Acts 5:4
Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Whiles it remained . . .—Fresh circumstances are pressed home, as depriving the act of every possible excuse. Ananias had not been bound by any rule of the Church to such a gift. At every stage he was free to act as he thought best; and had he brought part as part, or even brought nothing, he would have been free from any special blame. As it was, the attempt to obtain the reputation of saintliness without the reality of sacrifice, involved him in the guilt at once of sacrilege, though there had been no formal consecration, and of perjury, though there had been no formulated oath.

Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.—The parallelism between this and “lying to the Holy Ghost” in Acts 5:3 has often been used, and perfectly legitimately, as a proof that while the Apostles thought of the Spirit as sent by the Father, and therefore distinct in His personality, they yet did not shrink from speaking of Him as God, and so identifying Him with the Divine Essential Being.

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.Whiles it remained - As long as it remained unsold. This place proves that there was no "obligation" imposed on the disciples to sell their property. They who did it, did it voluntarily; and it does not appear that it was done by all, or expected to be done by all.

And after it was sold ... - Even after the property was sold, and Ananias had the money, still there was no obligation on him to devote it in this way. He had the disposal of it still. The apostle mentions this to show him that his offence was especially aggravated. He was not "compelled" to sell his property - he had not even the poor pretence that he was "obliged" to dispose of it, and was "tempted" to withhold it for his own use. It was "all" his, and might have been retained if he had chosen.

Thou hast not lied unto men - Unto people "only," or, it is not your "main" and "chief" offence that you have attempted to deceive people. It is true that Ananias "had" attempted to deceive the apostles, and it is true, also, that this was a crime; but still, the principal magnitude of the offence was that he had attempted to deceive "God." So small was his crime as committed against "men" that it was lost sight of by the apostles, and the great, crowning sin of attempting to deceive "God" was brought fully into view. Thus, David also saw his sin as committed against "God" to be so enormous that he lost sight of it as an offence to man, and said, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," Psalm 51:4.

But unto God - It has been "particularly" and "eminently" against God. This is true, because:

(1) He had professedly "devoted" it to God. The act, therefore, had express and direct reference to him.

(2) it was an attempt to deceive him. It implied the belief of Ananias that God would not detect the crime, or see the motives of the heart.

(3) it is the prerogative of God to judge of sincerity and hypocrisy; and this was a case, therefore, which came under his special notice. Compare Psalm 139:1-4. The word "God" here is evidently used in its plain and obvious sense as denoting the "supreme divinity," and the use of the word here shows that the Holy Spirit is "divine." The whole passage demonstrates, therefore, one of the important doctrines of the Christian religion, that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet is divine.

4. While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?—from which we see how purely voluntary were all these sacrifices for the support of the infant community.

not lied to men but God—to men so entirely the instruments of the directing Spirit that the lie was rather told to Him: language clearly implying both the distinct personality and the proper divinity of the Holy Ghost.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? A sufficient argument that there was no command (even then) to necessitate them to part with their estates, but only what the present and eminent necessity of the church did persuade them voluntarily unto. The doubling of this expostulation makes the conviction the more forcible.

In thine own power; as a steward under God, to do what thou wouldst with it according to his will; and none are, or can be, otherwise disposers of what they possess.

Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? It seems hence, that it was a deliberate and propensed iniquity.

Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God: in that lying unto God is so often charged, and no express mention is made of Ananias’s vow, some excuse him of sacrilege, and charge him the more deeply with ambition, covetousness, lying, and hypocrisy, to the apostles, whom he intended to deceive.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own,.... Before it was sold, it was his own proper estate; he had the sole propriety in it, and could have kept it, or disposed of it as he pleased: he was not obliged to sell it, he might have kept it as his own property; for selling of possessions at this time was a voluntary thing; it was what no man was forced to; it was a pure act of liberality, and what was not enjoined by the apostles; every man was left to his liberty.

And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? that is, the price for which it was sold: before he had declared that he sold it, in order to give the whole of it to the church, had brought it to the apostles as the whole; it was in his own power to dispose of, as he pleased, whether to give the whole, or a part of it, or it. He might have kept it all if he had thought fit, or have given what portion he pleased.

Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? for though Satan had an hand in it, and greatly solicited him to it, and spirited him up to do it, yet in conjunction with his own heart; and perhaps it began there, which Satan helped forward. It was not so of Satan as to excuse the wickedness of his heart. It was owing partly to the sin of covetousness, which reigned in him, and partly to a desire of vain glory, and being thought a very religious man, that he acted such a part, and was so notoriously guilty of lying and hypocrisy.

Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God; that is, not to men only, for he had lied to the apostles; but to God also, to the Holy Ghost, who is truly and properly God, of which this passage is a full proof; and it was owing to his omniscience, which is a peculiar attribute of deity, that this wicked man, and this fraud of his, were discovered.

Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou {d} conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

(d) By this is meant an advised and purposeful deceit, and the fault of the man in listening to the devil's suggestions.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 5:4. When it remained (namely, unsold; the opposite: πραθέν), did it not remain to thee (thy property)? and when sold, was it not in thy power?

That the community of goods was not a legal compulsion, see on Acts 2:43.

ἐν τῇ σῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ὑπῆρχε] sc. ἡ τιμή, which is to be taken out of πραθέν. It was in the disposal of Ananias either to retain the purchase-money entirely to himself, or to give merely a portion of it to the common use; but not to do the latter, as he did it, under the deceitful semblance as if what he handed over to the apostles was the whole sum. The sin of husband and wife is cleverly characterized in Constitt. ap. vii. 2. 4 : κλέψαντες τὰ ἴδια.

τι ὅτι] quid est quod, i.e. cur? Comp. on Mark 2:17. Wherefore did. st thou fix this deed in thy heart? i.e. wherefore didst thou resolve on this deed (namely, on the instigation of the devil, Acts 5:3)? Comp. Acts 19:21; the Heb. שׂוּם עַל לֵב (Daniel 1:8; Malachi 2:2), and the classical expression θέσθαι ἐν φρεσί, and the like.

οὐκ ἐψεύσω ἀνθρώποις, ἀλλὰ τῷ Θεῷ). The state of things in itself relative: not so much … but rather, is in the vehemence of the address conceived and set forth absolutely: not to men, but to God. “As a lie against our human personality, thy deed comes not at all into consideration; but only as a lie against God, the supreme Ruler of the theocracy, whose organs we are.” Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Winer, p. 461 f. [E. T. 621]. The taking it as non tam, quam (see also Fritzsche, ad Marc. p. 781) is therefore a weakening of the words, which is unsuited to the fiery and decided spirit of the speaker in that moment of deep excitement. The datives denote the persons, to whom the action refers in hostile contradistinction.[164] Bernhardy, p. 99. Examples of the absolute ψεύδεσθαι with the dative are not found in Greek writers, but in the LXX. Joshua 24:27; 2 Samuel 22:45; Ps. 17:44, Ps. 77:36. By τῷ Θεῷ Peter makes the deceiver sensible of his fatal guilt, for his sin now appeared as blasphemy. This τῷ Θεῷ is quite warranted, for a lying to the Spirit (Acts 5:3, τὸ πνεῦμα) is a lie against God (τῷ Θεῷ), whose Spirit was lied to. Accordingly the divine nature of the Spirit and His personality are here expressed, but the Spirit is not called God.

[164] Valckenaer well remarks: “ψεύσασθαί τινα notat mendacio aliquem decipere, ψεύσ. τινι mendacio contumeliam alicui facere.

Acts 5:4. οὐχὶ, “id quaerit quod sic esse nemo negat,” Grimm, “while it remained, did it not remain thine own?” R.V. Very frequent in Luke as compared with the other Evangelists, see also Acts 7:50. This rendering better retains the kind of play upon the word μένω, to which Weiss draws attention, and compares 1Ma 15:7 for the force of ἔμενεν.—πραθὲν, i.e., the price of it when sold (rectius πραθέντος τὸ ἀργύριον, cf. Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 57 (1896)); so αὐτά in Acts 2:45 is used for the prices of the possessions and goods sold. The whole question, while it deprived Ananias of every excuse, also proves beyond doubt that the community of goods in the Church of Jerusalem was not compulsory but voluntary.—ἐξουσίᾳ, power or right (ἔξεστι): “The Ecclesia was a society in which neither the community was lost in the individual, nor the individual in the community,” Hort, Ecclesia, p. 48.—τί ὅτι, sc., τί ἔστιν ὅτι, cf. Luke 2:49, and Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 101 (1893), Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 173.—ἔθου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου, Acts 19:21, and Luke 21:14. The phrase is rightly described as having a Hebraistic colouring, cf. LXX, 1 Samuel 21:12, Daniel 1:8, Haggai 2:16; Haggai 2:19, Malachi 1:1, and the Homeric θέσθαι ἐν φρεσί, ἐν θυμῷ βάλλεσθαι.—τὸ πρᾶγμα τοῦτο: so frequently in LXX, Genesis 44:15, Exodus 1:18, Joshua 9:24, 1 Chronicles 21:8; Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 149 (1896).—οὐκ ἐψεύσω: the words do not here of course mean that Ananias had not lied unto men, but an absolute negative is employed in the first conception, not to annul it, but rhetorically to direct undivided attention to the second, cf. Matthew 10:20, Mark 9:37, 1 Thessalonians 4:8, Winer-Moulton, Leviticus 8, 6. The dative of the person is found after ψεύδεσθαι in the LXX, but not in classical Greek. The sin of Ananias was much more than mere hypocrisy, much more than fraud, pride or greed—hateful as these sins are—the power and presence of the Holy Spirit had been manifested in the Church, and Ananias had sinned not only against human brotherhood, but against the divine light and leading which had made that brotherhood possible. In the words there lies an undeniable proof of the personality and divinity of the Holy Ghost, and a refutation of Macedonius long before he was born (see Bede’s note in loco, and on patristic authorities, Felten). We cannot satisfactorily explain the words by supposing that offence against the public spirit of that Church is meant, and that the sin against the Holy Ghost may be identified with this.

