By Steve Horn
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39 NIV)
In case you haven’t heard, many people, including some who claim to be Christians, are rather down these days on the church. But, we have an encouraging word about the church from someone who was definitely not a believer in Jesus. His name was Gamaliel, and he was a respected Pharisee and teacher of the law.
The Book of Acts reveals the story about the history of the early church. Starting with a small group in the beginning of Acts, the book ends with the Gospel being preached throughout the world. Luke, the author, gave repeated summary accounts of how many were being added to the church. The early days of this Gospel progress and church expansion is the context of Gamaliel’s assessment: “But if it is from God.”
We now have two thousand years of testimony that the church is “of God.” What does this mean for us who are part of the church?
- We cannot be silent regarding the life-changing message of Jesus. This is the church’s mandate. Indeed as Peter and the other apostles declared to those who tried to shut them up, “We must obey God rather than man.” (Acts 5:29)
- We cannot be stopped. Well, actually, the more theologically sound statement is that God cannot be stopped. We actually do sometimes stop ourselves, but God cannot be stopped. Sometimes the miraculous occurs like jails being opened so that the Gospel will progress. (Acts 5:19)
- We must rejoice even when called on to suffer for the cause of Christ. (Acts 5:41)
Surely, those of us who have been changed by the Gospel should have at least as much faith as that of Gamaliel who had not been changed by the Gospel.
Steve Horn is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette and a former Louisiana Baptist Convention president. This editorial first appeared on his blog.