Continuing from last week’s text, Stephen has finished his his sermon, and a rousing one it is for the believer. But rather than Amen, brother, what is the reaction of Stephen’s audience?
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
Well, why is this? Aren’t we just all kinda good folk who get off track every now and then? No, actually…
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
It takes a miracle of God for us to feel with our stony hearts and hear through our deaf ears (This was said to the Sanhedrin, but the rest of Scripture attributes the same moral deficiencies to us, unfortunately). Just look forward in Acts to see what was required to wake Saul from his sin, the very one who oversaw and approved of the martyring of Stephen in Acts 7.
For this reason, I never take the grace I have received flippantly, for I would remain lost if it had anything to do with my own formerly uncircumcised heart and ears. But there’s another thing in this chapter that is noteworthy for our lives once we’ve come to Christ. If you dare to speak the Word faithfully, and truly, as Stephen did, you will encounter furious teeth gnashers. It’s just the way it is. As Luther said, where the gospel is truly preached, there will be strife.
Think of your life…if absolutely no one is ever upset with you, then you’re not sharing the Word, or it’s watered down beyond the point where it’s hard to recognize what it is. Or, someone is upset with you for something other than the Word. That doesn’t count. 🙂
There’s a reason they killed the prophets–as Stephen explained–and the Christ. The gospel is offensive (we’re all rotten) as much as it is sweet (Christ died for that rotteness). The preaching of God’s will for the Christian’s life is sometimes offensive (No, you just can’t continue to hate your enemy, no matter what she did to you). It cuts, like a double edge sword, and if you wield it, someone’s gonna get mad.
But trust in it, for God will not abandon you. It’s my opinion that Stephen never felt the first stone. Instead, he was caught up in the vision of the heaven to which he was about to enter.
PS-please, please don’t use this devotional as license to run around as a holier-than-thou jerk or busy-body. 🙂 Without love, we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals and we are not meant to intrude into everybody else’s business!