These words from Stephen, the gospel’s first martyr, reveal to us that the Gospel’s good news has been a threat to the status quo since the very beginning. As Stephen continues with his accusation, he reveals to his hearers that even the anticipation of the Gospel’s arrival in the person of Jesus Christ was a threat to the status quo. The hearers standing before him killed the Righteous One just as their fathers had killed the prophets who announced the coming of the Righteous One (cf. vs. 52).
The Gospel’s good news poses a threat to the status quo for a very simple reason. The status quo is always built upon yesterday’s faith—that is, it is always old news. The status quo builds the present on yesterday’s faith and projects today’s present faith into the future. The good news of the Gospel threatens that “same old, same old.” The gospel is the announcement that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning… that in Jesus Christ, God is doing a new thing… that this Righteous One, murdered by the crowd, is not only the Messiah but a Messiah who dies and is resurrected. The status quo of the Jews in front of Stephen could not withstand such an assault. The status quo of any religion, even the Christian religion, cannot withstand the preaching of the Gospel’s fresh and good news.
The reaction of the crowd simply carries forth the action of the crowd at Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The religious authorities felt the threat to their status quo posed by Jesus, stirred up the crowd, and Jesus got crucified. The crowd before Stephen upon hearing both the promise of the Gospel preached by the Righteous One and the accusation against their sin of putting the Righteous One to death… the crowd, stirred up by the preaching entering their ears, stoned Stephen.
In every generation, there is opposition to the Gospel’s good news from those whose status quo is threatened by it. That Gospel threat may be silenced by those supporters of the status quo. All preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ face that threat.
Table Talk: What is it about the Gospel that so threatens the status quo?
Pray: Father, keep me receptive daily to the Gospel’s good news. Amen
Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60 English Standard Version
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.
7:2a And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me.
8:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.