1. A BEAUTIFUL SPIRIT IN THE EARLY CHURCH
a. What characteristic distinguished the early church? Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34–37.
“Many of these early believers were immediately cut off from family and friends by the zealous bigotry of the Jews, and it was necessary to provide them with food and shelter.
“The record declares, ‘Neither was there any among them that lacked,’ and it tells how the need was filled. Those among the believers who had money and possessions cheerfully sacrificed them to meet the emergency. Selling their houses or their lands, they brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet, ‘and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.’
“This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were ‘of one heart and of one soul.’ One common interest controlled them—the success of the mission entrusted to them; and covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused, was greater than their love of money and possessions. Their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of higher value than earthly wealth.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 70, 71.
2. HYPOCRISY AND ITS SWIFT PUNISHMENT
a. Alongside the unselfish spirit of many, what spiritual problem arose in the early church? Acts 5:1, 2.
“Deep conviction had rested upon all present, and under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Ananias and Sapphira had made a pledge to give to the Lord the proceeds from the sale of certain property.
“Afterward, Ananias and Sapphira grieved the Holy Spirit by yielding to feelings of covetousness. They began to regret their promise and soon lost the sweet influence of the blessing that had warmed their hearts with a desire to do large things in behalf of the cause of Christ. They thought they had been too hasty, that they ought to reconsider their decision. They talked the matter over, and decided not to fulfill their pledge.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 71, 72.
b. What did Peter detect through the leading of the Holy Spirit? What was the real sin of Ananias? Acts 5:3, 4.
“No undue influence had been brought to bear upon Ananias to compel him to sacrifice his possessions to the general good. He had acted from choice. But in attempting to deceive the disciples, he had lied to the Almighty.”—Ibid., p.73.
c. What happened when the sin of Ananias became evident? Acts 5:5, 6.
“Infinite Wisdom saw that this signal manifestation of the wrath of God was necessary to guard the young church from becoming demoralized. Their numbers were rapidly increasing. The church would have been endangered if, in the rapid increase of converts, men and women had been added who, while professing to serve God, were worshiping mammon. This judgment testified that men cannot deceive God, that He detects the hidden sin of the heart, and that He will not be mocked. It was designed as a warning to the church, to lead them to avoid pretense and hypocrisy, and to beware of robbing God.”—Ibid., pp.73, 74.
3. GOD’S VIEW OF HYPOCRISY
a. What question was later posed to the wife of Ananias, and how did she respond? Acts 5:7, 8.
“Not to the early church only, but to all future generations, this example of God’s hatred of covetousness, fraud, and hypocrisy, was given as a danger-signal. It was covetousness that Ananias and Sapphira had first cherished. The desire to retain for themselves a part of that which they had promised to the Lord, led them into fraud and hypocrisy.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 74.
b. What sin did Peter bring to Sapphira’s attention, and what was the tragic result? Acts 5:9, 10.
“God hates hypocrisy and falsehood. Ananias and Sapphira practiced fraud in their dealing with God; they lied to the Holy Spirit, and their sin was visited with swift and terrible judgment.”—Ibid., p.72.
c. How does God view all falsehood? Proverbs 12:22; Revelation 21:27.
“Exaggeration and fraud and falsehood are largely dealt in, in the world; but shall those who profess to believe the truth, do unrighteousness? Shall they gather the pollution that everywhere exists, and identify themselves with those who, although they are termed upright men, are evil-doers? He who looks upon the heart, and cannot behold sin with any degree of allowance, will not countenance hypocrisy in those who claim to be his children.”—The Review and Herald, December 19, 1893.
“He who utters untruths sells his soul in a cheap market. His falsehoods may seem to serve in emergencies; he may thus seem to make business advancement that he could not gain by fair dealing; but he finally reaches the place where he can trust no one. Himself a falsifier, he has no confidence in the word of others. . . .
“The same sin [of Ananias and Sapphira] was often repeated in the after history of the church and is committed by many in our time. But though it may not be attended by the visible manifestation of God’s displeasure, it is no less heinous in His sight now than in the apostles’ time.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 76.
4. THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
a. What is generally involved in the sin against the Holy Spirit? Jeremiah 29:19; Luke 13:34.
“There are none so hardened as those who have slighted the invitation of mercy, and done despite to the Spirit of grace. The most common manifestation of the sin against the Holy Spirit is in persistently slighting Heaven’s invitation to repent. Every step in the rejection of Christ is a step toward the rejection of salvation, and toward the sin against the Holy Spirit.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 324.
b. What other sins can lead to the sin against the Holy Spirit? Matthew 12:34–37.
“Closely connected with Christ’s warning in regard to the sin against the Holy Spirit is a warning against idle and evil words. The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. . . . It is dangerous to utter a word of doubt, dangerous to question and criticize divine light. The habit of careless and irreverent criticism reacts upon the character, in fostering irreverence and unbelief. Many a man indulging this habit has gone on unconscious of danger, until he was ready to criticize and reject the work of the Holy Spirit.”—Ibid., p.323.
c. What should we remember in the battle against sin? Matthew 6:24.
“We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. It is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light. If we do not cooperate with the heavenly agencies, Satan will take possession of the heart, and will make it his abiding place. The only defense against evil is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. . . . We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome.”—Ibid., p.324.
5. CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
a. What character quality does God value and under what circumstances? 2 Corinthians 8:21; Hebrews 13:18.
“Truthfulness and frankness should be ever cherished by all who claim to be followers of Christ. God and the right should be the motto. Deal honestly and righteously in this present evil world. Some will be honest when they see that honesty will not endanger their worldly interests, but all who act from this principle will have their names blotted out of the book of life.
“Strict honesty must be cultivated. We can go through the world but once; we cannot come back to rectify any mistakes; therefore every move made should be with godly fear and careful consideration.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1081.
b. How does the Holy Spirit help us as we seek for truth? John 16:13.
“True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed.”—Early Writings, p. 221.
“The Holy Spirit is called both the Comforter and the Spirit of truth, because there is comfort and hope in the truth. A falsehood cannot give genuine peace; but through the truth we become partakers of the peace that passeth understanding.”—Gospel Workers (1892), p. 310.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What effect did the outpouring of the Holy Spirit have upon the way the believers regarded one another?
2. How did Ananias and Sapphira grieve the Holy Spirit?
3. To what did their covetousness lead, and how is this a warning for us today?
4. How can criticism and doubt lead to the sin against the Holy Spirit?
5. How can we be strictly honest in this life, and what will be the result?