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Ananias and Sapphira: “agreement” unto death

February 11, 2010

There are very few real life examples of married couples in the NT.  Among them are Ananias and Sapphira.  You can read the account of them from Acts 5 here.

Why did Sapphira follow her husband in death?  The passage explains that this happened because they “agreed together“ (Acts 5:9).  The Greek word there is derived from, sumphóneó with root words  sun together and phóné -voice.  Strong’s concordance defines sumphoneo as “to call out with, to be in harmony, generally to agree”.  Note how the word resembles our English word “symphony”.

Ananias and Sapphira were harmonious; agreeable. But what did they agree to do? They agreed to to lie to the Holy Ghost (vs 3); to tempt the Spirit of the Lord (vs. 9).  The definition of “to tempt” provided here is “to challenge”.  They agree to lie to the Holy Spirit and to challenge the Holy Spirit.

Notice the repetition word for word of the birth of great fear, following the death of Ananias, and again following the death of Sapphira:

and came fear great Acts 5:5
καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.

and came fear great Acts 5:11
καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας
kai egeneto phobos megas.

I am struck by the equality of responsibility, and of consequences.  I am also struck by the root cause of their death- an absence of appropriate FEAR!

Could a lack of appropriate FEAR be at the root of the death of marriages?

Upon some word study of the teaching on marriage in  Ephesians 5, I realized that within marriage,  PHOBEO/fear is a responsibility expressly  placed upon the wife:

Eph 5:33 “wife that she fear [her] husband”

Bible translations are just that: translations.  The God breathed Word was originally given in Greek and Hebrew.   I believe the above rendition of Ephesians 5:33 (from the interlinear at is an honest translation which takes the God breathed Greek word at face value.

Is it comfortable?  Does it fit the tradition?  Do we like it?

Maybe not.  But I believe God has good reason for His instructions to wives, and I don’t believe it is merely a relic of a bygone era where wives were chattel.  Its truth and timeless.

I did some research and found several resources which acknowledge the FEAR meaning of Ephesians 5:33.

M. Barth (p. 662)  “the substitution of words softer than ‘fear’, e.g. ‘awe’, ‘reverence’, or ‘respect’, contradicts philological evidence and must be rejected in favor of the literal translation.” Thus, he interprets Ephesians 5.33: “Just as a political revolutionary must ‘fear’ the ‘wrath’ of the authorities, wives appear to be enjoined to live in ‘fear’ of (the wrath of) their husbands” (p. 649). [Ephesians by Markus Barth]

“‘fear’ is a better rendering than ‘reverence’ or ‘respect’”  page 437 The Letter to the Ephesians by P. T. O’Brien

Some teachings interpret wifely PHOBEO along the lines of  FEARing a pounding from their husbands and/or God if she “disrespects” her husband .  I suggest that the  FEAR instruction to wives has quite a different focus than that!   A  close look at the account of Ananias and Sapphira clarifies the intent and importance of GODLY FEAR in a marriage.   It does involve fear of consequences, but not from “disrespecting” her husband, No.  She should have the fear of consequences upon herself and the children from failing to stand up to him when he is headed in the wrong direction.  His “private” vices can sow death, not only into his own spirit, but into the spirits of his wife and children.

Rather than living in FEAR of the WRATH of the husband- as the  quote from Barth states- I suggest that Paul and God’s intent is more along the lines of living in FEAR of the consequences of tolerating and  enabling lying to  the Holy Spirit.  Renounce the “Sapphira Spirit” and refuse to cover up and agree with a pretense of righteousness while your husband is keeping back, not part of the sale price of some land as did Ananias, but part of his very life.


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