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The Nature of Unbelief

Collection:
Book of Acts

A Sermon on Acts 5:33-42

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But 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!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (ESV)

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Opposition to Christianity is nothing new. The apostles faced much resistance in their day when they proclaimed the gospel of the risen Christ. Listen to “The Nature of Unbelief” as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones unpacks Acts 4:33–42, showing how this came primarily from the same Jewish leaders who had opposed the ministry of Christ and put Him to death. The Jewish leaders did this not because they were rational individuals who sought to preserve the truth, but because they had been blinded by sin and the devil. This is unbelief manifested. It is a reaction against the truth of the gospel that is produced by a sinful, fallen nature. As it was then in the early church, so it is also now. Modern humanity opposes the truth claims of Christianity because they think they are scientific and enlightened. This rejection of Christianity is really nothing more than the outworking of a fallen and sin-corrupted heart and mind. Humanity’s fundamental problem with the gospel is never a matter of intellectual objections alone, but with the heart. The heart of a person can only be renewed by the sovereign working of God’s Holy Spirit when it opens the eyes of the spiritually dead. The church should take great comfort in knowing that it is the Spirit of God that has the power to make even the most hardened sinners repent and believe.


Additional Scripture Translations

Acts 5:33-42, New American Standard Bible

Gamaliel’s Counsel

33But when they heard this, they became infuriated and nearly decided to execute them. 34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35And he said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful as to what you are about to do with these men. 36For, some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37After this man, Judas of Galilee appeared in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he also perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or movement is men, it will be overthrown; 39but if the source is God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

40They followed his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news of Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 5:33-42, King James Version

33¶ When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. 34Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 35And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 38And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 40And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41¶ And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.


About Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.