The Apostle Paul’s Infirmity – Galatians 4:13-20

 

Summary:

We know “infirmity” (4:13) can mean any kind of affliction, for the Lord healed all kinds of things (Lu.5:15). We think Paul’s infirmity was an eye disease, for the only way he’d call Galatians a “large” epistle (Gal.6:11) is if he had to use large letters to write it. Paul calls his infirmity a temptation (4:14) because tempt can mean test (Rev.3:10). Infirmities test to see if we’ll receive them as Paul did (IICor.12:8-10).

The Galatians didn’t reject Paul for his infirmity (Gal.4:14), even though his eyes were probably gooey, and the Greeks despised “weak” bodies (IICor.10:10). Their willingness to give Paul their eyes (Gal.4:15) gives more proof he had eye trouble. When he didn’t scold them, it proves organ trans-plants and blood transfusions are okay, for eyes have blood.

Paul calls that joyful spirit of giving a “blessedness” (v.15) because the Lord said it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). God is the most joyful person in all creation because He is the biggest giver. He gives us life, and eternal life by grace when we believe. That made the Galatians want to be givers like God. Grace always does!

But we know the law robbed them of that blessedness, for Paul had to tell them to pay their pastors (6:6). They went from wanting to repay Paul with their eyes for teaching them how to be saved, to not wanting to pay teachers anything for teaching them the Bible. Grace makes us want to be givers like God after we learn all He’s given us, but if you think you’re under the law, you’re going to wonder why God isn’t giving you the health and wealth He gave the Jews under the law. That made the Galatians not want to give to others.

The Galatians didn’t like being called out about their legalism, so they considered Paul their enemy (Gal.4:16). But they thought of the legalizers as friends, so Paul explained why they affected the Galatians in verse 17. That word means to desire. They desired the Galatians, “but not well,” i.e., not for a good purpose. They did it to make themselves look like successful leaders (cf. 6:12,13). They excluded them, knowing it would make them want to be part of their group even more. They did it to make the Galatians desire them. There’s nothing wrong with being zealous (Gal.4:18) in good things, things like good works (Tit.2:13), praying for others (Col.4:12,13) and giving (IICor.9:2). If you’re not a giving Christian, you’re acting like a child, so Paul calls them “children” (Gal.4:19). But they were his children, because he led them to Christ (cf.ICor.4:15).

But if he fathered them, why does he say he “travailed” in birth for them? That’s the mother’s part! It is because Paul played both parts in their conversion, having to labor to bring them to Christ. He feared having to go through the labor of teaching them the basics of salvation by grace again now that they believed the legalizers who said they had to keep the law to be saved (Acts 15:1,5). If you believe that, Christ will never be formed in you, which was God’s goal in giving birth to you (Rom.8:29). But that only comes from growing in grace, and they were growing in the law instead.

Christ came to earth in “the form of a servant” (Phil.2:5,7), and if He is formed in you, you’ll act like a servant too. We know the Galatians weren’t, because Paul had to tell them to bear one another’s burdens (Gal.6:2). They were so far gone in legalism, Paul knew it would take so much work to bring them back to grace that he wished he could be there to do it in person (Gal.4:20). If he was there, he says he would change the tone of his “voice” from the kind and patient tone he used to lead them to Christ and make them God’s children, to something more stern and fatherly now that they were God’s children, but were misbehaving. Not because he doubted their salvation, for he calls these Gentiles “brethren” 11 times in this epistle. He “stood in doubt” of their understanding of salvation, and that was affecting their joy, and their ability to share salvation.

Faithful Service to the Wrong God – Galatians 4:8-12

Summary:

The Galatians “knew not God” (v.8) back when they were heathen unbelievers (cf. Jer.10:25). Back then, they “did service” to idols instead of to God (cf.Ps.97:7), idols “which by nature are no gods” (v.8). By nature, they can’t see, hear, or smell like God can (Ps.115:4-6).

When they “did service” to those idols, that made them servants to those idols, and Paul has just finished telling them that they are no longer servants (v.7). So he went on to wonder why they’d want to be in bondage again (v.9).

