- Sermon Notes
The Spirit of Truth
After the church was born in Acts chapter 2, it began to grow exponentially as they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to teach the word of God with boldness. 3,000 became believers on the day of Pentecost. Then, after Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth a great crowd gathered and Peter explained the promise of life and 5,000 more came to faith in Jesus Christ.
As we come to Acts 4:32, we see the early church taking on another interesting dimension; they began to share their lives together communally. They were of one heart and soul together and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.
All who were owners of lands or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet. This would then be distributed to each, as any had need.
There is a lot that could be said about these verses and it’s important we understand what God would want us to apply out of this chapter. One thing is for certain, these verses have been distorted and misused by church leaders with wrong motives. You can imagine how a church leader might use these verses to compel people to do something similar today.
First of all, there’s a vast difference between what was happening in the early church in these chapters and the intent of modern pastors, particularly televangelists, who use these verses for their own purposes.
In the days of the early church that we see in these chapters, they were living communally. They would sell their own private land or houses and then take their meals together, and literally share their lives with all things in common.
Probably the best example of that today would be a Jewish kibbutz. That is an example of true communal living. In a kibbutz, no one has private ownership, but everyone in the community owns everything together. They eat together, they work together and they share their lives together.
You might be interested to know there was something like that in Oregon in the late 60s and early 70s. It was born out of the Jesus People movement of California. They had about 90 acres of land near Dexter, Oregon. There were over 100,000 people involved with 175 communal houses.
Modern prosperity preachers most certainly don’t want to take responsibility for meeting everyone’s needs, they just want people to sell their lands or houses and bring the money to them. If you think there’s something wrong with that picture, you’re most certainly right. What’s wrong with that picture is what’s wrong with our human nature. Greed.
It’s human nature, or the flesh, that causes the modern church to do some very worldly things. There are conferences, books and articles written that suggest modern gimmicks to get people to give financially. For example, there is the “Lotto tithe.” Then there’s the “giving dance;” just use guilt. But don’t forget the 90 days to get a blessing guarantee. No thanks.
In the days of the early church, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and there was a sense of awe among all of them. At some point, human nature would become a factor, and that is certainly part of this story in the book of Acts as well.
Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth. But truth is not just the sum total of what someone knows, truth is what God desires in the inner man. In other words, God wants us to become true and authentic and sincere in our faith.
I. Fill Your Heart with Truth
- In chapter 5, verse 3, Peter said to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” We know Satan is a liar and will suggest lies, but we don’t have to receive or live by them.
- The church was being filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. Ananias and Sapphira were allowing lies in their heart and were lying to the Holy Spirit.
- I’ve heard many people suggest that they want to return to the early days of the church and want everything to be the way it was back then. Really? After reading this story, we should be glad things are different today.
- The church is in its earliest, purest form, and God makes a drastic move to keep the church from being polluted by the lies of Satan.
- There is so much we need to take hold of for our own lives from this story.
- The communal living of the early church was not common practice in other cities as the gospel was spreading throughout the world, but there is an aspect of that we can apply in our relationship to God when we understand that we surrender all.
- When you have a right relationship to God, it also gives you a right relationship to the stuff of this world. If you have a wrong relationship to mammon, things won’t be right with God either.
Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
- Mammon will always tell you to crave more mammon, but God will always tell you to trust God.
- In a right relationship to God we say, “I’m just a steward of what God has entrusted to me. God is the owner, I’m just a steward. I want to honor Him with how I live my life.”
- In other words, it’s having the attitude of saying, “God, we’re in this together; I’ll trust that you’ll provide what I need, and I’ll consider all things as belonging to You.”
Luke 12:6, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
- The problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they did this to impress people; to make themselves appear as though they were giving all when in reality they were only giving a portion.
- There was no obligation to do this at all. They didn’t have to sell their property, they didn’t have to give all; they didn’t have to give any. So why lie about it? Peter points out that Satan filled their heart.
- Jesus spoke boldly about those who would only have outward appearing righteousness. If your heart is being filled by the Spirit of God, then He is pouring truth into your soul. Truth is a transforming power.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed…
Illus – We’ve all seen the candidate running for public office who suddenly makes a point of being spiritual; or the salesman that finds out you’re a Christian and immediately starts using Christian-ese.
Illus - I remember when I was 16 and just got my driver’s license. My friend wanted me to drive into town and hang out, so I lied to my dad by making myself look righteous; I said I needed to help change his flat tire. Fortunately my dad heard the whole conversation and called me up short.
- The church was being filled by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit God is doing the work of making us true.
Psalm 51:6, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
II. Relationship to God is a Love Thing
- There was no obligation for Ananias and Sapphira to give anything, it was all supposed to be out of loving God along with everyone else.
- Our relationship to God is based on love; but God’s love must be trusted.
- If you trust God’s love, you will be open and honest in your relationship with Him.
Illus - Another time when I was 16, I used to work very late at a restaurant. A different friend convinced me to pick him up after work and drive around. Little did I know that that night would change my life.
- What I would say to my parents? “I suggest you tell them the truth,” the police officer said. What do we tell God when we blow it? Answer: the truth.
A. Don’t test the Spirit - trust the Spirit
- When Sapphira came in three hours later, she also lied and Peter replied, “Why did you agree together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?”
- How do we test the Spirit of the Lord? When we deliberately go against His will and then say essentially, “Let’s see what He’ll do.”
- It’s similar to when a child tests a parent by knowingly going against the parent; testing to see what will happen next.
Illus – At one point our youngest adopted son from Russia got frustrated over something and said he wanted to go back to Russia. He wasn’t prepared for mom’s reaction.
- The opposite of testing the Spirit is trusting the Spirit. What does that mean? It means understanding that He has an important role in our spiritual life.
- Jesus said to the disciples that it was to their advantage that He ascend to the Father so that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Helper.
John 16:7, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
- Trusting in the Holy Spirit is to receive the instruction that He brings; the conviction that He brings, and the transformation that we might be more like our Lord Jesus.
Galatians 5:22, 25, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace… If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
- That phrase comes from one of the verses later in this chapter. It’s also an admonition that we need to be in the right side of what God is doing.
Illus - That reminds me of a funny story about a man and his wife that were awakened at 3 AM by a loud pounding on the door. The man gets up and goes to the door where a drunken stranger, standing in the pouring rain, is asking for a push…
- In the verses that follow, we read that many signs and wonders were then taking place at the hands of the apostles in Jerusalem.
- After the church was purified, it began to move in greater power. But it also encountered more opposition; a spiritual attack.
- The Jewish leaders rose up again and had the apostles arrested. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison and said, “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
- So the Jewish leaders had them arrested again and brought them before the Council. The high priest said, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” What a great statement for us!
- The Jewish leaders were actually intending to slay them, but a certain Pharisee named Gamaliel warned them that if all that was happening was from God, they would not be able to overthrow them; “and you may even be found fighting against God,” he said.
- What a great reminder that we need to be on the right side of what God is doing as well.
Illus – Anyone who has been in a wrestling match with God will tell you that this is not a good idea.
Acts 4:32-5:16 NASB
32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.