Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 7 2013 - Acts 5:1-42 – Mind the gap

At the end of Acts 4 we have the second of Luke’s cameo descriptions of the life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. It seems idyllic: they were all of one mind and shared what they had with each other so that there were no poor among them. This seems to be an echo of the promise God made concerning the plenty his people would enjoy in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 15:4). The promised covenant community has at last been realised!

But this lovely description is immediately followed by a shocking story of deception and of judgment. Ananias and his wife Sapphira conspire together to sell a field and give some of the money to the apostles for distribution, pretending it to have been the whole amount. Their sin was not that of keeping part back – it was their money to do with as they wished. Their sin was in seeking to represent themselves as more generous than they were, the sin of deception and hypocrisy. When confronted with what they had done they drop down dead!

We should be careful of the simplistic view that the early church was a model of what the church should really be like. What we need to do, say some, is to become more like the early church in Acts. The truth is, we are like that church. God is at work among us as he was at work among them. Satan is also at work to destroy what God is doing; he’s at work today just as he was at work among those first believers. The call to us, as it was to the early church, is to press on in following Jesus, loving one another and witnessing to all that Jesus has done – not forgetting to fight the rear-guard action against the Enemy!.

There always was and always will be a gap between what we should be and what we actually are, whether as individual disciples or as a Christian community. We need therefore to mind the gap. To recognise the deceptive nature of our own hearts and the constant temptation to present a good face to others while cultivating hidden sins. We need, both individually and corporately, to press on to become all that God purposes for us to be in Christ: to make it our ambition to close the gap.

Later in today’s passage we read of some of the apostles being arrested for preaching concerning the Lord Jesus. Some members of the Jewish Sanhedrin wanted the apostles to be put to death, but Gamaliel reminded them that many other movements had come and gone. He concluded, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

No doubt Gamaliel believed that these troublesome followers of Jesus were a temporary enthusiasm that would soon die away. On the contrary, it has proved to be a work of God that has lasted the test of time and that will outlast all human movements and kingdoms.

But what of our own profession of faith? Is it a sham and show like that of Ananias and Sapphira or is it the work of God, albeit encompassed in human frailty?

Father God, keep me from making a show of following the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue that work that you have begun within me until I am safely brought to glory, fully transformed into the likeness of Christ my Saviour. In the meantime, stir up the fire within me that I may bear witness to all that Christ has done in his death and resurrection. May your Holy Spirit use my testimony, along with the testimony of all your people to fill the earth with the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, to the praise of his great and glorious name.

Peter Misselbrook