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In Acts 5:3-4, Peter says:

"Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God" (NKJV, emphasis mine).

Now obviously, their lying was "to men" in the sense that the apostles were men, and the lie was directed to them. However, since the apostles were inspired, it wasn't ultimately "to men" but to a higher source. Therefore, "lying" in this context appears to reference the ultimate One the sin is against.

If lying "to the Holy Spirit" (v. 3) is equivalent to saying the lie is "not ... to men but to God" (v. 4), would this make "the Holy Spirit" and "God" one and the same (i.e., the ultimate One the sin is against)? Since Peter says the ultimate source of the lying is "to the Holy Spirit" in verse 3 and "to God" in verse 4, does this mean he's using the two terms interchangeably?

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8 Answers 8

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Does Acts 5:3-4 equate the Holy Spirit with God

In Acts 5:3-4, Peter says:

"Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God" (NKJV, emphasis mine)

This incident caused great fear and respect that the spirit of God dwelt in the congregation ."You are a temple" in the verse is plural and means that the congregation is called the temple of God and that God dwells by means of his spirit in the congregation.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NASB

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the [d]temple of God is holy, [e]and that is what you are.

Ephesians 2:22 NASB

22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

Conclusion:

Since Peter was informed by God by means of his holy spirit that Ananias was lying, in lying to Peter he was also lying to the holy spirit. Like Jesus and the prophets, Peter also represented God and spoke on his behalf and since Ananias was lying to Peter he was also lying to God.

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The Divinity (or otherwise) of the Holy Spirit is contentious for several reasons - it is the nub of the Arian vs Trinitarian debate, not because the divinity of the Holy Spirit itself is disputed, but because the OP's question assumes the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Put another way, both Trinitarians and Arians, etc, all assume the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but the point at which they differ is about whether the Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the the Father and Son.

Both groups agree that by the simple Hebrew parallelism of Acts 5:3, 4, the Holy Spirit is equated with God as the OP documents. The appendix 1 below has more examples of this. However, Arians usually assert that the Holy Spirit is the power and influence of the Father and/or Son and so the divinity of the Holy Spirit is not in dispute; Trinitarians (without proof here) assert that this is evidence of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Thus, all that can be established from Acts 5:3, 4 is the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Personhood of the Holy Spirit

The real "problem", or point of issue in technical Theology (Theories of God and Godhead) is the distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit or otherwise. However, this is now straying too far from the OP's question so I have placed a little material in appendix 2 below.

APPENDIX 1 - Holy Spirit Divinity by Parallelisms

The Bible often uses parallelism is establish an implicit fact or pattern, Here is a sample:

  • Acts 5:3, 4 equates lying to God and lying to the Holy Spirit
  • Acts 10:38 equates the Holy Spirit with the presence of God
  • Comparing Rom 1:2-6 and 16:26 we find that The Holy Spirit has the authority of God
  • 1 Cor 12:4-6 equates the Holy Spirit with the one Lord and God
  • Job 33:4, Eze 37:14, Rom 8:2, 10, attributes the source of life to the Holy Spirit
  • Titus 3:4-6, 1 Peter 1:2 attributes the Holy Spirit as the source of spiritual life
  • Psalm 104:30 and Gen 1:2 both declare the Holy Spirit as the creator
  • Heb 9:14 also declares the Holy Spirit an essential part of Salvation.
  • 2 Cor 3:17 calls the Holy Spirit “Lord”.
  • Comparing Isa 63:10 with Num 14:11 shows that grieving the Holy Spirit is equivalent to grieving God.
  • 2 Sam 23:2, 3 makes clear that the Holy Spirit speaking is the voice of God
  • 1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:19, 20 – the indwelling Holy Spirit is a divine presence
  • 1 Cor 12:11, 28 – the Holy Spirit distributing gifts is equivalent to the will of God

APPENDIX 2 - Personhood of the Holy Spirit

Three Persons

Matt 3:16, 17, 28:19, Mark 1:10,11, Luke 3:21, 22, John 1:32, 14:26, 15:26-16:14, Acts 10:38, Rom 1:2-4, 1 Cor 6:11, 12:2, 3, 2 Cor 13:14, Gal 3:11-14, Heb 9:14, 10:29, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 4:14. Note that these passages refer to the Holy Spirit as a separate person distinct from the Father and Son. The most unambiguous case of this is when the sin of blasphemy is discussed (see below).

