Retaliation and Rejoicing (Acts 5:34-42)

January 26, 2014

Book: Acts

Retaliation and Rejoicing (Acts 5:34-42)
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Scripture: Acts 5:34-42


Sermon Notes

34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.

35 Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Peter had spoken to these guys earlier and been quite clear that THEY had condemned Jesus to death on the cross.

But he was equally clear that God was granting repentance through this – to the Jews first, then the Gentiles.

But it was clear that these guys weren’t ready to hear this at that time. They were furious – they wanted to kill them all. But then Gamaliel stood up and spoke and changed their minds.

He was a very respected man – grandson of Hillel (who had founded a school for Pharisees). Later, in Acts, Luke tells that Gamaliel had been Paul’s teacher. He was so respected that he was given the title “Rabban” – this is higher than “Rab” (teacher) or “Rabbi” (my teacher) – “Rabban” = (our teacher).

In other texts, it’s said that when he died, the glory of the Torah came to an end. These in the Sanhedrin can’t really take action without the help of Gamaliel. Even though Gamaliel is in the minority, he is more popular and respected among the people – so they would need his agreement to harm the apostles.

Gamaliel speaks and says, “If this is a human thing, it’ll fail. If it’s from God, it’ll never fail.”

He reminded them of the attempted Nazarene revolution and how the Romans would kill the leader and the revolution would fail.

Why would Gamaliel advocate leniency toward the apostles?

Previously, in the gospels, when the man was lowered through the roof for healing, Jesus forgave his sins first, then healed him physically to prove his authority to forgive sins.

Another instance (Luke 7:29-30) “All the people, when they heard Jesus’ words acknowledged that God’s way was right because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees…didn’t accept it because they hadn’t been baptized by John.” John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Renouncing sins, turning away and being prepared for the further ministry of Jesus.

So, on that occasion, the Pharisees didn’t agree with this.

Luke 11:37-41 – Jesus was invited to eat with a Pharisee. So he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash before the meal. (The Pharisees did a ritual cleansing – not because they were dirty – before meals) – Jesus said, “You guys clean the outside, but inside you are dirty and full of wickedness. Did not he who made the outside also make the inside? So be kind to the poor and all will go well with you.”

Gamaliel must have also been on the counsel when they condemned Jesus and handed him over for crucifixion. So, he hadn’t helped Jesus out at that time, but now he’s trying to help these guys? What’s up with that?

Well maybe not all the Pharisees hated Jesus. Remember Nicodemus? John 3? “How can I be born again?” Jesus said, “Unless you’re born of the Spirit, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God, or even see it.”

New biography of C.S.Lewis – how he first came to believe in Christ. He believed in God – he was a theist – but he didn’t know where Jesus fit in. Lewis, “I was on my way to the zoo – BAM – on the way home, I knew it.” (Revelation of God after God had been working on his heart for a while). For some people, this is gentler, for some it’s very dramatic, but ALL people must believe and accept this truth to become NEW – old has gone, new has come. We are new creations.

Later on, after the outpouring of the HS, many Pharisees became Christians (Acts 15:5) – they still had trouble breaking away from their legalism, but many were added to their number.

Gamaliel, as a Pharisee, would be more sympathetic to those who preached about the Resurrection (remember Sadduccees didn’t believe in angels or demons or the resurrection).

After the martyrdom of Steven, Gamaliel probably gave approval to persecute the church. So, was Gamaliel’s help here tinged with personal interests?

He probably didn’t want to get involved in a situation that would end up having bad political influences on the Jews. (Plus, those other two guys’ revolutions came to nothing).

Anyway, he persuaded them, and they flogged the apostles (39 lashes – 40 should kill a man, so they were nice and let them live by a thread).

Paul later says in a letter, “5 times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus 1.”

The apostles rejoiced in being counted worthy to be persecuted for Jesus’ name. Jesus also said this, Matthew 11 “Blessed are you when men despise you and curse you…”

We should realize that we can forgive, we can overcome addition, through Jesus help.

Recap the chapter:

  1. An angel of the Lord releases the apostles from prison and they go back to the temple and begin to teach the people the full message of salvation and the New Life in Christ.
  2. Some men were supposed to go to the prison to get them and bring them before the Sanhedrin for trial. But they guys weren’t there. So, they had to go back to arrest them again.
  3. The apostles don’t resist arrest.
  4. The High Priest says, “We ordered you: Don’t do that!”
  5. Peter says, “We must obey God, not you dudes.”
  6. The priest want to kill them.
  7. Gamaliel says, “Yo! Let it be~”

Ananias and Sapphaira (supplement)

There is a danger in neglecting (not continuing) our salvation.

Some believers can quote the Scripture, “If you know the truth, the truth will set you free” but they aren’t free, why not?

They should really remember the previous verse, “IF you CONTINUE in my Word…”

It’s in the continuing and progressive truth that we will be set more and more free.

There is a danger of demonic control of the saints – losing control. It’s important to know that your openness to attack or wounding is present. Luke – there was a woman who’d been sick for 18 years be a spirit. She was bent over double – it was caused by a demon. She was a “daughter of Abraham” – a believer – but she had a problem. As soon as Jesus dismissed the spirit from her, she was able to be physically healed.

Peter is an example of a believer who lost control to Satan for a short time. Jesus says, “Peter, Satan will sift you.” (Separate the wheat chaff (rejects) from the grain (to make flour)). Jesus is warning Peter that Satan has demanded permission to sift him. Apparently he’d given Satan a foothold when they were arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest (pride). This may have opened a door to allow Satan to come in to influence him.

Even though Peter says, “I’ll stand with you to death.” Jesus says, “You’ll deny me three times.” But Jesus had already prayed for Peter’s successful restoration – which he achieved after meeting the resurrected Jesus.

Eph 6:10-17 (The Full Armor of God)

To stand against the schemes, the whiles, the strategies of Satan. Why? To protect the body from the arrows of the enemy.

1. The Belt of Truth (believing the doctrine of the gospel – also inner truth – to bring our lives into conformity with the truth – don’t allow deception to grab you). A&S were part of the church, taking part in the church – but they believed and told a lie and brought God’s judgment upon them and fear upon the church.

  • “In your anger, do not sin.” We can do something about our anger – someone cuts you off on the road, what should you do?
  • “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
  • “Don’t give the devil a foothold.”

We allow the devil an opportunity to tempt and influence us if we don’t repent, confess, and shut that door.

It’s like someone who comes to your door selling something, and they stick their foot in your door and eventually, this “foothold” becomes a stronghold when they get IN your house.

Don’t allow him in – not EVEN a foothold. Shut that door!

1 Peter 5:6-9

“Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (1 Cor 15:54) “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (same word).

Devoured = something is controlled by something else. For example, a python that eats a gazelle. The animal is being swallowed up.

Peter “Resist. Steadfast in the faith.”

This is about believers.

Unbelievers are already in the grasp of Satan.

Perhaps Peter is remembering his own failures. So he says, “Humble yourselves and he will lift you up in due time.”

A&S conceived their lie in their hearts and Satan fueled and filled their hearts to make a massive deception. Actually, the church is filled with deception. The global church in fact…

The days are evil.

We don’t have to get bogged down in fear, but rejoice in Christ’s truth – because that truth will set us free.

Like the disciples, we can rejoice in our sufferings because it is Christ alone who breaks our bonds and sets us free.

Let’s pray.