Gamaliel Fears No Fad
There is a known adage that says, “all truth is God’s truth.” Understood rightly, it is a wise saying. What we can take from this saying is that sometimes we learn great truths from unlikely persons. In this week’s sermon text, Acts 5:17-42, we can learn from Gamaliel, the honored and respected Pharisee within our text, who is a voice of reason during the trial of the apostles. While the High Priest and Sadducees want to extinguish the apostles and their movement, Gamaliel suggests allowing this Jesus movement to continue, “for if this plan or this undertaking is from man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them” (Acts 5:38-39).
Gamaliel had preceded this comment by reminding the council of Theudas and Judas the Galilean. These were two men who began revolutionary movements that essentially fizzled out when the revolutionary leaders died. But my assumption is that Gamaliel, being a scholar of the Hebrew scriptures, also recollected the reality that YHWH’s purposes always prevail. All that opposes God’s plan is either crushed or fades out eventually. Gamaliel suggests letting the movement play out. Instead of fear and jealousy, the levelheaded Pharisee becomes an example of resting confidently in God’s sovereignty, and not becoming a reactionary manic.
Let me give a personal example of learning from Gamaliel. As many of you know, Adia and I, like other parents, homeschool our children. There are various reasons we have decided to educate our kids at home, one obvious reason being the ability to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). This instruction includes helping our children (particularly when they are older) see the opposing philosophies of life through the lens of Scripture. But we are not called to instruct and homeschool out of fear. Indeed, the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sober mindedness (2 Timothy 1:7). We are not called to be reactionary. Rather we instruct with the confidence that all that opposes God ultimately “will fail” (Acts 5:39b). And this applies to all of life; whether we decide to homeschool, send our children to private or public school, we are not called to live in fear. We rest in our sovereign God who is not surprised by wicked ideologies nor is this God’s first rodeo. We live confidently knowing that God will continue to uphold His people and His Word.
What a simple lesson we can learn from an unlikely figure. Like Gamaliel, we the church can rest knowing that the church can never be overthrown for it is God who established her. We do not need to fearfully react to every revolution, philosophy, or ideology that stands against God and His Word. Though we may wrestle with truth-opposing ideas in the present and fight for truth when necessary, we wrestle with hope for we know that all that opposes God will ultimately come to a fatal end.