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Unashamed Wisdom

Acts 5:34-39
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: 'Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 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. 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. 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. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.' (NIVUK)

It is difficult to admit that we may be wrong. Until the time of this Council, meeting as a court to stop the Apostles speaking about Jesus, dissenters had been silent. We know that two members, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea personally buried Christ's body (John 19:38-42). Now Gamaliel voiced his concerns. Interestingly, this distinguished rabbi also tutored the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:3).

Gamaliel was a senior Council member, well respected for his wisdom. He understood from the Old Testament Scriptures that when God acts, nothing can stop Him (Isaiah 14:27); and that when humans claim to work for God, but are unauthorised, their initiative always fails (Numbers 16:1-50). The old rabbi cited two recent cases of two men who claimed to be leaders sent by God. They were killed, their followers fled and their enterprise collapsed.

But Jesus was different. He also led disciples, claiming to be God's Son (Luke 22:70). He was killed but then rose from the dead and His followers continued His work with great power. Gamaliel's point was that the Council need not trouble about stopping His followers. If they did not have God's authority, their failure would be obvious. Punishing them would be counter-productive as that would stir the crowds; but more importantly, if God had authorised them, the Council would be fighting against Him.

Although we see much wickedness entrenched in our world, apparently stable and even growing (2 Timothy 3:12-13), there is a natural end to everything God has not authorised. Either it fails or it is finally judged by God; unless the perpetrators repent and seek forgiveness through Christ. On the other hand, God is still at work in this world and people either work with Him or fight against Him. True wisdom understands how to handle information and circumstances in the light of God's character and Word. Jesus was filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40) as were the Apostles (Colossians 1:28). You can recognise true wisdom; it is, “… first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17). So, if you lack wisdom, ask God (James 1:5).

God of all wisdom. Thank You for always knowing what is right. Forgive me for the times when I have made assumptions without discerning Your Will, acted without seeking Your guidance, and worked without Your authority. I admit my lack of wisdom. I ask You to fill me with Your wisdom, and teach me how to work with You and not against You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams