As humans we frequently generalize about all kinds of things. We make broad sweeping statements and too often it is wrong to do so. Paul pointed this out in the Bible when writing to Titus in Titus 1:12 saying,
One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
Were all people from Crete lazy, gluttons and liars? Of course not! But in such a generalization the whole race and population of Crete were damned in one fell swoop. And to do so is wrong, as we see here in this section of Acts 5.
Why do I say this? Because people have a tendency to damn the religious leaders of the Jews in the days of Christ and the Apostles calling them all to account. I know this because I do it myself and am as bad an example as anyone, so please forgive my errors as you read this post.
Because what we see in this section of scripture is that there were men who were leaders in the religious orders of the Pharisees who were indeed good and wise men. They were respected and held in high honour by all of the people and in this example we see the reason why for Gamaliel was a man of great wisdom.
The council of the leaders of the Jews had come together to stand in judgment against the apostles for preaching the name of Jesus and the way of life as proclaimed by Him. They had strictly charged and warned them not to preach Jesus to no avail.
Peter and the others stood opposed to the council for they had no intention of stopping their preaching of the Gospel, especially after an angel of the Lord freed them from prison and told them to continue to speak out boldly.
And what was the reaction of the council at hearing this? Verse 33 shows us, “When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them.” They had already succeeded in killing Jesus, as Peter pointed out. But now instead of just one man preaching the words of the Gospel, there were the twelve and others coming to this new teaching every day.
Under such circumstances what were the council to do? Where would they find the right way to handle this situation and a voice of wisdom to guide them? Enter Gamaliel!
Gamaliel was a leader of the Jews, a Pharisee and a teacher of the law. We see later on in Acts that it was at the feet of Gamaliel that Paul learned the law and the teachings of Judaism. Verse 34 in this section tells us that Gamaliel was held in high honour among the people and clearly his was a voice of reason in the council for when he spoke…they listened.
Gamaliel was a man who did not just have knowledge, but also had a mind of wisdom. He had seen similar situations to this one arise in the past where others had risen up proclaiming some teaching only to fail. So we see his wisdom in this situation as he said in verses 35-39,
35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men.
36 For before these days Theu’das arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.
37 After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail;
39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
Look at his counsel to the leaders. He had seen it all before and he knew without a doubt that if this message being taught by the apostles was motivated by men, then it would fail just as those previous uprisings had failed.
But then he also pointed out that if it was of God, there would be no stopping it and to make matters worse the council would be guilty of opposing the will of God.
The leaders listened. They did not kill the apostles and disciples but let them go their way. Although it was not a bed of roses for the apostles as the council had them beaten before letting them go and charging them strictly again not to preach the name of Jesus.
But the outcome of the words of Gamaliel is plain for all to see. Clearly the work was of God for here we are today discussing the work of these apostles and disciples and listening still to their preaching of the Gospel.
It was great wisdom spoken by Gamaliel with lessons we can all learn from.
First there is the matter I spoke of earlier. We cannot and should not ever generalize about people or groups of people. The council of the Jews had God fearing and wise people among them and we should also remember too that Nicodemus was also a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews and he was a convert to Jesus.
Then there is the lesson of Gamaliel to weigh things up and not allow emotion to colour our thoughts and opinions. It was evil emotion, anger, jealousy and envy that was driving the council to punish and seek to silence the apostles and disciples. But it was cold hard facts and a lack of emotions in the wisdom of Gamaliel that led them to a better place and a solution that they could not disagree with.
Emotions drive the passions, desires and lusts of humanity. Emotions cloud our mind, colour our thinking and blind us to the truth. But wisdom separates out emotion to enable us to see clearly and make right decisions based upon truth, justice and the will of God.
There is much we can and should learn from Gamaliel if we are diligent and listen. His words and his path in this example made a lot of sense then and still do today.
(Image sourced from stock.xchng provided by sbpp (real name not provided))
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