Friday, September 11, 2015

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 13, 2015

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(Sharing and giving should come from a caring heart, not self-promotion)
(Acts 4:34-5:10)

In Acts chapter 4, verses 32-37, Luke presents to us a vivid description of how the Christian believers had become “of one heart and mind”, and they all shared in the belief that, the possessions with which GOD had blessed them with, were not their own, but rather, they only held those possessions in stewardship to GOD. They seemed to grasp quite clearly that the true Christian only desires more, so that they may have more to give away. They fully understood the concept of GOD that teaches, when we give according to GOD, we actually take the “spiritual curse” off of that portion which we keep.
This attitude allowed the Christian community of the first century to share their possessions unconditionally with each other in, both, a social, and, neighborly capacity. The work of the HOLY SPIRIT in each individual made them more sensitive to identifying with those, who were in a state of desperate need, and as a result, eventually, there was no poverty among them. They were freely willing to sell all of their possessions, if necessary, in order to come to the aid of their fellowman.
In this passage, Luke also introduces us to a man named Joseph, who was also called “Barnabas”, which by interpretation means “son of encouragement”. He earned the name “Barnabas” by way of his special ability to encourage others through his positive GODly words, actions, and deeds. He was from the tribe of Levi, but came from Cyprus, an island located in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, about sixty miles off the coast of Syria.
Barnabas is the person who first introduced the Apostle Paul to the Christian Church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28), and then later to the Church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11 (v.25), the place where Believers were first called “Christians”. In fact, he even traveled for a year with Paul, during his first missionary journey, but then later, fell out with him over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and also the eventual author of “the Book of Mark”.
However, despite Barnabas’ falling out with Paul, he clearly continued to reflect JESUS’ image of encouragement throughout his lifetime. His presence, leadership, and encouragement to those in the early Church were instrumental in its development and survival. He became a very necessary ingredient in the “Body of CHRIST” in its infancy stage, as it struggled to mature into a viable representative of the ideology of GOD here on earth.
In this passage (v.37), Luke tells us that Barnabas sold a field that he owned back on the Island of Cyrus, and gave the entire proceeds to the Church to distribute to those in need. He did this, in order that he might encourage and inspire others in the Church to the spirit of “sacrificial giving” in the Christian community.
Every Christian has the same potential and opportunity as Barnabas had to become active, effective, earnest workers in the Christian community. And just like in the early days, we too, must work to build and add to GOD’s great undertaking, the Church, using all of our GOD-given assets in order to get the job done. And the only way to be successful in our endeavors, is by following those Christian examples that have already been set before us, starting with CHRIST JESUS, and trickling down to those early Church workers such as Peter, Paul, Barnabas and the like, who faithfully served HIM, with their whole heart.
Failure in our honesty, talent, and diligence amounts to sin against GOD. It was the great violinmaker Antonio Stradivari who said, “If my hands slacked, I would rob GOD”. In Acts chapter 5, verses 1-10, Luke gives us a vivid example of a couple who “failed in their honesty”, because “they were driven by their jealousy” of the respect that had been won by Barnabas and others when they sold their possessions to make contributions to the poor (Acts 4:32-37).
Scripture tells us that there was a man named Ananias, who, along with his wife Sapphira, sold some of their property, with the intention of giving the proceeds to the needy in the church. However, after selling the property they decided that they would keep some of the proceeds for themselves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this type of action, because the money was theirs to do with as they wished. The problem came when they decided to deceive the church into thinking that they were giving the Apostles all of the proceeds they had received from the sale of their property.
In this particular passage, we see just one of the many ways we, as professed Christians, grieve the HOLY SPIRIT. Here we see, even by the New Testament standard of “grace”, just how our sins toward one another, as harmless as they may seem to us, will not be taken lightly by GOD. After we accept CHRIST and receive the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT from our FATHER GOD, each time we contemplate sin thereafter, we grieve the HOLY SPIRIT within us, as well as offend CHRIST JESUS WHO died for us, and we also show a lack of reverence for GOD THE FATHER, WHO created us.
Ananias and Sapphira weren’t condemned because they failed to give all, but rather, they were condemned because their deceit re-introduced the hypocrisy that had corrupted so many in the church that operated under the banner of Judaism. Christianity, the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind, was intended to be “that faith which reflected GOD’s image more clearly to man”, here on earth.
This new Christian doctrine was to instill new hope in the hearts and minds of GOD’s greatest creation, man. It would be a hope that would forever serve as motivation to make life on earth conform more fully with HIS Word, just as it was presented to us by JESUS CHRIST, during HIS lifetime here on earth.
In Acts 5:3-4 Peter says to Ananias, “…why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (NLT).
As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell dead. Three hours later, his wife Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened to her husband. When Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land? She replied, “Yes, that was the price”. Peter then rebuked her, and she, as well, fell dead.
The LORD’s response to this situation was intended to put fear in the hearts of those who might attempt to deceive HIS Church through “the spirit of hypocrisy”, both then, and, in the future (Acts 5:13). This passage serves to show us that GOD will not hold blameless, those who attempt to deceive the Church for personal financial gain, or reasons, nor, will HE hold blameless, those who use the Church for self-promotion, especially when it is brought on by jealousy, as Ananias and Sapphira attempted to do. GOD never intended for HIS Church to look like, or conform to the World, but rather, HE intended for the World to transform itself to look like HIS Church, which is, by the way, supposed to reflect the image of CHRIST JESUS. And when we try to do it any way, other than GOD’s way, we will always grieve the HOLY SPIRIT in the process.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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