“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.” (Acts 5:38–39, AV)
The Jewish religious council, on several occasions, attempted to stop the apostles from preaching the gospel in Jerusalem. However, they could do nothing to stop them. Not even keeping them in jail, for an angel of the Lord released them in the middle of the night and they resumed teaching in the Temple.
The council again confronts and orders them to stop preaching. However, Peter, rather than stop, begins to preach to the council members. This enrages the members and they seek to kill the Apostles. However, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a member of the council stops them. Here we see his wisdom.
In this time, the Roman Empire controlled Judea. However, Rome elected to have this province self-govern in civil affairs, which included religious matters. The Jewish religious council, referred to as the Sanhedrin, governed in these civil matters. The Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members from both the Sadducees and Pharisees. Gamaliel was a Pharisee who sat on the council, a noted teacher, who had instructed the Apostle Paul in his pre-conversion days.
At this time, there were three major Jewish sects, the Sadducees, Pharisees and the Essenes. We do not hear anything of the Essenes in the New Testament, as they were religious separatists. However, their doctrine focused upon God’s sovereignty in all things. The Sadducees, on the other hand, focused upon man’s freewill; they denied the existence of angels, demons, and the resurrection. The Pharisees took a middle road position, believing that spiritual forces did exist, that there would be a future resurrection, and that God was sovereign and worked providentially in the affairs of men. Gamaliel’s council flows forth from correct Pharisaic doctrine, and the council took his advice.
What is the point? Man will never be able to stand in the way of what God choses to do. Throughout history, men have attempted to stop the movement of Christianity. All attempts have failed. Persecution could not stop it. In fact, in the midst of persecution, the church seems to thrive. For example, in 303 AD, Diocletian, of Rome, sought to destroy every Bible. He presumed that he did so. However, a few years later Constantine came to power and made Christianity the state religion.
A report indicates a French unbeliever named Voltaire sought to oppose the teaching of Christianity. He declared that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would be extinct. He died in 1778. The report indicates that 50 years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his house and printing press to produce stacks of Bibles. While the details of this are unconfirmed, we know that the British and Foreign Bible Society, the French Bible Society, and today the French Protestant Federation have set up ministry in his former residence.
Christ calls every believer to join Him in an unstoppable mission. No force can stop the gospel. Jesus said it. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, AV).
We are on a mission with a guarantee of victory. Never fear failure.