Acts 5: 33-42
Peter's message resulted in the rulers wanting to kill the apostles.
The Sadducees said, "Let's get rid of them!
Let's put an end to this right now.
They say they believe in the resurrection, so let's see how much they really believe.
Let's put an end to this sect called, The Way."
Look at the scene in the Sanhedrin.
There were Pharisees within the Sanhedrin, the seventy member council that led Israel,
but the Sadducees controlled it.
The Sadducees maintained that control because they were wealthy and had allied with Rome.
They were theological liberals, rejecting the concepts of resurrection and angelic beings.
The Pharisees were political traditionalists.
They were purists concerning the law, and they were nationalistic.
They believed that Israel should exist apart from Rome's authority.
They strongly denounced the Sadducees for collaborating with Rome
for political and economic advantage.
The Sadducees were influential with the Sanhedrin and with Rome,
but had little influence on the common people.
The Pharisees influenced the people.
Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, said that the Sadducees would often acquiesce
to the demands of the Pharisees because of their popularity.
That's what happened in Acts 5.
The people were open to Christianity because their friends and family members were being healed.
The Pharisees knew that if they persecuted the Christians, they would lose favor with the people
and they did not want that to happen.
The Sadducees knew the people respected the Pharisees, so they frequently gave in to them
hoping to stay in good standing with the people.
Rabbi Gamaliel, knowing all this, stood to speak.
Since he was a Pharisee, he had a strong influence on the people, so the Sadducees listened.
Verse 34 says he was "a teacher of the law."
The Talmud, the rabbinical writings of Judaism, calls him "Rabban Gamaliel the Elder."
Rabban was reserved for the most eminent teachers of Israel (cf., John 20:16).
Tradition states he was the grandson of Hillel, one of Israel's greatest teachers.
Speaking of his death in [SC] A.D. 52 the Talmud says, "When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died,
regard for the Torah [the study of the Law] ceased, and purity and piety died" (Sotah).
Paul once studied under Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3)
Gamaliel pleaded for them to "leave them alone." (Verse 38)
That advice has been called, "the famous counsel of indecision."
Gamaliel explains his method of reasoning.
For him there are only two possibilities and only two conclusions.
1. If this ministry is of men, it will be overthrown. And this is certainly true.
Every religion, every ministry, every church that is built upon men will go down in defeat.
2. The other side of his argument is, "If it is of God, you cannot overthrow it."
And this is certainly true.
It is to Gamaliel's credit that he kept cool.
He did calm the fanatics who were crying for blood -- the blood of the apostles.
This advice sounded reasonable and the Sanhedrin accepted it.
God used Gamaliel to save the lives of the apostles.
Let's notice his advice.
1. "If it been men, it will be overthrown."
This is certainly true.
But the only oversight in Gamaliel statement is that he did not say, "when".
He and the entire Sanhedrin may be dead and gone by the time this thing,
if it is human could be overthrown.
The question for Gamaliel and this Sanhedrin was: how long could they wait.
Just think how long many pagan religions have endured -- Mohammedism, Confucianism,
Buddhism, and many cults of today.
Mark Twain said, "A lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on her shoes".
Just because these belief systems exist doesn't mean that they're from God.
Is this the way we are to approach life, "if it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't"?
Prov 27:12: "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished."
Sometimes God wants us to react and respond to something that's not right.
And we must!
God will overthrow every false religion, but He would not have us wait in indecision
until that the final proof is produced?
2. The other alternative is equally faulty.
"If it is of God, you cannot overthrow it." And that is true.
Then, should they do nothing?
Should we in the face of tremendous decisions, false religions, and a wicked world
just sit on the sidelines and wait and wait and wait?
With such indecision we are acting as though God will not equip us
with the means to make right decisions.
Gamaliel's principle can't be used to evaluate what's happening now.
Many things God hates are successful in the world's viewpoint.
For example, the Sanhedrin was still an active religious force in Israel
although it was instrumental in Christ's death.
Today there are tremendously successful movements that God has nothing to do with.
Gamaliel's idea was to wait and see.
He witnessed the healings and miracles.
He knew of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His empty grave.
What was he waiting to see?
What more did he need to see?
The only way to judge something accurately is by comparing it with Scripture.
If Gamaliel were a true teacher of Israel, he should have recommended that the council
study the Old Testament text to see if this new teaching was biblical.
Jesus said, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." (Luke 24:25)
A master of Scripture would have known that Jesus fulfilled every Messianic prophecy.
Instead Gamaliel made a weak application of poor theology.
We must not be stymied as we face the tremendous issues of life and death.
We cannot, like Gamaliel, think that God can provide us with only two alternatives.
We must not think that our great God is limited with our indecision of either -- or.
Some think that Gamaliel had a glimpse of the principal
that force is powerless against truth, and maybe he did.
Some think that Gamaliel is giving Christianity the benefit of the doubt.
This is not the case.
Gamaliel is advice was the advice of the cautious.
"Be careful with those men."
Be careful with those men who have their place, their influence, and their work.
This is what he was saying.
Cautious people may wisely check those who are too impulsive
by acting like brakes on a car, which is going too fast.
Cautious people also lack the capacity to enjoy the great emotions,
the great enthusiasm of others, and the great progress of others.
The cautious usually fall back on precedent.
Gamaliel finds instances that had recently occurred, and argues from them
as modern lawyers do in the cases they cite.
