ARE YOU STRADDLING THE FENCE?
A. This is a very interesting passage.
1. As I studied I noted that most people see it as a “God Thing” that helped get the disciples back out on the street again to preach the gospel – that Gamaliel, was a sort of good conscienced man who helped the disciples – and I guess it is alright to see it that way.
2. But I had to wonder about Gamaliel, himself.
3. Where did he stand on the issues at hand: Jesus Christ and the gospel?
4. What was his reasoning concerning his proclamation?
B. If you read Vance Havner & others like Roy Clements in Turning the World Upside Down -Acts in Action, you might just see a different side to the story.
1. No doubt Gamaliel was revered as a great teacher as a liberal reformer somewhat ahead of his time - a moderate middle-of -the- way man, a centre-right position politically speaking.
2. And it is true, his intervention did seem to calm the fury of the council - for a short time, but in the next chapter (Acts 6) we see the same council – the Sanhedrin condemning and stoning Stephen.
3. Gamaliel was an appeaser, not an opposer; and appeasers have often done more harm to church than opposers.
4. Gamaliel was an apostle of compromise, unlike Peter & John who boldly proclaimed in Acts 5:29 & 32 We are witnesses of these things - We must obey God rather than men!
C. Think about this, Gamaliel was a witness of the things Peter and John talked about, as well.
1. He must have been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, maybe even one of those who voted for his death and a witness, of such.
2. He knew the Scriptures, the prophecies concerning the Messiah, for he was a great teacher, perhaps The teacher of Israel
3. He should have known better than try and remain neutral or straddle the fence when it came to Jesus.
4. Agnosticism is NOT a viable option.
a. There is a Chinese proverb which states: He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.
b. The great philosopher Dante said it much more vigorously: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.
5. Gamaliel was a fence straddler.
D. So where did he go wrong? Let me suggest three:
1. He made a False Comparison
2. He suggested a False Criterion
3. He Arrived at a False Conclusion
E. My prayer is that we will not find ourselves doing the same thing. May we stand with the likes of Peter, John and those throughout history who have boldly and unashamedly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Gamaliel’s first mistake was that
I. HE MADE A FALSE COMPARISON, Acts 5:34-37 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;  And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.  After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
A. In his speech Gamaliel made some telling points about 2 men & their movements and fate - Theudas & Judas.
1. But in fact, he was comparing the apostles, the Gospel and ultimately Jesus Christ with these men.
2. He was suggesting Jesus was like them, and suggesting tolerance for a moment
a. He put Him into a pigeon-hole, a category with other revolutionaries whose causes have been long since discredited.
b. Or suggest that Jesus was just another reformer, philosopher, teacher, or guru.
c. He dismisses Him with: “We know all about such characters”
d. He is just like anyone else.
3. As I was studying I came across a message preached in 1999 by Derek Adamsbaum (pastor of a Baptist church Geneva, Switzerland), entitled Gamaliel – The Compromisor, in it was a quote from a local paper
a. It said, “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)
b. Evidentially the cathedrals’ proprietors felt that their message concerning Jesus and the Dalai Lama’s message of Buddhism were of equal weight
B. But Jesus is unique – He cannot be set alongside Theudas, or Judas, or Gandhi or anyone else, for that matter.
1. And one must take a stand concerning Jesus, a C.S.Lewis so cogently pointed out Jesus is mad, bad or God; Folks He is crazy, corrupt or the Christ!
2. Exclusive claims of Christ go against the grain - not acceptable, so the temptation is to soften the message, make it more palatable, hence making false comparisons.
3. Gamaliel was straddling the fence, and that is both dangerous and uncomfortable.
4. Are you making false comparisons and straddling the fence when it comes to Jesus?
This just set him up to make another mistake,
II. HE SUGGESTED A FALSE CRITERION (or principle, for judgment), Acts 5:38-39 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
A. He began by using success as criterion - we will measure this movement by its success - time will tell if it is of God.
