Acts 7:51

Reminds me of a song:

Friday, 27 May 2022

You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Acts 7:51

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Stephen has carefully and methodically laid out his analysis of the worship of Israel, and of their attitude toward the Lord throughout their history. With his words now finished concerning the Lord in relation to the temple, his complete disappointment in the ability of the leaders to perceive what is good and right concerning the Lord comes forth.

Citing Scripture, he has shown that the Lord is not confined to a building of stone that has been fashioned by men’s hands. Because of their inability to perceive this basic truth, he next calls out to them, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!”

He uses two words that are only found here in Scripture:

sklérotrachélos – This comes from two separate words, the first of which is skléros. It means hard, stiff, stubborn, and so on. It describes people that simply won’t budge. And trachélos, meaning the neck or throat. Together, they obviously signify stiff-necked. It speaks of a people who are contrary and obstinate.

aperitmétos – This comes from the negative particle a being united to peritemnó, or to circumcise.

The second word, uncircumcised, is then defined by the words “in heart and ears.” Being uncircumcised would signify that the people were both outside of the covenant of Abraham and outside of the Law of Moses. Stephen is using this as an example of being in that state, not legally but morally. They were circumcised in the flesh, but that did not mean they were right with the Lord. This concept is found in both testaments of Scripture going back as far as Moses –

“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” Deuteronomy 10:16

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:6

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Lest My fury come forth like fire,
And burn so that no one can quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings.” Jeremiah 4:4

“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 praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2: 28, 29

To be uncircumcised in the heart is to lack reasoning towards God, resulting in being disobedient towards Him. It would be a person who lives for the flesh and not for the spiritual things laid out by the Lord. To be uncircumcised in the ear is to fail to hear (both hearing and then applying) the word of the Lord to one’s life. The word “hearken” gives a good sense of this. One can hear and not do. Or one can fail to hear at all and be incapable of doing. One who hearkens will both hear and do.

In this state, Stephen continues by saying, “You always resist the Holy Spirit.” Again, he uses a word that is only found this one time in Scripture, antipiptó. It is an especially strong word signifying “to fall against.” As such, it means active resistance. HELPS Word Studies says it is “like someone trying to crush an adversary in battle.”

These people hadn’t just resisted the Holy Spirit by ignoring Him. Rather, they were actively working against Him. It is He who inspired Scripture, and thus the meaning is that they were actively working against what He had provided in the word by actively trying to crush anything concerning Jesus, who is the Subject of Scripture. But this attitude was nothing new. He says that this is “as your fathers did, so do you.”

This is certainly referring to the examples given in verses 7:39-43. He is equating those sitting before him with those who actively rejected Moses, made a golden calf, turned their hearts back to Egypt, offered sacrifices to the idol, and who continued to do such things ever since. The rebellious streak of the fathers was still being openly evidenced in the council of leaders to that very day.

Life application: Israel was crushed, destroyed, and exiled because they rejected Jesus. This is what the Bible, even by the words of Jesus Himself, teaches. They purposefully and willfully continued to do so even after the resurrection and the witness of the apostles.

As such, they were exiled in accord with the Law of Moses, and the punishments laid out there have been brought upon them for the past two millennia. To this day, they actively work against any notion of Jesus being the Messiah, and they are – for the most part – intolerant of Him within their culture and community.

Though they are back in the land, this is not because they are right with the Lord, but it is the Lord’s way of bringing them to a right standing with Him. Jesus lays all of this out in the gospels, such as in Matthew 24.

As this is so, it means that His coming for His people in the church is probably not far off. We have a great hope that we will be delivered from this world of wickedness and into our heavenly home. Israel, along with the rest of the unbelieving world, will enter into the tribulation where most will not survive. Now is the time to tell people about the goodness of God in Christ, and to convey to them the gospel. Be sure to get this word out while you can.

Lord God, help our hearts to be softened towards those who have not yet come to You through Jesus. Help us to be caring enough to share this good news while we can. Direct our steps to those whom You know will favorably respond to the call when it is given. Time is winding down, Lord. Help us to take full advantage of it while we can. Amen.