The Nazarene Sect: There are Two Sides to Every Story
Gamaliel offers wise advice for whenever religious factions stand in opposition
Paul’s in jail, imprisoned for doing what God told him to do. This isn’t Paul’s first incarceration for his faith in Jesus, and it won’t be his last. When his trial finally begins, his detractors levy four charges against him, which they use to justify their actions.
They say, “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him, (Acts 24:5-7).
Let’s break this down:
This depends on perspective. To Paul, he’s simply involved in a new movement of God and is excited to share the news with his people. To his accusers, Paul’s messing with their traditions and upsetting the status quo. To them, he spells trouble.
Stirs Up Riots
Though riots do seem to occur where Paul goes, he doesn’t incite them. The people who take offense at what Paul says stir themselves up. The riots are their fault, not Paul’s.
A Ringleader of the Nazarene Sect
They accuse Paul of heading up a subset of Judaism (a sect, the Nazarene sect), which could simply imply that Paul is a leader among those who follow Jesus, the Nazarene. If so, Paul would likely say “guilty as charged,” but the reality is that Paul’s detractors actually oppose Jesus. It’s just that Paul is a present target. Jesus isn’t.
Tried to Desecrate the Temple
Regarding the event in question, Paul was doing everything by the book, literally. But people jumped to a wrong conclusion and made false accusations.
Paul’s detractors accuse him using twisted facts, half-truths, and lies. People fear what they don’t understand, often going to extreme means to oppose it. So it is when God does a new thing inside his church.Opposition often occurs when God does a new thing inside his church. Click To Tweet
God’s followers too often find themselves in opposition to each other. Instead of fighting one another, they should heed the advice of Gamaliel: “If it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:39, NIV). And no one who loves God wants to end up fighting against him.
Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.