Acts 5:3
But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Why hath Satan filled thine heart?—The narrative is obviously intended to leave the impression that St. Peter’s knowledge of the fact came from a supernatural insight. He had that prophetic gift which gave him insight into the hearts of men, and through this outward show of generous devotion he read the baseness and the lie. And that evil he traced to its fountain-head. Like the sin of Judas (John 13:2; John 13:27), it had in it a malignant subtlety of evil, which implied the perversion of conscience and will just at the moment when they seemed to be, and, it may be, actually were, on the point of attaining a higher perfection than before. The question “why” implies that resistance to the temptation had been possible. Had he resisted the Tempter, he would have fled from him (James 4:7).

To lie to the Holy Ghost.—The words admit of two tenable interpretations. Ananias may be said to “have lied unto the Holy Ghost,” either (1) as lying against Him who dwelt in the Apostles whom he was seeking to deceive; or (2) as against Him who was the Searcher of the secrets of all hearts, his own included, and who was “grieved” (Ephesians 4:31) by this resistance in one who had been called to a higher life. The apparent parallelism of the clause in Acts 5:4 is in favour of (1); but there is in the Greek a distinction, obviously made deliberately, between the structure of the verb in the two sentences. Here it is used with the accusative of the direct object, so that the meaning is “to cheat or deceive the Holy Spirit;” there with the dative, “to speak a lie, not to men, but to God;” and this gives a sense which is at least compatible with (2). The special intensity of the sin consisted in its being against the light and knowledge with which the human spirit had been illumined by the divine. The circumstance that it was also an attempt to deceive those in whom that Spirit dwelt in the fulness of its power comes in afterwards as a secondary aggravation.

Acts 5:3-4. But Peter said — Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, which immediately suggested to him the fraud; Why has Satan — Through thine own wickedness in yielding to his temptations; filled thy heart — With such a degree of covetousness, falsehood, folly, and presumption, as to induce thee to lie to, or, as Dr. Waterland renders ψευσασθαι σε το πνευμα το αγιον, to put a fallacy, or cheat upon the Holy Ghost; that is, that thou shouldst attempt to impose upon the Spirit of God, namely, the Spirit with which the apostles were endued. Here we see St. Peter, under the infallible guidance of the Spirit of truth, of wisdom, and revelation, acknowledging and bearing testimony to the agency of Satan in exciting men to and promoting wickedness: and what faith then have they in the inspiration of the apostles, who call in question the very existence of the devil, and even venture to give it as their opinion that there is no such being in the universe? And to keep back part of the price — When thou pretendest to have brought the whole. While it remained unsold, was it not thine own? — It evidently appears from hence, that no Christian converts were obliged to sell their estates. And when it was sold, was it not still in thine own power — To have given, or not given, the whole or any part of the price of it into the treasury of the church, as thou shouldest think proper? Why then hast thou conceived this thing, &c. — So meanly and profanely to dissemble on this solemn occasion? Thou hast not lied unto men — That is, to men alone, whose treasurers we are; but unto God — Who resides in us by his Divine Spirit. Hence it is justly inferred, that the Holy Ghost is God; since lying to him is said to be lying to God.5:1-11 The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they were ambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were not true disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego their worldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of finding their account in something else. They were covetous of the wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence. They thought they might serve both God and mammon. They thought to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. But whatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heart of Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. The falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to impose upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put a cheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls. How sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to that which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil! And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. It would cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread of hypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still do so. It would prevent the increase of false professors. Let us learn hence how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, and not only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use of doubtful expressions, and double meaning in our speech.But Peter said ... - Peter could have known this only by "revelation." It was the manifest design of Ananias to deceive; nor was there any way of detecting him but by its being revealed to him by the Spirit of God. As it was an instance of enormous wickedness, and as it was very important to detect and punish the crime, it was made known to Peter directly by God.

Why hath Satan - Great deeds of wickedness in the Scripture are traced to the influence of Satan. Compare Luke 23:3; John 13:27. Especially is Satan called the "father of lies," John 8:44-45. Compare Genesis 3:1-5. As this was an act of "falsehood," or an attempt to deceive, it is with great propriety traced to the influence of Satan. The sin of Ananias consisted in his "yielding" to the temptation. Nowhere in the Bible are people supposed to be free from guilt from the mere fact that they have been "tempted" to commit it. God requires them to "resist" temptation; and if they "yield" to it, they must be punished.

