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Four Observations from Stephen’s Sermon

The sum of Stephen’s Sermon: Stiff-necked and resistant

At the end of Acts 6, we find that Stephen is accused of blasphemy even though the wonders and signs he did pointed to the work of God. In Acts 7 we find Stephen’s address to the high priest in which he emphasizes Israel’s disobedience throughout the Old Testament. Stephen told of how God had been at work from the beginning of time and made Israel His chosen people with the calling of Abraham. He then went through the time they spent in Egypt, Moses delivering them through the miracles of God, and the years of Israel’s rebellion against God. He sums up his sermon by saying, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”

Stephen’s Four Observations of a stiff-necked people

Stephen made four observations about his audience: they were stiff-necked, had uncircumcised hearts, uncircumcised ears, and they always resist the Holy Spirit.

1. Stiff-necked

To say they were stiff-necked was saying they were stubborn, hard-headed, and unyielding. Israel’s history proved this to be true. They were so stubborn and unyielding that finally God said, “Enough!” and the nation of Israel was conquered and the people were carried off to spend then next 70 years in captivity.

2. Uncircumcised Heart

An uncircumcised heart is one that is closed and impervious to God’s attempts to affect it.  In Deuteronomy 30:6, it says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul that you will live.” Circumcision of the heart, then, goes clear down to a person’s soul, the very essence of who he or she is and is expressed through his or her attitudes and relationship with God. An uncircumcised heart does not love God with all its soul and does not have a relationship with God. For many in Israel (and in our world today), they had a head-knowledge of who they thought God was but they never had the heart-experience of who God is.

3. Uncircumcised Ears

To have uncircumcised ears means they heard what they wanted to in regards to God’s Word or that they had such a strong prejudice to how they interpreted it that it was impossible for them to ever change their way of thinking even when the truth was right in front of them with the signs and wonders that Stephen had been doing.

4. Resisting the Holy Spirit

Resisting the Holy Spirit was to ignore what the Spirit was saying. Throughout Israel’s history, God would sent a prophet with a message and the prophet would be rejected. Now that Jesus had returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit has come to indwell the believer, when we ignore what the Spirit is saying to us, we are resisting Him.

As Stephen spoke to the crowd, the Holy Spirit was speaking to them through Stephen. It was as if the Holy Spirit had a personal message for them and they rejected it. We know they rejected the Holy Spirit because in verses 54-47 we find the people were so furious that they gnashed their teeth at Stephen, covered their ears, and yelled at the top of their voice. They rushed at Stephen, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Any time we reject what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, we are resisting Him and the work He is trying to do in our lives. It is as if we stand guard at the door to our heart and refuse to surrender our will to God.

Are you stiff-necked and resistant?

What about you? Would God say you are stiff-necked, stubborn and unyielding person? Are you closed and impervious to God’s attempts to change your heart? Do you hear what you want to hear from God’s Word and ignore the rest or twist it to mean what you want it to mean? Do you resist the Holy Spirit when He is trying teach you something or correct something in your life? Or do you resist Him when he prompts you to witness to someone? Its really all about control. Are you willing to surrender and give total control of your life to the God who created you and loves you?

Israel had a problem in that they could not learn from the mistakes of their ancestors. Stephen told them that just as their fathers had been stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, and resisted the Holy Spirit, they were doing so now too. But we can learn what they did not and yield ourselves to God and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

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