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Halloween has been over for a number of weeks … but many people in the church of Jesus Christ are still wearing a variety of masks. The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means “play-acting”; or “wearing a mask;” saying one thing and doing something else.

“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” – William Shakespeare

Daily Bread Illustration: Have you checked the labels on your grocery items lately? You may be getting less than you thought. According to U.S. News & World Report, some manufacturers are selling us the same size packages we are accustomed to, but they are putting less of the product in the box. For example, a box of well-known detergent that once held 61 ounces now contains only 55. Same size box, less soap.

How something is wrapped doesn’t always show us what’s on the inside. That’s true with people as well. We can wrap ourselves up in the same packaging every day — nice clothes, big smile, friendly demeanor — yet still be less than what we appear to be.

Robert Redford was walking one day through a hotel lobby. A woman saw him and followed him to the elevator. “Are you the real Robert Redford?” she asked him with great excitement. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, “Only when I am alone!”

Mark Twain: We’re all like the moon, we have a dark side we don’t want anyone to see.

What is the main thrust of this passage?

– Is this passage primarily about being generous with your material possessions?

– Is it primarily about the importance of telling the truth?

– It is really about the more fundamental issue of being authentic rather than a spiritual hypocrite




A. (:32a) Unity of Believers

“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul;”

Fascinating that in the early church we see all believers at almost the same maturity level – it is as if once they are saved they immediately walk in obedience to the truth – where are the ones who are out of step?? Where are the ones walking on the edge between loyalty to Christ and friendship with the world? you certainly don’t see this same unity later on in the church at Corinth, etc. What snuck into the church and robbed it of its pristine purity??

Are we united in our faith and in the practical demonstration of our love to one another?

B. (:32b) Sharing of Material Possessions (Acts 2:43-47)

“and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them.”

This passage makes us uncomfortable – especially those of us who have been blessed by God with an abundance of material possessions; what is more important to us? Our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ or our possessions??

Bock: Community life means both mission and mutual care.

Are we actively meeting the needs of one another and sacrificially sharing rather than hoarding what God has entrusted to us?

C. (:33a) Powerful Proclamation of the Gospel – Priority over Material Possessions

“And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,”,

Matt. 6:33

Ignored the intimidation and ban of the Sanhedrin

Are we witnessing with the power of the Holy Spirit?

D. (:33b-37) Evidence of Abundant Grace

1. (:33b- 35) General Statement

“and abundant grace was upon them all. 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, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.”

2 Cor. 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Note the confidence in the integrity of the apostles; they didn’t have any financial oversight board with elaborate checks and balances; it would have been easy for a Judas to have robbed the church treasury; but these were men of impeccable character

Are we experiencing abundant grace?

2. (:36-37) Specific Example – Generosity of Joseph

“And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

“son of” = Jewish way to denote a person’s character: (OT expression “Son of Belial”)

What a testimony when the apostles are applauding you for your spirit of encouragement – think of the spiritual gift which God has graced you with to bless others – you should be known as the “Son of Powerful Edification” … “Daughter of tender mercy” . . . “Daughter of gracious hospitality” . . . “Son of passionate Soul Winning” . . . “Son of Administrative Organization” . . .

Are we encouraging the believers around us?

Wiersbe: His noble act apparently filled Ananias and Sapphira with envy so that they attempted to impress the church with their giving and ended up being killed.


A. (:1-2) The Deceitful Deed – Pretending to be Spiritual

“But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 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.”

“But” – introducing a contrast; mild connective used here (would have expected alla rather than de)

All about keeping back things for himself rather than freely sharing with others

Problem: not that they decided to give less than 10% of the purchase price … but trying to impress everyone with a higher level of spirituality and commitment than they really had.

Cf. account of Achan in the OT in book of Joshua

Stott: In both narratives an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God.

Word has connotation of to misappropriate; same word used in LXX of Achan’s theft (Josh. 7:1), and in its only other New Testament occurrence it means to steal (Tit. 2:10). . . guilty of embezzlement; financial fraud

Wiersbe: It is worth noting that the Lord judges sin severely at the beginning of a new period in salvation history. Just after the tabernacle was erected, God killed Nadab and Abihu for trying to present “false fire” to the Lord (Lev. 10). He also had Achan killed for disobeying orders after Israel had entered the Promised Land (Josh. 7). While God was certainly not responsible for their sins, He did use these judgments as warnings to the people, and even to us (1 Cor. 10:11-12).

Cf. teacher laying down the law the first few days in class

But still wanted to look good in the sight of others

What portion did he bring?? Maybe he only kept back a tenth – tithed a tenth to himself – couldn’t keep too big a percentage or the theft would be obvious – some people probably knew what property he had owned – wasn’t it enough to give the Lord 90%

If you haven’t given the Lord 100% you haven’t given Him what He requires – concept of stewardship is key; are you making decisions based on the reality that it is the Lord’s money??

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Christ’s condemnation of Hypocrisy:

By far, of all preachers and prophets of the Bible, Jesus had the most to say about hypocrisy and hypocrites. Since He didn’t mince any words on the subject, but directly confronted the religious hypocrites of His day (the scribes and Pharisees), they hated Him intensely – eventually having Him arrested on trumped up charges. Here is a list of some of the hypocrisy that Jesus spoke against:

• Giving to the poor to be recognized by others (Sermon on the Mount)

• “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:2)

• Praying in public to be recognized as “God’s man”

• “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Matthew 23:14)

• Letting everybody know you are fasting to get recognition by others

• “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:16)

• Complaining about other’s behavior when yours is even worse.

