There are times when children resist their parent’s authority and don’t really care about the consequences. This was the case with Israel.
Ac 7:51 You are just like your fathers:You always resist the Holy Spirit!
Remember that God is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. When Israel resisted the Holy Spirit they were resisting God!
1) Stephen continues to direct his words to those in the Sanhedrin … the high priest, Sadducees, Pharisees and the Scribes. He is saying there is absolutely no difference to the forefathers of Israel and the present leaders … the supposed spiritual fathers of the present Israel. There is sufficient teaching in the Old Testament about the Holy Spirit so they cannot deny His existence. This Holy Spirit is the same Holy Spirit who gave the Scriptures:
2Pe 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Although this refers to all Scripture, it primarily referred to the Old Testament. To resist the Holy Spirit was to resist the Word of God … and that is what Stephen is saying to these “stiff-necked” people. Like it or not, this is where we stand. We have the tendency of resisting and rejecting the Word of God. It is true we are adamant in saying the Bible is the Word of God. We are able to quote:
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The problem is that although we say we believe this, our behavior and practice denies we do … because if we do we shall forcefully strive, in a loving manner, to live the Word of God all the time! I know this hurts … and it hurts me too, but we need to be honest. I truly wonder whether, because our approach to Scripture is more academic, this finds us in a spiritually barren waste land! Is this the reason our prayer lives are so poor? Is this the reason our commitment to Jesus is so shallow? Is this the reason that our Churches are looking for more and more entertainment and noise to satisfy the people? True this is hard talk but do we want to be like the high priest and the Sanhedrin or do we want to be like Stephen? Let us covenant to return to loving, using and applying the Word of God in heavy doses that causes our prayer lives to be a joy and not an experience we want to end as soon as possible.
2) Stephen continues to hold up the rebellious nature of their forefathers.
Ac 7:52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.
This language is a full frontal spiritual onslaught and his words ring the same language as the Lord Jesus’:
Mt 23:30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
Mt 23:34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
Taking Jesus and Stephen’s words together we find …
(1) The Jews in Jesus’ day agreed that their forefathers killed the prophets. Yet the Jews of Stephen’s day (likely the same ones) accused Stephen of disrespecting the forefathers.
(2) The reason the forefathers killed the prophets was to stifle God’s prophetic Word about Messiah. It was not just the Jews of Jesus’ day that refused to accept Jesus as Messiah, the forefathers did not want the Messiah God would send. They were comfortable with the status quo. They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.
(3) They were acting for their earthly master. In other words, these who were supposed to be God’s children actually belonged to the devil!
Jn 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Right here we find the most serious warning for us. If we stand in the way of the Gospel, if we block promoting the Message of Jesus and if we put another message before the Gospel Agenda of God … we are acting for the devil and against God. Rather be shamed by the world for being a “Gospel Fanatic” than being ashamed of the message that gets people out of hell and into paradise! Consider the following verses …
1Sa 2:30 But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.
Jn 12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
3) Stephen now applies all this teaching by saying the high priest and the Sanhedrin
(i) Betrayed Jesus … and
(ii) Murdered Jesus.
“And now you have betrayed and murdered him.” To them God sent Messiah (Jesus) and in place of receiving Him as God’s Messiah they tried to get rid of Him throughout His three years of ministry. They spoke against Him and even accused Him of serving the devil … and then … they murdered Him.
That is exactly what the Cross was … an instrument of murder. Never excuse their deeds as ignorant. When they sent Jesus to Pilate, they knew what they wanted. He was just a tool to authenticate the Crucifixion … they were the murderers! Yes it was God’s plan that Jesus pay the Blood Price for sin … but the high priest and his Sanhedrin were responsible for Jesus death! And bluntly Stephen tell them so!
4) Stephen tells them that they had God’s grace but they disobeyed it!
Ac 7:53 “you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The very Scriptures given by God through angels about Messiah they rejected and ignored. Beloved, we live under grace in abundance. We have the Full Scriptures and we have the Holy Spirit … we also have the gifts of pastor teachers. Come let’s obey and not be like those spiritual leaders. Lord, forgive us for every time we have not trusted and obeyed Your Word as we ought to have. Graciously help us to do better in future. Amen.