Yesterdays blog The View from the Vicarage: Putting God First in Lockdown following the Acts of the Apostles saw us before the council of the Sanhedrin with the disciples who were clear that God came first in their lives and in their mission.
Today moving on in chapter five (Acts 5:34-42) we are still ‘in court’ when to their defence comes Gamaliel the Pharisee. Clearly having seen the acts of healing and compassion, having heard the words of power spoken by Peter, Gamaliel suggests the Sanhedrin exercise some caution “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.”
Gamaliel then talks of both Theudas and Judas the Galilean, who had previously tried to lead an uprising against the Jewish religion and institution of the days. Theudas had gathered a crowd at the river Jordan, in order to divide the river just as Moses had parted the Red Sea. He failed, was captured and beheaded. Judas the Galilean had tried to lead a tax uprising against the council and like Theudas claimed to be of God yet came to nothing.
This is not of course just a pointless or even interesting bit of history, Gamaliel was clear in his defence – these men were both killed and their followers came to nothing. Gamliel then states “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” The disciples leave and never stop preaching of Jesus the Messiah.
The early church turned institutions upon their heads, they healed the sick and they spoke unashamedly of their faith in a God who saves. They did this because they did it in Gods name, not their own nor the name of the institution but Gods alone. Gamaliel’s warning was clear “if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
The church of today has changed and yet God has not, we are called in his name in this time of worldwide pandemic to stand in his name, to pray for the world in his name, to care for one another in his name. This could be just the time to release the shackles of the institution, not to stand in the name of the Church but the name of Jesus, turn the institution back into a movement.
We have a God of love and a world in pain giving us the clearest mandate and mission of all – in Gods name we stand together, pray together and serve together, in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ who beat death forever.
If St Peter had a flick through the hymn book what might they have sung as they left the court of the Sanhedrin, I couldn’t say, but it might have been this wonderful modern hymn by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty:
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Your friend and Vicar
* (c) 2001 Thankyou Music