4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own?] The verb in the original is repeated. Whiles it remained, did it not remain thine own? That is, there was no compulsion on him to sell it, the only thing expected from him being that, if he were moved to sell, he should honestly set forth what he had done. There seems to have been no necessity to give at all to the common fund unless a man felt that he could well afford to do so, nor to give all that he either had or realized by any sale, provided only he made honest declaration of what his gift really was. This is implied in the words which follow, which declare that the sum produced by any sale was at the seller’s disposal until he made it over to the common fund.

why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?] The original is a translation of a Hebrew expression which is repeated several times in the prophet Haggai (Acts 1:5; Acts 1:7, Acts 2:18), and is rendered by the A. V. Consider. The force of the expression is “to lay anything (as a plan or a precept) deep in the heart,” and it implies long and deep deliberation on the part of this offender. It was not a case of yielding to a sudden temptation, but the plan had been accepted into the heart, and fostered there till there seemed to be a way of carrying it out. Satan had filled his heart, but he had made no effort to cast out the intruder.

thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God] It is not intended to say that Ananias had not lied unto men at all, but that the gravity of his offence was that he thought to deceive God. In Acts 5:3 it is said that the deception had been practised towards the Holy Ghost, and so we learn hence the Divinity of the third Person of the Trinity.

Acts 5:4. Μένον, whilst remaining) That is, whilst the land remained unsold.—σοὶ ἔμενε, it remained to thee) The making of one’s goods common property, was a matter of option.—ἐν τῇ σῇ ἐξουσίᾳ, in thine own power) A mere purpose, where there is no vow, does not bind to do anything which is good in itself, and yet not necessary. Comp. Joh. Val. Schmidii diss. jur., delivered at Leipsic, A.D. 1712, “de proposito in mente retento nihil operante,” § 18.—τί ὅτι, wherefore) Ananias sinned most freely (unscrupulously) and with long-continued purpose.—ἔθου, laid up [‘conceived’]) The same sin originated at once from the man and from Satan.—τῷ Θεῷ, unto GOD) What thou hast professed to give to God, thou hast appropriated to thyself. The relation (ratio) of the Holy Spirit in the sentence is contained under the government of the particle ἀλλὰ, but, not under that of the particle οὐκ, not. Therefore this is the sense: Ananias lied unto God and His Spirit, not unto men and Peter. Venture, if thou durst, O Socinian, to express it thus, “He lied not to the Holy Spirit and Peter, but to GOD.” The lie of Ananias, as he lied to the Holy Spirit, and as he lied to GOD, is altogether the same sin, and equally grievous: nay, in some measure it is more grievous, as he lied to the Holy Spirit. Comp. Mark 3:28, “He that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness.” A most solid argument, whereby it is proved that the Holy Spirit is a person, and a person of the Godhead.

Verse 4. - Did it not remain for was it not, A.V.; thy for thine own, A.V.; how is it that thou hast for why hast thou, A.V.; thy heart for thine heart, A.V. Did it not remain, etc.? The exact meaning is - Did it not remain to thee? i.e. unsold it was thine, and when sold the price of it was thine. There was no compulsion as regards giving it away. The act was one of deliberate hypocrisy - an attempt to deceive God himself. Acts 5:4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own (οὐχὶ μένον? σοὶ ἔμενε)

A play on the words. Lit., remaining, did it not remain to thee? Rev., very happily, whiles it remained, did it not remain thine own?

Conceived (ἔθου)

Lit., put or fixed. Wherefore didst thou fix this deed in thy heart? - i.e., resolve upon it.

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