Acts 5:38 So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
The Apostles were preaching daily the good news of Jesus. This was stirring up the citizens of Jerusalem and it caused great consternation among the religious leaders. They had the apostles arrested and placed in prison, but God sent an angel to set them free. The religious leaders were again upset by discovering that these men were back outside preaching so they were brought to the council where the high priest questioned them. Peter’s response affirmed the call that the apostles had received from God and that they had to be obedient to that call and not to human authorities. This, of course, made the leaders mad but, after dismissing the apostles, Gamaliel made his speech.
Interestingly, this Gamaliel may have been the same man who was Saul’s teacher. If so, he was known for his great learning and wisdom. These uneducated men from the Galilee must have dumbfounded him, along with the entire council. However, he was not willing to just dismiss them because he recognized that through them a movement was developing. More than likely, however, he did not believe that God was on their side, but that this was simply a new rebellion. He assumed that this would simply fizzle out and so he gave this piece of advice. Let the men go because it will probably just go away, but if God is in it, we won’t be able to stop it.
Gamaliel became a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ with his words. He affirmed that if the power of God was in this new movement, no one will be able to stop it. The words are prophetic because as I write this today, the rebellion led by the uneducated apostles from the Galilee continues to spread throughout the globe. When the work is from God, nothing can stop it!
Today we have the privilege of participating in God’s work in this world. If you read the news, you just might get discouraged. It seems as if there are new laws around the world that seek to prohibit the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. However, that’s a rather funny thing, because we know that laws have never been able to contain the working of the Holy Spirit. Human boundaries mean nothing to God.
The apostles were beaten for the first time after this encounter with the religious leaders. They did not leave discouraged but instead, were joyful because they had suffered for Christ. Is that how we view the barriers and difficulties? Maybe we ought to rejoice that the world thinks it has to try and contain God’s work. The words of Gamaliel ring true today because if this truly is God’s work, nothing will be able to stop it! Let us rejoice in our sufferings that we might be worthy to “suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” (v.41)
Lord, thank you for the obstacles that help me to be dependent upon you. Amen.
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