6 May 2011

Acts 5:34-42

"but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them" (v. 39)


The first thing that strikes you when you read these verses (as inActs 4:15-17) is how did Luke (the author of Acts as well as the Gospel that bears his name) gives us the account of what Gamaliel said in the Sanhedrin behind closed doors (v. 34)? I suppose that one answer is that WikiLeaks is nothing new and we know how easily secret information can become public property.

Gamaliel presents an argument against killing the Apostles, reminding the Sanhedrin about previous revolts, which had been based on beliefs that individuals such as Theudas and Judas of Galilee were the prophesied Messiah (vv. 36-37), and which had collapsed quickly after the deaths of those individuals: "because if this plan or undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them" (vv. 38-39). Gamaliel's authority with his contemporaries was so great that they accepted his advice, regardless of how unwelcome it was.

The council calling the Apostles in, they first had them flogged, which would mean 39 lashes. The law itself means forty lashes less one (Deuteronomy 25:2-3). The term was meant to be a biblical one in that 40 lashes are what was determined enough to kill a man and thus 39 lashes was the most you give a man without declaring a penalty of death.

Then the Apostles were told, for a second time, not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The Apostles' reaction can only fill us with admiration they left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing (v. 41). This was an historic moment - for the first time Christians suffered in their bodies for their faith and honest preaching.

To Ponder

In its early days Methodism seen as an irritant by society. Methodism has stood the test of time but to what extent has it lost its cutting edge? What can Methodism do to regain it?

Should more Christians be involved in politics? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Steve Wild

Born in Rochdale, Steve Wild is a proud Lancastrian, but is at home in his adopted Cornwall where he is chair of district. Steve has been a Methodist minister since 1983 and has served in Cornwall, Preston and Cliff College (as tutor, connexional director of evangelism and acting principal).