Filled thine heart - A man's "heart" or "mind" is "full" of a thing when he is "intent on it"; when he is strongly "impelled to it"; or when he is fully occupied with it. The expression here means that he was "strongly impelled" or "excited" by Satan to this crime.

To lie to - To attempt to deceive. The deception which he meant to practice was to keep back a "part" of the price, while he "pretended" to bring the whole of it; thus "tempting" God, and supposing that he could not detect the fraud.

The Holy Ghost - τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον to pneuma to hagion. The main inquiry here is, whether the apostle Peter intended to designate in this place the "third person" of the Trinity; or whether he meant to speak of God "as God," without any reference to the distinction of persons; or whether he referred to the "divine influence" which inspired the apostles, without reference to the special offices which are commonly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Or, in other words, is there a "distinction" here recognized between the Father and the Holy Spirit? That there "is," will be apparent from the following considerations:

(1) If no such distinction is "intended," it is remarkable that Peter did not use the usual and customary "name" of God. It does not appear why he guarded it so carefully as to denote that this offence was committed against the "Holy Spirit," and "the Spirit of the Lord," Acts 5:9.

(2) the name used here is the one employed in the Scriptures to designate the third person of the Trinity, as implying a distinction from the Father. See Matthew 3:16; Matthew 1:18, Matthew 1:20; Matthew 3:11; Matthew 12:32; Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:8; Mark 3:29; Mark 12:36; Luke 12:10; John 14:26; John 7:39; John 20:22; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:32, etc.

(3) Peter intended, doubtless, to designate an offence as committed particularly against the person, or influence, by which he and the other apostles were inspired. Ananias supposed that he could escape detection, and the offence was one, therefore, against the Inspirer of the apostles. Yet that was the Holy Spirit as "distinct from the Father." See John 14:16-17, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-11; John 20:22. Compare Acts 5:32. The offence, therefore, being against him who was "sent" by the Father, and who was appointed to a particular work, clearly supposes that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father.

(4) a further incidental proof of this may be found in the fact that the sin here committed was one of special magnitude - so great as to be deemed worthy of the immediate and signal vengeance of God. Yet the sin against the Holy Spirit is uniformly represented to be of this description. Compare Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29. As these sins evidently coincide in enormity, it is clear that the same class of sins is referred to in both places; or, in other words, the sin of Ananias was against the third person of the Trinity. Two remarks may be made here:

(1) The Holy Spirit is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son; or, in other words, there is a distinction of some kind in the divine nature that may be designated by the word "person." This is clear from the fact that sin is said to have been committed against him - a sin which it was supposed could not be detected. "Sin" cannot be committed against an "attribute" of God, or an "influence" from God. We cannot "lie unto" an attribute, or against wisdom, or power, or goodness; nor can we "lie unto" an "influence," merely, of the Most High. Sin is committed against a "Being," not against an "attribute"; and as a sin is here charged on Ananias against "the Holy Spirit," it follows that the Holy Spirit has a "personal" existence, or that there is such a distinction in the divine essence that it may be proper to "specify" a sin as committed especially against him. In the same way sin may be represented as committed especially against the "Father" when his "name" is blasphemed; when his "dominion" is denied; when his mercy in sending his Son is called in question. Sin may be represented as committed against "the Son" when his atonement is denied; his divinity assailed; his character derided, or his invitations slighted. And thus sin may be represented as committed against "the Holy Spirit" when his office of renewing the heart, or sanctifying the soul, is called in question, or when "his" work is ascribed to some malign or other influence. See Mark 3:22-30. And as sin against the Son proves that he is in some sense distinct from the Father, so does sin against the Holy Spirit prove that in some sense he is distinct from the Father and the Son.

(2) the Holy Spirit is divine. This is proved, because he is represented here as being able to search the heart, and to detect insincerity and hypocrisy. Compare Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Corinthians 2:10, "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God"; Revelation 2:23. And he is expressly "called" God. See the notes on Acts 5:4.

3-6. why hath Satan filled—"why … fill—"why hast thou suffered him to fill"

thine heart—so criminally entertaining his suggestion? Compare Ac 5:4, "why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" And see Joh 13:2, 27.

to lie to the Holy Ghost—to men under His supernatural illumination.

But Peter said; Peter knew this deceit by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; it being most probably not otherwise likely ever to be discovered.