But right after saying they knew God, Paul remembered they didn’t know God as well as they should have. They were like the Corinthians, whom Paul said didn’t have the knowledge of God (ICor.15:34) because they’d stopped believing in the resurrection (v.12). The Galatians didn’t have the knowledge of God that said they shouldn’t leave grace for the law.

So Paul adds that they were rather “known of God” because they trusted in Him (cf. Nahum 1:7). God knew them in the sense that they belonged to Him (IITim.2:19). He knew them in the way Cain “knew” his wife and she conceived. That is, God knew them in an intimate way that made Him one with them, and made them His very own.

Paul calls the law “weak” because it was weak “through the flesh” (Rom.8:3). It was strong enough to save us if we could keep it continually (Rom.2:5-7), but we can’t, so it is weak through our flesh.

Paul called the law “beggarly” for the same reason. God promised to make the Jews wealthy in the kingdom if they could keep it continually (Deut.28:1,2,11,13). But they couldn’t, so they ended up slaves in Babylon, begging the Babylonians for their next meal. We see this pictured in Acts 3, where the lame man begging at the door of the temple, too weak to enter it, was a type of Israel under the law, begging at the door of the kingdom, too weak to enter the kingdom.

And this was the law the Galatians had put themselves under, even though God had already saved them by the power of the gospel (Rom.1:16) and enriched them with glory (Rom. 9:23,24).

The “days” they were observing (Gal.4:10) were the law’s sabbath days and feast days and “fasting” days (Jer.36:6). The “months” (v.10) were the months of the new moon (Ps. 81:3,4), and the “times” (v.10) were the times of uncleanness that women observed (Lev.15:25), and men as well. The “years” they were observing were years like the tithing year that came around every 3 years (Deut.26:12). After hearing about all that, Paul was “afraid” that all he’d heard was true, and he had labored to teach them grace in vain (Gal.4:11).

In telling them: “be as I am” (Gal.4:12), Paul meant that he wanted them to be like him and not like Peter and Barnabas. Peter was eating with Gentiles until some men from James arrived and then stopped eating with them. This caused even Barnabas to go back to observing the law’s separation law, just as Peter had done (Gal.2:9-13). Paul wanted the Gala-tians to be like him and resist the peer pressure the legalizers were giving them, just as he had resisted it (Gal.2:14).

When Paul said, “for I am as you are” (Gal.3:12), that’s a figure of speech that meant, “I’m on your side!” (cf. II Chron. 18:3). He said that because he knew it sounded like he was not on their side, that instead, he was so upset they’d left grace that he was mad at them. So he added, “ye have not injured me at all” (Gal.4:12). That is, “you haven’t hurt my feelings!” Paul didn’t take it personally when the churches he established let him down (II Cor.2:5). Other spiritual leaders often did, because it made them look like they weren’t good spiritual leaders (II Cor.13:7), but not Paul!

Pastor to Pastor

One Sunday morning a Christian man walked into the church that I pastor in addition to my duties here at Berean Bible Society. When I asked this man what had prompted him to pay us a visit, he said that it was because his daughter had gone out on a date with my son, and he wanted to make sure that ours was a solid Bible-teaching church. That date didn’t lead to more dating, but that concerned dad soon became a solid grace believer!

Some years later, after finishing my usual late night grocery shopping, I pushed my cart out of the store and stopped to toss some bags of water softener salt onto my cart. I’d paid for them inside, but the store kept them out front on a pallet due to their 40-pound size. I then broke into a run as I pushed the cart toward my car, as I often did in those days to get a little exercise wherever I could grab it. This raised the suspicions of the store security guard, who pulled alongside me in his unmarked car and asked to see a receipt for those bags of salt. I explained to him that I wasn’t allowed to steal, being the pastor of a local church and all, and invited him to attend our services. It turned out he had just started watching Les Feldick on television, and so it didn’t take long before he too was a grace believer.

If you pastors pray that the people of your community will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth as I do, I hope these examples of how God answers prayer will encourage you. The door to door canvassing that I’ve done throughout most of the community hasn’t yielded any visitors, but God is not limited to such outreach measures when it comes to His ability to answer our prayers for our communities. He still answers prayer by His Spirit using His Word in the hearts of His people, and I know that He will answer yours if you continue to pray—hopefully without you nearly getting arrested for stealing salt!

