Bad Advice -- Good News

Acts 5: 33-42

Several amazing and miraculous things had happened before we come to chapter 5 of Acts.

In Acts 3 Peter and John had healed the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple.
A crowd had gathered, and Peter preached a sermon similar to his first one.
In Acts 4, as Peter and John were teaching the people and were arrested.

  • They were kept in prison overnight.
  • They appeared before the council.

    Look at God's Word with me.
    Acts 4: 5-21: "And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers and elders and scribes
    gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there,
    Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.
    when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, what power, or in what name, have ye done this?

    Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, rulers of the people, and elders,
    if we this day are examined concerning good deed done to an impotent man,
    by what means this man is made whole; it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel,
    that in the name Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead,
    in him doth this man stand here before you whole is the stone which was set at nought
    of you the builders, which was made head of the corner.
    In none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven,
    is given among men, wherein we must be saved.
    When they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived they were unlearned
    and ignorant men, they marvelled; they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
    seeing the man that was healed standing with them, could say nothing against it.

    When they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, conferred
    among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men?
    That indeed a notable miracle hath been wrought through them, is manifest all that dwell
    in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
    That it spread no further among the people, let us threaten them, they speak henceforth
    to no man in this name.
    They called them, and charged them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
    Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken
    unto you rather than unto God, judge ye: we cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard.

    And they, when they had further threatened them, let them go, finding nothing how
    they might punish them, because of the people; for all men glorified God for that which was done.


    Then we come to the fifth chapter of Acts, where Ananias and Sapphira had lied to the Holy Spirit.
    This man and wife had sold a possession and lied to the apostles by saying they were giving
    the entire proceeds to the church.
    Peter confronted them one at a time and found them guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit,
    and they both fell dead.

    The apostles of Jesus were extremely popular with the people.
    They were doing many signs and wonders among the people and in the temple.
    Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers.
    The sick were brought out into the streets on beds and couches hoping that the shadow of Peter
    might fall on some of them.
    A multitude from surrounding cities brought those who were sick and tormented,
    and everyone was healed.

    Once again the high priest and those of the Sadducees were enraged.
    They have the apostles arrested and put in jail.
    During the night, an angel of the Lord takes them out of their jail cell
    and commands the apostles to continue to teach and preach in the temple.

    The next morning officers went to get the prisoners to bring them before the Sanhedrin,
    and they found the jail cell locked, but empty.
    They heard that the apostles were teaching in the temple.
    So, officers were sent to bring the apostles peacefully to the council.
    When they appeared before the high priest, they were charged not to teach
    or preach in the name of Jesus.

    The apostles replied, "We ought to obey God rather than man."
    Then they proceeded to preach Jesus to the Sanhedrin.
    They proclaimed that God had raised Jesus (whom the Sanhedrin had murdered),
    and has exalted Him to be Prince And Saviour who offers repentance to Israel
    and forgivingness of sins. (Verses 17-32)

    This message about Jesus infuriated the Sanhedrin.
    And in Acts 5: 28 the Sanhedrin explains why they're so upset.
    "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name...yet you have filled Jerusalem
    with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood
    ."

    Guilty? Sure they were guilty!

    Jesus was arrested about midnight.
    The Sanhedrin began its trial of Jesus about 2 AM on the day of the Sabbath.
    There were several things that made the arrest and trial of Jesus illegal.

    First, it was against Jewish law to arrest anyone at night unless the accused was caught
    in the act of committing a crime.
    They had no legal warrant and no legal court to indict Jesus.
    According to their own rules, the Sanhedrin was illegally assembled.
    They weren't allowed to convene on the day before a Sabbath or on the day
    before such holy seasons, such as the Passover.

    It was against Jewish law to hold court at night.
    The Sanhedrin wasn't allowed to institute proceedings, but were only allowed to judge those
    who were brought before them by magistrates.
    The preliminary trial held before the high priest Annas was illegal because the whole court
    was required to hear all the information.

