The unity between those who believed in Jesus was quite remarkable. It encompassed and united them in both their minds and their hearts. They stopped thinking in terms of ownership and regarded everything they possessed as belonging to all of them. The apostles were unstoppable – they just went everywhere speaking persuasively about the resurrection of Jesus the Lord. Just as the apostle John noted that Jesus the Lord was “full of grace and truth”, the same grace (and therefore truth) was a feature of this community.
Anyone who owned a house or a piece of land sold it, and brought the proceeds to the apostles, so it could be distributed among those who were in financial need. One example of this was Barnabas. His real name was Joseph, but he’d earned a nickname that meant “son of encouragement”. He sold a piece of land that he owned, and donated all the proceeds via the apostles.
But even the most idyllic of communities will attract a few charlatans who are only in it for what they get out of it – kudos or status or whatever. Such were Ananias and his wife Sapphira. They sold a piece of property, kept some of the proceeds as of course they were entitled to do, but then Ananias brought some of the proceeds to the apostles, all the time pretending it was the entire sum received for the land. But to his surprise, the Holy Spirit revealed this pretence to Peter. Peter asked him why he hadn’t just been honest about how much he was giving. After all, he was entitled to keep any or all of it, so why the need to lie and claim that he was giving it all?
On hearing Peter’s words, Ananias simply fell down dead. It was a real shock to everyone present. A while later Sapphira came in, unaware of what had happened, and expecting, I suppose, to be lauded by everyone present for such a generous donation. Peter gave her the chance to refute her husband’s lie, but instead she just repeated it.
“Why,” asked Peter, “have you conspired to test God’s Spirit? Those who carried your husband’s corpse from here are waiting for yours.” And she, too, immediately dropped dead on the spot.
Can you imagine the effect this had, not only on the community of believers, but everyone who heard about it? It was a sobering experience. No one was left in any doubt that those who lie to God and man engage in an act of self-destruction. This gave everyone a renewed respect for God and truth and the community of believers.