Acts 5:9
Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
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(9) To tempt the Spirit of the Lordi.e., to try, or test, whether the Spirit that dwelt in the Apostles was really a discerner of the secrets of men’s hearts. The “Spirit of the Lord” is probably used in its Old Testament sense, as the Spirit of Jehovah. The combination is rare in the New Testament, occurring only in 2Corinthians 3:17, but is common in the Old, as in Isaiah 61:1 (quoted in Luke 4:18); 1Kings 22:24; 2Kings 2:16.

Behold, the feet of them. . . .—In this instance the coming judgment is foretold, and the announcement tended to work out its own completion. Here, to all the shame and agony that had fallen on Ananias, there was now added the bitter thought of her husband’s death as in some sense caused by her, inasmuch as she might have prevented the crime that led to it. The prophetic insight given to St. Peter taught him that the messengers, whose footsteps he already heard, had another task of a like nature before them.

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.Agreed together - Conspired, or laid a plan. From this it seems that Sapphira was as guilty as her husband,

To tempt - To try; to endeavor to impose on, or to deceive; that is, to act as if the Spirit of the Lord could not detect the crime. They did this by trying to see whether the Spirit of God could detect hypocrisy.

At the door - Are near at hand. They had not yet returned. The dead were buried without the walls of cities; and the space of three hours, it seems, had elapsed before they returned from the burial.

Shall carry thee out - This passage shows that it was by divine interposition or judgment that their lives were taken. The judgment was in immediate connection with the crime, and was designed as an expression of the divine displeasure.

If it be asked here "why" Ananias and Sapphira were punished in this severe and awful manner, an answer may be found in the following considerations:

(1) This was an atrocious crime - a deep and dreadful act of iniquity. It was committed knowingly, and without excuse, Acts 5:4. It was important that sudden and exemplary punishment should follow it, because the society of Christians was just then organized, and it was designed that it should be a "pure" society, and should be regarded as a body of holy men. Much depended on making an "impression" on the people that sin could not be allowed in this new community, but would be detected and punished.

(2) God has often, in a most solemn manner, shown his abhorrence of hypocrisy and insincerity. By awful declarations and fearful judgments he has declared his displeasure at it. In a particular manner, no small part of the preaching of the Saviour was employed in detecting the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and denouncing heavy judgments on them. See Matthew 23 throughout for the most sublime and awful denunciation of hypocrisy anywhere to be found. Compare Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Timothy 4:2; Job 8:13; Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 20:5; Job 36:13; Matthew 7:5; Luke 11:44. In the very beginning of the Christian church it was important, by a decided and awful act, to impress upon the church and the world the danger and guilt of hypocrisy. Well did the Saviour know that it would be one of the most insidious and deadly foes to the purity of the church; and at its very "threshold," therefore, he set up this solemn warning to guard it, and laid the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira in the path of every hypocrite that would enter the church. If they enter and are destroyed, they cannot plead that they were not fully warned. If they practice iniquity "in" the church, they cannot plead ignorance of the fact that God intends to detect and punish them.

(3) the apostles were just then establishing their authority. They claimed to be under the influence of inspiration. To establish that, it was necessary to show that they could know the views and motives of those who became connected with the church. If easily imposed on, it would go far to destroy their authority and their claim to infallibility. If they showed that they could detect hypocrisy, even where most artfully concealed, it would establish the divine authority of their message. At the "commencement" of their work, therefore, they gave this decisive and most awful proof that they were under the guidance of an infallible Teacher.

(4) this case does not stand alone in the New Testament. It is clear from other instances that the apostles had the power of punishing sinners, and that a violation of the commands of Christ was attended by sudden and fearful judgments. See 1 Corinthians 11:30, and the case of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:8-11.

(5) neither does this event stand alone in the history of the world. Acts of judgment sometimes occur as sudden and decided, in the providence of God, as in this case. The profane man, the drunkard, the profligate offender is sometimes suddenly stricken down, as in this instance. Cases have not been uncommon where the blasphemer has been smitten in death with the curse on his lips; and God often thus comes forth in judgment to slay the wicked, and to show that there is a God that reigns in the earth. This narrative cannot be objected to as improbable until "all" such cases are disposed of, nor can this infliction be regarded as unjust until all the instances where people die by remorse of conscience, or by the direct judgment of heaven, are "proved" to be unjust also.

In view of this narrative, we may remark:

(1) That God searches the heart, and knows the purposes of the soul. Compare Psalm 139.

(2) God judges the "motives" of people. It is not so much the "external" act, as it is the views and feelings by which it is prompted, that determines the character of the act.

(3) God will bring forth sin which man may not be able to detect, or which may elude human justice. The day is coming when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and God will reward every man according as his works shall be.


9. How is it that ye have agreed together—(See on [1951]Ac 5:2).

to tempt the Spirit—try whether they could escape detection by that omniscient Spirit of whose supernatural presence with the apostles they had had such full evidence.

feet of them that buried thy husband are at the door—How awfully graphic!

