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Be Full of The Spirit or Resist The Holy Spirit?: Acts 6:1-8:3

Be Full of The Spirit or Resist The Holy Spirit?: Acts 6:1-8:3

By Ted Schroder,
September 13, 2015

I have a choice to make every day: will I seek to be full of the Spirit, or will I resist the Holy Spirit in my life? What does that mean? How we respond to the Holy Spirit determines whether or not our lives fulfill God's purposes. We can see this in the life of Stephen and in the pre-Christian Saul of Tarsus?

Stephen is described as (1) a man full of faith -- exceptional faith in that he was willing to risk all for the sake of his witness to Christ. He threw all caution to the winds and took on those who opposed the gospel. He was not afraid of the consequences. He did not sugar-coat the truth to make it more palatable to his contemporaries. He trusted in God to take care of him. He was sure of what he hoped for and certain of what he did not see with his eyes. "He persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27).

Stephen is described as (2) being full of the Holy Spirit. Those who observed him noted that he was able to do great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. He manifested the power of the Spirit. He was effective in his ministry and showed the confidence of one who was guided by the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit means being filled to overflowing so that you reach out to others in the love and joy of Christ. "May the
God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

Stephen is described as (3) being full of God's grace. Despite his uncompromising stand for the truth of Christ he came across as a gracious person. He exhibited the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. That is easier said than done. It is easier aimed for than realized. That is because we are so full of our pride, our ego, our self-righteousness, our fears, our self-centeredness. It is impossible for God's grace to fill us if we are full of ourselves. That is why we must confess our sins and repent of our hard hearts so that God's grace of forgiveness and new life can fill us. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23, 24).

Stephen is described as (4) being full of wisdom. When people began to argue with him they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke. Christ had promised to those who witnessed for him that "I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict" (Luke 21:15). Stephen's speech is saturated in Scripture and confounds those religious leaders who claimed to possess the correct interpretation of Scripture. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5) Read the book of Proverbs: "for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her" (Proverbs 8:11). It is Gospel wisdom: "We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began" (1 Cor.2:7).

Stephen is falsely accused of speaking words of blasphemy against the law of Moses and against God and the Temple. In particular they claimed that he said that Jesus would destroy the Temple and change the customs of their religion. They looked to Stephen for his response to these charges and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. This was the mark of someone who had spoken with God. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he was not aware that his face was radiant because had spoken with God (Exodus 34:29).

In his review of the history of Israel Stephen stresses three major themes.

First, the activity of God is not confined to the geographical land of Israel. God spoke to Abraham in Mesopotamia. He blessed Joseph in Egypt. He spoke to Moses in the desert. God can speak to us anywhere. There is no need for one holy place where God is to be found.

Second, worship acceptable to God is not confined to the Jerusalem Temple. Moses worshiped at the burning bush, Mt. Sinai, and in the Tabernacle which moved from place to place as they traveled. God does not dwell in houses made by human beings. God was independent of any Temple.

Third, our people have constantly rejected God's representatives. Joseph was rejected. Moses was rejected. History is a history of rejection of God's messengers. Despite their religiosity they have always resisted the Holy Spirit. "Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One, and betrayed and murdered him." The religious leaders were furious with him. "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'"

This sealed his doom. He is convicted of blasphemy, just as Jesus was when he said to the same council, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Mark 16:63,64). When they were stoning him Stephen repeated the words of Jesus on the Cross: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. For Christians this is how we see death: as falling asleep in Jesus and awakening to the new life of the resurrection.

Luke then segues into the first mention of Saul of Tarsus. He supervises the execution of Stephen, giving approval to his death. Then he began his campaign to destroy the church. "Going from to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison."

Luke gives us pen portraits of two outstanding men. One, Stephen, is a representative of someone who is full of the Holy Spirit. The other, Saul, and his colleagues in the council, is representative of those who resist the Holy Spirit. We can be one or the other. We can spend our lives seeking to be full of the Spirit, known to be full of faith, full of God's grace, full of wisdom; or we can spend our lives resisting the Holy Spirit, rejecting God's message and his messengers, and turning a deaf ear to what His Word is trying to say to us.

As you begin each day, as you go through each day encountering people and events, ask yourself: "Am I seeking to be full of the Spirit, or am I resisting the Spirit. Am I seeking to be full of faith, full of God's grace, full of wisdom; or am I rejecting God's voice?" Am I being a Stephen or a Saul? Do I have the face of one who has spoken with God? Will I be able to see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God when I finally fall asleep in Him?

(Ted's blog is to be found at www.tedschroder.com.)

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