Year 3 Day 161
Read — Acts 7v51-53
Message - Scott Woodburn
“First posted Year 1 Day 331 - 18 February”
The late Stanley Rea was a man of prayer who would always call upon the Lord to save the lost. I can hear his encouragement yet telling me that I had just preached a "strong" sermon and that the congregation no longer had any excuse about the demands of the Gospel. I miss Stanley in many ways but I especially miss his zealousness for the work of the Lord. He understood the gravity of sin and that a lost eternity was terrible indeed.
As Stephen finished his sermon he turned to face his accusers directly. Despite his eloquent sermon, full of grace as he recounted the work of God, the assembly had not fallen on their knees in repentance. Unsurprisingly they had refused to listen. Stephen called them a "stiff necked people" (v51a), language used by the Lord Himself when describing the Israelites to Moses (Exodus 32v9). They will turn neither to the right or the left, they are stiff necked and will not see what the Lord has done.
Stephen continues by stating they are uncircumcised in both heart and ears (v51b). This is an extraordinary claim. To be circumcised was a mark of your identity. You were a Jew, a follower of the one true God, you were part of the team. Yet it is possible to be a Jew outwardly in the flesh and not to truly know God inwardly. A true Jew, a true Believer will have his/her heart circumcised by the Spirit (Romans 2v29). These men were not true to what they professed. They resisted the Lord as their forefathers had done long ago (v51c).
The true prophets of God had always known persecution (v52). Those who had announced the coming of Christ had been killed (v52b) and when Jesus finally arrived He had been murdered as well. He was the Righteous One who came to His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1v11).
The tragedy of these accusations was that those listening to Stephen could trace their family history back to those who had received the law at Mount Sinai (v53). God had brought these people out of captivity and had promised them a land and a future. Yet even as the Lord delivered the tablets of stone by the hand of angels (v53), these people didn't keep it. Even as Moses was returning, the people were worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32).
Spiritual blindness is a terrible thing. It shuts the eyes to the plain teaching of Scripture and it closes the ears to the Gospel of grace. Men and women walk through the gates of hell utterly unaware of the tragedy of their condition. I pray that in these days of trouble many will realise their condition and call upon the Lord. Only the Spirit can soften hard hearts and lead the lost to Christ and so we pray...Father God, may the Spirit be much at work in these dark days. May the blind see their need of Jesus and may you open their ears to receive the call of the Gospel. Unstiffen necks. Soften hearts. Save the lost we pray! For Christ's sake, amen.
Q39 What is the duty which God requireth of man? The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.