“When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.””
If we were to expand the title for this reflection we might call it “Gamaliel Stood Up: And What happened Next.” It seems that Luke as is his pattern has a bigger purpose behind this account than what appears on the surface. The structure of the passage has a repetition of the term “rises up” in verse 17 where the Sadducees rise up to persecute the Apostles, and verse 34 were Gamaliel rises up and is used of God to deliver the Apostles from death. It is interesting that the first deliverance from the jail in verse 19 was by an Angel of the Lord and that the following deliverance from the desire the Sanhedrin had to put them to death was by a leader of the Pharisees.
What Luke is telling us is that God uses a variety of means to accomplish His providential purposes in our lives. He even uses human means to work out His purposes in our lives. Each deliverance is clearly an answer to the prayer of the Church. The Church in Acts has been praying and God has been working. This passage is just one more example of this tremendous reality.
Someone once said that the account of any person’s conversion will always be a long story. There are many small details which if fully recounted would fit together to tell the story of how the Lord led us to Himself. Salvation is always of the Lord, but He does use means to accomplish His purposes of grace in our lives. Such is the case with the conversion story which Augustine tells us in his autobiography Confessions. In the eight book of that exploration of his life he tells us about the long story of his conversion which culminated in a day when he was reflecting in his garden and heard a child’s voice chanting “take up and read.” He picked up a Bible and read the passage which it opened up to. There he read from Romans 13:13-14 these words.
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
With these words from God’s Word Augustine’s long story of being brought to faith in Christ is brought to a glorious conclusion. I was reminded of this story as I was looking at what Luke introduces us to here in Acts five. We are given a glimpse into the teaching of Gamaliel as the Lord uses him to deliver the Apostles. In Acts 22:3 we then read this regarding the Apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) and his conversion story. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.” Saul, or Paul, was trained in the faith of the Pharisees by Gamaliel. Perhaps it was from Saul that Luke got the account of the closed meeting of the Sanhedrin which is recorded in chapter five. Perhaps what was said there had an impact upon the zealous young Pharisee. In short order in chapters eight and nine we read about a series of events that the Lord used to bring Saul to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful account of the means that the Sovereign Lord used to bring one man to faith in Himself. It is truly an account of what happens when that one man stands up. What has the Lord been doing in your life to bring you to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?