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Resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7) January 10, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Holy Spirit, Religion, Sermons.

Acts 7:37-60

When I was a kid, there was an evangelist who preached a certain sermon for which he was well known. In it, he told a story about preaching in a certain town and how that there were three young men who were sitting in the back of the audience and were making fun of everything that was going on. After the service, these three young men went out and were killed in an automobile accident. The subject of the sermon was blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Now, I do not know if those teens were blaspheming the Holy Spirit but it is clear that they resisted the Holy Spirit. They rejected the Word of God. We have in this passage an example of people resisting the Spirit. We overlook, I am afraid, that these people are typical and common in life. In fact, some of you might be resisting the Spirit and certainly many of you have loved ones who are resisting the Spirit, who are rejecting Christ.

A. You or your loved ones may be very moral or religious and still resist the Spirit of God (compare Acts 6:8-15 with 7:41-51).

We have two groups of people in chapter 6. The first are those from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (verse 9). They were not from Jerusalem but were foreign-born Jews from Egypt and what is now modern day Turkey. They were devout men who came from a great distance to worship God in Jerusalem. They heard Stephen speak and saw his miracles and did not like at all what they were hearing, so they plotted to have lies told about his teaching. Based on these lies, they brought Stephen before the council, the Sanhedrin, who were the leading religious leaders of the land. Some on the council were Pharisees and some were Sadducees. These two group had significant doctrinal differences but all of them claimed to believe God’s word and obey it. They were outwardly moral and inwardly religious but they did not believe the message of Christ but rather rejected and resisted it. They even went so far as to set aside their morality and religiosity so that they might lie and murder.

Obviously, they had a spiritual problem. Stephen identifies for us what that problem is. In verse 41-43 he points out that the forefathers made the mistake of worshiping what man could create. He then answers the charge that was made against him in 6:13. He was accused of speaking against the temple. He exposes them as idolators who worshiped the temple rather than the God of the temple. Jesus Himself made the same point several times. He told the woman at the well in John 4 that the time was coming and now is when God would be worshiped neither on a Samaritan mountain nor in Jerusalem but that those who worship God would worship Him in spirit and in truth.

These moral people were different in many ways but can be loosely grouped into two camps. The first group was made up of traditionalists, of whom Paul is representative (see also Philippians 3:4-6). They included religious legalists as well as political nationalists. They were sincere in their morality or religiosity or patriotism. In fact, they were quite proud of their consistency in holding to the path they viewed as traditional. They believed in the supernatural. To sum up, they were proud of who they were. They were self-righteous. Self-righteousness is more than an attitude but is a deeply held, sincere belief about one’s self.

The second group was made up of opportunists, of whom the high priest is representative (the two cleansings of the temple are evidence from Jesus’ time of the opportunism of the high priestly party). Some were religious secularists, rejecting all things supernatural although there were probably also sincerely religious men in this group. Many of this group was in the pocket of the heathen Roman government. Some used religion for political advancement or financial gain. Their pride was found in what they could gain for themselves.

Their motivations varied, their backgrounds varied, their doctrines varied. They were, however, united in their pride and were for that reason united in their rejection of Christ. In both cases, they were blinded by their pride.

B. Those who reject God’s Word might see God’s works, even miracles, and still resist the Spirit of God (Acts 7:36). There are those who claim they would believe if God sent them a miracle. The truth though is that a miracle often does nothing to bring someone to God. Stephen performed miracles and they resulted in his death. Jesus Himself performed miracles openly and although He attracted much attention, few people believed because of the miracles. Stephen mentions how Israel saw the ten plagues of Egypt and experienced the crossing of the Red Sea and the blessings of water and manna and quail in the wilderness and yet did not believe God’s promises. The rich man in hell prayed to Abraham that Lazarus would be sent from the dead to preach to his brothers so that they would believe. Abraham said, however, that if they would not accept the Old Testament which they already had neither would they believe because someone rose from the dead. You see the problem is not an intellectual or scientific problem but rather a spiritual problem.

Because it is a spiritual problem, people might hear and even understand intellectually God’s Word and still resist the Spirit of God (Acts 7:37-41).

Christianity is fact based. The Bible is true in every statement it makes. Archaeology, science, history, logic are all on the side of the Bible and yet some archaeologists, scientists, historians, and logicians reject the Scriptures, not because of facts but because of spiritual unbelief. This does not make our archaeological, scientific, historical, and logical arguments unimportant but reminds us of their limits.

The children of Israel were the first to receive the written Word of God. It was given to Moses by God through angelic means. The people themselves heard the voice of God boom from Mount Sinai but they would not obey. They rejected God. They had a heart problem. They loved the slavery of Egypt more than the land of rest which was promised them by God, the Promised Land.

