Summary: How Gamaliel spoke the truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ against the hatred of the Sanhedrin - but also in his own indecisiveness.
April 11, 2004 Acts 5:34-39
A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
David fought against the lion, the bear, and a nine foot giant named Goliath. These were mighty enemies - which nobody in their right mind would choose to fight. Yet he defeated them all - with God on his side. Gideon fought and defeated a much larger Midianite army with only 300 men - and the LORD on his side. Every day we are at battle with an army of demons who would like nothing more than to take our souls to hell. There is no need to fear, for with God nothing is impossible. Impossible battles can be won. Insurmountable enemies can be defeated.
But against God - nothing is possible. Nobody has fought against God and won. The picture of Armageddon in the book of Revelation really isn’t much of a battle at all. There’s a lot of hype to it, but when it comes down to the actual battle, all that happens is that the devil is tossed into hell - end of story. You can’t fight God - it doesn’t work. By this time in the story the Sanhedrin should have realized this. They had already killed God - thinking they had won - only to have Him rise from the dead. After this, they still tried to lock up the apostles - but they appeared the next day in the temple courts. With every action that they made, things only got worse for them - because they were fighting against God. It should have been obvious. But like stubborn donkeys - they kept on kicking against the goads. After having locked up the apostles a second time, Gamaliel - a well known rabbi - had some words for them - to try and dissuade them from their plans. In these words we’ll see and hear how Gamaliel was -
Speaking the Unstoppable Truth
I. The truth that brings blood
Just prior to our text for today, the disciples had some harsh words for the Sanhedrin. Luke writes that after the apostles were locked up a second time, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Ac 5:27-32) Notice the courage of the apostles at this time. They weren’t going to be intimidated by the high priest’s office or the threats of the Sanhedrin. Instead of running upon their release - they returned right back to the temple courts.
Why were they so courageous? They had seen Jesus raised from the dead. The soldiers may have been paid to tell people that they stole Jesus’ body - but they wanted the world to know the truth. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was raised from the dead - and was now ruling over the world and bringing more and more people to faith. The threats of the Sanhedrin had done absolutely nothing to shut them up. You have to admire both the zeal and the courage of the apostles. They just wouldn’t be quiet, they couldn’t be quiet. They were like Jeremiah who said, if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Je 20:9) It came from their conviction of the Holy Spirit which truly believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and He was now ruling as the King of the Universe.