Two times in the New Testament a man by the name of Gamaliel is mentioned. Luke said of him, “Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people…” (Acts 5:34). When defending himself, the apostle Paul said that he was “brought up…at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). With his knowledge and wisdom, it has often been thought by some that, surely, this man eventually embraced the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved, but such is not revealed if true. When Peter and the other apostles were brought before the council and questioned about teaching salvation through Jesus Christ, the council determined to slay them. However, after giving a couple of examples from the past, Gamaliel told them, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39). The whole concept of “fighting against God” is one that ought to make anyone who seeks to be saved shiver in their boots. Who would have the audacity to attempt to do such a thing? The fact is, anyone who opposes any of the teachings of God’s word are fighting against God, not those who are teaching and preaching that truth. Often preachers have jokingly (though truthfully) said when pointing out something from God’s word that many opposed, “I’m not telling you this, God is!” Let us use a few examples to show how some today could be trying to fight against God.
God has said in His word that He created the heavens and the earth and all that therein is (Gen. 1:1; Exo. 20:11; Acts 17:24). Yet, multitudes today teach and espouse that there is no God and that all things have come about through natural occurrences. The dispute is not between these atheists and the proclaimer of God’s word, but between God and man.
God has taught through His word that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 20:31; Rom. 1:4). The Jews of His own time rejected Him (John 1:11) and the Jews still do. Many other religious groups denounce Jesus altogether or demote Him to a position of a mere prophet. Again, the dispute is not really between true Christians and these unbelievers, but between these unbelievers and God. They are fighting against God, and rest assured, God will win!
God has revealed to us through His inspired word that salvation can be enjoyed by way of belief in and obedience to His son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). But, He also said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Literally multitudes today teach and argue for salvation by faith only. They argue that there is nothing that a person has to do other than believe in Jesus. God said that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). And, James wrote three times that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). No, he who believes in faith only is not fighting he who teaches that one must have a living faith that brings one to obey the gospel of Christ, but that person is disputing with and fighting God. In the end, God will win that fight (II Thess. 1:7-9).
Also, there is a dispute that is ongoing concerning the one church of the Bible as opposed to one church being as good as another. Generally this belief is that one denomination is as good as another. It is true that one denomination is as good as another, but not that any denomination is as good as the one church that Jesus built. God has clearly revealed that Jesus would be the builder of “His” church (Matt. 16:18), that He would be the head of “His” church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18) and that He is the saviour of “His” church (Eph. 5:23). When one believes and obeys the commands of the Lord in order to be saved, the Lord adds that person to “His” church (Acts 2:47; I Cor. 12:13, 18). In addition to this, the Bible teaches us that there is to be no division of the members. Jesus prayed that they would all be one as He and the Father were one (John 17:20-21) and the apostle Paul besought, “…that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). A believer in the one church is as good as another idea is not at odds with those who preach and teach the one church of the Bible so much as they are disputing with God about the number of churches purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28) and in which salvation is provided. Such are fighting God.
Indeed, disputes do exists between various people on these issues and others, but the real dispute is with God. Do you really want to fight with God?
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]