Personhood

  • The passages in John 15:26 – 16:14 repeatedly talk about the Holy Spirit as a separate person from either the Father or Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 2:10, 11 (see also Isa 40:13, 14) also identifies the Holy Spirit as a separate person because of His teaching and instructing function. See also Rom 15:19 and Ps 104:30.
  • In Matt 12:31, 32, Mark 3:28, 29, and Luke 12:8-10 the unforgivable sin is defined as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is an expansion of Isa 63:10-14 where people grieved the Holy Spirit. Such a sin would not be even possible if the Holy Spirit were not both a person and divine. Note further, that these passages make a clear distinction between sinning against the Son or Father as opposed to the Holy Spirit, again, showing that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person. In 1 Cor 12:11 it is the Holy Spirit who decides about spiritual gifts and their distribution. This passage attributes volition and sentience to the person of the Holy Spirit.
  • In Acts 7:51, 1 Thess 5:19, Eph 4:30 we have various people resisting or spurning the Holy Spirit and in Acts 15:28 the Holy Spirit’s opinion is consulted. Possibly the best verses to demonstrate the individuality and personhood of the Holy Spirit is found in Rom 8:26, 27, which says –

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit and the Unforgivable Sin

The NT makes an interesting claim about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matt 12:31, 32, Mark 3:28, 29, and Luke 12:8-10. This sin, it appears, cannot be forgiven.

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matt 12:31, 32.

The question naturally arises: How is it possible that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven but blasphemy against Jesus can be forgiven? Does the Holy Spirit have some especially exalted status?

The problem here is not a matter of status but function of the Holy Spirit. Before dealing with this let us establish what blasphemy actually is. Generally, it means (BDAG), “to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates and maligns”. However, the NT provides a more precise meaning when God is involved.

In Matt 9:3, 26:65, Mark 2:7, 14:64, Luke 5:21, John 10:33-36, blasphemy means to claim to be God, or presume the prerogatives and function of God, that is to usurp the place of God (including the Holy Spirit), for example by presuming to forgive sins, Mark 2:7. Thus, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be usurping His place by presuming to have the function of the Holy Spirit (see above), namely, producing the fruit of the Spirit, trying to reform the life, acting as conscience for others, forgiving sins, trying to confer supernatural abilities on others, etc; all of which are the exclusive job of the Holy Spirit.

Now, if one is usurping the place of the Holy Spirit, then that effectively shuts out the essential work and influence of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life, thus excluding that person from spiritual perception or even the felt need to confess sin. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to be a Christian (Rom 8:9).

Such a person is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work. The person then shuts himself away from heaven’s work and feels no need of salvation and becomes spiritually self-delusional. No wonder that forgiveness is excluded, not by God but by the actions and decisions of the person.

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  • "The Bible often uses parallelism is establish an implicit fact or patter..." can you clarify? Nov 28, 2021 at 14:37
  • @RevelationLad - my apologies - that last word should have been "pattern" - now corrected.
    – Dottard
    Nov 28, 2021 at 19:31
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Seemingly limited lies can have broader implications:

  • At trial, one can lie to the court, and by doing so also lies to the entire judicial system.
  • Someone can lie to a spouse, and by doing so put a lie to their marriage.
  • Lying to a messenger is the same as lying to the recipient of the message.

If one considers God's holy spirit to be a communications medium, then God heard about the lie by means of his holy spirit. There is nothing in this scripture that would indicate that this spirit is anything else. It would certainly not lead one to deduce the Trinity doctrine.

Peter is simply pointing out that by lying to their group, Ananias has in effect lied to the entire Christian church, and ultimately has lied to God himself.

Compare this with Malachai 3:8 (NLT), where withholding offerings to the priests, one is withholding them from God:

Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.