    The balloting was illegal because the younger were required to vote first
    so they would not be influenced by the elder and more powerful.
    It was here that the chairman pronounced Jesus guilty and worthy of death
    before anyone else had even voted.
    Also, Jewish law insisted that no capital case calling for a death penalty
    could be heard in a single day.
    The sentence must not be pronounced on the same day as the trial.
    However, Jesus was tried, convicted, sentenced and executed on the same day.

    This was a kangaroo court.
    Jesus was railroaded.
    The verdict was decided long before Jesus was brought before them.

    Oh yes, these leaders were guilty of the blood of Jesus, and they knew it.
    They never wanted to hear His name again.
    They were so angry that they were determined to kill the apostles.

    Now Gamaliel is ready to give his advice. (Acts 5:34-39)
    Gamaliel was a teacher of the law and highly respected among all the people.
    He was probably one of the greatest scholars of his day.

    Acts 5:34-39 says: But there stood up one in the council, a Pharisee, Gamaliel,
    a doctor of the law, had in honor of all the people, commanded to put the men forth a little while.
    He said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves touching these men,
    what ye are about to do.
    Before these days rose up Theudas, giving himself out to be somebody; whom a number of men,
    about four hundred, joined themselves: was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him,
    were dispersed, and came to nought.
    This man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the enrolment,
    drew away some of the people after him: he also perished; all, as many as obeyed him,
    were scattered abroad.
    Now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: if this counsel or this work
    be of men, it will be overthrown: if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them;
    haply ye be found even to be fighting against God
    .

    Take a good look at this advice.
    Gamaliel compares Jesus to a couple of wannabes.
    Theudas and Judas had tried to start their own religious movement, and to overthrow
    the powers of Rome and deliver Israel from the Romans.
    But they failed in their efforts.

    When you're talking about Jesus Christ, there is nobody that compares with Him.
  • He is the Alpha and Omega, the bright and morning star.
  • He is the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley.
  • He is the Name above everything, and at the Name of Jesus everyone shall bow,
        and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    Gamaliel's advice is faulty.
  • In essence he was saying that the determining factor of whether something is of God
        is seen in its visible success.
  • If it succeeds, then it is of God, but if not then it isn't of God.
    Gamaliel wasn't concerned if it was true or if it was right.
    His advice was to sit on the fence and see if it survives.

    Gamaliel's advice was, "If this is of men it will come to nothing, but if it is of God,
    you cannot overthrow it, lest you even be found to fight against God
    ."
    His advice was that of a compromising spirit.
    He should have said that if this is of God, then we should accept it.
    But he didn't -- he compromised.
    He decided to be neutral.

    But Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not
    together with me scatters abroad
    ." (Matthew 12:30)
    No one can be neutral about Jesus.
    Everyone must receive Jesus or reject Him.

    Gamaliel's advice is good because it kept the disciples from being killed.
    It was bad because it was compromising advice.
    Gamaliel was really suggesting that if they gave the Christians a little time, the Romans would
    probably take care of the problem.
    But if, it was really a God, then the Sanhedrin would be foolish to fight against it.

    This sounds good, and there is some wisdom in this.
    Just because a movement stands the test of time doesn't prove that it is of God.
    All they had to do was look around them.
    Gamaliel was a Pharisee, and the high priest was a Sadducee.
    The Pharisees took the Word of God literally, while the Sadducees took what they wanted
    and discarded the rest.

    The Sadducees are like the man who went to the dentist to have a root canal surgery.
  • He was taken into the examining room and made comfortable in the reclining dental chair.
  • The dentist came in and injected a numbing agent around his tooth.
  • The dentist left the room for a few minutes to allow the medication to work.
    When the dentist returned, the patient was standing next to a tray the dental equipment.
    "What are you doing by the surgical instruments?" The surprised dentist asked.
    The patient replied, "I'm taking out the ones I don't like."
    His intention was to remove anything from the tray that looked threatening and that would
    make him uncomfortable.

