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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Acts 5:33-42 – Human wisdom and apostolic determination

Luke introduces his readers to a very important Jewish leader of the time called Gamaliel, who belonged to the Pharisees, the opposite party to the Sadducees in the Sanhedrin. He was a teacher of the law and he had realised one very basic principle. If a movement is not of God, it will come to nothing; if it is of God, no human agency can stop it. The Sanhedrin realised he had given wise advice, so they opted for minor punishment and a charge to cease preaching about Jesus.

Yet there are two other comments to make about Gamaliel’s wise advice. First, there are occasions when error does not disappear (the liberalism of the modern church is an obvious example), and where the truth does disappear (such as when churches do not continue in existence). Second, he took a neutral position and remained detached from Jesus himself. Human wisdom in itself is never a substitute for a relationship with Jesus.

How did the apostles respond to the Sanhedrin? We can summarise their response as delight and dedication. First, they realised that God had given them a great honour in suffering dishonour for the name of Christ. They had been given a great privilege, and they were aware of divine approval because they had the joy of the Lord as their strength. What could the authorities do with men who treated their threats with contempt and were marked with exuberant joy?

Second, they continued with their dedication to the Lord. They did not allow other people to affect in a negative way what they were called to do by their Master. Of course, the reason why they spoke so often about Jesus Christ was because they knew the gospel was true. It was not merely a theory. Instead they had grasped this wonderful reality that Jesus Christ was at work, gathering in his people, and nothing outside his kingdom could stop him.

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