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Gamaliel:  Ridin’ Fences

Acts 5:33-39


At first glance, it’s easy to admire this man, Gamaliel…he helped give the disciples a break…said some wise things in v. 39, but look closer and you see that this man is straddling the fence.  He’s trying to be a peacemaker, yes, but he’s got issues!

Gamaliel, according to Acts 22:3, was the apostle Paul’s mentor, before he was Paul, before he was saved!

        Gamaliel shared enough truth to be applauded, but also enough error to be very dangerous, and we can learn much from this.


1.     He made a faulty comparison

vv. 36-37         Who were Theudas and Judas?  Each of them came along during the time of Christ, and each tried to start his own religion/movement, and tried to overthrow the powers of Rome/deliver Israel from the empire…but each of them failed.

        They were “Messiah-wannabes”.  Everyone was looking for the Messiah in those days, and the hills of Palestine were crawling w/ men who decided they would crown themselves as the Messiah!

[like David Koresh…remember the wacko from Waco?  Crowned himself as Jesus, actually got a good sized group to follow him!  But it came to nought, as has happened hundreds of times thru the centuries since Christ!]

Theudas and Judas were just the same, revolutionaries, insurrectionists, a flash in the pan!  They were ablaze for their 15 minutes of fame, then flickered into oblivion!


Gamaliel here compares Christ to these 2 men…a faulty comparison!


He said, let’s just step back and watch and see what happens…chances are it will all fall by the wayside…this movement will come to its end as well!


Well, 2k years later it’s clear that Jesus was the Messiah/He cannot be written on any list of men, He’s in a category all to Himself!  He’s God!


Ill.—I like to watch A & E/Biography channel, until they did one on Jesus Christ, and made Him out to be just another good man.

        He’s not just another man who walked across the pages of history, He’s THE God/Man who is controlling the very course of history!

Col. 1:16

    …all things were created by him, and for him:

1 Tim. 2:5

    For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…


We’re about to celebrate Mother’s/Father’s Days.  Well, Jesus was the only baby ever born that was older than His mother and just as old as His Father!


Gamaliel makes a huge mistake when He compares Jesus to a couple of wannabes…it was a faulty comparison.


You can take any great person in history, and you can always find a comparison:

Writers—Shakespeare, but right beside him you can put Longfellow

[a pretty fair comparison]


Alexander the Great/Napoleon

Preachers—Spurgeon/Moody/Sunday/Shirley…well, maybe not!


You can always find someone who’s comparable, but when you’re talking about Jesus Christ, there’s nobody that compares!

        He’s alpha and omega, bright and morning star, rose of Sharon, lily of the Valley, Name above every name, and at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!


It was a faulty comparison, for Jesus did not come to die at the end of a Roman sword but on a Roman Cross, He didn’t come to deliver mankind from the iron clench of the Roman Empire, but from the iron clench of sin, death, hell, and the grave!

It was a faulty comparison…


2.     He used a faulty criterion [for defining whether of God or not]

v. 38        Gamaliel says here that the determining factor of whether something is of God or not is in the visible success of it…if it’s a big success and lots of people follow it, it’s of God…but if not, it’s not of God.

        That’s a faulty criterion!  We don’t follow something simply because it appears successful/many others are following it, but rather because it is right/true/in accordance w/ the Word of God!


What he spouts off is some “human wisdom” at best, what logically looks right to him.


You don’t see it that way, do you?  Or you wouldn’t be here!  You’d be w/ the Mormons, the 2nd fastest growing church in America, or the 1st, the Pentecostals, or you’d be one of the 67 million Catholics that make up the largest church membership in our nation!


Gamaliel didn’t ask if it was true or right…he said, let’s just hop up here on the fence and watch, and see how it does!


Sadly, many churches fall into that same trap, including the 2nd largest group in America…a convention that has Baptist as it’s middle name, with many wonderful people in it, and yet for the most part their leadership worships results/numbers, and sometimes [not always] to the exclusion of what is true and right!


Obviously we want to grow, reach people, fill this place up, but not at any cost, but in a genuine way…which is why we’re doing this Acts study on the early church/God’s way of doing it!


In other words, success cannot be measured by the size of the crowd, but rather by what you do w/ the crowd once they are sitting there!


There are several levels of attenders:


        We are trying to grow each of these levels, by each moving up a level at a time…but go taking some stands/stepping on toes/challenging folks with Bible truth/accountability, and you’re sure to see some slither off to some other places where they can easily hide in the crowd.

        We had some members who left our church years ago, and said that the reason they switched to such and such Baptist church was because “the pastor here has sense enough not to deal with controversial issues!”

        If that’s a lack of sense then I have to plead guilty!


Let me be brutally honest with you:  we will never make disciples and move them on in maturity to the next level with a wishy-washy, watered-down, stand for nothing, fall for anything, draw a crowd philosophy…and I’m proud to say we may have a small crowd, and some may be ok w/ just being a part of the congregation, but we have a vast majority that are committed and on their way to becoming the core!  And God’s gonna do great things that way!


By the way, which level would you be at, and isn’t it time to step up to the next level?


Well, God’s movement is underway, but we’re not gonna grow by riding the fence on social drinking, evolution, homosexuality, gender issues, abortion, pornography!  By God’s grace we will go, stand, and speak…we will preach the truth…in love, and let God give the results as He sees fit!


Gamaliel made a faulty comparison, used a faulty criterion…


3.     He came to a faulty conclusion [because of all of this]

There is no record anywhere of Gamaliel getting saved, or Paul would have mentioned that in the end of this book when he calls him by name.


Here’s why he didn’t get saved:  he tried to be neutral about Jesus Christ.

        When Jesus walked this earth He made it clear, you can’t be neutral about Him.

Matthew 12:30

    He that is not with me is against me…

In Revelation he told the church:

Rev. 3:15-16

    I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. [16] So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

God has always warned us not to be fence riders:

Joshua 24:14-15

    Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. [15] And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

1 Kings 18:21

    And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.


Thank God that Paul, back when he was Saul, didn’t follow his mentor’s advice when confronted by God on the road to Damascus…he didn’t say, well, let me wait and see how your movement goes, maybe I’ll join up!

        Before he was saved, he was 100% for the devil and after being born again, after he “saw the light”, he was 100% for God!


Ill.—years ago in England there was an art gallery filled w/ masterpieces which had stood the test of time/1 man in group considered himself an expert and would find something to criticize every piece, shade, color, dimensions/finally, a worker approached him and said, please sir, these are masterpieces, they are no longer on trial, you are!


        Jesus Christ is no longer on trial, you are!  For 2k years He’s been saving souls/changing lives…what will you do w/ Jesus?  Don’t ride the fence, choose ye this day whom you will serve, then go all or nothing!



If not saved, you have a decision to make today, what to do w/ Jesus.


Not baptized?  Don’t ride the fence, if it’s true and right, then do it!


Need to find a church, find one that’s true and right, then jump in w/ both feet!

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