International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 20, 2015
Purpose: To recognize that God’s truth will prevail
Bible Lesson: Acts 5:27-29, 33-42
Background Scripture: Acts 5:12-42
Key Verse: Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than humans!” (Acts 5:29)
Acts 5:27-29 (CEB)
(27) The apostles were brought before the council where the high priest confronted them: (28) “In no uncertain terms, we demanded that you not teach in this name. And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. And you are determined to hold us responsible for this man’s death.” (29) Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than humans!
Acts 5:33-42 (CEB)
(33) When the council members heard this, they became furious and wanted to kill the apostles. (34) One council member, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law named Gamaliel, well-respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be taken outside for a few moments. (35) He said, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you intend to do to these people. (36) Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and some four hundred men joined him. After he was killed, all of his followers scattered, and nothing came of that. (37) Afterward, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and got some people to follow him in a revolt. He was killed too, and all his followers scattered far and wide. (38) Here’s my recommendation in this case: Distance yourselves from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. (39) If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!” The council was convinced by his reasoning. (40) After calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. (41) The apostles left the council rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. (42) Every day they continued to teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ, both in the temple and in houses.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Today’s lesson has a familiar ring from our own headlines of today. The quote from Peter is being used today (“We must obey God rather than humans!) There are several differences in the situations, and I will let you draw your own conclusions. One is going on within the church, and the other is going on within the government.
The absence of the Pharisees in the discussion is noticeable. While the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body, as do Christians, the Sadducees and the Scribes did not.
Gamaliel, the only Pharisee mentioned, was a well-respected teacher and member of the Sanhedrin. We know Gamaliel, as Paul’s teacher, and there is a possibility that Paul may have been in attendance for this hearing. Gamaliel’s reasoning seemed to satisfy the council and his idea was put into action.
Gamaliel offered two historical examples of revolts that collapsed soon after their leaders were killed. The revolt of Theudas raises historical questions. The historian Josephus described the short-lived uprising of Theudas, a self-proclaimed prophet who claimed to be able to part the Jordan River. Fadus, the procurator of Judea (who became procurator after the death of Agrippa I in A.D. 44), quickly crushed the revolt and beheaded Theudas. This obviously occurred in the years after the events of Acts 5. Either Luke got his facts wrong, or another historically unknown Theudas led an earlier insurrection. The second revolt is more soundly confirmed. Judas of Galilee did instigate a violent tax insurgency at the time of the census of Quirinius (A.D. 6–7). After he was killed, the revolt dissipated. Despite historical difficulties, Gamaliel’s point was clear. Stay away from them (so that the Romans would not identify any disturbances caused by the Christians with the faithful Jews themselves?). He advised them to let their movement play itself out. Their leader was executed, and they would probably go the way of previous fleeting movements. On the other hand, if God willed their success, he did not want them to be found clashing with God. The council agreed with Gamaliel.
In today’s world we might find fault with the beating that took place, however, those early Christians found it profitable to suffer for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom. They were emboldened to work and teach the more. They continued to teach in both the homes and the temple.
There is one hymn that highlights our lesson, “Stand up Stand up for Jesus”.