GOD REWARDS PERSEVERANCE
Lord, send angels to help the persecuted church.
Read ACTS 5:33–42
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, 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. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial … that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him’ (James 1:12).
The growing tension between the apostles and the Jewish religious authorities of the Sanhedrin is in large part due to the disciples’ public refusal to obey the orders of the high priest to abstain from preaching in Jesus’ name. The Jewish council itself is divided as to what to do with the Christians, because not everyone supports the Sadducees’ views.
However, the disciples find a surprising ally in Gamaliel – but for his diplomatic intervention they would probably have been killed. God works in strange ways! Gamaliel is a Pharisee and, as such, exhibits a more tolerant attitude than the rival party of the Sadducees. Grandson and follower of the famous liberal Hillel the elder, he holds the honorific and affectionate title of ‘Rabban’, or ‘our teacher’, and Saul of Tarsus is one of his pupils (Acts 22:3). He has a reputation for scholarship, wisdom and moderation, so his word means something. His wise counsel prevails. The apostles leave the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Gamaliel’s judgment proves right, and the church continues to grow: persecution cannot stop it.
In India today, as in many other parts of the world, there is opposition to those who are preaching the gospel – for example, from certain extreme Hindu groups who oppose conversion and advocate ‘ghar vapasi’ (or ‘return home to Hinduism’). Yet, as one lady responded, ‘My people were Dalits [untouchables] which is why my ancestors converted. What caste will you give me now?’ These groups are beating pastors, interrupting worship, and vandalizing churches. What should we do in such circumstances? Acts teaches us to persevere and trust God.
Pray that you may persevere in all problems. Pray for the persecuted church worldwide.
Lord, Your ability to use adversaries to the advantage of Your church never ceases to amaze Your people.