51 “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.”
Stephen now draws the application of his sermon of chapter 7–the nation Israel was negative volition toward God by killing His messengers and did not keep the Word of God accurately.
“You stiff-necked [obstinate] and uncircumcised in heart and ears!
Stephen accuses Israel of negative volition toward God. He used the same term “stiff-necked” God used against those who wandered in the wilderness (Ex 32:9; 33:3). They defied God’s will.
He also called the crowd “uncircumcised in heart and ears,” which described them as unfaithful to God’s covenant in their heart (Deut 10:16; Jer 9:26). An uncircumcised person in biblical parlance is an unbeliever. Stephen charged his hearers with unbelief. They were circumcised in the flesh but uncircumcised in heart.
You always resist the Holy Spirit;
Note that Stephen switches to the second person “you.” He applies his message directly to his listeners. He moved from Israel’s history to his contemporary situation.
as your fathers did, so do you.
Like their ancestors, Israel resisted the Holy Spirit’s ministry to them. It was their pattern, which was the entire point of Stephen’s sermon.
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?
Not only did Israel reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but they persecuted their prophets.
And they killed those who foretold [predicted] the coming of the Just One,
Not only did Israel persecute the prophets, but they killed those who foretold of the coming of the Messiah. The “Just One” was Jesus Christ (Acts 3:14; 22:14).
of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,
Israel was in such a state of apostasy that they became betrayers of the truth and murdered those who told it.
who have received the law by the direction [transmission] of angels and have not kept it.”
Israel refused to heed the Torah. They were the recipients of the “law” whom God gave the Word of God through intermediaries, that is, by angels (Ga 3:19). The contrast between Israel’s rejection of the prophets and the distinguished way they received Scripture stood in stark contradiction.
Never compromise your convictions.
Stephen did not attempt to accommodate his message to obtain a good hearing before the Sanhedrin. He knew full well that he assured his conviction and death by his sermon. It took the filling of the Spirit to execute this kind of conviction (Lu 21:12-15). His sermon was not a defense of his status but a witness to the glory of the Lord Jesus and the gospel. Very few of us carry this kind of conviction today.