Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Acts 5

Yesterday, a comment was left in regards to the Apostles "socialism" not being any type of governed -ism. That it was all by choice.

I'd read ahead a little bit, I must admit. And Acts 5... well, I get the intent but it really feels like... manipulation and bullying at first glance. I'll work through it here!

Ananias and Sapphira

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.

3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price."

9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."

10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Now, I get that the point of the story is that you don't lie to God. Lying is bad. Deadly, apparently. But when I read this as some sort of historical story... it really seems like Peter was using fear tactics to keep people in line... and to keep people giving ALL of their money. Bad to lie and say that it was all the money when it really wasn't. Bad to lie and cover for your husband. Got it. But the dropped dead thing? Really?

I'm having a hard time with this one. Because the dropping dead thing... while I suppose God could have struck them down as an example, I get the feeling that Peter might have had a hand in it. There is so much that has to be read between the lines when you read the Bible, isn't there?

So are these people all still CHOOSING to give? Or are they now in a position where they fear death if they don't give all they have? Which is not socialism, either!

Moving on...

Peter and the apostles go about, healing the sick and crazy.

Next, the Apostles are arrested for continuing to teach in Jesus' name. They are jailed but an angel comes and frees them and they go to the temple and continue teaching and preaching. They are arrested again and brought before the priests and questioned. They defend what they are doing. Gamaliel, a Pharasee and well honored teacher of the law, spoke on their behalf. Basically saying that if what they are doing is man-driven, they will fail. And that if they are God-driven, there is nothing man can do to stop them. The priests have the Apostles flogged and released.

41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

I feel like verse 42 is an important one. The Contemporary English Version of the Bible verse reads "41The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus." Worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus. That sounds so very powerful, doesn't it? I'm going to introspect on that a lot today, I think.

Tomorrow... Acts 6-7



c3 said...

Your interpretation is interesting. While I have never taken biblical deaths that are described as being 'struck down by God' (or in this case just "fell down and died") as actually being murders committed by men, I can see why one would take that approach.
For me, that calls into question the legitmacy of much of the New Testament. If Peter is the Rock on which Christ will build his church, then does that mean that Christ endorsed murder? Or is that why Paul becomes the defacto leader when Peter and Paul take different approaches to spreading the word among gentiles?
If they are to be examples of how we should live, and they commit murder in the name of God, does that mean Jim Jones had it right?
And even so, if they committed murder, was it because the victims lied to the congregation or because they didn't give enough? When they were being persecuted, perhaps they felt unsafe if members lied to each other and so killed the liars as infiltraters of their number.
So many possiblities.

c3 said...

Ok. I've been thinking more about this. Here's my problem: If Peter is a murderer, and God did not strike those people down, then who made the lame man walk in the previous section? Was it God, or Peter? If Peter, then how did he do it? If God, then why believe the section where they say God made the lame walk, but not the section where someone falls down and dies for lying to God? If I believe one, then I think I must believe the other, as well. If I doubt, then I must doubt both. If I doubt both, then why read the section at all? If it's not the truth, why read Acts? What is to be gained by that?

c3 said...

As discussed offline, I'll also inquire here as to why you said, "Or are they now in a position where they fear death if they don't give all they have? Which is not socialism, either!"

Why is that not socialism?

Jeff said...

That would fall under despotism. In my opinion.


On April 26, 2009, my pastor spoke about the importance of reading the Bible. I got honest with myself- I don't read it regularly and haven't since high school. He issued a challenge. Read the Bible daily for 6 weeks. I'm taking that challenge and will share my daily readings and thoughts and experiences here. Feel free to join me!