Summary: Let us look closer at the statements of this compromiser and notice three mistakes he made.
The book of Acts is not a dull book to say the least. Something seems
to be happening in every verse. This early church energized by the
Holy Spirit finds itself in head itself in facing trouble from the
inside of the church at the beginning of Acts 5. In verse 17 the
church is facing trouble from the outside of the church.
When we come to verse 34 we find trouble from the fence (trouble in
Gamaliel, a learned and famous teacher of the law stands up and begins
to speak. He cautions the council to be wise and cites two cases on
record and he then advises the council to spend judgement.
There was a time when I was impressed with Gamaliel. There was a
time when I thought he made a great speech. What he said seemed sober,
sane, sound and sensible. However, the closer I look at his speech,
the less I am impressed with it.
Gamaliel was an appeaser and compromiser. Gamaliel sits on the fence.
The worst enemies of the church are not the opposeres of the church
but the appeasers and compromises.
Gamaliel council is often preferred above Paul today. If Paul clearly
condemns something, his word is pushed aside in favor of Gamaliel’s
council. However, Paul is not alone in this. Gamaliel is even wiser
than the Lord Jesus Christ in the estimation of some. Where Christ
says, "Beware of false prophets," Gamaliel says, "Leave them be; just
watch and wait. Say nothing and do nothing. And if they survive and
flourish, they will prove to be from God."
Who, then, was this man Gamaliel? Was he a good and faithful wise
man? Did he speak from God? Is his celebrated counsel as wonderful as
many seem to think?
Gamaliel was a leading Pharisee, a doctor of the law, and a member of
the Jewish Sanhedrin, who possessed great influence between A.D. 20
and 58. He believed firmly that God’s favor was secured by virtue of
being born a Jew, and by meticulous obedience to the ceremonial law.
As a leading Pharisee, he would have been swamped by
self-righteousness and vehemently hostile to salvation by grace
He was well aware of the teaching of John the Baptist, that Christ
was the Lamb of God, appointed to take away the sin of the world. He
was also very familiar with the teaching of Christ, that the law could
not save the soul, and that individuals must repent and be born again
by the power of God. These teachings he rejected. Indeed, he rejected
the idea that Jesus Christ was any more than a man.
"Leave them alone, and let us see what will happen. Don’t get
involved," he suggested.
Now if, Gamaliel’s council is accepted, men must punish nobody, and
all crime must go uncorrected.
Gamaliel’s "do-nothing" counsel would certainly bring to an end all
law enforcement, if adopted by any State. However, God repeatedly
commands in His Word that right conduct should be approved and
wrongdoing should be restrained. The Sanhedrin had a duty to establish
the truth (using the Scriptures) and act accordingly.
If the apostles were teaching correctly, they should been supported
and encouraged. If they were teaching falsehood, they should have been
excluded from the Temple, and the people warned.
Gamaliel and the council should have sided either for or against the
apostles. Gamaliel’s counsel was a total renouncing of
responsibility. He said, in effect, "Time will tell. In the meantime,
it does not matter whom they mislead."
Gamaliel’s counsel was not due to his being a foolish man, for he was
a renowned scholar and thinker. His reasoning was the product of his
fear. He was afraid of the reaction of the crowds in Jerusalem.
The other members of the Jewish Council imagined that they possessed
the social standing and moral authority to get away with whatever
their murderous instincts dictated. Gamaliel knew better, realizing
that the death of the apostles could put the Council itself at risk.
So he warned, "Take heed to yourselves what you intend to do."
Self-preservation and self-interest was the motive behind Gamaliel’s
Let us look closer at the statements of this compromiser and notice
three mistakes he made.
I. He asserted a foolish comparison
Gamaliel compares Jesus to a couple of wannabes. Gamaliel, to support
his plea to do nothing, mentioned the cases of two rebel leaders who
had been killed (apparently by the Roman authorities), with the result
their their influence soon declining. The obvious implication was that
Jesus of Nazareth had also been put to death by the Romans, and his
following would doubtless die out in the same way.
He compared Jesus of Nazareth with just another man - Theudas and