SUNDAY, JUNE 23
Scripture: Acts 5:33-39, Acts 22:1-8
In Acts 5:33-39, we run into another one of Israel’s upper crust, a leading rabbi named Gamaliel who was a teacher of the law and respected by all the people. In verse 33 we see major persecution was about to begin against the early church, “When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.’” Now the real question is, where did that wisdom come from? It doesn’t appear that Gamaliel was a believer at this stage, so where did his wisdom come from? In Acts 22:1-8 Paul was on trial and giving his testimony before the crowd. In verses 3-5 he said, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.” Paul’s teacher was Gamaliel! Gamaliel knew he had taught him well, and watched Paul achieve leading status among the Jews for Paul’s zeal in killing Christians. He then had to witness Paul’s salvation and his dramatic transformation. This perhaps clarifies where Gamaliel’s wise counsel came from. God loves to save the lowest of the low, because humility comes easily. But the only way He saves the wealthy and elite is when people choose to bow their knee and humble themselves, and it is far more difficult for the powerful and influential to reach that place. Acceptance is a gift for the humble heart!