To tempt the Spirit of the Lord; this expression, of tempting God, or the Spirit of God, is not used amongst profane writers; and this sin is not (at least to such a degree) committed amongst pagans and heathens, and is to be dreaded by all that profess the gospel. As often as men sin against their conscience, and their consciences condemn them in what they do, so often they dare, tempt, or try, whether God be omniscient, and knows of, or holy hand powerful, and will punish, their sins; which they find at last to their cost.

The feet of them which have buried thy husband, are at the door; this the apostle foretells ere it came to pass, the more to confirm his authority and the truth of the gospel.

Shall carry thee out, after thou art dead, to thy burial.

Then Peter said unto her, how is it that ye have agreed together,.... For husband and wife to agree together in what is good, in things civil, honest, and lawful, and in religious matters, is very commendable; but to agree in a fraud, in a lie, is very dreadful:

to tempt the Spirit of the Lord; to try whether the apostles had the Spirit of the Lord, or not; and whether the Spirit of the Lord that was in them was omniscient and omnipotent, would take any notice of it, and inflict punishment for it:

behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door; which Peter knew either by hearing the sound of their feet, as Ahijah the prophet heard the sound of the feet of Jeroboam's wife, as she came in at the door, 1 Kings 14:6 or by the same spirit as Elisha knew that Gehazi ran after Naaman, and received money and garments from him, 2 Kings 5:26 and shall carry thee out; of this house dead, and bury thee, as they have thy husband.

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to {e} tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the {f} door, and shall carry thee out.

(e) Look how often men do things with an evil conscience; and so they pronounce sentence against themselves, and as much as in them lies, they provoke God to anger, as they do this on purpose, in order to test whether he is just and almighty or not.

(f) Are at hand.

Acts 5:9-10. Wherefore was it agreed by you (dative with the passive, see on Matthew 5:21) to try the Spirit of the Lord (God, see Acts 5:4-5)? i.e. to venture the experiment, whether the πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ruling in us apostles, was infallible (comp. Malachi 3:15; Matthew 4:7). The πειράζων challenges by his action the divine experimental proof.

οἱ πόδες] a trait of vivid delineation (comp. Luke 1:79; Romans 3:15; Romans 10:15); the steps of those returning were just heard at the door (see on John 5:2; Acts 3:10) outside (Acts 5:10).

πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς] beside her (just buried) husband.

Acts 5:9. τὶ ὅτι, Acts 5:4. συνεφωνήθη: only here in the N.T. in the passive, for its use in the active, Acts 15:15. Blass maintains that this passive usage συμφωνεῖταί τισι is Latin rather than Greek (convenit inter aliquos), and that it may have arisen from the intercourse between Greeks and Romans, see in loco, and Grammatik des N. G., pp. 112, 235; in LXX only in the active. Cf. also Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 155 (1893). “The aggravation was that they committed the deed as with one soul, just as upon a settled compact between them,” Chrys., Hom., xii.; cf. the plural ἀπέδοσθε.—πειράσαι: the rendering “to tempt,” does not seem to express the idea so well as “to try,” to make trial whether the Holy Ghost would discover their deception, whether He knew all things: cf. Acts 15:10, and in LXX, Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7, Psalms 77(78):41, 56, etc. (in Revelation 2:2 the same verb as here = “try,” A. and R.V.).—ἰδοὺ, see on Acts 1:10. οἱ πόδες, cf. Luke 1:79, Romans 3:15; Romans 10:15. A Hebraistic expression—the whole description is full of dramatic intensity—the returning steps of the νεώτεροι are heard ἐπὶ τῇ θύρᾳ. But Alford thinks that they were probably bare-footed, and that the words mean that the time was just at hand for their return, cf. Jam 5:9.—ἐξοίσουσίν σε, see on Acts 5:6.

9. ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord] To try whether the deception which you had planned would be found out; whether God’s Spirit would make it known to us.

behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door] They were heard returning from the burial of Ananias.

and shall carry thee out] Better, and they shall, &c. thus making it clear that the verb refers to the bearers. St Peter, as before, was prompted by the Holy Ghost in what he said, and was enabled to predict the punishment of Sapphira for her persistent dissembling. We are not told that St Peter knew what would befal Ananias, but as the Spirit shewed him what was to come on the wife we may perhaps conclude that he knew what the fate of the husband would be also.

Verse 9. - But for then, A.V.; they shall carry for carry, A.V. To tempt the Spirit, etc.; i.e. thus daringly to put the Holy Ghost on trial, whether or no he is able to discern the thoughts of your evil hearts (comp. Luke 4:12). The feet of them, etc. The burial, including the distance to and fro, had taken three hours, and they were just returning to the Christian assembly when Sapphira was confirming her guilt as an accomplice in her husband's lie. Acts 5:9Ye have agreed together (συνεφωνήθη ὑμῖν)

The verb is passive. Lit., was it agreed by you. The figure in the word is that of concord of sounds. Your souls were attuned to each other respecting this deceit. See on music, Luke 15:25.

To tempt (πειράσαι)

To put it to the proof whether the Holy Spirit, ruling in the apostles, could be deceived. See on Acts 5:3.

The feet

Graphic. The steps of the young men returning from the burial are heard at the door.

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