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.


Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Heirs of God – Galatians 4:1-7

 

Summary:

Paul begins by comparing being an “heir of God” (Gal.3:29; 4:7) to being an heir of men (4:1). A man’s boy was already “lord” of his lands and servants, but he wasn’t ready to be in charge of his lands and servants. He needed to be under “tutors and governors” (4:2) to teach him how to be an adult so he knew how to be in charge of them. That continued “until the time appointed of the father” (v.2). After that, he was ready to be about his father’s business, as the Lord was at age 12 (Lu.2:42,49). Modern Jews call this a bar mitzvah.

As heirs of God, we were “in bondage” or servitude (cf.Ezra 9:9) under the “elements of the world.” The word element means the simplest form of something, as when Sherlock said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” In elementary school, I learned that in chemistry, elements are the simplest form of matter that are the building blocks of all other forms of mat-ter. For example, water (H2O) is made up of two atoms of the element hydrogen and one atom of the element oxygen.

The elements in our text refer to the law. When the law says, “thou shalt not kill” etc., those are simple rules that are the building blocks “of the world” (4:3). Paul could tell the Galatian Gentiles “we” were under it, for if a Gentile wanted to be saved in time past, he had to learn what the law said about being saved. God put all mankind under the law to teach us we couldn’t be saved by keeping even the simplest of rules.

But “when the fulness of the time was come” (4:4), i.e., when the years were fulfilled that Daniel said must pass before Messiah could come (Dan.9:25), He came. That’s when “the time appointed of the Father” to stop treating the Jews as His children came. It was time to make them His sons and make them the lords of all He owned in the earth in the kingdom. But they wouldn’t have it, so God introduced the mystery.

The Lord had to be “made of a woman” (Gal.4:4) because

He had to be kin to us to redeem us (Lev.25:47-49) out of the bondage of sin Adam sold himself into—and us with him, since the children of slaves are slaves too. When we believe, Christ redeems our souls (Gal.3:13), but our bodies will be redeemed at the Rapture (cf.Rom.8:23). That’s why Paul said he was still “sold under sin” (Rom.7:14). So Christ had to be made a man to redeem men, and made under the law to redeem them that were under the law (Gal.4:4).

He did all that so that we could “receive the adoption of sons” (4:5), the bar mitzvah-type sonship we’re talking about. We received it (Rom.8:15) when we got saved, but Jews in the kingdom dispensation won’t be sons till they appoint the Lord their Head in the kingdom (Hos.1:10,11). That’s when God will put His Spirit in their hearts (Ezek.36: 27). But He’s done that for us now (Gal.4:6cf.IICor.1:21,22).

The name “Abba” (4:6) is associated with saying, “not my will, but Thine be done” (Mark14:36; Lu.22:42). When God puts His Spirit in kingdom Jews, they’ll be able to say that, just as the Lord could, because the Spirit will “cause” them to do His will (Ezek.36:27). Paul could say we have received that Spirit because the Spirit does that “in us” when He fulfills the righteousness of the law “in us” (Rom. 8:3,4).

What do we inherit as God’s heirs? Well, we are only His heirs because we are the spiritual seed of Abraham (Gal.3: 29). That means we inherit the eternal life that he inherited, but also “the world” (Rom.4:13-16; ICor.3:21,22). We’re not going to live in the world like kingdom Jews will, but we will “judge the world” because “we shall judge angels” in heaven (I Cor. 6:2,3), and heaven is over the earth (Isa.55:9).

So when Paul says we are no longer servants, we are sons (4:7), that means we went from owning nothing to owning everything. A slave owns nothing, for his master owns all that he has, but a son is “lord of all.” What a rags to riches story is ours in Christ!

Thankful for One Another

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).

Two relationships are referenced in this verse of Scripture. First, there is Paul’s personal relationship with God, and second, there is Paul’s relationship with fellow-believers, the Philippians.

That Paul thanked “my God” teaches about the union and communion Paul enjoyed with Him. Every believer in Christ is God’s, and God is also ours in a personal way so that we, like Paul, can “thank my God.”