Satan filled thine heart: as when the heart is filled with hot spirits it is daring and bold, so when Satan filled their heart these wretches venture upon desperate courses and provoking sins.

To lie to the Holy Ghost; this sin is said to be lying to the Holy Ghost:

1. Because against their own consciences, and the Spirit of God too witnessing with their spirits, Romans 9:1. As also:

2. Because they pretended to holiness, and the service of God, when they intended only to serve their own turns; now the Spirit is in a peculiar manner the Spirit of holiness, and the author of it in us, whom they pretended to have been moved by, but falsely.

3. And, lastly: Defrauding the poor members of Christ of their right, (for so by their vow it became), they lied to the Holy Ghost, who constitutes and establishes the church, and accepteth these gifts as given to God, and not to men. But Peter said, Ananias,.... Peter, by divine revelation, or by a spirit of discerning, such as Elisha had, who knew what his servant Gehazi had done, knowing what a reserve Ananias had made, calls him by his name, and says to him,

why hath Satan filled thine heart? or emboldened thee, given thee so much spirit and courage to act in such an impudent and audacious manner; so the phrase is used in Esther 7:5 see the Septuagint there, and often in Talmudic writings.

"Says R. Joshua, I never , "filled my heart"; or my heart never filled me to say to a man, go and take the change of these three things, &c. (d).''

And says another Rabbi (e),

"though I say so, , "I never filled my heart", or my heart never filled me to transgress the words of the companions;''

that is, I never durst do so. And again (f), it being observed, that Isaiah should say, "hear, O heavens!" it is said,

"who, or what is this, who , "hath filled his heart", or whose heart has filled him to call to the heavens to hear.''

But this instance of Ananias was such, that none but Satan could have put him upon, or emboldened him to have done; who from hence appeared to have the power over him, and to have possessed him, to have great access to him, even to his heart, and great influence upon it, so as to prompt him

to lie to the Holy Ghost; who was in the apostles, and by whom they were acted, and to whom he had given a discerning of spirits; so that it was a daring action, and downright madness, to go about to deceive them: or he pretended he had an impulse from the Spirit of God to sell his estate, and give the whole price of it to the apostles, and yet kept back part of it; which was acting contrary to that Spirit he pretended to be influenced by.

And to keep back part of the price of the land: that is, he lied against the Holy Ghost, by keeping back part of the price the land was sold for; when he had declared he sold it with this view, to give the whole for charitable uses, and affirmed that what he brought was the whole.

(d) T. Hieros. Maaserot, fol. 48. 4. (e) Sabbat, fol. 14. 3.((f) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 160. 1. Vid. Shaare ora, fol. 2. 1.

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan {b} filled thine heart {c} to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

(b) Fully possessed.

(c) For when they had appointed that farm or possession for the Church, they were foolish to keep away a part of the price, as though they were dealing with men, and not with God, and therefore he says afterwards that they tempted God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 5:3. Peter recognises the scheme of Ananias as the work of the devil, who, as the liar from the beginning (John 8:44), and original enemy of the πνεῦμα ἃγιον and of the Messianic kingdom, had entered into the heart of Ananias (comp. on John 13:27; Luke 22:3), and filled it with his presence. Ananias, according to his Christian destination and ability (Jam 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9), ought not to have permitted this, but should have allowed his heart to be filled with the Holy Spirit; hence the question, διατί ἐπλήρωσεν κ.τ.λ.

ψεύσασθαί σε τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἃγ.] that thou shouldest by lying deceive the Holy Spirit: this is the design of ἐπλήρωσεν. The explanation is incorrect which understands the infinitive ἐκβατικῶς, and takes it only of the attempt: unde accidit, ut πνεῦμα ἅγ. decipere tentares (Heinrichs, Kuinoel). The deceiving of the Holy Spirit was, according to the design of Satan, really to take place; and although it was not in the issue successful, it had actually taken place on the part of Ananias.

τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἃγιον] Peter and the other apostles, as overseers of the church, were pre-eminently the bearers and organs of the Holy Spirit (comp. Acts 13:2; Acts 13:4); hence through the deception of the former the latter was deceived.

For examples of ψεύδεσθαι, of de facto lying, deception by an act, see Kypke, II. p. 32 f. The word with the accusative of the person (Isaiah 57:11; Deuteronomy 33:29; Hosea 9:2) occurs only here in the N. T.; often in the classical writers, see Blomfield, Gloss. ad Aesch. Pers. 478.

