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Bible Pathways 11/10/2002

November 10

Read Acts 4 -- 6

In Today’s Reading:

Peter and John imprisoned; believers share their possessions; Ananias and Sapphira; persecution of the apostles; Gamaliel's advice; seven helpers chosen; Stephen's arrest.

Loyalty to the Lord and a love for one another permeated the first church. The multitude . . . that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. . . . Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet. . . . Barnabas . . . a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet (Acts 4:32,34-37). No one was required to sell their property or to share their wealth. Barnabas' voluntary sacrifice undoubtedly brought great encouragement to the congregation because every Jew who confessed Jesus as the Messiah would have lost his job and other necessities.

Ananias and his wife Sapphira also sold a piece of property, but they gave only a part of the proceeds to the church, while implying they were giving everything as Barnabas had done (5:1-2). The "possession" was theirs to dispose of as they chose; and, even after they had sold it, the money was theirs to do with as they pleased. All giving was voluntary (5:4). Since the "generous" gift of Ananias and Sapphira resulted in their deaths, we need to consider why these two were judged so severely.

The Holy Spirit led Peter to ask Ananias: Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (5:3). This question makes it clear that sincerity and truthfulness to others vitally affects our relationship with the Lord. Peter revealed that their hypocrisy went far beyond lying to others when he said: You have not lied to men, but to God (5:4). It is of utmost importance that we consider our motives, both in our giving and in our worship.

The problem today is even more serious, not because "Christians" keep part of the proceeds of a sale, but because many refuse to give even a tithe (10%) of their income, the minimum that God requires. Tithing is not an option; it is a debt. God rightfully owns all that He created, but He only requires us to return to Him one-tenth of what He has entrusted to us, thereby acknowledging that we are stewards (managers) of His property. This principle was demonstrated by Abraham about 500 years before the Law was given (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:1-2). The Law stated: All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is Holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30).

All who refuse to tithe will hear the same answer given by the prophet long ago: You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed Me (of my tithes) (Malachi 3:8-9). Although no one deserves anything from the Lord, a harvest was promised to all who tithed: A blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it (3:10). The Holy Spirit also directed Paul to write to the Corinthians: He who sows . . . bountifully shall also reap bountifully (II Corinthians 9:6).

Thought for Today: Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God.

Word Studies:

5:2 being privy to it = helped plan the deception; 6:11 suborned = influenced to do wrong.

Cross References:

For Acts 4:11: See Psa. 118:22. Acts 4:25-26: See Psa. 2:1-2.

Prayer Needs:

Government Officials: Rep. Saxby Chambliss (GA) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (TX) · Pray for the missionary ministries · Country: China, Mainland (1.2 billion) in eastern Asia · Major languages: Standard Chinese (Putonghua) or Mandarin (based on the Beijing dialect · Renewed persecution of the Church · 18% Chinese folk-religionist; 6% Buddhist; 2% Muslim; number of Christians unknown but growing · Prayer Suggestion: Sing praises to the Lord (Exodus 15:1-19).

Memory Verse for the Week: Acts 8:37-39

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