

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles 7 performed, he was amazed.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall 8 of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south 9 to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
    and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33  In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 10 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Footnotes

[1] 5:8 The Greek for you is plural here
[2] 6:1 That is, Greek-speaking Jews
[3] 6:3 Or brothers and sisters
[4] 7:46 Some manuscripts for the house of Jacob
[5] 7:57 Or rushed with one mind
[6] 8:5 Some manuscripts a city
[7] 8:13 Greek works of power
[8] 8:23 That is, a bitter fluid secreted by the liver; bile
[9] 8:26 Or go at about noon
[10] 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

Your Heart May Deceive You or Others, But It Won't Deceive God.



Key Verse | Acts 8:21-22

"You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you."

Bio | Bryan Pennartz

Good morning. I'm writing this during the pandemic from an impromptu desk built out of necessity during lockdown! I've spent much time in this corner over the last seven months with my insanely thoughtful wife Taylor and my absolute blessing of a one-year-old Henry. After battling COVID-19 ourselves, we've known God's heart and faithfulness through times that, at first, seemed too much to bear.

Despite my arrogant heart, sharp tongue, and fickle mind, I've learned by God's grace that He can use me through faith. Read on to discover if I'm the first in this boat and what that means for those in it with me.

Central Truth

The inclination of your heart reveals your humanity and your shortcomings. By grace, God made available to you an intimate, Father-child relationship with Him. From there, He uses your weaknesses in His power and for your eternal profit.

Devotional | Acts 5–8

This section has many forms of human imperfection, doesn't it?

  • The lying and lukewarm, limiting their contribution to the church in its infancy.
  • The elite, determined to preserve their imbalanced power and...

This section has many forms of human imperfection, doesn't it?

  • The lying and lukewarm, limiting their contribution to the church in its infancy.
  • The elite, determined to preserve their imbalanced power and influence.
  • The persecutor, complicit to murder and imprisonment of believers.
  • The mage (NIV: sorcerer), seeking personal exaltation from the power of the gospel.
  • The eunuch, ignorant of the things of God.

None of those listed above was born into sonship with the Father, and none deserved it (Romans 3:23). Each heard, and maybe even understood, the gospel of Jesus. Yet some died in shame, some continued in futility to fight the will of God, and one authored much of the New Testament—arguably the most influential Christian of all time.

So, what separates them? Their response, by faith!

The first group: Ananias and Sapphira, the Pharisees, and Simon (Magus) all professed belief, yet feigned obedience to God. Their actions may have fooled men for a time, but their hearts were not honest with God (Acts 5:4). They wanted only enough of God to get what they wanted, and no more. I'm challenged to be completely open with the believers close to me, who help me reject a lukewarm faith for God's glory and my good.

The second group: Saul and the eunuch came to know God and believe in Him, understood they were uncovered and laid bare before Him (Hebrews 4:13), and acted accordingly. They became defined not by their mistakes or their ugly attributes, but by the transformative power of the cross. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When we think about God, we must first be honest with ourselves about the depth of our faith. A wise man around here says, "If you know Him but don't seek more of Him, be concerned you don't know Him." Instead of avoiding the thought that we don't desperately trust our entire lives to God, we should daily ask for help in our unbelief (Mark 9:24) and rejoice in the perfecting of faith that follows.

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. A.W. Tozer is quoted as saying, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." So how do you think of God? Where does that come from? Can you count on it for everything?

2. If you do call yourself a Christian, why? Does it make you feel better or make life easier? Or was your life interrupted by a personal encounter with the God of the universe via the truth of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection?

3. Whom around you do you trust to lovingly point out your blind spots and those things you're not excited to tell them about? When was the last time they did that for you?

4. The same wise man at Watermark mentioned above also says, "People say what they think, but do what they believe." What do your actions tell others about what you believe? Take some time to reflect, then take it to God in prayer and hopefully to those you identified in response to Question 3.

6 Comments available

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

The liberal Sadducees were filled with jealousy over the miraculous ministry of the apostles. That sounds weird by itself. Jealous of popularity? Jealous of the power>? In any case not ‘love of God’ driven.

Linda Green 2 months ago

Wow, Bryan- sounds like you have been living the truth of Romans 5:3-5 this last year. Thank you for sharing hard truths from these chapters.

Seeing how greed for money, power, and prestige had devastating effects in the lives of those you pointed out. Still the same today.

Stephen is such a contrast, and he was so willing to speak the truth. Even though they killed him for it. And Acts 5:41-will I rejoice if or when I am called to suffer dishonor for the name of my Savior?

Sue Bohlin 2 months ago

Excellent, insightful devo, Bryan, bless you!

The Old Testament focuses on the Father, the Gospels focus on the Son, and Acts focuses on the Holy Spirit. I’m keeping a list of how He shows up in this book.

4-Tongues of fire, languages, and supernatural boldness for the disciples.

5-He can be lied to and tested. Signs and wonders. He heals the sick and the demonized through believers.

6-Faithful men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” are given responsibilities. Nobody can stand against Stephen’s wisdom and the Spirit in him. He shines through Stephen’s face (like Moses) as he becomes the first martyr.

7-He can be resisted. Stephen was full of the Spirit as he gazed into heaven. He had not yet come upon the new Samaritan believers—then He did.

8-He told Philip to walk alongside the eunuch’s carriage. Then He snatched Philip away to Azotus. (“Beam me up, Spirit!”)

Hugh Stephenson 2 months ago

2 of 2

The boldness of the Apostles is stunning.

Jesus’s call to be His witness has a linear progression:

Boldness to signs/wonders to persecution/suffering to growth.

I am taught that the culture is downstream from the church. So, when I observe that the current culture is growing more hostile to the faith it seems clear that the vast majority of churches are caving into coercive pressure. We’ve seen this scenario before. Many times. The ending is tragic in many ways – yet the historical fact is that the church grows under persecution.

A few years ago we heard a message where The Life Initiative was announced. As I was leaving the service, I saw my co-leader in our men’s abortion recovery ministry. I went up and hugged him. We both laughed. I said, “You know, we might be going to jail”. He smiled back and said, “Bring it on”.

Hugh Stephenson 2 months ago

1 of 2

GM Bryan. What an insightful and thoughtful devo. Well done!

Today I am reflecting on Acts 5:38-42:

Gamaliel advises-

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Greg Jones 2 months ago

Acts is written either transcribed witness account fashion (modern western) or as story (common ancient 1st century form)

Transcribed method-this happened, it is what it is. Story form-must be read over a known story.

If story, original hearers pickup Ananias shares the name of a high priest. Matthew being a more Jerusalem friendly gospel, the public reader might might share the 2 parables of a field and a one pearl necklace(Matthew13:44-46) as a reminder before reading Ananias and Sapphira account.

Chapter8 the sorcerer shares a name with a certain apostle and wants to purchase something.

If story, layering Deuteronomy18 into these two stories and Stephen’s storing between them, makes me think a little harder about what Luke is saying when the church is scattered without some of the apostles.

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