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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 5 - Verse 3
Verse 3. But Peter said, etc. Peter could have known this only by revelation. It was the manifest design of Ananias to deceive; nor was there any way of detecting him but by its being revealed to him by the Spirit of God. As it was an instance of enormous wickedness, and as it was very important to detect and punish the crime, it was made known to Peter directly by God.
Why hath Satan. Great deeds of wickedness in the Scripture are traced to the influence and temptation of Satan. Compare Lu 22:3; Joh 13:27. Especially is Satan called the father of lies, Joh 8:44,55. Comp. Ge 3:1-5. As this was an act of falsehood, or an attempt to deceive, it is with great propriety traced to the influence of Satan. The sin of Ananias consisted in his yielding to the temptation. Nowhere in the Bible are men supposed to be free from guilt, from the fact that they have been tempted to commit it. God requires them to resist temptation; and if they yield to it, they must be punished.
Filled thine heart. A man's heart or mind is full of a thing when he is intent on it; when he is strongly impelled to it; or when he is fully occupied with it. The expression here means, that he was strongly impelled or excited by Satan to this crime.
To lie to. To attempt to deceive. The deception which he meant to practise was to keep back a part of the price, while he pretended to bring the whole of it; thus tempting God, and supposing that he could not detect the fraud.
The Holy Ghost. to pneuma to agion. The main inquiry here is, whether the apostle Peter intended to designate in this place the Third Person of the Trinity; or whether he meant to speak of God as God, without any reference to the distinction of persons; or to the Divine influence which inspired the apostles, without reference to the peculiar offices which are commonly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Or, in other words, is there a distinction here recognised between the Father and the Holy Spirit? That there is will be apparent from the following considerations:
(1.) If no such distinction is intended, it is remarkable that Peter did not use the usual and customary name of God. It does not appear why he guarded it so carefully as to denote that this offence was committed against the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of the Lord, Ac 5:9.
(2.) The name here used is the one employed in the Scriptures to designate the Third Person of the Trinity, as implying a distinction from the Father. See Mt 3:16; 1:18,20; 3:11; 12:32; 28:19; Mr 1:8; Mr 3:29; 12:36; Lu 12:10; Joh 14:26; 7:39; 20:22; Ac 4:8; 5:32, etc.
(3.) Peter intended, doubtless, to designate an offence as committed particularly against the Person, or Influence, by which he and the other apostles were inspired. Ananias supposed that he could escape detection: and the offence was one, therefore, against the Inspirer of the apostles. Yet that was the Holy Ghost as distinct from the Father. See Joh 14:16,17,26; 15:26; 16:7-11; 20:22.
Comp. Ac 5:32. The offence, therefore, beeing against Him who was sent by the Father, who was appointed to a particular work, clearly supposes that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father.
(4.) A farther incidental proof of this may be found in the fact that the sin here committed was one of peculiar magnitude; so great as to be deemed worthy of the immediate and signal vengeance of God. Yet the sin against the Holy Ghost is uniformly represented to be of this description. Comp. Mt 12:31,32; Mr 3:28,29.
As these sins evidently coincide in enormity, it is clear that the same class of sins is referred to in both places; or, in other words, the sin of Ananias was against the Third Person of the Trinity. Two remarks may be made here.
(1.) The Holy Ghost is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son; or, in other words, there is a distinction of some kind in the Divine Nature that may be denominated by the word person. This is clear from the fact that sin is said to have been committed against him; a sin which it was supposed could not be detected. Sin cannot be committed against an attribute of God, or an influence from God. We cannot lie unto an attribute, or against wisdom, or power, or goodness; nor can we lie unto an influence, merely, of the Most High. Sin is committed against a being, not against an attribute; and as a sin is here charged on Ananias against the Holy Ghost, it follows that the Holy Ghost has a personal existence; or there is such a distinction in the Divine Essence as that it may be proper to specify a sin as committed particularly against him. In the same way sin may be represented as committed peculiarly against the Father, when his name is blasphemed; when his dominion is denied; when his mercy in sending his Son is called in question. Sin may be represented as committed against the Son, when his atonement is denied, his Divinity assailed, his character derided, or his invitations slighted. And thus sin may be represented as committed against the Holy Ghost, when his office of renewing the heart, or sanctifying the soul, is called in question, or when his work is ascribed to some malign or other influence. See Mr 3:22-30. And as sin against the Son proves that he is in some sense distinct from the Father, so does sin against the Holy Ghost prove that in some sense he is distinct from the Father and the Son.
(2.) The Holy Ghost is Divine. This is proved, because he is represented here as being able to search the heart, and to detect insincerity and hypocrisy. Comp. Jer 17:10; 1 Ch 28:9; 1 Co 2:10, "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God;" Re 2:23. And he is expressly called God. See Barnes "Ac 5:4".
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