“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.” – Acts 5.38-39
One of the things that I love about Acts is that it shows God’s unstoppable power in building His Church. I don’t know whether Gamaliel honestly thought that these ‘Jesus people’ were actually anything to worry about, but the point that he made proved to be incredibly accurate, and even preempts Paul’s words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8.31).
Peter and the others were put in prison, but were miraculously released, and were able to make their case before the council (when Gamaliel made the above statement).
Stephen was stoned for proclaiming the Gospel (accusing his fellow Jews of rejecting their prophets and ultimately killing the Messiah that they had waited for), and the Church grew.
Saul was among those who led the charge against the Church, and yet he himself came to faith, spread the gospel across the Roman empire, and wrote more than half the New Testament.
As Christians, we know that Jesus said that we could expect hardships and challenges as part of following Him, but He also tells us not to fear, “for I have overcome the world” (John 16.33). In reading these chapters, I see the truth of that statement being lived out in the lives of the first Christians. There were many times that things looked bleak for the early church, but God’s power saw them through the trials and made them grow!
Gamaliel was right; the Church is from God, and there is nothing in the world that can ultimately defeat it! That gives great hope, that even though we are imperfect—even though we don’t always fully understand what it means to follow Christ or be the Church—the power of God will win in the end!