The Philippians’ relationship to Paul in Christ caused the apostle to overflow with gratitude. Paul’s heart was filled with thanks to God for every memory of them. Blessings received from God should lead to thanksgiving to God. The Philippians were a blessing from God to Paul; so he thanked God for them.

Throughout his epistles, we read of Paul thanking God for churches and individual believers (Rom. 1:8; Eph. 1:15-16; Col. 1:3-4; 1 Thes. 1:2-3; 2 Tim. 1:3; Phile. 1:4). Paul was continually thankful for the people God had put in his life and with whom he labored in the ministry. He was grateful for their faith toward God and their love for one another.

Thomas Hardy once said, “Some people can find the manure pile in any meadow.” The Philippians were not a perfect church, and Paul could have focused on the negative when he remembered them. There was disunity in the Philippian assembly, which is why Paul exhorted them to “be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). Later in the letter, Paul addressed the discord between two women in the Church (Phil. 4:2-3). Yet, in remembering the Philippians, we find Paul, by the Spirit, focusing on the overall joyful, good memories that he had of them and of their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). This moved Paul to react with thanksgiving to God for them.

Paul was thankful for his relationships in the Church; they were a source for gratitude to God. To follow Paul both in doctrine and practice (Phil. 4:9), we must likewise be grateful to God for one another in the Body of Christ. It promotes harmony in the Church when we do so. Each person in the Body of Christ has been “purchased with His [Christ’s] own blood” (Acts 20:28) and is “in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1). Each person’s gifts and service are needed and important in the Church. In light of these things, we thank God for one another.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thes. 1:2).

– Pastor Kevin Sadler

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.


Two Minutes with the Bible lets you start your day with short but powerful Bible study articles from the Berean Bible Society. Sign up now to receive Two Minutes With the Bible every day in your email inbox. We will never share your personal information and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The Coming of Faith – Galatians 3:23-29

 

Summary:

“Faith” (v.23) is just believing what God says, and men have always had faith (Heb.11:4). So when Paul talks about a time “before faith came” (v.23), he must be talking about a different kind of faith—and he is! He’s talking about “the faith” that he mentions again at the end of verse 23. That’s a reference to the body of truth revealed to Paul, the one he told the Corinthians to “stand fast” in (I Cor.16:13).

Before that body of truth came, we were kept under the law, “shut up unto” the faith, meaning we had no contact with it, as we see in how that phrase is used in II Samuel 20:3. That’s because the body of truth revealed to Paul was a mystery.

But why would a Jew like Paul say to Gentiles like the Gala-tians that “we” were under the law? It’s because if a Gentile wanted to be saved under the law, he had to go see a Jew, who would teach him how the law said he could be saved by getting circumcised, and keeping the law’s offerings, sabbaths, and feasts, etc. So Jews and Gentiles were under the law, shut up to the faith “afterward” revealed to Paul.

This wasn’t to deprive us of that faith. We just weren’t ready for it. When God heard the Jews say they would keep all the things in the law (Ex.24:3), it showed they thought they could keep it well enough to be saved. They had to be taught they couldn’t, so God sent them to school for 1500 years.

You see, “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal.3:24). A schoolmaster was a teacher, but also a disciplinarian who spanked a student if he was bad, as all teachers used to do. The law was a schoolmaster because it taught God’s rules, but spanked the Jews with things like bad crops and bad health, etc. And you’d think that after 1500 years of being spanked for being bad, they would have learned the lesson that they couldn’t be saved by being good!

But they didn’t. And men still need to learn this lesson. So Paul says we should use the law to teach them. That’s the lawful “use” of the law (ITim.1:8,9). It wasn’t given to righteous (saved) men, it was given to unsaved men to teach them they need righteousness. But after you use the law to teach a sinner that lesson, the law should “perish with the using” (Col.2:20,22), for after we are “justified by faith,” we are no longer under the schoolmaster of the law (Gal. 3:24,25).

