I’ve long been fascinated by a man named Gamaliel.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Gamaliel, other than that he was Paul’s teacher and that he stood up for the apostles when they were brought before the Council. Despite the scarcity of Scriptural reference to Gamaliel, we can discern a great deal about his character and wisdom from Acts 5:33-42. Go ahead – hold your mouse over the reference and read the story. I’ll wait.
Isn’t that powerful? This prominent Pharisee spoke a great truth that actually granted the apostles freedom to go preach some more. Yes, they were told not to, but they did it anyway. And, eventually it did cost most of them their lives. But, not this time. And it was all thanks to the wisdom of a man named Gamaliel. Or was it?
Reading this passage makes me want to hold Gamaliel up as a great man – a hero of the faith in the cause of the early church. The truth, though, is that there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other to show that he ever embraced Christianity. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Jews and Christians alike have their traditions regarding his faith, but no one has solid proof.
But, when it’s all said and done, does it really matter? Is Gamaliel really the one we need to hold up in this situation? Or, could it be that we need to see Someone else’s hand in the matter and give Him the glory?
Whether Gamaliel accepted the truth he defended in this situation or not, his wisdom was not truly what accomplished the freedom of the apostles. It was God’s action through Gamaliel that accomplished this miracle. He still had more work for the apostles to do, and it was not His plan that the disciples face martyrdom quite yet. He just used Gamaliel to see His will fulfilled.
In this day and age, God still uses many people and circumstances to accomplish His purposes. As we observe His work, we need to be careful to give glory to the right Hero. Speak of God’s accomplishments, not of the person’s greatness.
Just like Gamaliel, our modern-day “heroes” are just tools. The real force is God Himself. That is where the glory belongs.