Challenging the Status Quo
‘. . . they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also.”‘
When Paul the Apostle answered the Macedonian call and travelled from Troas to the Roman province of Macedonia, to the city of Philippi, God did a great work of saving many people there. A church was established. After travelling through Amphipolis and Apollonia, Paul and his entourage came to Thessalonica, about 100 miles west of Philippi, and about 190 miles northwest of Athens. As was his custom, Paul entered the local synagogue of the Jews, and for three successive Sabbath days, reasoned or argued (literally, he dialogued) with them from the Scriptures. And what was his goal? He was explaining and proving to the Jews that Jesus the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead. Luke, the writer of Acts, quotes Paul as saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming (the Greek word is kataggello, to proclaim, preach, declare) to you is the Christ.’ Some of the Jews were persuaded by Paul’s preaching and a large number of the God-fearing Greeks (former pagans who were very sympathetic toward Judaism and, in some degree, were following Jewish, religious ritual), as well as many of the leading women in the city were also persuaded and became disciples of Christ.
This was just too much for the Jewish power brokers in town, and they stirred up serious opposition to Paul and the other Christians, inciting a mob to drag Jason, apparently a new convert, and the other disciples out of Jason’s house and give them over to the city authorities. And what was the charge by these rabble-rousers? ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also. . . They are acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar (the Roman Emperor), saying that there is another king, Jesus.’ This charge amounted to sedition against the Roman Empire and was a serious charge. W. M. Ramsay writes that this no doubt meant Jason and his associates were bound over to the city authorities for a season to prevent the cause of the disturbance.1
What does Luke mean by the phrase, ‘These men who have upset the world?’ Kistemaker writes, ‘The fact is that the gospel troubles, penetrates, and alters society in every part of the world.’2 Matthew Henry goes further, ‘The love of the world is rooted out of the heart, and the way of the world contradicted in the life; so that the world is turned upside down there.’3
When the grace of God, in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, transforms one’s heart, everything of vital necessity changes in that person. He now has the heart of Jesus, the mind of Christ, the righteousness of Christ. He thinks differently. He thinks God’s thoughts after Him. He loves the brethren. He loves the lost. He has a sense of justice. He cannot stand the wickedness and perversion under which he formerly lived, and he knows how destructive this is for any culture. He now understands that Jesus is the only hope for sinners, and he begins to have a desire to apply the Bible to every area of life.
The buzzword today is ‘cultural engagement.’4 Tim Keller is urging cultural engagement by Christians, and Rod Dreher is not disagreeing with him, but Dreher is concerned that many Christians are not properly and Biblically prepared to engage the culture.5 Dreher gives one example, saying a Christian woman in media whom he knows has compromised the Biblical position on homosexuality. Why? She has moved into the secular world and over a period of time, has gradually accepted the world’s notion that homosexuality is okay because she knows some homosexuals who seem to be really nice people. So Dreher says Christians need to be well discipled in the Biblical world view.
So, how do we challenge the status quo? When the Holy Spirit is active in a church, community, or nation, when many people are being converted and discipled through the preaching of the gospel, a tsunami of truth rushes over that church, community, or nation. When that happens Christian people will act upon the truth they now know and bring it into the public arena. It is only natural for them to do so. There is not necessarily some well orchestrated plan. They just know they should act, speak, and live Biblically, in whatever sphere of influence they may have.
It has always been this way. D. James Kennedy, in his book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?,6 outlines the significant impact Christianity has made in our world in the last two thousand years. From its impact on the sanctity and value of human life, through its contribution to the poor, to the education of people, on the founding of America, on its contribution to civil liberties, its impact on science, economics, sex and the family, health and medicine, on upgrading a culture’s morality, on its contribution to the arts and music, only a blind skeptic would dispute the unmistakable fact of the good Christianity has done all over the world.
These massive contributions by Christianity did not come in a well planned, orchestrated strategy, but came naturally, or shall we say supernaturally, as the gospel was preached, as people were discipled, and as the tsunami of truth washed powerfully over various cultures. This impact is not immediate, but gradual, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.
Preaching and discipling, in the power of the Holy Spirit, must come first. Anything else is a distraction from our purpose. When the church majors on the Great Commission, then blood bought believers will gladly take the truth they know and apply it to every area of their culture, and thus, over many years, change the status quo.
- St. Paul The Traveler and Roman Citizen, chapter x, section 7.
- New Testament Commentary: Acts, Simon Kistemaker, page 616.
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible: Volume 6, page 220.
- “Tim Keller and the Benedict Option”, in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher (October 22, 2017)
- I am concerned that Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option and a former Roman Catholic and now in the Orthodox Church, in his desire to pull back in order for Christian to be well trained to engage the culture, is giving up too much. I believe in revival and the work of the Holy Spirit as fundamental for any cultural transformation. So, I believe we should, of course, be well trained, but at the same time we do not need to retreat. We need to do battle with the culture in the power of the Holy Spirit by preaching the gospel of grace.
- What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe.
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