The legalizers were telling the Galatians they had to keep the law to be saved, but Paul told them they were “children of God by faith in Christ” (3:26). God made us His children by baptizing us into the Body of Christ (v.27 cf. I Cor.12:13). When that happened, we “put on Christ” (v.27). The legalizers were telling the Galatians they had to “put on righteous-ness” as Job did (Job 29:14) by doing righteous things (12-17). Paul says if you received “the gift of righteousness” (Rom.5:17), you’ve put on Christ, God’s righteousness (ICor.1:30; II Cor.5:21). Even under the law, saved Jews knew God clothed them with righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

The legalizers were telling the Galatians they had to become Jews to be saved, for that’s what the law said (Ex.12:48). But Paul says there’s neither “Jew nor Greek” in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Under the law, Gentiles were servants to Jews Lev. 25:45,46) and always will be, even in the kingdom of heaven on earth (Isa. 14:1,2;61:5) when men will be back under the law. But there’s “neither bond nor free” in Christ (Gal.3:28). Under the law, women couldn’t be priests (Deut. 21:5), and priests brought God and men together with sacrifices. But there is “neither male nor female” in Christ, so even women can be “ambassadors for Christ” (IICor.5:20) who can bring God and men together by offering them Christ’s sacrifice.

Christ was Abraham’s seed (Mt.1:1), so if you’re in Christ, you are too (Gal.3:29)—his spiritual seed, the one God promised eternal life to (Gen.13:15 cf. Rom.4:13-16). Study Romans 4:13-16 to find out more about how that works!

Berean Searchlight – November 2021


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Imposters on the Roster

Two NFL coaches were looking at their clipboard roster of players one day, when one of them asked the other, “Who’s this Quasimodo guy? Why does that name ring a bell?” The other replied, “Don’t you remember? He played halfback at Notre Dame.”

Speaking of rosters, as we look at the roster of believers answering roll call in the Jewish kingdom church at Pentecost, we see there were a couple of imposters on the roster. All the saved Jews sold their possessions and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37),

“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, “And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:1,2).

As you may know, they were supposed to bring all the money they got from selling their possession to the apostles to share with the rest of the church (Acts 4:35). We know Peter did, for when a lame man asked him for a handout, he said, “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6). And when Ananias and Sapphira kept back part of the proceeds of their sale, that showed they weren’t saved. We know this because when “a certain ruler” asked the Lord,

“Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?…Jesus said unto Him…sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor…” (Luke 18:18-22).

So why would this couple try to convince Peter they were saved? Well, if you were living back then and you weren’t saved, wouldn’t you try to bluff your way into Peter’s church? If you saw a bunch of people living unselfishly for one another, in perfect harmony, “of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32), wouldn’t you want in on that? Evidently Ananias and Sapphira did too.

But as we read on, we see that God wasn’t about to let them get away with that kind of incomplete obedience:

“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:3).

How’d He Know That?

Here we have to ask: How’d Peter know they hadn’t brought him all the proceeds? The answer is, Peter was a prophet, and prophets just knew stuff like that! Back when the king of Syria couldn’t figure out how the Jews knew about every trap that he set for them, he naturally suspected that there was a spy among his advisers. But when he asked them who the mole was, one of the members of his staff replied,

“None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:12).

Elisha knew all the king’s secret plans because he was a prophet. That’s why, when the Lord was able to tell the woman at the well all the details of her private life, she told Him, “Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet” (John 4:19).

And we know Peter was a prophet as well, for he wrote two books of the Bible, and all the Bible writers were prophets. That’s why Paul spoke of “the Scriptures of the prophets” (Rom. 16:26), and Peter himself called the Scriptures the “prophecy of the Scripture” (2 Pet. 1:20). And this was how he knew this deceitful couple wasn’t being totally up front with him.

Now when Peter asked Ananias why Satan had filled his heart to lie, that makes it sound like Ananias was just minding his own business when Satan snuck up behind him and filled his heart and forced him to lie. But Peter was holding Ananias responsible for his lie because he knew that that’s not how it happened.

The Devil Didn’t Make Him Do It

You see, Peter had heard the Lord say,

“…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts… wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness….All these evil things come from within…” (Mark 7:21-23).

I’m old enough to remember how comedian Flip Wilson used to joke, “The devil made me do it!” when he’d do something wrong. But the Lord said that sins like the “deceit” Ananias and his wife were committing come from within us. Thanks to the perverse fallen sinful nature we all inherited from Adam, we don’t need any help from Satan to sin.

