1. And a certain man called Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2. And he kept back part of the price, his wife knowing thereof, and bringing part, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 3. And Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart that thou shouldest lie to the Holy Ghost, and keep back part of the price of the ground? 4. Did it not, remaining, remain to thee? and, being sold, was it not in thy power? How is it that thou hast put this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God. 5. And when Ananias heard these words, falling, he yielded up the ghost; and there came great fear upon all those which had heard these things. 6. Furthermore, the young men which were present gathered him up, and, carrying him out, they buried him.
1. Those things which Luke hath reported hitherto did show that that company, which was gathered together under the name of Christ, was rather a company of angels than of men, Moreover, that was incredible virtue, that the rich men did despoil themselves of their own accord, not only of their money, but also of their land, that they might relieve the poor. But now he showeth that Satan had invented a shift to get into that holy company, and that under color of such excellent virtue; for he hath wonderful wiles of hypocrisy to insinuate himself. This way doth Satan assault the Church, when as he cannot prevail by open war. But we must specially in this place have respect unto the drift of the Holy Ghost. For in this history he meant to declare, first, how acceptable singleness of heart is to God, and what an abomination hypocrisy is in his sight; secondly, how greatly he alloweth [approves] the holy and pure policy and govermnent of his Church. For this is the principal point, the punishment wherewith punished Ananias and his wife. As the greatness thereof did at that time terrify them all, so it is unto us a testimony that God cannot abide this unfaithfulness, when as bearing a show of holiness where there is none, we do mock him contemptibly. For if, having weighed all the circumstances, we be desirous to know the sum, Luke condemneth no other fault in Ananias than this, that he meant to deceive God and the Church with a reigned offering. Yet there were more evils packed under this dissimulation: the contempt of God, whom he feareth not, though he knew his wickedness; sacrilegious defrauding, because he keepeth back part of that which he professeth to be holy to God; perverse vanity and ambition, because he vaunteth himself in the presence of men, without having any respect unto God's judgment; want of faith, because he would never have gone this way to work, unless he had mistrusted God; the corrupting of a godly and holy order; furthermore, the hypocrisy itself was a great offense of itself.1 The fact of Ananias did bear a goodly show,2 although he had given only the half of his land. Neither is this a small virtue, for a rich man to bestow the half of his goods upon the poor; but the sacrifices of the ungodly are an abomination to God, (Proverbs 15:8;) neither can any thing please him where the singleness of heart is wanting. For this cause is it that Christ maketh more account of the two mites offered by the widow, than of the great sums of others, who of their great heaps gave some part, (Luke 21:2.) This is the cause why God doth show an example of such sharp punishment in Ananias. Now, let us note every point by itself.
"where two or three be gathered together in the name of Christ, he is present there as the chief governor," (Matthew 18:20;)
yea, he ought to have behaved himself no otherwise in that assembly, than if he should have seen God with his eyes. For seeing that God will reign in the Church, if we give him any reverence, we must reverence that rule and government religiously which he exerciseth by his Word. The apostles were indeed men, but not private men, because God had put them in his stead. Furthermore, we must note, that he saith that he lieth to God who doth lie to the Holy Ghost. For the divinity of the Holy Ghost is manifestly proved by this form of speech. In like sort Paul saith, "Ye are the temples of God, because his Spirit dwelleth in you," (1 Corinthians 3:16,17; and 6:19.)
"He shall slay the wicked with the breath of his mouth." (Isaiah 11:4,)
doth not only appertain to the head of the wicked, but also to every member. For those which refuse the salvation offered in his word, it must needs be deadly to them, which was naturally wholesome. But and if any man do think it an absurd thing that the apostle did punish Ananias bodily, first, I answer, that this was an extraordinary thing; secondly, that this was one of the gifts of the Spirit, as it appeareth by the 19th chapter of the First to the Corinthians, (verse 10.) After which sort we shall afterward see Elymas, the sorcerer, stricken with blindness by Paul, (Acts 13:8.) Therefore, Peter did nothing which was impertinent to his function, when he did in time shoot that dart which the Holy Ghost had given him. And whereas some think that this was too cruel a punishment, this cometh to pass, because, weighing Ananias' sin in their own and not in God's balance, they count that but a light offense which was a most great and grievous crime, being full of such heinous offenses as I have already declared. Other some do think that this was nothing so, because they see many hypocrites escape scot free daily, which do no less mock God than did Ananias; yea, because they themselves being most gross contemners of God, are yet notwithstanding unpunished for their wickedness. But as God hath poured out visible graces upon his Church in the beginning, to the end we may know that he will be present with us by the secret power of his Spirit, yea, he showed that openly by external signs, which we feel inwardly by the experiment of faith; so he declared by the visible punishment of two, how horrible a judgment remaineth for all hypocrites, which shall mock God and his Church.
1 "Accedit huc quoque obstinata mentiendi audacia," to this was also added an obstinate audacity in lying, omitted.
2 "Praeclarum in speciem et memorabile," in appearance noble and memorable.
3 "Theatri plausum appetamus," long for the plaudits of a theatre.
4 "Criminis atrocitatem," the atrocity of the crime.
5 "Veluti cornici, uti proverbio dicitur, configere oculos," and as the proverb says, "put out the eyes of the crow."
6 "Tam graviter," so grievously, severely.