The Old Testament contains a number of immediate retribution stories: Adam and Eve driven from the garden, Nadab and Abihu burned alive, Korah, Dathan an Abiram swallowed up by a huge sinkhole, and of course, Miriam being struck with leprosy. There are times when God responds immediately to sin – and times He doesn’t. But the prerogative is the Lord’s, creator of heaven and earth and judge of all mankind.
In chapter five, the deaths of Annanias and Sapphira come about as the immediate retribution of God. It is a critical time. The Church is in its infancy, growing, and fulfilling its mission to be Christ in the world. It has faced the opposition of Satan through the persecution of Church leaders (the Apostles). In this chapter, Satan attacks from the inside, causing this couple to lie and feign greater generosity than they really give. It is blatant hypocrisy. God will not allow this attack on His people and stops it immediately in a way that brings respect. Everyone in Jerusalem will now know that these Christian people are dedicated to moral and ethical conduct. It’s a dangerous thing to join their number half-heartedly.
It was God’s decision of course to execute this couple. Peter simply reveals their duplicity and announces their guilt and sentence. God carries it out.
The Christian Church should not forget: the whole world is watching. Let the world see a people who care for others. Let it see a people who speak God’s message of reconciliation boldly and invitingly. Let it see a community that cares, supports, comforts and lovingly directs one another in the way of God. But let it also see the body of Christ, dedicated to living the cross centered life and brooking no tolerance for members who deliberately, blatantly and unrepentantly allow Satan a foothold in their lives.