Summary: From a series on the book of Acts.
The Lessons of Gamaliel
Let me give you just a little background on the passage. Peter and some of the other apostles had just been given a command not to preach in Jesus’ name. Did Peter listen? You better believe that he didn’t. He had been told that to preach Jesus’ name was to sign his own death warrant, but he did it anyways. So he was brought before the Sanhedrin again. This time he was certain to die unless someone intervened. Who would that be? It was none other than Gamaliel.
Gamaliel was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish equivalent of congress. He had taught many people and seen many things. He even was the teacher of the apostle Paul. When the Sanhedrin was in session, as soon as he spoke, everyone listened, as will we now.
In the passage, Gamaliel is making a plea on behalf of the apostles. He makes a point of saying that to hinder them in anyway may be to stand in God’s way. Historians are also fast to mention that either Gamaliel was misinformed or that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, misquoted him. In either case, there is a misinterpretation in the history that he mentions. I am going to take you through the lessons found in the passage, The lessons of Gamaliel.
First, A good reputation is worth a thousand words. If you can keep a reputation that is unable to be hurt by others, then you will be able to stand up to the worst of the worst and tell them that God is an awesome God and that he is here waiting for us.
Second, Everyone’s Human. We all make mistakes in our speech and in our lives, but by realizing that God is sovereign and allowing him control, he can turn those mistakes into something good for his cause.
Third, and finally, Don’t interfere with God’s work. God has a plan laid out for each of us. He will use us, if we are truly willing, but we must look at ourselves and make sure that nothing is standing in God’s way in our life.
The First lesson that we come across is that a good reputation is worth a thousand words. Gamaliel in vs. 34 is regarded as "...a teacher of the law held in respect by all people..." This earned respect is enough to allow him to command the men present, a privilege usually only allowed to the high priest.
So from this little bit of information and the fact that Gamaliel wasn’t killed for what he said, we can assume that he was a man deserving of great respect.
The next lesson that we learn from Gamaliel is that everyone’s human. Gamaliel is gifted with a wonderful gift of being an eloquent speaker. Eloquent enough that he convinces that Sanhedrin to change their minds about killing the apostles, a decision that had pretty much already been made.
The fact that he was an eloquent speaker had been established already but the perplexing part is his misinformed speech. He talks about some false messiahs that had come, but that isn’t the odd part. The best historians are in agreement that either Luke or Gamaliel were wrong in their interpretation of history.
The misinformation comes into play when we talk about Theudas. There actually was a Theudas that had done what Gamaliel said, however it could not be the one that would be most obvious because it was Gamaliel talks about Theudas first, then about Judas of Galilee. The Jewish tradition was to place people in chronological order. Thus that would make Theudas first and then Judas of Galilee. However, Theudas’ uprising came in 45-46 AD with Gamaliel’s speech being in 44 AD, thus Gamaliel was either mistaken or misinformed as to the identity of the insurrectionists.
Misinformations happen everyday usually due to a miscommunication. Listen to this example (read story about the BC).
The BC was the Baptist Church for one, and the toilet for another. How did this misinformation happen? One person thought that they had read something that wasn’t even there.
The final lesson that we can draw out of this speech is that we had better not stand in God’s way.
Gamaliel makes a strong point that to interfere would be jeopardizing their eternal rewards. To paraphrase him, he said "Let’s leave them be and let God sort them out. If they’re speaking about God, then he will help them if not, then they will be killed." How many times have you prayed about something, only to find out that it seemed that God had not answered you. How many times did you then look and say, "What is it in my life that is holding God back?" That is the problem all to often, we see the problem, but don’t want to admit that we are the ones that are causing the problem.