James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. (James 1:1 KJV)
... to the twelve tribes. Not to Judah. Not to Israel. To all of the tribes scattered abroad. His contemporary, Gamaliel, did, too:
... to the sons of the dispersion in Babylonia, and to our brethern in Media, and to all the dispersion of Israel.Paul mentioned them, standing before Agrippa:
Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. (Acts 26:5-7 KJV)
James and Gamaliel were addressing the same audience; Paul was explaining why the Jews brought him before Roman law. Three contemporary Jews with widely divergent beliefs.
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; (Acts 5:34 KJV)
Gamaleil set the apostles to one side so that they would not hear his speech. He explains several instances where rebellious men lead others to their deaths. He looked upon these apostles as doing the same thing, but he gave them the benefit of the doubt:
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: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (Acts 5:38-39 KJV)
At the time he said this, Saul was still considering these as bragging rights:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5-6 KJV)
If he heard Gamaliel’s words of caution, he ignored them. It took a meeting on the road to Damascus to change his mind.
Three Jews, connected through so many things, yet seeing the world from such different ways. Some Christian churches today believe Gamaliel became a follower of Christ. Jews do not believe that, looking upon him as first in the Sanhedrin.
I believe his counsel is good today – be cautious, if it be of God, we might find ourselves fighting against God. How do we know we aren’t? When we see three Jews who loved their people greatly and cared about their relationship with God. When we speak with our Lord. When we use the Bible as our final authority. When we follow His word.