Acts 5: Ananias & Sapphira’s lies

Acts 5

In verses 3 and 4 of Acts 5, the apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own power? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied unto men, but unto God.”

The question arises: Does this passage prove that the Holy Spirit is a person or separate being? In other words, how could Peter state that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit is merely the inanimate power or agent of God? The chapter about the Holy Spirit will answer many questions that could arise from a verse such as this and will reinforce what you will read here.

But let’s take some time to demonstrate that it was merely the power—not the person—of the Holy Spirit both in Peter’s mind and their own minds that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to.

It was the Holy Spirit that gave Peter the ability to discern (Heb. 5:14) Ananias and Sapphira’s lies. Let’s understand this a little further. Notice I Corinthians 2:11: “what man knows the things of a man, except by the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, except by the Spirit of God.” Human beings learn by the spirit of man given to all human beings. This does not mean that there is another person in each human person. Similarly, having the Holy Spirit in one does not mean there is another person in the person.

So, while there are things that human beings can learn and understand without having God’s Holy Spirit, certain things can only be understood with His Spirit. Discerning spiritual things comes through God’s Holy Spirit in the mind.

Christ demonstrated this ability of discernment in John 13:27: “And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That you do, do quickly.” Also notice Mark 8:33: “But when He [Christ] had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get you behind Me, Satan: for you savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The Holy Spirit present in Christ’s mind made this possible.

To understand how Peter could “see through” Ananias and Sapphira, consider the following analogy:

An attorney is discussing an extremely technical legal matter with a potential client. The implications are such that only a lawyer with the utmost legal understanding could properly handle the case. Also, only with complete and total knowledge of every aspect and detail of the situation can the lawyer hope to proceed. But the client, having dishonest ulterior motives, intentionally omits some minor details. Those details are so minute that they could potentially escape the attention of an attorney not deeply, intricately versed in the law. But the attorney sees the deception for what it is. How does he see through it? Because of the knowledge of the law that he possesses. Without that knowledge, he would not recognize the lie for what it is. His knowledge of the law leads him to understand the man’s ulterior motives.

If one lies to a farmer about a matter dealing with aerospace engineering, the farmer probably will not recognize the lie. Likewise, if one lies to a rocket scientist about a matter concerning agriculture, the scientist will most likely not recognize it. Why? Because neither is versed in the particular subject being addressed. The lie goes “right over his head.”

It is the same with spiritual understanding: “Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (I Cor. 8:7).

Remember, Romans 8:14 defines Christians: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” They must allow the “Spirit of truth” (the same as the Spirit of God) to guide them (John 16:13).

In Acts 5, Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit working in his mind, was able to discern three things about Ananias and Sapphira:

(1) They had conspired together on their way to see him.

(2) Their sin and their motive.

(3) The punishment they would receive.

After Pentecost in A.D. 31, God communicated to His servants through His Spirit (John 16:13). The above shows why Peter could say they were lying to the Holy Spirit.

Peter could say they were also lying to God because:

(1) Peter was the leading apostle in God’s Church. Christ had told him and the other disciples, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

(2) Christ had also told His disciples, “And whatsoever you shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Christ had given His disciples power to act on His behalf. God had to guide them in these matters.

(3) Conversely, He showed that anything done to or for Christians was considered to be done to or for Him. Notice: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40).

Also notice the following Old Testament accounts:

(4) “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…And in the morning, then you shall see the glory of the LORD; for that He hears your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that you murmur against us?…for that the LORD hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him: and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD” (Ex. 16:2, 7-8).

(5) “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7).

All the above passages illustrate why Peter could say that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to both God and the Holy Spirit. It was not because the Holy Spirit is a separate person in the Godhead. They were lying to one of God’s apostles, in whom He was working—through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Also, consider Peter’s statement, “You have not lied unto men.” Advocates of the trinity teaching ignore the fact that the husband and wife had lied directly to Peter (a man). Peter was a flesh-and-blood human being. Was he somehow elevating himself to the status of either God or the Holy Spirit? (See Acts 10:25-26; 14:7-18.)

Why do trinitarians not consider this part of Peter’s statement? Their argument has no strength, because it is inconsistent and does not examine every aspect of the account. As is always the case, religionists have taken a single scripture out of context and either ignored or maligned other scriptures, building a doctrinal “house of cards.” The wise are always able to see through it and knock it down.