Stephen said to these people, you have been just like them. You have come to the Temple, you have offered sacrifices, you have paid lip service to God and to His law but when the Prophet of whom the law speaks came, you betrayed Him to the Romans and murdered Him. You are guilty!

Folks, if you have heard the message of Christ and still continue to reject him as the only way of salvation, you are resisting the Holy Spirit. You may not be using blasphemous words but that is not what resisting the Holy Spirit is. It is rejection of the gospel of Christ. If you do not trust Him as your Savior then you have rejected Jesus Christ and through that rejection have resisted the Holy Spirit.

This is a bleak situation. Some of you have shared with me the sorrow and frustration you have in trying to reach your loved ones and neighbors who are not receptive or even indifferent but rather are antagonistic to Christ, who are resisting the Spirit of God. Yet there is hope.

C. There is hope for those who resist the Spirit of God and His Word (Compare Acts 7:58-8:3 with 9:1-6 and 20-22). We find that Saul in Acts 8:1 was consenting to Stephen’s death. Although he did not actually throw a stone, he was one with authority, perhaps even as part of the council (see Acts 26:9-10 for Paul’s account of this). Saul had rejected Jesus Christ and was resisting the Holy Spirit. In Acts 9, however, we see a different picture. Christ intervened and brought Saul to Himself. We have already seen that the power of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit in individuals are effective in opening the eyes of the spiritually blinded.

I think of Dietmar, a nuclear physicist in West Berlin. Dietmar’s wife was a believer in Christ but He was not. He could not believe in what could not be poured in a test tube. However, on November 9, 1989 Dietmar woke up to find that the Berlin Wall had fallen. Most of his life, he had lived with the Wall as a daily part of his life. Suddenly it was gone. Dietmar realized that he had witnessed a miracle and began at that point to study the Word of God and eventually turned to Christ. What happened? Exactly what had happened with Saul. He heard the Word of God, was prayed for and the Holy Spirit did its work in His life.

Saul heard the truth. We cannot get by this point. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is the Word of God that the Holy Spirit uses to bring men to faith. He may knock down a Berlin Wall or use some incident in someone’s life to get their attention but they must hear the truth concerning Christ.

1. Verses 2-3: The God of glory has a plan for His creation and for that reason we are accountable to Him.
2. Verses 7-8: God has shown us His way by which we are to live.
3. Verses 38-43: We, however, have chosen our own way (See Isaiah 53: 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way…”).
4. Verses 37, 52: Jesus Christ, the Prophet, the Just One was sent from God to bring us back to God and to His ways.
5. Verse 37b: Hear Him!

Stephen told them as much as they would allow Him to. Saul heard the truth. At first He resisted but on the road to Damascus, he heard and believed. He said to King Agrippa in Acts 26, “I was not, O King Agrippa, disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He believed what he had heard from Stephen.

Not only, however, should we tell the gospel of Christ in all its fullness but we need to pray. Stephen’s prayer was not long. It was his dying prayer but it was a prayer of love for those stoning him, for the young man, Saul, who voted for Stephen to be killed.

You see, we need to turn to God for His power and His filling. I know many of you pray for lost loved ones. Let’s not stop. Let’s intensify our prayers and our witness to those around us, not just to those who are receptive but also to those who are resistant. They need to hear the Word and we need to pray that God will open up their hearts to the gospel.

Some are thinking, how can I. They’ve told me they do not want to hear of Jesus and the Bible. What should I do? I can pray but how do I get the Word into their hands?

The book of 1 Peter reminds us that our lives give our witness authenticity. If your life is not authentic then begin today following Christ with your whole heart and put away those sins that hinder your loved ones from hearing the gospel of Christ. Become like Stephen a person who loves even when hated, who forgives even when forgiveness is not asked for or even wanted. Become like Christ who did not fight for His rights but rather died for His enemies. That is the teaching of 1 Peter.

Take gospel literature and leave it where those people can find it and read it. Listen openly to good gospel radio and TV, so that they also might hear. Invite people to Christmas programs and Easter Sundays and baptismal services and Sunday morning services. Look for opportunities to start conversations about God’s purpose for us, our failures, and Christ’s remedy for our sin. Converse about the truth! And pray! Pray! Pray!

Perhaps you need to trust Christ for your salvation. Christ came to bring you back to the ways of God. The consequences of rejecting Christ, of resisting the Spirit are eternal and damning. Trust Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins today!

Next Week: Selection by the Holy Spirit



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