257 – Acts 7 – Cut to the heart
I want to talk about what Stephen said in the last part of Acts chapter seven, to those who rose up against him following the sermon he preach to them. But first, we need to provide some context, which actually begins at the top of chapter six.
For the most enriching experience, you’ll want to read chapters six and seven together for yourself (hint: start in the last verse of chapter five), but for now, let me summarize.
The number of disciples (students) was multiplying! It seems their rapid growth contributed to some logistical problems requiring attention. There were a group of widows that weren’t getting the daily allotment of food. So the twelve told them to choose seven men who could oversee the distribution.
Acts 6:5-6 (NKJV)
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
This action must have pleased God because the next thing we are told, signaled by the word then, is the word of God spread, the number of disciples (students) multiplied, and a significant number of priests came to faith in Jesus.
Acts 6:7 (NKJV)
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
The next two words in the New King James Bible are absolutely fascinating to me, “And Stephen”! Here’s the whole verse.
Acts 6:8 (NKJV)
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
I think it’s important to point out that we must do things according to God’s plan. When we set His house in order, He blesses the increase. They fed the widows by putting the right men in place, then God multiplies their numbers and empowers Stephen.
So very elite religious thinkers of the day “Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia” from “the Synagogue of the Freedmen” (vs 9-10) get into a debate with Stephen that they cannot win.
In frustration, they haul him into court before the “council” with false accusations (vs 12). Ok, this should shut this man up! He’ll go through the trial and the council will dole out his punishment. Nope. Putting Stephen on trial just gives him an audience for a very powerful extemporaneous sermon!
In his sermon, Stephen mentions that YHWH God gave Abraham the “covenant of circumcision” (7:8).
Next, notice the following two verses.
Acts 7:38-39 (NKJV)
38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,
39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,
Incredible deliverance, incredible covenant yet in rejecting both they actually rejected Yahweh Himself, where? In their hearts.
Listen to how Stephen wraps up his sermon.
Acts 7:51-53 (NKJV)
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,
53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
These religious elites lived in resistance to the Holy Spirit. Every one of them would have been physically circumcised (outwardly) in a show of submission to the covenant, and yet they refused to have circumcised hearts (inwardly) demonstrating to God a real submission to Him and His plan. Look at the effect Stephen’s accusation had on these men in the next verse.
Acts 7:54 (NKJV)
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
Oh if they only would have cut (circumcised) hearts in submission to God, they would not have experienced the heart cutting sword (Hebrew 4:12) used offensively against them here! A circumcised heart equals peace and power with God. A cut heart from the sermon equals rage and murder.
Ask yourself, what is the condition of your heart?