This instantaneous knowledge of the deceit is an immediate perception, wrought in the apostle by the Spirit dwelling in him.Acts 5:3. διὰ τί: not simply “why?” but “how is it that?” R.V., cf. Luke 2:49; the force of the Greek seems to emphasise the fact that Ananias had it in his power to have prevented such a result, cf. Jam 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9ἐπλήρωσεν, occupavit (cf. John 16:6), so that there is room for no other influence, Ecclesiastes 9:3. On the Vulgate, tentavit, which does not express the meaning here, see Felten’s note.—ψεύσασθαι, sc., ὥστε, often omitted; cf. Luke 1:54, the infinitive of conceived result, see Burton, N. T. Moods and Tenses, pp. 148, 154. The verb with the accusative of the person only here in N.T., but in LXX, Deuteronomy 33:29, Psalm 65:3, Isaiah 57:11, Hosea 9:2, 4Ma 5:34, etc., and frequently in classical writers.3. But Peter said, Ananias, why, &c.] The interrogative particle is of a strengthened form in the original, and seems to indicate that there had been a possibility of resisting the influence which led to this offence, had Ananias been desirous to do so. We must believe that the Holy Spirit gave Peter knowledge of the deception which Ananias was seeking to practise on the Church, and most likely also of the punishment which should come upon the offender. Otherwise we can hardly account for the calm manner of the Apostle when such a startling judgment was inflicted in an instant.

hath Satan filled thine heart] i.e. made thee bold enough. Cp. Esther 7:5, “that durst presume in his heart,” and Ecclesiastes 8:11.

to lie to the Holy Ghost] for it was the power of the Holy Ghost that was manifested in the Apostles. It is much to be noticed how from the first the Apostles disclaim any power in themselves. It is Christ who works the miracles, the God of Abraham who gives the power of healing, and the Holy Ghost who is grieved by sins like that of Ananias. There is no trace of any seeking after consideration for themselves and their deeds among the records of these Acts of the Apostles, and no sign could be more indicative of the earliest age of the Christian Church. Before the apostolic age was past the internal character of the Church was much altered from this.

and to keep back part of the price of the land] As before, the sense is that of fraudulent concealment and purloining.Acts 5:3. Ἐπλήρωσεν) hath filled, viz. with audacity and fraud, without there being any resistance made to him on thy part. Ananias himself perhaps did not think that Satan was lurking beneath the temptation. The fulness of heart which comes from Satan is the highest degree of wickedness.—ψεύσασθαί σε) that thou shouldest deceive, as far as it lay in thy power, as if the Holy Spirit did not know thy deception: Acts 5:9. Ψεύδομαι, with the Accusative occurs, Deuteronomy 33:29, LXX., ψεύσονταί σε οἱ ἐχθροί σου: thence in Psalms 66. (in Sept. 65) 3; Job 6:10; Job 8:18. It is more expressive than if joined with the Dative.[40]—τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, the Holy Spirit) Who is in us (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:3, “Christ speaking in me”), 1 Thessalonians 4:8, “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit;” and by whose direction the goods of the Church are administered.

[40] With the Accus. “to deceive a person by a lie:” with the Dat. ver. 4, “to tell a lie to or in reference to a person.”—E. and T.Verse 3. - Thy for thine, A.V. Peter said. It was given to Peter on this occasion, by the Holy Ghost, to read the secrets of Ananias's heart, just as it was given to Elisha to detect Gehazi's lie (2 Kings 5:25, 26); and the swift punishment inflicted in both cases by the word of the man of God - leprosy in one case, and sudden death in the other - is another point of strong resemblance. To lie to the Holy Ghost. It is only one instance among many of the pure spiritual atmosphere in which the Church then moved, that a lie to the apostle was a lie to the Holy Ghost under whose guidance and by whose power the apostle acted. Ananias's fraud was an ignoring of the whole spiritual character of the apostles' ministry, and was accordingly visited with an immediate punishment. The death of Ananias and Sapphira was a terrible fulfillment of the promise, "Whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). To lie to (ψεύσασθαι)

Rather, to deceive. The design of Satan was to deceive the Holy Ghost. To lie to would require a different case in the noun, which occults in Acts 5:4, where the same verb is properly rendered lie (unto God). Satan fills the heart to deceive. The result of the attempt is merely to lie.

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