One of the believers in Jerusalem was a Greek speaking Jew named Stephen. We first meet Stephen as one of the seven deacons appointed to look after the needs of a section of the church which, it was alleged, was being unfairly neglected. It is soon a parent, however, that Stephen was also a gifted teacher and preacher with a particularly sharp, God-given insight into some of the implications of the Gospel as touching Jewish tradition (Acts 6 : 10). In one of the Jewish synagogues he preached a sermon which so stirred up the hot-head champions of Jewish orthodoxy, that he was seized and arraigned before the Sanhedrin on a charge of blasphemy.
The outline of Stephen's sermon is preserved for us in Acts 7. What was the main burden of his message? It was simply this, that the old, Jewish sacrificial order was destined from the beginning to pass away, and the time had now come for itsdeparture. With the revelation of Christ, all the traditional trappings of the Temple had become obsolete, and there could be no reconciliation of the two orders. Life and tradition could not carry on side by side. Judaism as it was could not contain Christ; it would have to give way to Christ or die a spiritual death in isolation. Stephen points out that the transitory nature of the traditional, sacrificial system was symbolized in the impermanence of the tabernacle, and that the building of a permanent structure in the Temple was out of accord with God's ideal (Acts 7 : 44-50). It is true that God honoured the devotion with which the Temple was built, but it was, nevertheless, man's idea (I Chron. 17 : 1), while the tabernacle was erected on the specific command of God Himself (Ex. 25: 8).
It is noteworthy that there was one eminent disciple of Gamaliel whose devotion to his master did not extend to accepting his master's advice of moderation in dealing with the followers of Christ. That disciple's name was Saul. The sentence passed upon Stephen met with his full approval. "And Saul was consenting unto his death " (Acts 8: 1). Saul, or Paul, as he was afterwards to be called, totally rejected Stephen's claim that Jesus was the Christ in whom all the law and the offerings were fulfilled, but he plainly recognized that, if Stephen's claim were fact, it would mean an end to all the tradition in which he had been nurtured, and for which he was so zealous. In the light of Saul of Tarsus' future ministry, it is of interest to see how, in his tacit compliance with the condemnation of Stephen, there was an awareness, probably shared at that time by few if any of the disciples themselves, that this new movement, the church, could not be confined within the limits of Judaism. Separation was inevitable.
Theoretically, it might be maintained that the synagogue could have become the church, but practically this was never the case. No doubt, as has already been shown, the synagogue, being free from the sacrificial ritual of the Temple and with the Scriptures as central to its life, was in a position to accept Christ as the fulfillment of the Word of God without having to undergo quite such a radical upheaval as such an acceptance would have occasioned in the life of the Temple, but it was never likely that a ruling majority of the synagogue adherents would accept this. Loyalty to the orthodox, Jewish tradition was too strong and too deep-seated to be thus rooted out. The Spirit of God had to' move elsewhere to start on fresh and more free ground. We see here but the beginning of a pattern of events which is repeated over and over again through the history of the church. When that which is revealed of God is crystallized into a tradition, rigidly held and propagated with purely human energy, it becomes an impenetrable barrier to the truth. The life of the Spirit can never be confined within the framework of religious tradition. God is much greater than man's thoughts concerning Him, and the plant of the church grows best in a soil uncluttered by the pretty hedgerows of man's limited understanding.
When that which is revealed of God is crystallized into a tradition, rigidly held and propagated with purely human energy, it becomes an impenetrable barrier to the truth. I've used the phrase 'crystalized tradition' myself when talking about traditions that I've seen in protestant and Catholic teachings. The main doctrine that showed me this principle and made me think of the phrase 'crystalized tradition (or doctrine)' is that of Calvinism, though there are many more examples that could be used. The principles of Calvinism come from the seeds of truth in scripture, but the doctrines that we call Calvinism are an extrapolation from these scriptural truths that are then hardened or crystalized into a doctrine that ignores some other parts of scripture and so becomes a barrier to truth and to unity in the body of Christ. We need to be forbearing with each other's differences that come from incomplete understanding of scripture, because we all have an incomplete understanding and can learn from each other if we exercise patience and love. It's one thing if the differences come from faith with an incomplete understanding, and another thing if the differences come from error and unbelief. I think, for example, that both Calvinists and Arminians are coming from love of God and His word, and from faith, so we should all exercise forbearance and love toward those in the body of Christ, as God commands us.