Precedents are often very valuable, but much progress has been hindered by the cautious
relying on past precedents.
Precedents can be hinder success and growth.
Precedents can bring doubt to those of faith in the living God.
The cautious usually place great confidence in the working of natural forces.
Gamaliel is urging them to wait and watch the working of things.
Religious excitement will usually exhaust itself, and people will get back into their routines.
But zealous men cannot wait for the outworking of natural forces.
With faith in the God of righteousness, God's people must enter into the warfare
against evil and sin as the redeeming force of the Lord.
The cautious are afraid to arouse public excitement or enthusiasm.
There is danger in enthusiasm and emotionalism, but there are even worse evils
in the stagnant, cautious attitude.
Tremendous excitement alarms those who fear anything new or different.
The cautious would repress revival, and special missions.
The blazing fires of revival terrorize them with fear.
They love the staid, stagnant, "business as usual".
They are scared to death when the winds of revival and renewal begin to blow.
They are afraid of change.
Gamaliel is advice is true as far as it goes, but it relys on false principles and has a false view of duty.
What business did Gamaliel have in peddling his "ifs."
They should have been meeting to settle their, "ifs," not to accept them.
They had Christ's life, death, and resurrection before them.
They even had recent miracles which they had investigated and could not disprove.
Gamaliel should have recognized the claims of Jesus.
He should have sided with the apostles.
He should have shouted so loud that the whole world could hear, "I believe!"
But he compromised as many are doing today.
He advised neutrality, and that advice is wrong.
God is never satisfied with compromise.
God demands commitment.
It is impossible to take a neutral position in relation to Christ.
Jesus said, "He that is not with me, is against me."
This is what Gamaliel did not see.
There is no middle ground.
Gamaliel belongs to that class of people who have before them
the most convincing evidence, and yet, still demand more.
The cautious demand to see more and more signs.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, and evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign;
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah...
three days and nights in the whale's belly.
And the Son of Man three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Many people today hide the same way Gamaliel did -- waiting to see.
They aren't ready to follow Jesus Christ.
Paul knew more than his teacher.
He said, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2)
Paul's is saying, "Don't wait! Don't delay! Don't wait until it's too late."
On the night of October 8, 1871, Dwight L. Moody was preaching in Chicago.
He told his audience to go home and think about what he had said.
That was the night of the Great Chicago Fire.
Half his congregation died.
Moody never told anyone else to wait again.
Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin had been presented all kinds of evidence -- convincing evidence.
And their reaction was, "Kill them! Kill the evidence!
If we accept the evidence, we will be compelled to surrender our authority
to the King of king's -- kill them!"
Gamaliel said, "Leave them alone. We must be careful.
Oh yes, there is some evidence, but let us just wait and see."
Gamaliel lacked one thing.
He lacked the consciousness of sin.
His office and work as a Pharisee blinded him to his guilt.
He, like the other Pharisees, believed that their work was more important than any other.
And they believed that they were better than others.
There are many like Gamaliel, who would say, "But I am a good person."
List all of your good qualities.
Put your best works on that list.
God's Word says that they add up to nothing good -- nothing at all.
God's Word says that our best righteousness is as filthy rags.
Gamaliel and all like Gamaliel need one person -- Jesus!
And all who are here without Christ need Him as your personal Saviour.
I would say to every Christian that you cannot live with Gamaliel's advice.
Jesus was told at the feeding of the 5000 by his disciples,
"Send them away! Leave them alone!"
Jesus didn't leave them alone.
And neither did the apostles.
They knew that they had been called by God to a mission to witness of Jesus.
And nothing would stand in their way -- not orders from the Jewish officials,
not the threat of persecution or even death.
The apostles knew that God had given them a mission and that He would provide the resources
for them to carry out their mission.
The apostles proclaimed: "We must obey God rather than men."
This should be our cry!
We must tell our world of Jesus and do what God commands us to do no matter what the circumstance.
After Gamaliel's spoke the Sanhedrin decided to release the apostles.
Gamaliel's speech persuaded them against execution.
The apostles escaped death, but not persecution.
Again, the religious leaders warned them not to speak of Jesus any more.
To remind them of those words they had each of them bend at the waist to be flogged or whipped.
The one administering the punishment stood up on a rock.
That gave him more leverage to crack the whip across their backs.
Each one got 26 lashes on their bare backs, and 13 across their chests.
The apostles went away bleeding, but alive.
They continued to speak about Jesus, and this was the result.
Did they consider carefully the consequences of their actions?
Oh yes, I believe they did!
They knew their faith might bring them pain and death.
The apostles considered the consequences of sharing the gospel.
Over and over the Sanhedrin warned them not to speak about Jesus.
In spite repeated warnings they obeyed the Lord.
The consequences become more and more severe, but they continue to witness of Jesus.
What will we do?
Every day decide what to do.
Some choices are trivial and others are critical.
We choose to be honest or dishonest.
We choose to help someone in need, or ignore them.
We choose to speak about Jesus, or not to do so.
We decide to obey God or men!
Let's consider carefully the consequences of what we do.
Will we throw out a life-line to rescue those who are drowning in sin and death?
Or will we just pass by on the other side as if to say, "Just let them die!"
Do we care where they will spend eternity?
Sermon by Dr. Harold L, White
Email Dr. White at email@example.com