• “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:42)

• Pretending to honor God through lip service only


And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. (Mark 7:6)

• Testing other people to try to make yourself look superior

• But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

“Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” (Mark 12:15)

• Deceiving people from knowing God

• “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)

• Repressing the poor and widows

• “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Matthew 23:14)

• Teaching proselytes to be hypocrites

• “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

• Tithing (giving to the church), but neglecting justice and mercy

• “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

• Doing everything for show, while really being self-indulgent and unrighteous

• “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

“So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous… Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city” (Matthew 23:29, 34)

• Treating stock animals better than fellow human beings

• But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? (Luke 13:15)

• Being able to analyze the weather, but unable to distinguish between right and wrong

• “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time? And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?” (Luke 12:56-57)

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Wiersbe: Ananias means “God is gracious,” but he learned that God is also holy, and Sapphira means “beautiful,” but her heart was ugly with sin.

Understand: Everybody must fight this natural tendency towards spiritual hypocrisy – often spiritual leaders are the worst offenders

B. (:3-10) The Divine Discipline – Exposing and Judging the Hypocrisy

1. Disposition of Ananias (:3-6)

a. (:3-4) Hypocrisy is a Futile Attempt to Fool God

“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? 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.’”

6 Lessons we learn here about Spiritual Hypocrisy:

– Spiritual Hypocrisy is energized by Satan

Filled with Holy Spirit or with Satan – concept of influencing and controlling your decisions; devil is actively at work attacking God’s program of building His church; look at how many people use as the excuse for not becoming a Christian that there are so many hypocrites in the church – They are correct! But just because there are a lot of counterfeit $20 bills, I’m not going to rip my good ones up

– Spiritual Hypocrisy is a matter of the Heart – so it can’t be fixed by education, by self help programs; all about trying to manipulate the externals to mask what is truly in your heart;

need the Spirit of God to give you a new heart;

Ps. 51:6 God desires “truth in the innermost being”

– Spiritual Hypocrisy never fools God – it is Futile — even if temporarily it impresses men –

characterized here as a lie against God – what arrogance; How God hates it; Man looks on the external appearance and is easily impressed; God looks at the heart and sees us for who we really are; that is why we all need the grace of God and His forgiveness; must care more about what God thinks than what others think of us;

note the clear support for the Deity of the Holy Spirit here

– Spiritual Hypocrisy is always connected with other sins – Here: Greed, covetousness, envy –

wanted to keep control of their possessions – spend it on their own selfish lusts; security reasons; etc. – but not motivated by unselfish love for others

– Spiritual Hypocrisy is intentional – not an accident; not forced; not caused by environmental factors; here you have an overt conspiracy between a man and his wife; remedy is intentional repentance and faith – no other way to remove the stain of guilt and the judgment of God; requires the new birth that only God can accomplish

– Spiritual Hypocrisy is a serious offense – look at how harshly God judged it; many people read this story and can’t get over the shock factor – What’s the big deal?

b. (:5-6) Hypocrisy Will be Judged Severely

“And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 And the young men arose and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.”

What if God judged hypocrisy in the church this severely today???

Ushers summoned for an unusual task

Were these two believers who were disciplined by death or unbelievers?? Only God knows —

Boyer: The fact of lying to the Holy Spirit is more easily understood of Christians indwelt by the Spirit than of unbelievers who have no relation to God and certainly have no special relationship to the Holy Spirit.

2. Disposition of Sapphira (:7-10)

a. (:7-9) Hypocrisy is a Futile Attempt to Fool God

“Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well.’”

Why an interval of 3 hours?? Time for them to bury Ananias – not a traditional ceremony – his wife was not even informed or present; what was Sapphira doing during this time?? Looking forward to the praise and acclaim of the church

She figured the best bet was to stick to the same story she and her husband had agreed upon

Do you really want to test whether God knows your heart??? Taking a big risk to think you can lie and try to hide something from your Creator

Great verse for women’s lib movement – true equality of the sexes in this historical example; same offense; same penalty; no sexist favoritism on the part of the Judge of all the Earth

b. (:10) Hypocrisy Will be Judged Severely

“And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.”

Talk about being slain in the Spirit – not your holy laughter and rolling in the aisles type of experience here

Guzik: As much as anything, the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is that we presume greatly on God when we assume that there is always time to repent, time to get right with God, time to get honest with Him. Any such time given by God is an undeserved gift that He owes no one; we should never assume it will always be there.

C. (:11) The Desired Effect

“And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.”

Great fear – where have I tried to impress others with my spirituality??

God takes sin seriously … do we?

First mention of ekklesia in Acts

Constable: This was a common word that writers often used to describe assemblies of people that congregated for political and various other types of meetings. The word “church,” like the word “baptism,” can refer to more than one thing. Sometimes it refers to the body of Christ as it has existed throughout history, the universal church. Sometimes it refers to Christians living in various places during one particular period of time (e.g., the early church). Sometimes it refers to a group of Christians who live in one area at a particular time, a local church. Here it seems to refer to the local church in Jerusalem.

You can bet that a lot of people heard about these things

George Barkman: 5 Reasons for discipline in the church:

– Purity = remove contamination from unconfessed sin; Remove the leaven (1 Cor. 5); Healthy body of Christ

– Perspective = Bring everybody back into the right perspective = seriousness of sin from God’s perspective

– Preventive measure = keeps others from sinning

– Perception of the world = Testimony of the church to outside world; outside world afraid to fake being a Christian; lines are clearly drawn; understanding that identification with Christ means a commitment to a life of holiness

– Power for the church to continue to grow and prosper

Yet few churches practice any form of church discipline – Result: the church is rampant with spiritual hypocrisy


Illustration: A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.”

George Herbert: Steal the hog, and give the feet for alms.



Heb. 4:13 “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”