JEHOVAH-ROI: THE GOD WHO SEES
Scripture: Acts 4: 32 – 5: 11.
THEME: There is a deliberate contrast in this passage. The basic issue is not only mission, but also how the church will function together as contributors to the cause and as community. God’s people are called to holiness and are accountable to God for it. God knows the hearts of the individual members and what they are doing. Accountability before God exists within the community.
NOTE ABOUT THE TITLE: This message parallels what happens to Hagar, the servant of Sarah and Abraham, in the wilderness and her “new” name for God. (Genesis 16: 13) “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” It is especially appropriate to this passage in Acts, and reminds us that God sees all, especially the hearts of His creatures.
Read Acts 4: 32-35.
I. A further update on the inner operations of the new community (4: 32-35).
A. Luke gives us a further expansion on how the new community is operating. It looks very much like the earlier church of Acts 2: 42-47, with greater emphasis on how the believers were actually relating to each other in the all-telling area of possessions and finances.
1. It is a perfect introduction to the contrasting descriptions of Barnabas and Ananias and Sapphira.
2. It also gives us a clear indication of the main component of the Apostles’ preaching: the Resurrection of Christ Jesus (His vindication by God).
3. One small point: this was not communal living, as many have suggested. Rather, many of those with possessions (houses and land) sold them as needed, and gave the proceeds to the 12. From them, it went to those in need only. For communal living, ALL outside property would be sold and the proceeds would be distributed among all the community, not just those in need.
4. This shows us there were several economic classes in fellowship: There seemed to have been no or minimal jealousy or covetousness among them, for any needs were taken care of by the 12.
B. Because of the care of the community for each other, there were no needy persons AS A CLASS. There were obviously emergencies, and unusual needs from time to time, and those like widows and orphans who had no family to provide for them would have probably required constant care. But, with the help provided by the community, those in need would have been a “temporary category.” (Caring for neighbors as themselves: love in action).
1. This certainly refers back to a condition/promise from Moses: (Deuteronomy 15: 4-5) “However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you will fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”
2. The follow on to this promise is really fascinating: (Deuteronomy 15: 10-11) “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
C. As the church grows, providing for the needy becomes too large a problem and too time consuming for the 12 to handle by themselves. See chapter 6 for the new arrangements the church made.
1. At this point in time, the 12 were able to oversee the needy of the fellowship.
D. The underlying point to all this is: The church was obeying the 2nd great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 39).
II. The good example of how to operate in the community – Barnabas (4: 36-37).
A. Luke, using the previous paragraph describing the general operation of the community fellowship (koinonia), now gives us an example of the proper, good, righteous way to portray the 2nd great commandment: Barnabas.
1. Joseph Barnabas was born and raised in Cyprus (the Jews settled there around 330 BC and were evicted after a rebellion in 117 AD) and is of the family of Levi – but not a priest.
a. Levites were often wealthy and very well educated. They served in the temple, keeping watch over the gates, policing the area, instructing and teaching, and copying the Scriptures.
2. Being given a “nickname” by the Apostles indicates that Joseph of Cyprus was held in very high esteem, and we can tell why they did so by a glance at his apostolic assignments in the future:
a. He cares for the poor.
b. He gives of his resources.
c. He welcomes Paul when others are skeptical and afraid.
d. He encourages Paul by ministering alongside of him.
e. He leads a mission in a way that takes the initiative of engagement.
f. He testifies about the work of God to those outside and within the community.
g. He “rehabilitates” those whose earlier efforts have come up short (John Mark).
B. Barnabas will be well qualified for a mission to Gentiles, since he came from one of those Gentile areas. He also seems to have none of the innate Jewish religious racism or prejudice against any pagan peoples.
1. His nickname means literally: son of encouragement. The Greek word translated as “encouragement” in many new translations is the adjective form of the noun used to name the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John: “parakletos” or literally, “the one who comes along side” or possibly, “encourager.”
