Acts: Coming to the defense

From Journey the Word

The doctor speaks in defense of the apostles | Acts 5:24-42: “Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

Someone had heard that the apostles were teaching in the temple, and went to tell the officials in the prison that the apostles were at the temple. Therefore, the temple leaders left the prison and returned to the temple to find the story true. Soon after arriving, the apostles were captured and taken to the council to be questioned.

The apostles gave their usual testimony of the reason for their faith (see also 1 Peter 3:15). This shocked the temple leaders, which made them feel incredible hostility against the apostles. Gamaliel, a Pharisee, stood up and testified about other people, and told the temple leaders these apostles were similar to those other people who come with their religious things, but if it is not of God, it will not last. On the other hand, if the teaching does prosper, then it must be of God. It would not be wise, he asserts, to fight against God (paraphrased).

Considering what Gamaliel said, the temple leaders warned the apostles again not to speak of Jesus anymore. This time, the apostles were tortured, which appeared to be the first time Christians were tortured for their belief in Jesus. And still… The apostles continued to preach and teach about Jesus Christ in various venues.

Prophetic notes: We see the continual shape of Ezekiel 17:22-24 being formed, as the scripture prophesies that from the Davidic line (of kings) shall God take one, the Messiah (who we call Jesus Christ), and establish a new Kingdom that will bring blessing upon the entire world. The main portion here that is fulfilled is in verse 23, where it states, that they shall dwell in the shadow of the branches. Jesus notes this in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus states He will build His Church upon Himself (Jesus is the rock after all), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It appears Gamaliel was sent by God to save His apostles from harm or punishment (as the temple leaders wanted to kill the apostles for their “heresy” to the Jewish law).