1. Success is a standard gauge of the world in evaluating men, movements and merchandise
2. Nothing succeeds like success, someone once said.
3. But earth’s yardstick does not apply to Christ and Christianity.
4. In fact, look at Bible record and you will see many apparent failures
a. Abraham leaves wealth and comfort of Ur to become a nomad in desert.
b. Moses gives up Pharaoh’s palace to become a shepherd then suffer with God’s people for 40 years in wilderness.
c. Nehemiah gave up a well-paying job as a highly placed government official to build a wall around a ruin
d. Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a stinking muddy hole for proclaiming the Word of the Lord
e. And worst of all, the Founder of Christianity Jesus Christ, died a shameful death on a cursed cross.
f. the world’s idea of success is an improper criterion
B. He followed by thinking durability is a viable criterion
1. There are many false religions and philosophies that are centuries old and some older than Christianity itself.
2. The Buddhism we spoke about earlier started 500 years before Christ was born.
3. There is the story that is told about Donald Soper, also know as Soap-box Soper, a Methodist preacher, who did open air preaching at Tower Hill in London for 65 years.
a. As he was preaching about Christ on day
b. An Objector, a rather scruffy, unkempt sort of individual, yelled “Look how long Christianity has been around - 2000 years - and what good has it done the world?”
c. To which Soper replied: “Look how long soap has been around -+3000 years - and what good has it done you?!”
4. It is not about how long something is around, but the truth and foundation under it, to say nothing about the appropriation of it for oneself!
5. By and large, Christianity is still a minority faith in most parts of world. a. Success has never been the true criterion for judging Jesus Christ b. Not time but eternity will tell
c. If you are postponing a commitment to Jesus Christ on the basis of His success or durability in other peoples lives
d. Or whether or not it will be of any long-term advantage to you - to see if it will make you happy, healthy and wealthy - you may live and die with Gamaliel straddling the fence.
e. And that is not a good thing!
f. What is your criteria?
Having made a false comparison and suggesting a false criterion, Gamaliel made his third mistake
III. HE ARRIVED AT A FALSE CONCLUSION, Acts 5:38-40 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone:… And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
A. Leave them alone, let them go, we don’t have anything to worry about.
1. Sounds like good advice - even indicating slight sympathy for Christianity.
2. Perhaps astute political thinking i.e. let the Romans look after them if they are trouble-makers, disturbing the peace, etc.
3. It seemed like a safe compromise – let’s not be hasty, not make any definitive judgment or take any decision we might live to regret - leave them alone.
4. He figured, It’s ok, its no big deal.
B. This is where many otherwise reasonable people find themselves – in the midst of non-committal
1. Clements wrote – But that is one thing no intelligent or responsible person can possibly do with Christianity. If the apostolic message is true, it is the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the world. If it is false, it is the most outrageous lie ever perpetrated on the general public. You cannot adopt a non-committal position. The claims of Jesus Christ demand a verdict.
2. During the time of the reformation there were many great minds, two of which were Luther and Erasmus
a. Erasmus was always the appeaser
b. The moderates throughout Europe, the gentlemen of the courts, the semi-skeptical intelligences of the universities told the golden-mouthed apostle of compromise that he was in the right
c. But the heart of Christianity beat with Luther.
d. Erasmus would never commit himself to what he professed - maybe he did not have the courage to say with Luther when called on to renounce his heresies: Here I stand, I can do no other.
3. Coming to false conclusions will leave you straddling the fence like Gamaliel.
C. Know where do we ever hear of Gamaliel making a profession for Christ – he may have straddled the fence one second to long and ended up impaling himself with hell forever.
- Don’t wait, coming to the wrong conclusion, that you have all the time in the world; thinking it really doesn’t anyway, could be eternally disastrous.
A. Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin may have agreed to let them go but there was still a lot of frustration, anger, hatred, and unrest within themselves concerning the disciples, but not about them specifically – it all boiled down to the person of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ!
B. But not so with the disciples, look at Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
1. They were rejoicing!
2. They were not straddling the fence – they were committed whole heartedly.
C. And thank God, that Gamaliel had one pupil who was no appeaser or compromiser or straddler
1. Paul, first known as Saul, did not take up his mentor’s lead when confronted on the road to Damascus
2. He did not say, “Well, let me wait and see how you movement goes, then maybe I’ll join up.
3. Before he was save he was 100% for the Devil and after being born again, after seeing the light, he was 100% for God.
D. How about you this morning, Jesus told the church at Laodicea, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Rev. 3:16
1. You don’t want to be lukewarm – you don’t want to be found straddling the fence!
2. Are you?
3. Please make a decision for Christ: it may be for salvation or if you are saved, it may be a complete commitment of yourself to Him.
This was compose from the original message entitled “Gamaliel – the Compromiser” by Derek Adamsbaum. Taken from SermonCenteral.com 07/19/06