33] When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34] Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35] And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36] For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 37] After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38] And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39] But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found to fight against God.”
The Scripture for this post follows the apostles’ brave assertion that “we ought to obey God rather than men,” v. 29, and gives us the reaction of the nation’s spiritual leaders. Instead of repenting, they became furious – often the reaction when error is confronted by truth – and wanted to kill the apostles, only being prevented from this by the counsel of Gamaliel, a Pharisee. The leaders of the council were all Sadduccees, who believed nothing about the supernatural. As a Pharisee, Gabriel would have believed in such things. We read of several Pharisees who were saved, Saul of Tarsus [a student of Gamaliel] notable among them, but there are no records of Sadduccees ever being converted.
Recounting some historical incidents of men who had rebelled and had been defeated, Gamaliel warned the council, saying, “keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found to fight against God, vs. 38, 39.
“If it is of God, you cannot overthrow it….”
There is no further record of Gabriel, so we don’t know if he became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, but he had a higher view of God than many who do claim to follow Him. In no way do I deny the responsibility of men to obey God; what I do deny is that their rebellion and sin in any way defeats or derails the purpose of God for this wicked world – or for them.
This is not fatalism – that it doesn’t matter what we do. It does matter.
We live in perilous times. I’m afraid they’re going to get worse. Scripture says that men’s hearts will fail them because of the fearfulness of what they see, Luke 21:26. That verse probably doesn’t refer to this particular day of this year, but it will happen one day. The point is, Christians and unbelievers alike get so wrapped up in the happenings of this world that they forget about the next. Granted, unbelievers likely don’t believe in “next,” but Christians sometimes forget it, as well.
If I read The Revelation correctly, there is coming a terrible time in which the Devil will apparently have free reign and he will do everything he can to subvert and destroy mankind. However, he and all those who follow him will find out, sooner or later, that you cannot win when you fight against God.