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The רוח אֱלֹהִ֑ים ,Ruach Elohim is the Spirit of God, mostly understood as an equivalent of God or His Will. The Holy Spirit, רוח הקודש‎, Ruach ha-Qodesh in Jewish understanding is used as a synonym of His Spirit in particular if it is His Spirit in men. There is no doubt in Judaism that His Spirit is a Part of Him, a Gift of the Most High. Ps 51:10-12 shows both forms in the same meaning. It is the same in later Rabbinic literature (which, in fact, first uses Ruach ha-Qodesh in this particular form). The Ruach ha-Qodesh is an aspect of the Spirit of God, not different by itself but rather from our point of view, and a perception of God. In this sense, the Holy Spirit should be understood as a Part of God, in particular, the Part of God linked to us.

In the context of 5:3-4, Ananias lied to the community, but not only to the community but to God who knew the truth, to himself (not mentioned) and hence lost the link to God which is the Holy Spirit. As a sign that this link is vital, Ananias lost his life. This confirms the teaching of Jesus, saying,

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

(Mt12:31-32).

If we come to the term of Trinity, it is first to note that Peter was not an Arian or a Trinitarian but a Jew who followed Jesus. Hence, it is likely that he understood it in the same way it was commonly understood by the Jews. Secondly, just Mt12:31-32 puts the Holy Spirit, Πνεύματος, closer to God than the Son of Man, the particular son of the Holy Spirit, thus very close to God, which goes along with the common interpretation that the Holy Spirit Is an Aspect of God.

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“ would this make "the Holy Spirit" and "God" one and the same? ”

Yes. This is expressed in other places also. We don’t need to presume or fabricate another reality to the one already provided. The Holy Spirit and the Father, God, are references to the same 'person'.

The disciples wrote about this quite tellingly.

for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Luke 12:12

for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:20

Without equivocation, the Holy Spirit IS the Father, so IS God. Just as logos is the expression of God, now through Jesus (logos become flesh), the spirit is also the expression and power of God.

Does Acts 5:3-4 equate the Holy Spirit with God? Yes. Does the holy spirit exist apart from God - i.e. a separate entity apart from the Father? No.

no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son... Luke 10:22

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mk 13:32

A HS person MUST be included in these truths if it was an entity apart from the One God - the Father. They are the facts we have been provided.

When we have a clear revelation from the text, we should use that to understand those verses which may need some further interpretation, thus avoiding creating our own contradictions.

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  • Since you stated the Holy Spirit and the Father are the same, my questions is the same what? Are they the same "Person" or are they the same "God?" Either way, why at Acts 5:3-4 is the Holy Spirit singled out as distinct from the Father/God? Why did Peter just say, "Ananias you lied to God? Also, notice Acts 5:8-9 where Peter confronts Ananias's wife. Vs9, "Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?" Why not just say, "Why did you put God to the test?" If they are one and the same Person, why the distinction.
    – Mr. Bond
    Nov 29, 2021 at 21:35
  • the Holy Spirit singled out is according to your reading-in, while also ignoring plain statements showing nothing of a person or other than God. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God" When God places Himself 'in us', He does so by His spirit - we can ignore God, lie to God etc. by ignoring, lying to, His holy guidance within us - thereby ignoring the One who sent His spirit and HIs logos.
    – steveowen
    Nov 29, 2021 at 22:46
  • The only way to have a separate Holy Spirit person is to read him in to those passages where he might fit, as you and many others are prone to do. Sadly, tradition has been a massive distraction in this regard. We can only justify a theological viewpoint if no scripture disagrees - this idea of a HS person is refuted persistently by plain speaking Apostles.
    – steveowen
    Nov 29, 2021 at 23:05
  • @steveown I am not reading anything into those verses but rather extrapolating from the words themselves a logical and coherent question. There is a clear distinction of persons between God and His Holy Spirit, why? Why not just say you have lied to God instead of saying you lied to the Holy Spirit? Compare Revelation 2:7. Explain to me (and be specific) what does tradition have to do with anything? What tradition? If God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons as the Bible portrays them why do they talk to each other at Genesis 1:26, or at Genesis 11:7?
    – Mr. Bond
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:35
  • I rest my case - you seem unable to grasp what reading-in means. You read-in, all the ‘Gods’ at Gen 1 simply because it uses ‘us’! You read-in Jesus at John 1:1-3 because you want to, not because he is there. You read-in a hs person because you want to, when the bible nowhere teaches it. Tradition, the theology of those after the Apostles. There has been a process of confusion and reading-in ever since. We must revert to the facts of the scriptures and stop making stuff up.
    – steveowen
    Dec 1, 2021 at 20:11
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The Holy Spirit is shown to be God throughout the Bible, and this passage in Acts simply agrees with all of the others on that point.