    The high priest and the Sanhedrin were uncomfortable about the apostles preaching.
    So they intended to remove them from their sight.
  • But they took the advice of Gamaliel.
  • But his advice was worldly advice.

    A good illustration of wisdom is seen in the story of a man who pulled his car over to the curb
    because he had a flat tire.
  • He knew that he had a good spare tire and he would just change it.
  • He was not aware that he had stopped right in front of the state mental hospital.
  • He also did not notice that he stopped near a storm sewer.
  • He took the flat tire off and placed the lug bolts in the hubcap and proceeded to put
        the good spare tire on his car.
    When he reached back for the lug bolts he slipped and knocked them into the storm sewer.
    While he stood there wondering what to do, a patient of the mental hospital on the other side
    of the fence suggested, "Why don't you take one lug bolt off of each of your other wheels
    and drive slowly two blocks to the service station
    ."

    The man said that was an excellent idea.
    Then he looked at the man and asked why the patient thought of it, and he didn't.
    "You are confined to a mental hospital, and I'm out here."
    The patient replied, "I'm in here because of a mental problem, but not because I'm stupid."

    We need wisdom, but we need the wisdom that God gives.
    The Sadducees and the Sanhedrin needed wisdom that God gives.
    Gamaliel should have recommended reviewing the evidence and expounding the Scriptures,
    which proved that Jesus was the Christ.
    He should have said that if this preaching is of God, then they should have accepted it -- not fight it.

    So, the disciples were beaten and warned not to preach Jesus again.
    So what did they do.
  • They did not preach themselves, and how they had suffered.
  • They went straight to the temple and began preaching Jesus as the Christ.
  • They preached Jesus in the temple.
  • They preached Jesus in the streets.
  • They preached Jesus in homes.
    They preached Jesus everywhere they went.

    Christians, we must preach Jesus.
  • We must preach Jesus as the One who will take away their death and give them life eternal.
  • We must preach Jesus who will take away their guilt and sins, and give them life of joy
        and peace and purpose.
  • We must tell our loved ones and friends that Jesus is their only hope for life after death.
    There is no other way.
    There is no other Saviour.

    Christian, do you really believe that your family and your friends are lost without Jesus?
  • Do you really believe that without Jesus they will die forever in an eternal hell?
  • Do you really believe that you have the answer of life and death?

  • If you really believe this, you must tell them about Jesus.
        The Good News of Jesus is the best news and the most important news
        that they will ever hear.
  • If we really believe this, we cannot keep it to ourselves anymore than the apostles
        could keep it to themselves.
        We cannot keep this Good News anymore than we could keep the good news of a new baby,
        or of a miraculous healing from a deathly disease.
  • If we believe the Gospel, we must tell everyone that we have found the secret of life.
    We must invite everyone to drink of the living water.
    We have such rich promises and tremendous blessings from the Lord Jesus,
    and we should want our family and friends to also have them.
    We must tell our family and friends about Jesus before it is too late.

    "Around the corner I have a friend
    In this great city that has no end;
    Yet days go by, and weeks rush on,
    And before I know it a year has gone.

    And I never see my old friends face,
    For life is a swift and terrible race.
    He knows I like him just as well
    As in the days I rang his bell,
    And he rang mine. We were younger then,
    And now we're busy, tired men;
    Tired with playing a foolish game,
    Tired with trying to make a name.

    'Tomorrow,' I say, I'll call on Jim,
    Just to show that I'm thinking of him.'
    But tomorrow comes, and tomorrow goes,
    And the distance between us grows and grows.

    Around the corner -- and yet miles away...
    'Here's a telegram, sir... Jim died today.'
    And that's what we get, and deserve in the end --
    Around the corner, a vanished friend
    ."
    -- Author Unknown

    Tell them about Jesus while there is still yet time.

    Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White