How can a God of love kill Ananias and Sapphira? (Greg Boyd answers)

I appreciate the ministry of Greg Boyd and his new website, Reknew.org. Recently, he took on a question that often comes up when dealing with the nature of God. Is God violent and wrathful? Here’s and excerpt. I encourage you to read the fullness of his response on Reknew as well:

Ananias and Sapphira?

This couple said they had given all the money they’d made from a piece of property to the apostles when, in fact, they had kept some of the money for themselves. Peter first confronted Ananias, telling him that Satan had filled his heart and that he’d lied not only to people, but also to God. Ananias immediately dropped dead. His wife showed up three hours later and Peter confronted her as well. He gave her a chance to repent, but she stuck to her lie. Peter then pointed out that she had conspired with Ananias against the Lord and would now join him in the grave, at which point Sapphira fell over dead (Ac. 5:1-10).

There’s no denying that the passage depicts the death of this couple as a divine judgment. So, if the cross is the hermeneutical key to understanding God’s true character, the first question we must ask is, what does the cross reveal about the nature of Gods’ judgments? What it says, I contend, is that God judges sin by withdrawing from it, thereby allowing people to suffer its death consequences. God “delivered Jesus over” to suffer at the hands of wicked humans as well as Satan and other fallen powers. And when Jesus became our sin (2 Cor 5:21) and our curse (Gal 3:13), God the Father withdrew his presence from him, which is why Jesus experienced genuine God-forsakenness (Mt 27:46).

The cross reveals, and a wealth of biblical material confirms, that the essence of God’s “wrath” against sin is simply allowing evil to run its self-destructive course. The essence of sin is pushing God away, and since God is the source of life, sin is, by its very nature, choosing death. “All who fail to find me harm themselves; those who hate me love death,” the Lord says in Proverbs (Prov. 8:36).  So too, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And in the Garden the Lord told Adam “in the day you eat from it [the forbidden tree] you will certainly die” (Ge.2:17). Notice, he didn’t say, “I will certainly kill you.” Rather, the couple was removed from God’s presence, showing that their choice to sin was a choice to push God away, which is a choice to die.

In his mercy, God usually strives with people to protect them from the death consequences of their sin. There can come a time, however, when God sees that people have solidified themselves against him to the point that they cannot, or will not, yield to his love and turn from their futile attempts at living apart from a relationship with him. With a grieving heart (reflected in Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem [Lk 19:41]), God at this point grants people their wish and withdraws his protection, thereby allowing evil to run its self-destructive course (e.g. Rom. 1:24-26).

And so, as Jesus bears the sin of the world, he suffers the hellish consequences of the sin of the world as the Father withdraws and delivers him over to wicked people and fallen powers that are allowed to afflict him. And yet, by allowing evil to devour evil on the cross, God defeated evil. Satan and the powers were vanquished by the crucifixion they helped orchestrate (Col. 2:14-15; 1 Cor.2:8). The cross thus reveals, and a wealth of Scripture confirms, that evil ultimately cannibalizes itself. Allowing it to do so manifests the terrible wrath of God.

This is what I believe happened to Ananias and Sapphira… READ THE REST HERE

  • Stuart B

    I like this post and I like Greg’s site a lot. On a related note to this, one of the passages I always feel a little uncertain about is 1 Corinthians 27-32. “For anyone who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner drinks judgement on himself” and goes on to say that some people are sick and some have died. Is God causing these things because people have come to take Eucharist with the wrong attitude?
    Just wondered how others interpret this passage.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ daniel imburgia

    Oh, well it turns out God’s love in not infinite after all. God is just like the rest of us, only more so. I reckon God can only take so much crap form us and then comes a lethal smackdown. Not really a gospel so much as Jesus saying “I got some good news, and I got some bad news…” obliged.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Greg says at the outset of the article that his answer might not be “truly adequate,” and I certainly find that to be the case…not that I have, or have come across, any better ones, but because even this explanation leaves me wondering why God did what he did (or withdrew what he withdrew) in this situation, but not in so many that to me seem far more egregious.

    That said, Greg’s final paragraph is excellent:

    “The only other thing I’ll say is that there is no warrant for anyone to
    extract a universal principle out of this passage and to argue that
    every death is the result of God punishing someone. It’s true that all
    death is, in a sense, a punishment of God inasmuch as much the entire
    creation has been subjected to futility (Rom.8:20) because of human
    rebellion. But there are no grounds for applying this individually. We
    could only know that a specific individual died as a result of a specific judgment
    of God by divine revelation, which is what Peter seems to have received
    regarding Ananias and Sapphira. Otherwise, Jesus teaches us that it is
    never our place to try to discern the hand of God in the way people die.
    We should rather restrict our focus to our own lives, making sure that
    we are not heading down the road Ananias and Sapphira went down by
    pushing the Giver of life away.”

  • BruceOcala

    This may be a bit of heresy, but maybe we should lighten up and just recognize a great story that addresses a different topic. The failure of A & S to abide with the covenant of the community of shared goods would likely have meant them getting cast out, at least temporarily. Exclusion from the community of life in the Lord is akin to death as Greg Boyd relates. Maybe this delightfully dark story was never intended as insight into theodicy, but a cautionary tale about living faithfully in community. To consider it as theodicy would be to impose a false premise which leads to hopelessly weak conclusions and a failure to satisfy anything.

  • Steve Swan

    I love the perspective but I find the concept requires a bit of contortion to believe.
    The question arises – why does it seem that some people get the axe for relatively benign acts such as A&S or Uzzah who steadied the ark of the covenant? There have been true villains in modern times that should have been given over to their own death as well.
    As we know in retrospect, Hitler never would be reconciled, why didn’t he die because of his sin (as Boyd suggests)..
    Living in Colorado brings uneasiness when I think of our massacres at the hands of gunmen. Why didn’t God give them over to their sinful selves so they would die?

  • CrosbyTee

    This is the first recorded money shakedown of believers.

    Imagine that I tell you that a coworker lied and I killed him for it. You would be horrified. But might makes right when it comes to bible-god. He is free to stomp his little ants.

  • Andrew Chapman

    Fear God, and obey His commandments. Don’t tell lies (except perhaps in extremity to save another’s life – Joshua 2:5-6).

    Andrew


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