Fighting and battling of mankind has taken place since the first human walked the earth. Though man fights against himself for the occupying of lands, freedoms, etc., the greatest and most lingering of fights that takes place is that of man fighting against God. In Acts 5:39, the great rabban and scholar Gamaliel commented on the subject: "but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God." In the context of the passage, Gamaliel does not agree with the doctrine that is being spread throughout Jerusalem of Jesus proclaimed as the Messiah. However, he acknowledges that fighting against God is fruitless, vain, and ridiculous. I will explore this passage and others throughout this paper to: a) reveal the reasons that man fights against God, b) to explain that those who do fight against God are fools, and finally c) that one who fights against God is only fighting against him/herself.
Why do people fight against God? One reason is that people do not listen to what God says about Himself but only listen to what others say about Him. With the bombardments of the 21st century media today, many people listen to and believe most or all of what they hear. A man on a television set in an expensive suit can proclaim something he "discovered" in scientific research and it is taken immediately as fact. In this age, children are brought up taught that evolution is fact rather than theory. Without exercising discernment about information taken in, one can develop false concepts of God and thus enter into a fight against Him. Many people come up with big whoppers about God that make me wonder where in the world they get their "facts" from. The truth is that people only repeat what they hear. Someone who doesn't know God personally and hasn't actually read the Bible for themselves may have no clue that they are simply crackers in their thoughts and concepts of the God of the Bible.
The Bible claims to be God's revelation to mankind. As I study the Bible daily, I am continually satisfied with the tangible evidence and logical concepts presented. Unless you have read the Bible from cover to cover, how can you formulate accurate conclusions about it? Some begin at Genesis but then put the Book down at the first miracle because they just can't believe that it really happened. However, the book of Genesis alone, or even the first handful of books isn't enough of the Bible to get the whole concept of God as He intends. Many people that don't believe the Bible have never even picked it up to read it. I cannot logically accept someone's opinion of the Bible if they haven't carefully examined the evidence for themselves. I don't want you to take my word for it. If you have not already, take the challenge to read the Bible for yourself and gather your own conclusion rather than adopting the opinions and conclusions of other men. Hugh Prather once wrote, "Don't fight a fact, deal with it." Gamaliel however did have a very strong knowledge of the scriptures and realized that fighting against God was foolish.
Other people fight against God because they experienced mishaps in life and allow bitterness against God to develop. Perhaps a minister wrongs them and makes a mistake. People often view pastors as perfect and when they see the pastor stumble, the shock that the pastor is human is unbearable and they run. Or, maybe God doesn't answer a specific prayer that someone prays. Perhaps a prayer to save a life from cancer is unanswered and bitterness sparks a fight against God in a person who previously loved and trusted God completely. A common question I am asked from non-believers is, "If there is a God, why does he allow all of this evil, violence, and destruction in the world?" These people fight against God because they are upset over the situations that He permits to happen. This world is indeed in a state of chaos but this isn't the way God intended it to be from the beginning. It is our fault that the world has become what it is and to hold animosity in our hearts against God for things that we cause is absurd. Why not surrender what we don't understand and allow God to lead our lives rather than combating to control them ourselves?
You must be a fool to fight against God. "Woe to him who strives with his Maker!" There is no hope in a mortal human trying to wage a war against the infinite omnipotent God. Jonah tried to fight against God by running in the opposite direction of where he was called to go. God responded by having a massive fish swallow Jonah in route to Tarshish. Only someone devoid of common sense would dare to fight against God, yet we all do it in someway or other all the time. While some try this physical fight with God, others war intellectually. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." People argue with God and think they know more. When God answers though, the result is silence. Because God loves us all, His mercy allows people to say blasphemous things in the hope that they will turn to Him eventually. If God wasn't merciful, He would justly wipe out all mankind because of these blasphemes.
MacArthur puts it this way: "Such a foolhardy course of action is dangerous, if not fatal and eternally terrible, because God fights back." God gives a tremendous warning of such in Jeremiah. "I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath." God's power cannot be combated against and only a fool even tries. Just because immediate action may not take place, God will clearly pass judgment in due time.
Men can only fight with God because He allows them to do so. It is only by God's grace and mercy that man is even granted the life to fight with God, rather than abrupt death. As man shouts words of empty intellect to God, the realization is missing that the very breath forming the words from the lungs is from God. When Daniel was brought in to interpret the writing on the wall for the Babylonian king Belshazzar, he said, "the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified." As you read this, your very next breath is in the hand of God and is granted to you not out of obligation but out of love and grace. Ironically, Belshazzar's grandfather Nebuchadnezzar tried to fight God and revealed the outcome when he said, "at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation."
Gamaliel was a respected and well-educated rabban in the religious council in Jerusalem. "Gamaliel was only one of seven scholars in his nation's history to receive the title, 'Rabban' (our master)." It is this man that gives the warning against fighting God. Paul the Apostle sat under Gamaliel's teaching but obviously did not heed this principle since he set out to destroy followers of "The Way": the name given to the first followers of Jesus Christ. Gamaliel is the rabban who persuades the council to a more reasonable course of action when they become outraged at Peter and the other disciples' doctrine and want to kill them. Gamaliel was well qualified since he himself was a member of the Sanhedrin and therefore held in high respect among the people in Jerusalem. He at least acknowledged that this doctrine of Jesus could be a possibility. As a result of Gamaliel's excellent declaration, the apostles were beaten, threatened, but then released. The apostles immediately started preaching again. The more Christianity is threatened and persecuted, the more it rises.
Under the teaching of Gamaliel, Paul undoubtedly learned of the folly of fighting against God. Yet, Paul's encounter with the risen Christ shows the degree that this teaching took hold of his heart and life. "Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" Paul had been kicking against the figurative goads by fighting against Jesus Christ.
Thus, fighting against God is fighting against yourself and your own good. God's love and plan for your life is the absolute best for you and fleeing from that is only fighting against what is supreme for your life. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." God is not some spirit of wrath waiting to send trials and heartache to you when you mess up. Take a look outside today and realize that God's imagination is incredible. Then, realize that that same imagination and creativity is thinking at this very moment of how to bless you and do wonderful things in your life. "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." When you surrender the fight against God and yield to His will, like a nation defeated in war that applies for aid, resources from the Lord will flow into your life and His Holy Spirit will empower and strengthen you to serve and follow the path of life.
Are you possibly fighting against God now? Maybe you realize you are caught up in some sinful mess and have no clue how you ended up in such a place. Stop fighting God and submit to doing things His way. Gamaliel is absolutely correct in that you cannot overthrow something God is doing. Stop kicking against the goads like Paul and fess up to God.
Some people do win in their fight against God by dying without ever having submitted to Him for salvation and lordship. The result of winning this fight against God is to be eternally lost. God is a perfect gentleman and will not force anyone to love or follow Him, yet He constantly persuades with that still small voice in each man's conscience. Your forfeit in this fight is what truly brings victory.
 Acts 5:39 NKJV
 Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992), 3576.
 Isa. 45:9 NKJV
 See Jon. 1:3, 17
 1 Cor. 1:25 NKJV
 John F. MacArthur, Jr., MacArthur's New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1994).
 Jer. 21:5 NKJV
 Dan. 5:23 NKJV
 Dan. 4:34 NKJV
 Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1989).
 Acts 9:5
 Jer. 29:11
 Ps. 84:11