Summary: Exposition of Acts 5:33-42 about the surprise ending to the disciples second imprisonment by the Sanhedrin
Text: Acts 5:33-42, Title: Surprise Endings, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/16/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: the surprise ending of Cold Mountain or The Six Sense
B. Background to passage: After Peter and John’s bold defiance of the Sanhedrin, as well as their bold witness to the Sanhedrin, they are on a collision course with death. If some consensus could have been reached, they probably would have been stoned. But an all-sufficient and all-sovereign God used a moderate Pharisee named Gamaliel to spare the lives of the Apostles for now, for their time had not come. And so just about the time we think it is over for the apostles, God delivers in an unusual way. A Pharisee argues for them! God has a lot of surprise endings for your life and mine to situations that we can’t see how He will do it, so keep holding on to His sufficient grace and face your trials with your eyes wide-open and fixed on Christ!
C. Main thought: In our text we will see three aspects of God’s surprise endings to their second imprisonment and trial before the Sanhedrin.
A. A Pragmatic Half-Truth (v. 33-39)
1. Gamaliel was by far the most well-respected rabbi of this time. He was the leader of a rabbinical school, of which Paul was a student. And probably the leader of all the Pharisees on the council. It is said that when he died, the glory of the Torah ceased, and separateness and purity died. He arose, asked the prisoners to be removed and gave a speech that seemed to be good theology, but in reality was only a half-truth. He argued that God was sovereign and man-originated movements would come to nothing. But in the sense that he argues, it is on partially true. God is absolutely sovereign! But just because something succeeds from a human standpoint, doesn’t mean that God’s blessing or endorsement upon it. Cults and other religions. In fact sometimes God does inexplicable things that cause evil men or circumstances to appear to triumph for the day. However, in those circumstances God is still doing all that He pleases!
2. Ex 33:18-19, Isa 46:10, Dan 4:35, Ps 115:3, 135:16, Eph 1:11, Rom 9:15, Deut 4:25-27, Hab 1:6,
3. Illustration: James Boice says, "God’s self-existence means that he is not answerable to us or to anybody. Although He sometimes explains things to us, he does not have to and often he does not. God does not have to explain himself to anybody." We don’t seem to want to worship a God who’s too big, too authoritative. We seem more comfortable with a deity who’s more manageable. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way…. And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this." "No," his friend replied, "This is good!" “What do you mean, ’This is good’? How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?" "If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you."
4. We should exult in the truth that God is Sovereign. That His Name at its core means freedom. That a central tenet of what it means to be God, and the essence of His glory is Freedom and Sovereignty. And we should love that, and revel in that, and rejoice in that, and worship because of that. The Lord Reigns, let the nations tremble. The Lord God Omnipotent Reigns, let the people fear and worship! But don’t let this create a pie in the sky, prosperity gospel. Make sure your theology is systematic and fits together and fits biblical revelation. For God doesn’t always do what we would consider good things. But know that all things that He does are good and purposeful. Do not allow your experience or the experience of others, be them human success or failure, determine their rightness. Stand upon the revelation of a Sovereign God and be firm. Don’t be afraid to call heresy heresy. Don’t settle for half-truths, ground yourself in the Word of God. God is victorious always, but sometimes His victories are achieved by allowing Satan to take a couple battles.
B. A Philosophy of Indecision (v. 33-40)
1. The worst part about the advice that Gamaliel made was it essentially was a “wait and see” strategy. He told them to just see if it turns out that God is really in this. He ignored the miracles, the prison releases, the popularity of the apostles, and said lets wait and see. What is he waiting on! An email from God saying that He is in it? Did he miss the darkness, earthquakes, and dead people walking around Jerusalem on crucifixion day? As far as we know, Gamaliel never heeded his own advice, and died without coming to know about the Man that the apostles continue to turn the world upside down about.