If you think about it, that just makes sense. Satan is not omnipresent like God is. He’s a finite being who can’t be everywhere at once like God can (Psa. 139:7-12).

He also has a finite number of demons, so he can’t possibly be behind every sin that men commit all over the world.

Having said that, there were times when Satan was behind the sins of men. Like when the Lord and the Twelve had just finished eating the last passover meal together, and John says:

“…supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (John 13:2).

Satan may not be able to be everywhere at once, but when the Lord was here on earth, you can be sure that he was on Him and his apostles like white on rice, to personally afflict the Lord and instigate as much sin among the Twelve as he could.

But even with Judas, Satan didn’t overpower his will and make him betray the Lord. Judas was just a covetous guy! He wanted those 30 pieces of silver that Israel’s leaders promised to pay him for selling out his Master (Matt. 26:15). So Satan didn’t have to twist his arm to get him to betray the Lord. He let Satan enter into him.

And that’s what happened here with Ananias as well. Now that the Lord had ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), Satan turned all of his attention to the 120 disciples who gathered at Pentecost (Acts 1:15). And when he saw that Ananias was just as covetous as Judas, he saw his chance to infiltrate those disciples in Peter’s church. That’s why Peter asked him “why” Satan had filled his heart to lie to Peter. He was asking why Ananias let him.

Now I know it says Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3), not Peter. But don’t forget that, speaking of the disciples, we read that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:4). That means when Ananias lied to Peter, he was really lying to the Spirit within Peter.

It Takes Two to Do More Than Tango

And as we read on, we see Peter has some follow-up questions for Ananias:

“While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:4).

That word “conceived” is a word we usually use to describe what happens when a baby comes into existence. It takes two to conceive a baby, and it took both Satan and Ananias to conceive the lie he told Peter.

But that word conceive should make you think of some things that James wrote:

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways…the rich… shall pass away…the man that endureth temptation…shall receive the crown of life…But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:8,10,12,14,15).

I think James was actually describing what was going on at Pentecost. I mean, he talked about conceiving sin, like Peter did, and made mention of “a double minded man.” Doesn’t that sound like Ananias? He wanted to be part of the little flock, but he also wanted to keep part of the money that he was supposed to turn in, so he conspired with Satan to conceive that lie. That sounds double-minded to me!

And when James says that the man who endured temptation would receive life, it’s obvious that he meant eternal life. But that means when he wrote that the rich would “pass away,” it’s just as obvious that he meant the rich would pass away eternally. And that too goes along with what was happening at Pentecost. The only rich people at Pentecost were the ones who didn’t sell all they had, and so were not saved. That explains why the Lord said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24).

But now, here we have a dispensational difference. Rich men can be saved today, in the dispensation of grace, without having to share their riches. Our apostle Paul never tells us to sell all to be saved. He tells the rich to “be rich in good works” (1 Tim. 6:18), not to give up their riches.

But as we’re about to see, when Ananias let covetousness conceive in his heart, it brought him death, just as James said it would. He ends up dying in this passage—and not just physically. We know he also died eternally for not complying with God’s terms of salvation.

Who’s Who in the Godhead?

But now, did you notice that in verse 3 Peter said that Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost, but here in verse 4 he says that he lied to God. You know what that means, don’t you? It means the Holy Ghost is God!

If you are thinking, “Who doesn’t know that the Holy Spirit is God?” the answer is, plenty of people. There are a lot of people who don’t even think He is a person. They think He’s some kind of mysterious force, like “the Force” in Star Wars. But you can’t lie to a force! You can’t lie to electricity, you can’t lie to magnetism, and if the Holy Spirit is just a force, you can’t lie to Him either. But the Bible says Ananias did!

As we read on, we get to the part where Ananias’ sin brought forth death, just as James said it would:

“And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (Acts 5:5).

It seems pretty clear to me that Peter struck Ananias dead. People get a little uneasy when I insist that that’s what happened here, but you can’t easily read that verse and come to the conclusion that Ananias died of natural causes, especially when Peter struck his wife dead a short time later. That’s just too much of a coincidence.

