Vol. 11 No. 9 September 2009
D. Gene West
In the magnificent Book of Acts (5:33-42), we read of the apostles of Jesus Christ being brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin to be tried for the violation of the law of the Jews, and that they were not to preach in the name of Jesus Christ in the City of Jerusalem again. Peter told the chief priests and other members of the council that he and the other apostles must obey God rather than man. The great apostle further testified to this very disgruntled group that God had raised up Jesus, whom they had murdered, from the dead and exalted Him at His own right hand, making Him both Prince and Savior. Luke recorded that when the Sanhedrin heard these things they were furious and began to advise one another on how to kill the apostles, Peter and John.
There was on that council a man by the name of Gamaliel who was a doctor of the Law of Moses. This man arose, and after making some preliminary remarks, he gave some very serious advice to the Sanhedrin saying, “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; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God”(Acts 5:38-39). In this eloquent passage, Gamaliel unconsciously declared the religion of Jesus Christ to be the religion of the ages. Christianity, as revealed in the New Testament, is indeed of God, as all men will someday learn. Furthermore, regardless of how men may fight this religion, they cannot destroy it, for it has withstood the ravages of time and man, and it will stand until the consummation of the ages. No man can successfully fight against God.
We will prove our last statement by pointing out that for forty long years after the advent of Christianity, the Jews fought this, what to them was a new religion, with a passion that knew no bounds. They stoned, whipped, imprisoned and killed thousands of people who became saints of God. Notwithstanding, the religion of Christ stood as the Rock of Gibraltar against the onslaught of these persecutors. However, the Jews were not the only people who attempted to wipe Christianity from the face of the earth. Beginning with a persecution under Nero Caesar that was so horrific it is difficult to describe, the Romans did their best to eradicate the Christian faith. Christians were crucified, burned at the stake, torn by wild animals, killed by gladiators, and murdered in every other imaginable way; yet, they did not yield up their faith in Christ. Their homes were destroyed, their families torn asunder, their property and wealth were confiscated, they were declared enemies of the Empire and were forced to worship in the underground burial tombs of the dead! Yet “in spite of dungeon, fire and sword,” their faith in Christ not only prevailed, but grew. They found grace in God’s sight and peace in his presence. There is no way for us to know just how horrific the torments were or how many truly good, gracious and loving people died at the hands of such horrible persecutors as came against the church in the first three centuries of her existence, yet she overcame.
She has stood through persecution from without, apostasy from within, heresies of all kinds, various kinds of fanaticism and deep schism, yet she has stood. She has even been persecuted repeatedly by those who themselves claimed to be Christians, right down into modern times. However, nothing that has ever come upon her has destroyed her, for these have all been fighting against God.
So long as the earth abides and the ages roll, the faith that Jesus brought into existence in one little portion of the world will stand. As her faithful members pass from this earthly scene, God accepts them into his presence to live with him for eternity. Notwithstanding the fact that, even in times future to us, there will be heresies, schisms, possibly even persecutions of the magnitude of ancient times, yet Christianity will prevail and nothing will overthrow her. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11). Wherever that seed is planted, Christianity will exist, grow, thrive and flourish once again because she is the religion of the ages!