William Barclay calls Gamaliel an “unexpected ally.” In the midst of flaring tempers and irrational thinking, this wise, seasoned teacher calmly rose to his feet and warned, “Take care here. Don’t rush to judgment.” In his words: “Stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38–39).
The young Pharisee [Saul] shook his head in disbelief. “This man was supposed to be a spokesman for Judaism. He taught me much of what I know about Judaism and the Law. He schooled me in how to do precisely what I’m doing. Master Gamaliel, you’ve lost your mind!”
Saul, of course, had no way of knowing that it would be this sort of calm reasoning that would hold him together when he later carried the torch for Christ. He would remind himself that those who fight against him were really fighting God. But at this moment he knew none of that. All he saw was red. Blood red. He couldn’t believe the Sanhedrin would heed such calm counsel and consider going soft on these infidels. Bu that’s exactly what they did.
If you would allow me a moment of digression here, I think Peter remained alive then and in the years that followed because of Gamaliel’s wise intervention. I think this “unexpected ally” saved his life. Saul and the rest of them would have stoned the whole bunch. But God graciously intervened through Gamaliel. He used the words of a wise professor to preserve the lives of those who would later play strategic roles in the formation of his Christian church. Keep that in mind when you feel your circumstances have become hopeless. No matter what you face, God is still in control, silently and sovereignly working all things out according to His perfect plan. He has His Gamaliels waiting in the wings. At the precise moment when their words will have the greatest impact, they will step out of the shadows and onto the stage to deliver their life-saving words.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.