The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Acts 5 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.
17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, 23 saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25 But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
40 They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
In today’s text it says: Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him... And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. It is important that we remember that this account is after the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. This account happened after the New Covenant of Jesus was enacted; after the Covenant of grace was and still is in force. This is not an Old Testament story of God’s judgment against sin, but rather a New Testament account to assure us that God still judges sin. Throughout much of the church today there is no fear of the Lord. Many only speak of and teach of the grace of God; the love and compassion of God; of His goodness and all of His promises. Certainly His grace is amazing and His love and compassion are never ending. He has blessed us with both spiritual and material blessings and His promises are “yes and amen.” But all of God’s love, grace and compassion toward us, His creation, does not mean that He does not judge sin. The account in today’s text is a reminder that judgment against sin still exists in the age of grace.
Proverbs 9:10 says: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Wisdom may indeed begin with a fear or more accurately a respect and reverence of and for God. But, the thing is, if we will know God, we will not need to fear Him. If we know God we will know His love, compassion and grace. We will also know His righteousness and holiness. The psalmist says: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6) If we delight in the Lord, our desires become like His. We then receive and partake of His goodness, His blessings and promises. If we trust Him and commit to His way, the way of righteousness, then we don’t need to fear His judgment. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love and grace of God does not mean that God no longer judges sin. It means that Christ died for our sins, so we don’t have to. What it says in Romans 6:23 is true: The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We each must choose whether we will receive our due wage or accept the free gift of God. We cannot though choose both grace and sin.
The text says: Great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico… And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Perhaps if we today would fear the Lord, we would increase in wisdom and knowledge of Him and His ways and we too would see the miracles, signs and wonders which He has promised by His goodness, love and compassion.
Judgment and grace are not opposite or opposing principles. They are both eternally part of God’s character. They are coexistent and codependent principles. If there were no judgment against sin, there would be no need for God’s grace to sinners. Judgment would still exist without grace, but not grace without judgment. The testimony of the account of Ananias and Sapphira is a reminder to us that we cannot presume on grace even though it is free. It is free to us, but it was not free for us. Grace cost Jesus His life. Grace did not replace judgment. By grace Christ replaced us in judgment. May we never choose sin over the precious life of Christ.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; thank You for Your amazing grace, the demonstration of Your love, that Christ died for us. May I begin to know You more. Fear may indeed be the beginning of wisdom, but Your love and compassion is what I come to know and understand as I delight in You, as I trust in, You as I commit to Your way, the way of righteousness rather than sin. Amen.