The early days of the church were times of great growth and great opposition. The same religious leaders who had sought the life of Jesus began to persecute those who continued to Him. In Acts 5, the Disciples are all arrested for preaching Christ, but during their first night in prison, they are set free by the Spirit and they return to continue preaching the Gospel.
This did not make the Pharisees happy, and they began to make plans to kill them all. But one among them spoke out, and this is the account of what he said:
A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
This Pharisee, Gamaliel, is a wise one. Standing in the midst of the council, he remembers the last few times someone has claimed to be the Messiah. Each time, they had gained a following, but once they died, their followers scattered. They had no lasting impact.
But Gamaliel has perceived something different about Jesus’ followers. They have not scattered. They have not gone back to their lives. In fact, they have increased in number and influence, and have showed no signs of slowing down. And so he says something that is still evident today:
if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!
Division, persecution, execution, and perversion have threatened to bring the church to ruin, but not only does it still stand, it is still growing! The only explanation for this is that God is truly the one who is building the church. It is His doing, and as Jesus said to Peter, not even the gates of hell can stand against it.
Our foundation is sure because our God is real and true and faithful. He is perfecting His people to live in His presence forever, and we get to watch it all unfold.