Have you ever heard of Gamaliel? A respected Pharisaic leader, he was the apostle Paul’s teacher prior to conversion (Acts 22:3). In today’s reading, this wise rabbi advised the Jewish leaders not to put themselves in the position of fighting God. These men were strongly opposed to the new Christian faith, which had been flourishing (Acts 22:12–16). To counteract what they saw as a dangerous uprising, they arrested the apostles and threw them in prison. Of course, God’s purpose would not be thwarted, and He miraculously released them (Acts 5:17–26).
Then the situation grew even more intense. The religious leaders brought the apostles in for questioning before the high priest and were given a powerful evangelistic sermon (vv. 29–32). Instead of responding positively, they were furious and wanted to kill the apostles (v. 33)! Gamaliel stepped in as the voice of reason (vv. 34–39). Notice that he urges them to consider “carefully” (v. 35). He argued through logic and historical examples that they should not overreact.
After all, if this new movement was merely human, it would fail. But, Gamaliel cautioned, if it originated from God it would succeed and they would find themselves on the wrong side of history. Opposing God is never a good idea! It is interesting to note that Luke recorded this speech, given by an unbeliever, as a standard by which to judge the early church’s growth. Clearly, the success of the gospel wasn’t a human thing but a work of God! Persuaded by Gamaliel’s words, the Jewish leaders ordered the apostles flogged instead. The apostles rejoiced to suffer for the name of Christ and continued preaching the good news of salvation (vv. 40–42).
>> Peter and the other apostles show us how to respond to suffering and persecution—with faith and joy. We, too, should say: “We must obey God rather than human beings” (v. 29). What situation in your life today calls for this kind of biblical courage?
As you read today’s passage from Acts 5, pray that the Lord will speak to you through the courage of the apostles and the wisdom of Gamaliel. May we grow in courage and obedience to His Word!