The story of Gamaliel


Many biblical characters often take center stage, while other lesser-known characters seem to fade into obscurity. Often those emphasized the least had a special role to play, many times as a forgotten aid to the prominent figures of the Bible.

One such man was a Pharisee on the Jewish High Council named Gamaliel.

The account of his contribution to the story of the apostles is found in Acts 5. The apostles, led by Peter, were preaching the Gospel throughout the city, healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. Miracles, signs and wonders were following them wherever they went, and the sick were being healed as Peter’s shadow fell upon them.  These men were arrested and thrown into jail by the High Council. That night the jail doors opened and an angel of the Lord told them to go preach in the Temple.

High Council

The High Council was astonished to find them preaching this Gospel once again in the Temple when they should have been securely locked in jail. They were arrested again and brought to trial. Upon being questioned, Peter informed them that he obeyed the authority of God rather than human authority and so they preached even when they were commanded not to by the High Council. This infuriated the Council, for they saw themselves as the representatives of the authority of God, and yet here stood these men saying they hear from God themselves and obey Him only. They decided they must kill these men.

Then, a member of the Council, Gamaliel, began to speak on behalf of the apostles. He told them if what they preach has no value, they will meet their demise without the interference of the Council, but if they really are doing God’s work, no man can come against them.  He warned them it was better to let them go and let it work itself out than risk standing against God. His advice was accepted by the Council; the apostles were ordered to be flogged but released.  They did not die this day, as one little-known man, a Pharisee, an enemy of these Jesus-followers, spoke wisdom and saved their lives.

Believers walk with the Lord

Often, believers walk with the Lord and think their lives have no major significance because they are not the Peters and Johns of today. But the truth is that the people without famous names make significant contributions to the work of the Lord every day, by simply hearing him and obeying. Sometimes people who do not even know him will make all the difference in the world because they felt like they should stand up and be a voice of truth, and, unbeknownst to them, they sway a group to a decision that has great significance.

Gamaliel’s name is mentioned once in all of Scripture, and the event he influenced was a passage of fewer than 15 verses, and yet his contribution subsequently affected all the work of the apostles after that time, for they may have met their death that day if he had not been on the scene. This is not to say that God would not have spared them another way, but on this day he chose to work through this man, and this man became a willing vessel that affected the course of history.

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