Read - Acts 5v27-42
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Sadducees had discovered that prison wasn't going to silence the Gospel. What was to be done? As the Apostles stood before them, the Sadducees warned these upstarts once again that they had been told not to speak of Christ (v28). Standing before any earthly authority is intimidating and yet the Apostles didn't lose their voice. "We must obey God rather than men" said Peter (v29), before once again proclaiming Christ (v30-32).
At this stage the Sadducee's thinking moved from prison to threats and now to murder. The council were so enraged that they wanted to kill the Apostles (v33). Do you see how Satan will use any means to stamp out the message of the cross? He will do it by murder if necessary but he isn't against more mundane means either. Donald Grey Barnhouse, who was a Presbyterian minister in Philadelphia in the last century, was once asked what Philadelphia would be like if Satan took over. Perhaps his answer might surprise you, he said "if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, 'Yes, sir' and 'No, ma'am,' and the churches would be full every Sunday...where Christ is not preached."
Satan doesn't care how he does it but the aim of the enemy is to see the Gospel silenced. By fair means or foul he longs for Christ's name to be forgotten.
No blood would be shed on this occasion. A leading rabbi by the name of Gamaliel speaks to the council privately (v34). Gamaliel was a Pharisee, known in history as Gamaliel the Elder and the teacher of none other than the Apostle Paul (Acts 22v3). He has a cool head and brings much needed wisdom to the council. He reminds them that other troublesome groups have come before. A man named Theudas had risen up with four hundred followers, but Theudas was killed and his followers scattered (v36). Then came Judas the Galilean but he too was killed and his followers dispersed (v37).
Gamaliel's point is to keep away from the Apostles. Time would tell if they would fail like Teudas or Judas, or perhaps time would should that their movement was from God (v38-39). If the Apostles worked on behalf of God, their movement wouldn't be stopped and any opponents would be opposing God Himself.
Gamaliel's wisdom did not fall on deaf ears. The Apostles were beaten and released and warned to stop preaching Christ (v40). They didn't listen and the two thousand years since have proved Gamaliel's point. We are told frequently in these days that Christianity is on the wrong side of history. Our critics believe we will one evolve past religion and we will leave Christian superstition behind. They are mistaken. The Gospel will be preached to the end of the age and will not be stopped. Gamaliel was right. The one who opposes God will not prosper. Only the one who trusts Christ will stand on the final day.
Q86 What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.