Acts 5:27-42, When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So, in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
One of the demonstrably compassionate aspects of God is the concept of His care for man. Paul recognizes that God had a plan for him from the very beginning of his life. (Galatians 1:15) The only wrong Paul would ever do in his life would be the result of his deviation from that path that God had laid out for him. The only waste of his life would be his refusal to allow God to use Paul for his intended design. Wonderfully, that is also true of you and me. Our lives were meant to be a blessing to the world, not a wasted and abused problem to all we meet. If you find yourself away from God, and we all have, (Romans 3:23) then know that God’s love and grace are readily available for those who seek forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.
In Judaism there were no greater names among men than Gamaliel or Gamaliel’s grandfather – Hillel. Gamaliel is still studied with great respect and honor to this day. He has actually been called the “Beauty of the Law.”
All of Saul’s education was not “Pre-Pharasaic” training. It was preparation for something that God had planned long ago for him to participate in. His knowledge of the Law was intended to teach him about the very one he had persecuted for a great time in his life. His love for God’s very words, and his endless hours of study would eventually be dedicated to proclaiming as the Savior none other than Jesus the Christ. He learned it all from the one referred to as the “Rabban Master.”
Gamaliel was considered a liberal by some of his contemporaries. As he lived his life he led with his heart. As he applied the knowledge of Scripture, he did so with wisdom as opposed to simple academics. He was open minded in that he allowed challenges to his thinking as well as that of other, even established, leaders of the day. Saul was blessed to be taught by a very special man. God had intentions for Paul and those specific people who would need to impact and help Paul develop. There were several phrases of Hillel that Jesus would effectively reiterate, “Judge not thy neighbor until thou art in his place,” “My abasement is my exaltation; he who wishes to make a name for himself loses his name,” “What is unpleasant to thyself that do not to thy neighbor, this is the whole Law, all else is but exposition.” Even as Saul was seeking to isolate himself from Jesus and His followers, he was actually in training to hear and even accept those same principles. Saul was treated gracefully and lovingly in spite of his obstinance. Does any of this sound familiar?
Due to the admonition of Gamaliel, the early church was spared certain decimation from the current Jewish population. The local officials would have simply executed the earliest Christians and been done with the blasphemy of these heathen upstarts. In verses 38-39 Gamaliel gives those faithful to Jesus, enough breath to speak to the world. Saul sat at the feet of a graceful and wise teacher and learned lessons that were necessary and unexpected. God is good all the time!
Godspeed on your journey…