The Jealousy of the Leaders Part 6 of 8
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
There is no reason to suggest, however, that Gamaliel was ever a believer—either publicly or secretly; but he was used by God at this critical moment in the lives of the apostles, to preserve their lives and deliver them from the Sanhedrin. God moves in mysterious ways! On one occasion in the Old Testament God used a donkey to accomplish his purpose (Num. 22.21-33). He used a rooster to remind Peter of the words of Jesus (Matt. 26.34, 35, 74, 75). Without a doubt, He could speak to the heart of such a man as Gamaliel and lead him to speak words that would capture the minds of those who wanted to kill His apostles! And because of the words spoken by this outstanding man, the Israelites were granted another opportunity to hear the truth, receive the grace of God, and be saved. Josephus tells us that the Pharisees were small in number, but their influence with the people was so great that any advice they offered had to be considered.
“Gamaliel . . . commanded to put the Apostles forth a little space” means that Gamaliel wants the apostles excused so that he can talk to the Sanhedrin without them being present. Since Gamaliel was a Pharisee and the leader of the liberal sector of the Pharisees, he did not see eye-to-eye with the Sadducee majority on several critical areas of Jewish theology, therefore he probably didn’t want to see the Sadducees win any victories. As a scholar, he was so highly esteemed by the people that he received the honorable title of “Rabban” (our teacher); but he was rather liberal in his application of the Law, and apparently moderate in his approach to problems. “When Rabban Gamaliel died the Elder died,” said the Jews, “the glory of the Law ceased and purity and abstinence died.”
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
Notice that Gamaliel did not address them as “Ye Sadducees,” or “Ye Pharisees”; instead he addressed them as “Ye men of Israel”; and then he gave reasons why they should be careful concerning what they did to these apostles who were preaching in the name of the One whom these “men of Israel” had crucified. The “men of Israel” are the people to whom God had promised the Messiah
Gamaliel’s advice was unwise and dangerous, as we shall see as we continue this study; but God used it to save the apostles from death. The fact that the Sadducees took the advice of a Pharisee shows how distinguished a man Gamaliel was.
36 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.
37 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.
Here Gamaliel assures the Sanhedrin that pretenders will come to naught (nothing), and names a man they were familiar with—“Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody.” The Jews were looking for their Messiah, and when Theudas came on the scene with his false claims, four hundred men joined him—an impressive number of followers in those days. Today there are men in America who claim everything Jesus claimed except the virgin birth—and personally, I look for some false teacher to come on the scene soon who will even announce that he is virgin born! In these closing days of the Dispensation of Grace we have—not four hundred, but literally, thousands who are following men instead of following THE MAN, Christ Jesus.
Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin that Theudus was slain, and his followers “were scattered and brought to naught.” After Theudus and his followers passed off the scene, there rose up “Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing,” and he, too, built up quite a following—“he drew away much people after him.” This second man that rose up was from Galilee—as was the Lord Jesus. He came into prominence “in the days of the taxing.” Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem during the days of the taxing. So we see how the devil does his best to counterfeit everything God has done down through the history of man.
This Judas of Galilee perhaps had a larger following than Theudus had, and history tells us that his cry was, “We have God as our only leader and Lord!” He was fanatical and his followers were fanatical and revolutionary; but, he too, perished and “as many as obeyed him were disbursed.” The uprising led by Judas was much more serious than what is implied here, and his followers were not completely exterminated, because the “Zealots” originated with them, and they were largely responsible for the movement which eventually led to the great rebellion and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The argument that Gamaliel made is simply that if Jesus is, like Theudus and Judas, a mere imposter, His cause will as rapidly collapse as theirs did. However, such incidents as these made the Jewish leaders fearful of what might become of the preaching of these apostles concerning Jesus of Nazareth whom they declared had risen from the dead and at that very moment was seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. They were preaching in His name, great crowds were following them, and members of the Sanhedrin were frightened of the outcome. Then Gamaliel spoke, using these former false leaders as examples, warning the council to proceed slowly and carefully in opposing the apostles.
Some supposed-to-be Bible authorities declare that the account of Gamaliel does not correspond historically with the account given by Josephus and other historians of that day. Be that as it may, the words in the book of Acts are God inspired, and the words of Josephus and other writers of secular history are not inspired, however trustworthy they may be. Personally, I do not find it difficult to accept what is written in the Bible over and above any statement in history or in secular literature because, from Genesis through Revelation I believe every word is the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3.16 declares, “All Scripture is given BY INSPIRATION OF GOD,” and in 2 Peter 1.21 we read, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were MOVED BY THE HOLY GHOST.”
According to history and Jewish literature, there were numerous false leaders who came on the scene announcing that they were the Messiah, and Jesus tells us that in the closing days of this dispensation there will be men who will claim to be the Christ, and they will deceive many and lead them astray. To his disciples, He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 23.4, 5, 23, 24).
The apostle Paul warned “that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4.1). John the Beloved also warned, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). True believers know that the schemes and efforts of evil men cannot destroy that which is of God. Empires built by the design of men, regardless of their power and glory, invariably crumble and come to amount to nothing—a fact substantiated both in Scripture and through the pages of secular history. There are evil men among us today who are antichrists—not THE Man of Sin, the false Messiah, but his forerunners. They are the antichrists (plural) of whom John wrote—men who deny that Jesus is the Son of God, virgin born, very God in flesh. THE Antichrist, the Man of Sin, will be unveiled after the Rapture of the Church. (Please study 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2.)
And what would the attitude of believers be toward the false teachers among us today? The answer is found in the Word of God. The duty of the Church is NOT to judge men, but to lift up THE Christ and glorify HIM. Believers are to give out the Gospel, and allow the judgment of GOD to fall upon false teachers. Scripture points out that we are to have no fellowship with such men, because God commands His people, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord . . . and touch not the unclean thing . . . " (2 Cor. 6.17).
In 2 John 9-11 we have this warning: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”
We are to preach the truth; and when we do that, we have no need to deal in personalities. We need only to await the manifestation of truth in that which is doubtful, for the truth will rise, and will point out false teachers.
You may recall that back in verse 35 I said, “Gamaliel’s advice was unwise and dangerous”; now I will explain what I meant.
In spite of the fact that Gamaliel tried to use cool logic instead of overheated emotions, his approach was still wrong. To begin with, he automatically classified Jesus with two rebels, which means he had already rejected the evidence. To him, this “Jesus of Nazareth” was only another zealous Jew, trying to set the nation free from Rome. But did Theudus or Judas ever do the things Jesus did? Were they raised from the dead? With a clever twist of bad logic, Gamaliel convinced the council there was really nothing to worry about! Troublemakers come and go, so be patient.