I have been reading through the book of Acts as my church has embarked on our journey of rebirth. I have always found it interesting how the experiences in our lives have a dramatic effect on the lens through which we look at Scripture. There are passages that I have read many times which have had little impact on me in past readings that all of a sudden stand out to me because of what I have or am experiencing.
Acts 5 was one of those passages. The apostles have faced persecution and the Sanhedrin want to take them down. As the apostles stand in front of the Sanhedrin, Peter does not back down from the task that he feels called to: preaching Jesus Christ. This infuriates these religious leaders, but among them is one who is able to think more clearly without allowing his passion to get the best of him. His name is Gamaliel.
He addresses his colleagues with the following:
“Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Among the greatest apologetics for Christianity has been this argument, similar to what Gamaliel brought to the Sanhedrin, if it were not true, how would it have survived such persecution? Gamaliel and his colleagues have seen others come and go who have had a message to bring. When these leaders were killed, their movements stopped and they were no longer a threat. So, his deduction is this: if what these men are doing is of their own making, it will fail, but if it is from God, not only will it succeed but opposition to it will be worthless.
As I read this I was humbled at the thought that, as Scripture says, unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. How important it is to commit our ways and our plans to God, not to ask for His blessing but to make sure that they are not simply our plans, but His plans. If they are His, will there be the possibility of failure? If they are ours, will there be the possibility of success?