There are surprising texts in the Bible, but one that has to rank toward the top of the list is the first part of Acts 5. It’s shocking to read about two people—even more, two church members—falling dead at the feet of Peter. It seems so antithetical to the portrayal of God throughout Scripture. Rarely are there instances of God taking the lives of people as immediate judgment. Perhaps such punishment would be more understood for egregious sins, but Ananias and Sapphira were ‘only’ guilty of lying. Sure, they should not have fudged on the actual sales price of the property they sold, but at least they contributed something to the cause. All in all, the judgment of them falling to the ground dead is a head-scratching problem for many.
While there are questions attached to this text that will always be difficult for me to answer, I can’t help but ask another question: What’s the real surprise in this story? Is the biggest surprise in the fact that Ananias and Sapphira died, or is it that all of humanity doesn’t pay an immediate price for our sin? Given the fact that we all sin (Rom. 3:23) and the fact that sin is worthy of death (Rom. 6:23), God would certainly be justified in immediately responding to our sin. Ananias and Sapphira actually got what sin deserved. We have become so accustomed to the incredible patience of God, however, that we are taken aback by immediate judgment.
Perhaps a more appropriate response to Acts 5:1-11 should be thankfulness for the incredible patience of God and the gospel. We should be thankful for the amazing love of God that doesn’t immediately judge every instance of sin with a death sentence. Instead, we should be awed by God’s unfathomable love and patience toward us. In addition, we should be thankful for Jesus who took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. This certainly doesn’t answer every question to the surprising events in this text, but maybe it helps us look at this text with a needed perspective that results in gratitude.