CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP
Yesterday we talked about the unstoppable Holy Spirit and how He just won’t be contained when it comes to fulfilling the mission of redemption of all creation. Today’s passage is very straightforward and reveals through the mouth of a revered pharisee, the truth that when God moves, no one can stop it!
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
Peter and John were ordered to not preach the name of Jesus but they responded with a simple answer, “We must obey God rather than men.” Though these men are the religious authorities of the time, the only thing that remains constant is that God’s authority rules over all. We are to respect all authority figures but if they directly come against the authority of God and asks us to disobey Him then we must by default choose to obey God.
TAKE AWAY: We respect all authority but must obey God’s over all when there is conflict.
32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Despite threats, imprisonments, beatings, and public humiliation, the disciples are operating from a sense of passion and conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit. The disciples are only testifying to what they experienced and know through the Holy Spirit. What is of interesting note is the fact that they state that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. The giving of the Holy Spirit started through obedience when the disciples followed the commandment to wait. Once they waited, they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach and perform miracles but what is consistent throughout the whole process is their continual obedience to God. To have the Holy Spirit is a tremendous honor and privilege and it is a gift of God unto man as an act of the relationship we now have through Jesus Christ. Yet this giving of the Spirit, this salvation through relationship is given to those who believe and are willing to obey God. The disciples serve as contrasting models to the religious leaders who know scripture but do not obey God for the sake to obey their own man made rules about God.
TAKE AWAY: The Spirit of God is given to those who believe and obey so let us learn the power of obedience to Jesus and His word through all of our decisions/actions.
35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
Gamaliel is one of the most respected rabbis of his time. When he speaks, everyone listens and he drops wisdom on the rest of the religious leaders who are being ruled by their emotions of murderous anger. He gives examples of other leaders in the past who rose up to start rebellious movements. All these movements stopped dead in their tracks the moment their leader died and thus was telling the religious leaders that if these apostles are doing this under their own power, then they will eventually fizzle out. But, the wise thing he said was that if they were wrong and that this is actually a move of God then they will have no hope of stopping it and find themselves in a situation where they will be coming against God Himself.
We know as readers of the story that this movement indeed is sourced from God and what is interesting about this situation is that Jesus did die and his disciples scattered in that moment but Jesus also rose from the grave to keep the movement alive!
So we know that the Pharisees are in big trouble as they are against the Lord but the advice from Gamaliel reveals the power of a God started movement. When we look at movements or trends that come from God, they do not or cannot be completely stopped for God is unstoppable. There have been nations throughout the history of man that tried to stamp out and systematically destroy Christianity but we see that those empires eventually fall but that the church still remains stronger than ever. Let us believe that the church is not a defenseless thing because God is it’s defender as long as the church remains as the church that has Christ at the center.
TAKE AWAY: God is task and promise finisher. What God starts He will not leave unfinished.
40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
They rejoiced when they were beaten… They rejoice and keep preaching because they are living with such great purpose that the struggles help fuel the drive to fulfill the mission. When you suffer with purpose than you are able to suffer well and suffer with passion. This seems strange but suffering is a key component of life because the struggle that is managed well actually is used for our growth. The reason why the apostles were able to rejoice was because they knew they were on the right track of obedience to Jesus because they are suffering like he did for all who are His disciples will not only share in His glory but also share in His sufferings; they go hand-to-hand.
TAKE AWAY: Consider it pure joy to suffer for the LORD for you will then know a level of intimacy and comfort that few are willing to fight to receive.