What does Acts 7:51 mean?
ESV: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
NIV: "You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
NASB: You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
CSB: "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also.
NLT: You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!
KJV: Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
NKJV: You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
Verse Commentary:
One of Stephen's arguments addresses the accusation that he spoke words against the Law (Acts 6:13) and that Jesus preached that Jews did not have to follow the Mosaic law (Acts 6:14). Jesus, of course, preached against the man-made oral law (Matthew 23) and deeply respected the Mosaic law (Matthew 5:17–19). But here, Stephen gets further into his argument, showing that the Jewish leaders who claim to uphold the sanctity of the Law are descendants of those who rejected God's messengers.

Circumcision was the ritual God gave Abraham to indicate that God chose Abraham to be the patriarch of His people. Abraham would have many descendants, and his people would own the land of Canaan and bless the world (Genesis 17:1–14). To be uncircumcised was to reject one's place in God's covenant. Stephen has already mentioned that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's sons were circumcised, taking their place in the Abrahamic covenant. In the same way, the men of Stephen's audience have been circumcised and expect to take their place in God's promise to Abraham.

But Stephen attacks their hypocrisy. They may be circumcised physically, but neither their hearts nor their ears are attuned to God. Instead of following God's leading in their hearts through the Holy Spirit, they actively resist Him (John 16:8).

Stephen's accusers and the members of the Sanhedrin are just like their fathers. Weeks after the Israelites escaped Egypt, while Moses was on Mount Sinai getting the Law that would teach them how to be God's people, the Israelites built a golden calf and worshiped it as their rescuer (Exodus 32). Before Joshua died, he charged the Israelites to choose whom they would serve. They vowed to serve God. Joshua told them they wouldn't (Joshua 24:16–20). He was right. Before and after the account of Joshua's death, Judges 2 talks about the Israelites' disobedience. They couldn't even wait for Joshua to die. It's no wonder Stephen's audience is not faithful to the God they claim to serve.
Verse Context:
Acts 7:51–53 reminds accusers of Stephen, the Jewish Christian deacon, that the Jews have a tradition of killing the prophets God sends to them. Stephen has been accused of blasphemy against Moses, the Mosaic law, and the temple (Acts 6:8–15). He's already established that the Jews didn't need the temple or the Law to worship God. Stephen's final jab is that this neglect is in character with a people who claimed to live under a Law they could not keep.
Chapter Summary:
Stephen is a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian and one of the first deacons in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7). He's also a skilled apologist and has been debating Jews from outside Judea about the proper place of the Mosaic law and the temple (Acts 6:8–15). His opponents cannot counter his arguments so they resort to lies. They tell the Sanhedrin that Stephen wants to destroy the temple and repeal the Mosaic law. Stephen counters that his accusers don't respect Moses or the Law, and the temple isn't necessary to worship God. This enrages the mob, and Stephen is stoned, becoming the first Christian martyr.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 7 is one of the pivot points of the book of Acts. Until recently, the early church has seen favor from the people and indifference from the Sanhedrin. Now, the Sanhedrin has beaten the apostles and ordered them not to preach about Jesus (Acts 5:40), and the people are starting to realize how different Christianity is. In Jerusalem, a Hellenist Jewish Jesus-follower named Stephen has been in a debate with other foreign Jews who finally accuse him of wishing to destroy the temple, like Jesus (Acts 6:8–15). This is Stephen's defense, which leads to his death and the introduction of Paul.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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