Jesus declared to the woman at the well: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24, KJV)

The Bible also is clear that God is holy: "Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy." (Psalm 99:9, KJV)

If God is "holy" and God is "spirit" (note that the Greek of John 4:24 is ambiguous as to whether the article "a" should be included), it follows that God is a "Holy Spirit."

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Wanted to give context of why it was stated they were lying to God, and His Holy Spirit that was either in Peter (partially)or in the Lord who brought the final judgment to the couple. I think it helps to see there is a difference of the Holy Spirit being in a believer, compared to God (who is Spirit) or fully in the Spirit of the Lord.

"First of all, each Jew had his allotment, which could not be sold. Even if it was disposed of, it came back to him in the Jubilee. This was his means of living. If the kingdom should come, the land would be redistributed according to the prophets (Eze. 47.13. The action of the Pentecostal believers it's all based on this fact. Whatever they had beyond their allotment would go back to its rightful allottee when the kingdom is set up.

In view of this they sold the land and houses they had acquired besides their allotment, and shared their possessions, or personal property such as money, among themselves.
A freehold was a piece of property to which actual title could be acquired. The freehold was not land held in common, like an allotment, but held by a title unaffected by the Jubilee. The disciples knowing that freehold were not in line with the law and that they would be forfeited under the righteous rule the of Messiah, put the means obtained from their sale into a common fund.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a freehold which they had acquired, over and beyond their own allotment in the land. In this they did well. This too, was a commendable act. Their sin seems to have been, not in withholding a part , but in giving the impression that they had contributed all for the common good. Here we have a practical illustration of the righteous rule which would characterize the kingdom of God. The hidden motive is brought to light. An act appearing most praiseworthy on the surface is declared to be tainted with false hood.

Ananias wished to be well thought of. But since his avariance was too strong to allow him to part with the whole sum , so he, in affect, steals a part of the gift, and presents the rest as though it were the whole amount.

In the administration of the kingdom, righteousness will reign and sin will be suppressed. (Concord it commentary)"

This new group of believers had gathered together and the place was shaking and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and again to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

The Spirit of God had to have made them of one heart and soul and they and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them....

all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit .. Now all the believers were one in heart and soul, and nobody called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything they owned. a Acts 4:31-32

And abundant grace was as upon them all. Acts 4:33

So we see this was the work of the Holy Spirit in all of these believers lives.

Satan had filled Ananias and Sapphira with greed, deceit, pretending the Holy Spirit had moved them as well. They were like falsifying the Spirit of God.

You have not lied to me then but to God. Acts 4:4

He was offended by them pretending that His Spirit had moved upon their hearts as well, when in fact it was Satan.

It was the Spirit of the Lord that was tested or tempted.

And Peter said to her, “How was it agreed by you to tempt the Spirit of the LORD? Acts 5:9

They lied to the Holy Spirit that was inside Peter. Every believer has a measure of God's Holy Spirit.

For He whom God sent speaks the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure.John 3:34

It was God they lied to, (God is Spirit)

It was the Lord Spirit they tested:

and it was the Spirit of the Lord they tested. Acts 5:9

The Spirit of the Lord revealed their heart and brought swift judgment.

As a side-note : This is just a taste of what it will be like in the coming age.

who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age— Hebrews 6:5

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Matthew 1:18

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

This verse proves that the HS, the HG, and God are one and the same. If they are distinct persons then Jesus has two distinct fathers.

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