Acts 5:38-39 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
Growing up reading the Bible and learning about the Bible in various classes, I learned to dislike the Pharisees. Why not? They were the ones who Jesus warned the most. They were the “whitewashed tombs”. They were the ones who crucified Jesus.
As I grow older, I realize that not all the Pharisees were closed-minded to Jesus and his followers. In this text, Gamaliel appears to be one of these. Even though he is a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, he appears to be more open-minded about Jesus. Now, this devotional thought is not about him or even about Pharisaical practices. What I am reminded of in this passage is what he understood. If what one is doing is of God, it will succeed. If what one is doing is not of God, it will eventually fail.
One of the most common questions asked by many of us is, “Is what I am doing part of God’s will?” The answer can be both complex and simple. The complex answer can be that there are many things you can be doing and still be within God’s will. In other words, as long as your life lines up with what you profess to be, it matters little what you are doing because who you are is of God. An example of what would make this complicated would be if I was wrestling with a decision between two godly paths. Both look like I will be serving God, so, how do I know which one to take? I may find no opposition from God on either decision. This makes the decision hard.
A simple answer would be if it is working, then I am in God’s will. If it is not working, then God may be in opposition to what I want to do. Say I want to change something in my life. I ask God for help in guiding me to that decision. However, every avenue that I take seems to have a closed door. In most of these cases, I believe God has told me to either remain where I am and continue to serve, or that I am not ready for this change yet (or both).
What about following others who seem to be following God? First, this passage applies…if they are following God, there is no stopping them. If they are not, their effort will fail. Second, when I am in this situation, especially regarding tradition versus what is truly Biblical, I apply I John 4:1-6 and the testing of the spirits to what I am facing. If the person I am following acknowledges Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is of God. Those who do not, are not of God. No matter the ministry, the work, the service, or anything else…test and see if it from Christ. If it is, God will bless it in the end. If it is not, it will fail.
Wow! I learned a lesson from a Pharisee (which by the way, his lesson was from God).
1. What came up for you when you read this passage?
2. How does your interpretation differ from that of this article?
3. Where have you seen this passage at work in your life? Explain.
4. What are some things you opposed that turned out to be of God?
5. How did you know?
6. This week, pay attention to where God is working, both in your life and in the life of others. Pay particular attention to how you know God is working.
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