37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” 40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Verses 37-42 give Gamaliel’s second example about how the Sanhedrin might make a rash decision to kill the apostles.
After this man [Theudas], Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census,
Gamaliel’s first example was of Theudas, about whom the Sanhedrin had made a hurried decision (Acts 5:36). Now, he turned to the second example of Judas of Galilee. The latter led a rebellion during the time of the census. Josephus, a Jewish historian, mentioned that this man led a revolt around AD 6 (Josephus, Antiquities, 13.1.10).
and drew away many people after him.
Judas was able to assemble many followers.
He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.
As in the case of Theudas, Judas died, and his followers disbanded as well. Some became Zealots, a political movement in the first century. Simon the Zealot belonged to this group (Mt 10:4).
And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone;
At this point, Gamaliel gave his advice to free the apostles. It was a wait-and-watch policy.
for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;
Gamaliel’s neutral policy toward the apostles was one of wisdom. Gamaliel’s advice brought God into the equation. If this movement by the apostles was of men and not God, it would “come to nothing,” as in the cases of Theudas and Judas.
but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
The other option Gamaliel gave to the council was that no human institution could defeat it if it was of God. It would prevail because it was of God’s sovereignty. Gamaliel had a good grasp of the sovereignty of God.
And they agreed with him,
The council agreed they might fight against God if they made the wrong decision.
and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them,
The council brought the apostles back and had them judicially beaten with 39 lashes (Deut 25:3).
they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Again, the council gave the apostles the same command as in their previous trial to not speak in the name of Jesus. They then freed the apostles.
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
The apostles responded with joy to their release from the council. Their view of persecution was one of worth. They calculated their trial as something worthy of taking a stand for Christ; it was an issue of worth for them to suffer shame for His name even though they suffered a bloody beating. Their shame was a badge of honor that caused the apostles to rejoice.
And daily in the temple, and in every house,
The apostles did not take long to keep their mandate from the Lord. They not only taught and preached Jesus as the Christ, but they did it daily, in the Temple and in every house. They did not hide the fact that they were preaching; they did it openly for all to see.
they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
The council twice warned the apostles to stop preaching in the name of Jesus; however, they never stopped doing so. Human government was not their mandate. They followed the authorization of the great commission of Jesus. Nothing daunted the apostles from their mission.
There is joy in serving the Lord even under persecution.
A victorious church rejoices when God is at work through its persecution (1 Pe 4:13,14, 16). Although persecution of the early church was intense, the church grew dramatically. The apostles did not blush to speak His name.
Someone asked the question of whether this passage establishes a principle that we must go from door-to-door evangelism. Here is my reply:
Note this statement in my Introduction to the Book of Acts:
Many false doctrines have arisen from the book of Acts because of misinterpretations of its literature. It is important to interpret a history book with care. First and foremost, Acts must be interpreted as a history book and not an Epistle. Epistles are didactic, setting forth doctrine in formal arrangement. However, we must not go to the other extreme to conclude that Acts does not teach doctrine whatsoever or that it cannot apply to our current culture.
God does not direct every promise in Scripture to the church or to our time. Some promises are directed to the church today, and others are not. We should not force passages directly addressed to a given people or time to our culture. If there is a principle that can apply to all generations, then we should carefully explain how we extract the principle for our generation. We can make applications based on broader principles. Above all, we should carefully honor normative interpretation; that is, we ask if Luke presents an unambiguous and normative principle for our time.
Having taken the principle in the Introduction as a starting point, let’s look at the context and grammar. First, “from” in “from house to house” is distributive kατά and used in that sense in both 5:42 and 20:20.
We find Κατά in a segment clause, where two clauses of the same type are juxtaposed by a conjunction or in an asyndetic relationship, each clause is called a segment clause in LSGNT. (References: BDF n/a; Wallace n/a; Smyth n/a.)
The term “house” is a dwelling place. There were no physical plant churches in the New Testament so is this passage speaking of from congregation to congregation or from any house to house? Because the term “teaching” is incorporated into the activity, the idea may be from church to church.
Whenever we attempt to establish a universal principle from a historical passage, we are in dangerous waters because history books are not intended to be propositional. The only clear point that we can make is that they were teaching a preaching that Jesus was the Messiah from house to house. This may have included evangelism because of the term “εὐαγγελίζω,” or preaching, includes both evangelism and proclamation of truth in general. This passage does not say specifically that the church is to establish an ongoing principle of witnessing from house to house. That is an inferential concept, I.e., inferential logic.