Intro (i) Refer to prev.2 sermons: 1. Stephen -The Committedâ then ÎThe Cowardly Crowdâ today ÎGamaliel - the Compromiserâ
(ii) Not all agree with designation e.g. Blaiklock Î..the Christians found an ally. God sometimes provides help in strange and unexpectzed places·.But here it was , in the person of a wise, humane and gracious man.â (SU Bible Characters)
iii. Used to think like that, then read Vance Havner & others like Roy Clements in ÎTurning the World Upside Down -Acts in Actionâ - different conclusion. No doubt true Gam. was revered as great teacher as a liberal reformer somewhat ahead of his time - a moderate middle-of -the- way man, a centre-right position politically speaking. etc True his intervention did seem to calm the fury of the council - for a short time. For in next chapter (Acts 6) see same council -Sanhedrin condemning and stoning Stephen.
i. Gam. was an appeaser, not an opposer and appeasers have often done more harm to church than opposers. Gam. was apostle of compromise, unlike Peter & John who boldly proclaimed in Acts 5:29 & 32 ÎWe are witnesses of these things·We must obey God rather than men!â
ii. So was Gam. in one way - he must have been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, maybe was one who voted for his death etc. He knew the Scriptures, the prophecies concerning the Messiah etc for he was a great teacher, perhaps The teacher of Israel - he should have known better than try and remain neutral or sit on the fence re Jesus - agnosticism is NOT a viable option.
iii. Quote Chinese proverb: ÎHe who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.â
Dante said it much more vigorously: ÎThe hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.â
vii. So where did he go wrong? Suggest 3 things:
I He Made a False Comparison.
i. In his speech Gam, made some telling points about 2 men & their movements and fate - Theudas & Judas. But in fact, he was comparing the apostles, the Gospel and ultimately Jesus Christ with these men. Suggesting Jesus like them - putting Him into a pigeon-hole, a category with other revolutionaries whose causes have been long since discredited. Or. Jesus just another reformer, philosopher, teacher, guru. Dismisses Him with:- ÎWe know all about such charactersâ
ii. Develop: Today - In British schools ÎComparative Religionâ seems to have replaced the Scripture lesson supposedly mandatory.
Inter- faith dialogue is very fashionable in some Christian circles e.g. Dalai Lama speaking at Geneva cathedral next month:
"In quest of religious tolerance, Geneva's St Pierre Cathedral is to welcome the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, to preach at a Sunday service on 8 August 1999. Between 5000 and 15 000 worshippers are expected to attend the service at the 12th-century building in Geneva's Old Town, which in the 16th-century became the church of John Calvin, the most influential thinker in Reformed Christianity. This is the latest event in a series which indicates a growing role for the cathedral - one of the most important places in Reformed church history - as a centre for inter-faith dialogue."(ENI News Report)
iii. But Jesus is unique - cannot be set alongside Theudas or Judas or Che Guevara or Mahatma Ghandi or anyone else. As C.S.Lewis so cogently pointed out Jesus is mad, bad or God.
Exclusive claims of Christ go against the grain - not acceptable, so temptation to soften the message, make it more palatable. Make false comparisons etc But even more than for Gamaliel that sitting on fence is both dangerous and uncomfortable. Need to make up mind or possibility of making another mistake of Gam.
II He suggested a false criterion (or principle)
cf vv 38/39 ÎIf their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men·â
i. Using success as criterion i.e. we will measure this movement by its success - time will tell if it is of God etc
ii. Success is standard gauge of the world in evaluating men, movements and merchandise -Înothing succeeds like successâ etc. but earthâs yardstick does not apply to Christ and Christianity. In fact, look at Bible record and see many apparent failures e.g. Abraham leaves wealth and comfort of Ur to become a nomad in desert. Moses gives up Pharaohâs palace etc to become a shepherd then suffer with Godâs people for 40 years in wilderness. ÎNehemiah gave up a well-paid job as a highly placed government official to build a wall around a ruinâ (cf R.Clements) Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a stinking mudddy hole for proclaiming the Word of the Lord and worst of all, the ÎFounderâ of Christianity Jesus Christ, died a shameful death on a cursed cross.