If you don’t think God would give men the power to inflict physical punishment, I remind you that this wasn’t the first time He gave men such power (2 Kings 1:10-12; Acts 13:11). Peter wasn’t the first man with the power to inflict punishment like that, and he won’t be the last either (Rev. 11:3,5).

But in all this we have another dispensational difference, for pastors and spiritual leaders today cannot inflict physical punishment, although some of them claim they can.

A Dispensational Power

Soon after I became a pastor in 1979, a lady named Helen joined our church and learned how to rightly divide the Word. When she did, she stopped sending money to a popular televangelist. Soon after, he mailed her a letter saying that something bad would happen to her if she didn’t resume giving to his ministry! I told her that what he was doing was nothing short of extortion, and took the letter to our local post office. But the postmaster informed me that there was nothing he could do about such mailings, for they were protected under the freedom of religion. How sad!

But remember, preachers like that aren’t being unbiblical, they’re just being undispensational. Men in the Bible had the power to inflict physical punishment; they just don’t have that power today in the dispensation of grace. And if Helen hadn’t learned to rightly divide the Word, she might have been intimidated by that televangelist, as I’m sure millions of others have been. Now after Ananias died, they didn’t just leave his body lying around, as we see as we read on:

“And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him” (Acts 5:6).

I like to joke that that’s why God created young men, to do all our heavy lifting for us! But seriously, if you are a young man, I don’t have to tell you that “the glory of young men is their strength” (Prov. 20:29), and Christian young men should use their strength to serve the Lord. I’m sure if you ask your pastor for ways that you can use your young strength to assist the ministry of your church, he’ll be able to point you in the right direction. When I was a teenager, I shoveled snow from the church walk, burned all the old paint off the exterior of our church parsonage and repainted it, and used my God-given strength to serve Him in other ways. Of course, these days the roles are reversed, and I’m the aging pastor who asks the young men in my church to lift things to save the strain on my bad back.

A Taste of Heaven

What we’re seeing in all this is a taste of what life will be like in the kingdom of heaven on earth. We know that God was giving them a taste of the kingdom here, for Hebrews 6:4,5 describes the people at Pentecost as,

“…those who…tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted…the powers of the world to come.”

“The world to come” here is the kingdom, and one of the “powers” of the world to come is the power to strike men dead.

Now you might be wondering why anyone would need to be stricken dead in the kingdom of heaven. But while the kingdom will be heaven on earth, men will still have the ability to sin during the first thousand years of God’s eternal kingdom.

That explains why the Lord compared the kingdom to “leaven” (Matt.  3:33). In the Bible, leaven is a type of sin. When a man committed unspeakable fornication in the Corinthian church, Paul warned the Corinthians to put him out of the assembly (1 Cor. 5:2,13), for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (v. 6). hen a church countenances that kind of unabashed sinful behavior, it is sure to spread like leaven.

But the Lord’s parable teaches us that the leaven of sin is going to exist in the millennial kingdom. And as we are seeing pictured here in Acts 5 in this taste of the kingdom, when sin arises, it will be judged. That explains why Isaiah’s description of the kingdom (Isa. 65:24,25) included his prediction that “the child shall die an hundred years old” (v. 20). After the longevity we read about in Genesis returns in the kingdom, a man who dies at 100 will be considered a child, for had he not sinned he would not have died.

Better Watch Your Back

But in closing, we talked about how the devil dogged the steps of the Lord Jesus when He was here among us, in order to personally afflict Him, and then turned his attention to His disciples after He ascended into heaven. But where do you think you can find Satan today, in the dispensation of grace? Hanging around believers, of course—especially grace believers who know Paul’s gospel! Maybe not him personally, but he has a lot of demons! There’s no evidence in Paul’s epistles that you have a guardian angel, but if you preach Paul’s gospel, you just might have your own personal devil!

If you think that’s a good reason to study God’s Word, you’re right. If you think that’s a good reason to attend a sound grace church to hear God’s Word proclaimed rightly divided, you’re right about that as well. There’s simply no way to learn to wield “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16), or don any of the other pieces of spiritual armor that God supplies to protect you from the wicked one, without letting His rightly divided Word find deep roots in the soil of your heart, and letting it become part of the very fabric of your life. Why not start right now? You’ll be eternally glad you
did.


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