2. In a time where names were extremely important as descriptions of the person and not just a phonetical sound as they are today, Barnabas certainly lived up to his name.
3. He is clearly one of Luke’s heroes and is a worthy example for us to copy today.
C. He gives ALL THE PROCEEDS from the sale of his land, and apparently says nothing about it at all to anyone.
1. He is following Jesus advice from the Sermon on the Mount: (Matthew 6: 1-3) “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
2. Watch the difference between Barnabas’ gift and that of Ananias and Sapphira to see which one you are!
III. The bad example of how to operate in the community – Ananias and Sapphira (5: 1-11).
A. Luke now gives us an example not to emulate. This story helps us believe that Acts is a real story about the real early church: Luke is not afraid to show that the early church was not totally perfect as one might infer from his earlier comments in 2: 42-47 and 4: 32-35. Luke doesn’t tell us every evil incident, just as he doesn’t tell us every good incident. This type of portrayal helps affirm the authenticity of not only the Book of Acts, but also the Gospel of Luke. Luke is being honest, more so than his contemporaries of the pagan world ever were.
1. Ananias (and Sapphira) sell a piece of property, and decide to keep a third(?) of it for themselves, all the while bragging about how they gave the whole amount to the community.
2. The Greek word behind what is translated “kept back” (v. 1) is “enosphisato” which is a verb tied to financial fraud. It is also the same word used for Achan’s act in “taking some” of the spoil he took from Jericho (see Joshua 7 for the entire story).
3. Ananias and Sapphira’s attempt to enhance their reputation does exactly the opposite of their desires.
B. What they designed to make them popular and famous and important, wound up making them a byword for lying, deceit, and arrogance. God’s resulting swift judgment on them serves to remind the community of its call to holiness and its loyalty to God.
1. Their sin is NOT in holding back some of the proceeds of the sale. Peter makes that perfectly clear in (v. 4): “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”
2. Their great sin was in trying to deceive God/the Holy Spirit. They could have deceived the 12 (if the Holy Spirit hadn’t told Peter), and even deceived the whole community, but they were trying to pull the wool over God’s eyes – and this just flat can’t be done!
3. Peter explains to them and us why such a ploy is impossible: (v. 4) “You have not lied to men but to God.” and (v. 9) “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?”
4. God knows things that we can never know because He sees in different places than we can see: (1 Samuel 16: 7) “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
a. God knows not only THAT WE SIN, He also knows WHY WE SIN.
5. Take a few seconds and think about that in context of your life right now.
a. How many sins are you successfully hiding from your fellow church members?
b. How many sins are you successfully hiding from your closest friends?
c. How many sins are you successfully hiding from your wife/husband?
d. NOW – HOW MANY SINS ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE FROM GOD????
E. Shall I tell you how many sins you are successfully hiding from God? NONE.
6. Maybe we better take some time here and just for a few minutes quietly confess those sins we thought we had been successfully hiding for maybe years and years. Get them out in the open and repent of them.
a. I don’t think God really needs them to be published in public.
b. But they certainly need to be repented of.
c. And forgiveness asked for them.
7. Don’t forget to repent and ask forgiveness for the sin of arrogance: to think that you could hide a sin from God is the height of arrogance (not to mention stupidity and folly).
C. Then it might be a good idea to thank God for not dealing with you as He dealt with Ananias and Sapphira: INSTANT JUDGMENT, INSTANT PENALTY.
1. I’m so glad we have a gracious, kind, merciful, patient, longsuffering God.
D. It’s high time we get our hidden sins out of our lives. Let us pray the words that David knew and understood: (Psalms 19: 12-14 and 51: 1-4; 10-11; 17):
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
If you prayed that prayer with me and really meant it, God will know and forgive.
Remember, to repent is to change and turn from sinful behavior and towards the Lord God.
Turn and change and repent today.
Let us all have no hidden sins that God can reveal to the world as He did with Ananias and Sapphira.
Never forget: He is Jehovah-roi: The God who sees – sees and knows our hearts.
Our invitation is ______________.