The Wise Counsel to the Unwise Council

Acts 5:33- 42

But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them. But a certain 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. And he was slain; 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. “And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be 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.” And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more 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

This is not partial fulfillment of Matthew 24–except that it is, accept  that it is. It boggles my mind that while we should see many prophecies from Jesus fulfilled in the Acts of the Apostles, we rather, subsequently subscribe Matthew 24 to the generation alive in 1948. I suppose that’s what happens when one holds to a defeatist dogma. I am sorry but the more I study the Bible, even while listening to dogmatic dispensationalist discourse, the more dubious dispensationalist dogma becomes. This text is more proof that when Jesus told his disciples to expect persecution, it happened to them. Also, the text goes well with the “false christs” we see in Matthew 24, but I am getting way ahead of myself.

  • Women should not wear pants; it’s an abomination! [Deuteronomy was written some 3,500 years before pants were invented.]
  • The King James Bible is the only “true” Bible. [Jesus quoted the LXX; and I guess all the Christians from before 70 AD until 1611 were wandering aimlessly without a sacred Scripture. And; Apocrypha?]

As I wrote in my last missive, I could go on for hours, highlighting dogmatic hypocrisy. One can make the Bible say almost anything if one doesn’t consider the context, aspirations of the author, genre, examples and divide rightly. I assume that we all want the truth. Therefore, when Jesus says to his disciples, this will happen to you, and we read of it happening to them, should we not acknowledge this rather than seek to apply it to our generation? Nevertheless, if we follow in the footsteps of the apostles, we should expect similar scenarios. That is, trials and tribulations and endurance to the end.

Today’s context is the following: the apostles were thrown into prison, again, by the Sadducees, again, and the high priest for telling the truth and performing many miracles. However, they escaped and went to the temple to preach to the people. The Sadducees and the other sects caught up with them at the still-standing temple and Peter proclaimed another stabbing sermon, hence today’s text. “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them.”

Before we examine what “cut to the quick” means–perhaps your version reads, “they were furious,” we will consider context from our Old Testament tutor, seeking enlightenment through an Expository Exegesis of Examples– vitamin E. Is so doing, I hope to highlight the hypocrisy of the council. Remember when David had an affair with Bathsheba and got her pregnant and subsequently killed her husband, Uriah? Do you remember what happened next? The Lord sent Nathan to David and Nathan told David a hypothetical scenario. By the way of reminder, apostle means “one sent.”

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

David was incensed, furious, cut to the quick, his blood boiled within him on account of this rich man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

To which Nathan replied, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” The difference between the Sadducees and David is that David repented in sackcloth and ashes. The Sadducees were penetrated but not to the point of repentance.

In Hebrews we read; “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We also read in Revelation; “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” And, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty;” et al. The theme and symbolism of the sword is prevalent in the Scripture as Scripture. It penetrates the penitent person and slaughters the slaves of sin, figuratively speaking.

When we read that the council was cut to the quick, or “cut to the heart,” or “furious,” we understand that by God’s word they were pierced through,  metaphorically, as Jesus was pierced through literally. The gospel saves the repentant and condemns the unrepentant. To the repentant, it continually causes careful consideration and to the unrepentant it causes confounded calamity. It comes as no surprise then, that the council was pierced to the heart and cut to the quick concerning the claims of Peter–that they killed their Messiah. I was cut to the quick underneath my fingernails, more than once. Furious is a very good description of my emotional state. Even in the historical narrative of Acts, we see and understand figures of speech.

The council was in anguish, furious at the allegations leveled against them by Peter and the apostles. Notice what happens next. Sometimes, cooler heads prevail but only according to the will of God. The council has lost its conservative approach concerning the apostles. At first, they were afraid of an uproar against them from the people concerning their adoration of the apostles. But now, they want them dead at any cost. In steps Gamaliel.

“But a certain 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. And he was slain; 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. And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be 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.”

I should probably take Gamaliel’s advice for myself concerning the dogmatic. Yet unlike Theudas and Judas, the dogmatic disciples never cease to exist. Take for example the dogmatic dispensationalists, those who preach that Matthew 24 is referring to the generation alive in 1948. Even though the majority of the generation have died off, they still beat the drum of our living in the absolute end. Rather than leave them be, I write so that future generations will see their error in Biblical hermeneutics. That is, if the rapture doesn’t happen before 2049, the dogmatic dispensationalists had to have been wrong. Much like what Gamaliel claimed, that if it’s from man, it will die out. But if it is from God, one cannot stop it.

Even though Gamaliel made much sense and his position was agreeable, the council still decided to discipline the apostles–they simply couldn’t let them go. “And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”

We remember that the members of the council were cut to the quick, cut to the heart or, furious. All of these phrases attempt to capture their emotional state, as described by Luke, who wrote in Koine (pronounced Koy-nay) Greek. The original Greek word is διεπρίοντο, meaning to saw through, in the 3rd Person Plural. It’s not ironic that they were pierced through, metaphorically, as Jesus was pierced through literally–or maybe it is. Remember that the Bible is literature and not a manual to a 2006 Toyota Corolla. We notice themes, symbols and metaphors, hyperbole and irony, and certainly look for the fulfillment of prophecy. We have the luxury of not only looking back but looking forward as well. We understand that the word of God is sharper than a two edged sword. Peter’s stabbing sermons hit home, highlighting the hypocrisy of the Sadducees. But rather than believe, they flogged the apostles for offending their delicate sensibilities. But notice what happens next.

“And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more 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.”

They didn’t rejoice because they were released, notice the context. They rejoiced because, “they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” They were true followers of Christ, literally following in his footsteps, preaching the kingdom of God and being beaten for it. They were joyous about it and kept right on preaching because of it. My question and concern is as follows: are we to expect what the apostles expected or a rapture rescue? Perhaps there is a third answer. Is it possible that a promise of the gospel prevailing exists? Is and has the “church” always been God’s intention for people on the earth?

We find a hint of this possibility in today’s text, from the seemingly wise counsel of Gamaliel to the unwise council of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Notice the context and the false prophets. “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. And he was slain; 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.”

Jesus himself said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Having the luxury of fast forwarding through the Bible, we jump to the book of Revelation, written by John, most likely before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. But even if it was not, it was written to seven literal churches. To one of the churches Jesus tells John to write; “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” To me, this is another indication that the book of Revelation was written prior to AD 70. To be an apostle one had to be an eyewitness of Jesus. If it was written after all the apostles, except John, died, why would they have to be put to the test? If all but one apostle had died, it’s simple math. They weren’t John, therefore they were not apostles. Nevertheless, they were put to the test and found out to be false. We will wait patiently to see if the rapture comes before the year 2049. Technically and dogmatically speaking, a generation in the Bible in its most literal sense is 40 years. That’s the amount of time it took for the unbelieving Israelites to die off in the wilderness. That is, except for the young children, women and Joshua and Caleb. But don’t misunderstand my meaning, the Lord could return today. But unlike the dogmatic dispensationalists, I also believe he could return in 2049, more than a generation removed from 1948. Again, I am highlighting Gamaliel’s point.

If the council killed these miracle manifesting apostles and it was in fact God working through them, it would not matter. More would rise up, even the “stones would cry out,” figuratively speaking. The gospel is unstoppable. But if it was not from God, their little movement would fade away, like others before them. Many false messiahs had already come into the world and many more have come since. Gamaliel was exactly right, except for one thing. Jesus wasn’t dead, but alive and coming.

 

 

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