As part of our sermon series through the book of Acts at New City IPC, I preached chapter 4:32 to chapter 5:11 recently. In preparation, I printed out the text without the chapter break and over time noticed the unity in Luke’s writing that I had missed before.
Who decided that the story should be broken at the end of Acts 4?
Originally, the bible did not have chapters. The modern chapter divisions were added in the 1200’s. There is nothing wrong with chapters but we must be careful not to always break books of the bible down into little bite-sized chunks which interrupt the writer’s flow.
If we read chapter 4 verse 32 to chapter 5 verse 11 as one continual unit, we might note some things. What’s the first word of chapter 5? “But” (δὲ in greek) is a conjugation which pulls together the ideas before and after it.
And what are those two ideas Luke is pulling together?
The church has generous community life BUT it is also mixed with sinful people. In any true church of Jesus Christ, we find a combination of wonderful love and self sacrifice along with sinful people who will deeply hurt each other.
Barnabas sells his field and gives the money to the church (Great grace!) Ananias and Sapphira sell their piece of property but pridefully lie about the details so they could get the glory (Great sin!)
Back to back are the stories of great grace AND great sin in the church. Luke is making a point which I missed for many years. Great grace AND great sin reside, and will always reside, in the same family of believers. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error (WCF 25.5)
Luke gives us a glimpse of the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin as this couple immediately die for their prideful claims. But before this, Luke reminds us that in the church we will see extraordinary examples of God’s grace impacting His people in practical ways.
May you never be surprised at the grace grace AND the great sin you see in any church that is faithful to the gospel. And may God continue to grow churches full of people impacted by grace despite the fact that great sin will be there as well.