The Jewish council was angered that the apostles had refused to cease preaching in Jesus’ name after they had demanded they do so. Peter’s words, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29), did not help their feelings. Furthermore, when Peter told them they had crucified Christ, which they knew to be an innocent man, they were angrier than ever and “when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and minded to slay them” (Acts 5:33). It was a tense moment for the apostles, and had there not been a calm and reasonable man present who counseled that they not act so hastily, the apostles might have met a much earlier death than they did.
There was a voice who restored calmness and brought a different result at this time — than what it might have otherwise been had that voice not been present and vocal. That voice was Gamaliel, who sizing up what was about to occur, urged the council “to take heed what yourselves do as touching these, what ye are about to do” (5:35). Gamaliel was a wise man, a Pharisee and respected by all men. He reminded the council of two men, one named Theudas and the other Judas of Galilee — two men who for a while had great influence among the people but who both came to nothing and their movements dispersed. Mentioning these men Gamaliel urged the council, “Refrain from these men, and let them alone, for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught: but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39). I know that ultimately every work will be revealed whether it is of men or God at the judgment; but while we’re not certain that in this life every wicked work will be revealed, and I know that we cannot sit idly by and allow error to spread unopposed, Gamaliel’s words are generally true. His was a calming voice that kept this council from murdering innocent men and the absence of such a voice at the trial of Stephen resulted in angry men who were filled with fury, killing Stephen (Acts 7:54-60).
Hasty decisions result in many wrongs. Solomon wrote, “Seest thou a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). Hasty action, coupled with untrue words, brought about the beating of Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:19-23). The stoning of Paul in Lystra (Acts 14:19-20) and countless more atrocities were heaped upon Christians in the first century, many resulting because there wasn’t a calming voice who urged the ones around them to really think about what they were about to do.
Brethren are not immune to injurious actions which result because deeds done in haste are more likely to be hurtful than otherwise. How many hard feelings and hateful actions result because of deeds done in spur of the moment, yielding to violent passions! That is why husbands, wives, and parents need to act in longsuffering; why nations must consider what could result from an inflamed spirit; and why the church needs men who will act decisively, but calmly and with reason as they oversee the flock of God.
It is not indecisiveness that we need. Decisiveness is necessary for all men to order our lives. We do not need indecisiveness in dealing with error or wickedness. We are commanded to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3); to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:16); to militantly oppose error and wickedness. Still, we must have calmness and reason in whatever things we do and weigh what is right and wrong — and then do what is right.