|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:34-42 The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimes directs the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain the persecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, while experience and observation show that the success of frauds in matters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ is true preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, and serviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we suffer ill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as we should, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so to do. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This was the preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to be the constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ: Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothing beside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is our station or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, and to glorify his name.
Verse 39. - Is for be, A.V.; will not be able to for cannot, A.V.; them for it, A.V. and T.R.; to be fighting for to fight, A.V.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if it be of God,.... If it is according to the counsel of his will; if it is a scheme of his forming, and a work to which he has called these men, and they proceed in it on good principles, and with a view to the honour and glory of God:
ye cannot overthrow it; it will proceed and get ground, and stand, maugre all the opposition of hell and earth; therefore do nothing to them, or hinder them from going on. Some copies read, "ye cannot overthrow them"; and add, "neither you, nor kings, nor tyrants; wherefore refrain from these men"; so Beza's Cambridge copy.
Lest haply ye be found even to fight against God; which to do is downright madness, and which no man in his senses can expect to succeed in. There are some sayings of the Jewish doctors which seem to agree with these reasonings of Gamaliel (p).
"Says R. Jochanan the shoemaker, every congregation, which is for the name of heaven (or God) at length shall be established, but that which is not for the glory of God shall not be established in the end.''
Which one of the commentators (q) interprets in words still nearer to Gamaliel's language, thus:
"it shall be that that counsel which is for God shall stand and prosper, but that which is not for God shall cease.''
And in another place it is said (r),
"all contention (or dispute) which is for God, at length shall be established, but that which is not for God shall not in the end be established: what is contention that is for God? the contention of Hillell and Shammai, (two famous doctors among the Jews,) but that which is not for God is the contention of Korah, and his whole company.''
Some have thought from this advice of Gamaliel, that he was a Christian, or greatly inclined to Christianity; but when it is considered what respect was shown him at his death by the Jews, before observed on Acts 5:34 it will appear that he died a Pharisee; and especially it cannot be thought he had any favourable sentiments of the Christians, since a little before his death he ordered a prayer to be made against them. Maimonides says (s), that
"in the days of Rabban Gamaliel, the Epicureans (so the Amsterdam edition reads, but former editions read "heretics", by whom are meant Christians) increased in Israel; and they distressed the Israelites, and seduced them to turn aside from God; and when he saw that this was greater than all the necessities of the children of men, he stood up, and his council or sanhedrim, and composed another prayer, in which there was a request to God to destroy the Epicureans,''
or heretics, meaning the Christians: and though this prayer is sometimes ascribed to Samuel the little, yet it was composed by him at the hint and instigation of Gamaliel; for so it is said (t), R. Gamaliel said to the wise men,
"is there no man that knows how to compose a prayer for the Sadducees? (R. Asher reads "heretics";) Samuel the little stood up and composed one.''
And it is also said (u), that
"Samuel the little composed, , "the prayer for the heretics", before, or in the presence of Gamaliel the elder.''
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