– Stephen has been testifying to the High Council, using their own scriptures & history against them.
– He is rebuking them for following in their father’s foot steps by rejecting and persecuting every messenger that God has sent to them.
– These pharisees, experts in the laws, should know better, and Stephen is now exposing them!
Acts 7:51-53, 51“You stiff-necked and 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 foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
#1. God’s chosen people are being deliberately disobedient.
Verse 51,“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
– The behavior of the pharisees is willful and deliberate. They are being more than stubborn.
– “Stiff-necked” is to resist the leading of the master.
– Oxen were used to plow the fields. When an ox did not want to move, he would stiffen his neck muscles to resist the direction he was being pulled in.
– Or the ox would not bow his head to receive the master’s yoke.
– Circumcision was the seal of God’s promise, and the symbol of His people being “set apart”.
– Looking and acting like God’s people on the outside, doesn’t make up for deaf ears and a wicked heart on the inside.
– Saying their “hearts and ears are uncircumcised” is saying that they are no different than a non-believer or heathen when it comes to listening to God or doing what He says.
– It’s as if they never knew God at all.
– Romans 2:25-29, 25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your [f]written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose [g]praise is not from men but from God.
– They are being fake, and Stephen is calling them out for it! Example: Stolen Valor
– When you are “one”, you can tell when someone is not “one”!
– This is the word of God through their hero, Moses, spoken to their fore-fathers in the desert:
– Exodus 19:5, Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people…
– These Jews have wear the symbol of the covenant, but don’t keep its meaning and purpose in their hearts. (Example: A husband looking at porn…)
– Their fathers disobeyed God then, and they disobey God now by ignoring the Holy Spirit.
#2. Don’t follow a bad example, and don’t set a bad example.
Verse 52, “…as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers who have received the law… and not kept it.”
– Stephen rebukes them for the same thing God rebuked their ancestors for in the wilderness.
– He exposes Israel’s long history of resisting God and his prophets. Their fathers resisted Moses in the desert, and now they are resisting the Savior that Moses predicted would come.
– Exodus 32:9-10, 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a [b]stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may [c]consume them…”
– This happens right after the golden calf incident.
(Interestingly, the disobedient people who resist God’s Spirit were able to turn their leader away from God also. Aaron the Priest actually made the golden calf for them! (Exodus 32)
– This isn’t the first time the pharisees have received this rebuke either. Jesus told them too!
– Matt 23:29-32, 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and [m]adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
– They continue to follow their fathers’ bad example, even though they know that God’s white-hot wrath had burned against them.
(AGAIN, we see a disobedient people turn their leader against God’s Spirit. The Jews got Pilate to crucify Jesus even though he knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong.)
– Before we condemn Israel, we must look at our own lives to see if we are ignoring the Holy Spirit, and leading others down the path towards sin.
– Romans 14:13, Therefore let us not judge one another [a]anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
– Matthew 18:6, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
– By ignoring or minimizing the sins in our lives that may even be commonly accepted by culture, we can unknowingly lead new believers down a wrong path of disobedience.
– Teaching a new believer that “sin is not really sin if it is inconvenient”, or if it gets in the way of something you really want, is just asking for a “millstone necklace”.
– You may be inadvertently doing this by flaunting your grace.
– 1 Cor. 8:9, 9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a [c]stumbling block to those who are weak.
– Galatians 5:13,For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
#3. Ignoring the truth will not change the truth.
– Some believers don’t know what they don’t know. Example: Acts chapter 19.
– Paul visits Ephesus and runs into some disciples. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
– Paul tells them that John’s baptism was for repentance, but the point is to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
– Acts 19:5, When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
– Don’t confuse the one who doesn’t know with the one who is pretending they don’t know. There are new believers who don’t know what all this stuff means, but they are trying, and learning more every day. That’s why they are here.
– Some believers DO know, but pretend they don’t, ignoring the truth that’s right in front of them.
– People want to do what they want to do, and then say, “Was that wrong? If I only had only known I wouldn’t have done it.”
– Ex: Tiny’s high blood pressure. Overweight, not eating right, “There’s nothing I can do.”
– It’s genetic, inherited from his father, but he can take steps to improve it.
– Doctor only gave him more medication, but he knows he should lose weight.
– He swapped pasta with cabbage for a while, but he loved his food too much!
– HBP is a silent killer with long term consequences. One day he will say, “But I didn’t everything I could!” But he will know that he really didn’t.
– I saw a doctor for HBP too. He said lose 10lbs. I got mad and offended, but it actually worked!
– As a FF/EMT I have met many people who are in denial about their poor health, and won’t go to the doctor to find out what is wrong with them.
– Knowing is scary because you will be held accountable for what you know.
– Pretending you are fine when you are sick, won’t make you any less sick.
– The High Council and the Pharisees know the scriptures that point to the Messiah, but they don’t want to admit it because then they will be held accountable for the truth.
– They want to ignore the truth, and Stephen is not going to let them get away with it!
– John 5:39-40, Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Now it’s your turn:
- Don’t be afraid to learn the truth. You are accountable for it either way.
- When the Holy Spirit speaks, listen. Don’t ignore it and pretend you didn’t hear Him.
- Go to church. Read your Bible. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Jeremiah 9: 23-26, 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, [j]judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.