They Resist the Holy Spirit

Stephen was a man of God, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit who, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. But he was being opposed by the libertines. And a libertine is defined as “a person who behaves without moral principles or a sense of responsibility, especially in sexual matters; a person who rejects accepted opinions in matters of religion” (Oxford Languages).

Now these libertines (of the synagogue of the Freedmen) could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen was speaking. So, they secretly instigated other people to accuse him falsely of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon Stephen and seized him and brought him before the council and set up false witnesses against him.

The high priest then asked Stephen if the accusations against him were true, and then Stephen preached a lengthy sermon on the history of the Jewish people (Acts 7:2-47) which he concluded with Solomon who built a house for God. But then he said:

“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

“‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?’

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:48-53 ESV

Putting the Pieces Together

I find this a little difficult to understand how Stephen went from the history of the Jewish people to the building of the house of God to saying that God does not dwell in houses made with hands, which is true, and then to calling his opponents stiff-necked people, which they were. I don’t have a problem with what this is teaching, only with the transition. Like, how did he get from A to B to C, that kind of a thing? These kinds of things puzzle me.

So, as I was pondering this in my mind prayerfully, I began to see a connection, or at least I believe I am seeing a connection. For what is the point in telling them that God does not dwell in houses made by hands? Could it be that he is saying that God is not confined to the thinking and reasoning of humans? He is not confined by humanistic philosophy and by religion of men. He made us. We didn’t make him. So he is not going to perform the way that many humans have decided he should perform.

For the people were stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, and they were always resisting the Holy Spirit. So this is about them stopping up their ears and them not listening to God, and them resisting the Holy Spirit. So this sounds like man-made religion, which is created by and defined by man and not by God. And God does not dwell within the confines of man-made religion, not then, and not now. God is not who we make him to be. He is who He is despite who we might think he ought to be.

So, people today become stiff-necked when they refuse to listen to the Lord and to the teachings of the Scriptures under the New Covenant. And Jesus taught New Covenant teaching mostly (or always). And they become stiff-necked when they decide to ignore what the Scriptures teach and to make up their own religion and their own gospel to suit their own fleshly purposes, instead. And this is what is happening BIG TIME in the American church overall, but not in every congregation.

For so many people today calling themselves Christians are teaching that the church, the house of God, is a building built by human hands. But not many are teaching that the church is the people of God who have died with Christ to sin and who are living to God and to his righteousness, by the grace of God. So, many people are operating the gatherings of the church by human standards, and via marketing schemes, and via business goals and not via the Scriptures and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

And, in reality, many who are doing this are stiff-necked, for they are refusing to listen to the truth of the Scriptures and to the truth of the gospel, and they are indeed stopping up their ears, and they are making up their own religion and their own “house of God” which is not of God, but of man. And they are altering the gospel of our salvation to make it less offensive and more appealing and acceptable to the ungodly and to human flesh.

And so they are the libertines who are behaving without or with less than required moral principles, and who are rejecting their responsibility, if followers of Christ, to submit to Christ as Lord, and to surrender their lives to God, and to follow Jesus in obedience, and to leave their lives of sin behind them to now live holy and godly lives to the glory and praise of God. And so they are opposing us who continue to teach the truth of the gospel because they don’t want to hear it, for they are the stiff-necked (rebellious).

The truth they do not want to hear:

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

My Jesus, I Love Thee

Hymn lyrics by William R. Featherstone, 1864
Music by Adoniram J. Gordon, 1876

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
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