Have you ever been “under the knife”? By this I mean to have an operation where the surgeon, using his scalpel, cuts into you. The procedure, although intended for good, is an intrusion into the body, which the body does not like. I remember a doctor saying to me that when assisting a surgeon in an operation, her task was to sew up the wound the scalpel had made. On one occasion, her stitching was not as straight as the surgeon wanted it to be and made her redo the stitching.
The older translations of Acts 5 verse 33 has “were cut to the heart”, literally meaning … “to saw asunder”.
Ac 5:33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
In our Bibles, this phrase is only used here and when Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, had preached to the fanatical Jews:
Ac 7:54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
One could say that they were so angry they were stabbed in the heart and conscience. Their rejection of the Gospel message, which included their role in Jesus’ crucifixion made them mad, red hot, boiling with wrath! We need to be careful that when we become angry, which generally is sin, that we do not permit our emotions to get out of control to the extent that we become furious. These religious leaders allowed the truth, which they hated, to drive them to committing murder. Remember that murder is in the heart before it’s in the act.
1) In this case there was someone smart enough and spiritual enough to call for caution.
Ac 5:34 But 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.”
(1) Professor of Jewish Law. Gamaliel was recognized as one of the best religious teachers in the First Century. He taught Paul.
Ac 22:2 Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
Without realizing it, he had a profound effect upon the Christian Church through Paul, who had not only been taught by him … he groom Paul in good doctrine, who in turn taught doctrine to the Early Church through his writings, influenced by the Holy Spirit. His knowledge of Jewish history was outstanding. Two things jump to mind here. The first is that good Biblical Doctrine is so important in a world where people design their own style of Christianity to suit themselves and their morality. The second is that history is important, especially Biblical History and that of the Early Church up to today. My pennies’ worth is that you need to choose good Reformed Historians to find a good Biblically based history.
(2) Gamaliel drawing from history.
Ac 5:36 “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.”
There is much discussion and debate about the accuracy and chronological difficulties associated with this man called Theudas. Without boring you with all these details, let me say that Luke himself was a professional as a doctor and historian. He declares under inspiration (as is Acts 536-37):
Lk 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Whatever controversy there is regarding accuracy and chronology, I accept the facts as we have it as true.
Ac 5:37 “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.”
There is little discussion about Judas the Galilean. Gamaliel introduces these two events, both well known to his audience as an introduction to:
Ac 5:38 “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.”
He applies these two cases to the apostles saying that if their preaching was man designed, like Theudas and Judas the Galilean it would fizzle out. He was totally right in this declaration. On the other hand, if it was from God there would be no stopping the progress and success of what the apostles were doing.
The concept in verse 39 is being a God fighter … fighting against God … and they knew what this would mean. There was sufficient information found in the Law of Moses how people angered God and what He did with them.
Today, we stand just over two thousand years down the line looking backwards at these words of Gamaliel. We are witnesses that the preaching of the apostles was from God. We follow the “Apostles Creed” which is a summary of their teaching. Christianity has changed the world. Not only through the Gospel were and are people saved … hospitals, schools, universities were started and many of the laws in so many countries have been shaped by the Bible. Christianity is the biggest religion … even though most of it is nominal. The very fact that history proves Christianity an act of God ought to mean we who are real Christians ought to push forward with vigor seeking the get the Gospel to the four corners of the world.
A confrontational question … “Why are we so laid back when we have the proven Truth of God, that when preached and received, pardons sin, saves souls and changes people, marriages, families, businesses, societies, etc.?”
My friends, let’s face it, everyone born again knows they have the Truth … there is no dispute. Then why are we so worldly and earthly minded? Why are we so materialistic? Why are we so secular? Why do we have so many pet idols? Is it not what Gamaliel said been proven right? Yes it is! We have the blessing of history on our side, yet we tend to lock the Gospel away in a safe. Are we selfish or are we afraid … or are we both? Why do we knowingly and purposefully keep people out of heaven because we don’t pray and share the Gospel? Do we not want to hear:
Mt 25:21 “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Glorious God, our loving, caring Heavenly Father, thank You for the Gospel, Your way of salvation that saved us. Inspire us to “go and make disciples” wherever we are found for Your Kingdom. Amen.