The Apostles on Trial Again

from the Acts reading plan

Acts 5:12-42, Deuteronomy 21:22-23, John 6:66-69

BY Melanie Rainer

I’m currently reading a biography of a controversial man named John C. Frémont, who was hired by the U.S. government to cross the Rocky Mountains and survey California. Part of the book takes place at the beginning of the Mexican-American War in the 1840s. At the time, newspapers and letters traveled by boat from Washington, D.C., and settlers would often get news six months or more after an event happened! And yet, they had to act given their most recent information. During the Mexican-American War, Frémont and others working for the government were making life-and-country-altering decisions based on information from months prior. If they were wrong about President James K. Polk’s wishes, they could be fired at best. If they were right, they could be heroes.

In Acts 5, Gamaliel the Pharisee encountered a similar situation  with the Sanhedrin, the high Jewish court. The Jewish leaders had yet again imprisoned the apostles for preaching the gospel. The apostles were no longer the frightened men who ran when Jesus was captured. Instead, they were risking their lives, regular imprisonment, and beatings to tell the world about the Messiah. They knew what they had seen, claiming “we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). 

The Sanhedrin persisted, and the revered Gamaliel stepped in. He warned the leaders, who felt their power threatened by these upstart and unstoppable apostles, that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. He said, “For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (vv.38–39). 

If the Sanhedrin were right, the apostles would likely be killed. But if they were wrong, if the apostles were telling the truth about Jesus, then they might be “found fighting against God” (v.39). 

French philosopher Blaise Pascal offered a similar argument in the seventeenth century. His famous wager posited that either God exists or he doesn’t. If people don’t believe in God and they were right, then they would lose little. But if they didn’t believe in God and they were wrong, they would lose everything. He said, “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.”

I find myself often spinning into doubt, playing the same game as the Sanhedrin. What does it cost to follow Jesus? Do I tight-fist my own power, idols, and control? But I know, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of faith lives in me. The same gift that propelled the apostles to preach, day after day, no matter what it cost, is mine! And so I pray today for less doubt, for less self-reliance, for more faith; and I hope I will have the same strength as the apostles, who “every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (v.42).

Post Comments (48)

48 thoughts on "The Apostles on Trial Again"

  1. Sky Hilton says:

    Thank you, my dear sisters, for all the advice! It really helps. Ive struggled in the past to believe that God loves me for 2-3 years, and sometimes now it still pops up. But it is a lie. I know in my heart that God loves me, and I would hope that you would all know it too.

    So today we have learned that God’s words will always find a way to be spread. Im still so amazed at learning how the early church grew, and I’m amazed that most of the people that were healed grew to be believers. Im also still so amazed at how much the apostles worked together instead of against each other. I liked how they didn’t make it a “lets compete against eachother to see how much one person can spread the word of God.” But instead they worked together, and with the power of Jesus, were able to heal people. I think all Christians should work together.

    I think we should be brave like the apostles and let ourselves be on the line for God. Even if we lose friends and family, we should all let God use us as vessels, and be on the line for him (if that ever comes).

    I love you all, and God bless you! Keep rockin!

  2. Anna Hall says:

    Thank you so much!

  3. Dorothy says:

    I love what Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin, “For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (Acts 5:38-39) He was so right. God cannot be overthrown, overpowered or overtaken. God is Almighty and All Powerful.
    Have a blessed week sisters.

  4. JMB says:

    Sky: When God sees our meager yet heart-honest, consistent attempts to build a lifelong relationship with Him, He Gorilla-glues His heart to ours. That glue is part of Himself, the Holy Spirit, our Helper. That bond is SURE.

  5. Gloria Penner says:

    So glad to hear all sounds good and the doctors are watching you carefully. Praying for your patience for the nov 1st ultrasound and continued health and peace for you and the baby.

  6. Mari V says:

    This is great news Victoria E. Thank you for the update. We continue to pray for your little one.

  7. Victoria E says:

    GramsieSue welcome back and thank God you are recovering! Update for those who have been praying for me- first, THANK you to all, Maura, Searching, Claire, Kelly, and Brooke P. Appointment went well, they only did dopplers for the heartbeat instead of the ultrasound but it sounded good. We have an appointment for the anatomy scan on November 1 which will be a detailed ultrasound. Thank you for continuing to pray for us and my faith as we move through this pregnancy.

  8. Mari V says:

    I echo Melanie Rainer’s prayer this morning that we, that I will continue to have more faith and strength as the apostles to teach in proclaim JESUS MESSIAH.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *