Acts 5:38

ESV So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail;
NIV Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.
NASB And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, for if the source of this plan or movement is men, it will be overthrown;
CSB So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail;
NLT So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.
KJV And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

What does Acts 5:38 mean?

Gamaliel's words put a spiritual sheen on a very human issue. The priests aren't necessarily concerned about God's honor. They hate the apostles using a philosophy they don't believe—the resurrection from the dead—to support a person they hate—Jesus of Nazareth—to make them look guilty of murder—which they are. If this continues, the priests and other Sadducees could lose the support of the people. If that happens, they could lose the support of the Romans. They could lose everything.

As a Pharisee, Gamaliel presumably believes in the resurrection of the dead and doesn't particularly like the Roman Empire. He directs the conversation away from hysteria and toward God. He recalls examples of other men who rose up, gathered supporters, and disappeared to no permanent ill effect (Acts 5:36–37). If Jesus of Nazareth was just a man, the same will happen to Him and His followers. If He is the Messiah as His followers claim, no action by the Sanhedrin will stop them.

Ironically, Jesus taught the same thing: "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13), although He was speaking of the Pharisees. In a very short time, the Sanhedrin will authorize persecution that will scatter the Jesus-followers from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–3). The exiles will take the message of Jesus to the world. In AD 70, the remnants of one of Gamaliel's examples—the Zealots—will trigger the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple. The Jews will scatter and not return en masse until 1948. Ironically, they will do so with the help of Christians.
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