Gamaliel was the son of Rabbi Simeon, the grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel. He was a Pharisee, and therefore an opponent of the Saduccees. He was noted for his learning and was president of the Sanhedrin through the reigns of Tiberious, Caligula and Claudius. Acts 22:3 tells us that the apostle Paul was “…brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel…”.
The thought process behind what has become the title of this piece – and the principle therein – is in fact espoused in Acts 5:38-39.
“And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (KJV).
I call it the ‘Gamaliel Principle’ – and here it is: “If this work is of God, ye cannot overthrow it – if this work is of men, it will come to nought…”
I believe this principle applies to all that we do in the name of Christ. We therefore have a responsibility to consider all that we do, and then determine, “…is it of God, or of man?”
For this, three elements are required – those being spiritual discernment, spiritual separation and spiritual power.
Let’s look firstly at the fact that we need spiritual discernment. The Bible speaks of this in 1 Corinthians chapter three. The apostle Paul was with the church at Corinth for many months, yet after he left all kinds of problems arose there, and he writes to correct error.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 tell us, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (KJV).
They had abandoned spiritual discernment. What did the scriptures teach? What did Paul teach? What is of God, and what is of men? Truly, these questions are those we need to ask ourselves when facing any issue.
Secondly, we need spiritual separation – something Paul addresses when he writes to the church at Corinth again.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 (KJV).
In this regard, the question we must continually ask ourselves is this, “…are we living a life that is different from the world? Our answer must always be based not on what we think, but what the Word of God says. What are the things that drive us? Do we follow the first commandment? Do we lean on our own understanding first? Or, do we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s truth?
Let’s look at Jude 1:20-21: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (KJV).
Then, thirdly, we need spiritual power. We should not attempt to do things in our own strength, but rather, we should look unto Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV).
Christ is with us always. If we operate in His strength, then what we do will be of God and it will stand. True spiritual power can only be by God’s design. There are no accidents.
“Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” – Psalm 40:4 (KJV).
We must never lose sight of the fact that God is in control and we should have an eternal perspective on any issue.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV).
Gamaliel was a wise man – and whilst he may not have accepted Christianity, he knew not to fight it!
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By Barrie Hanson
About the author
Barrie Hanson lives in Bluff, Southland. He has been a Christian for over 40 years and in that time he has been a preacher, Pastor and a church helper in both Auckland and Hamilton.
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