Introduction: Would you have liked to have met Jesus in person? I
would! Christians say that they wish they could have lived when Jesus
was here on earth. They wish that they could have been one of Jesus’
disciples and spoken to Him personally to get direction and answers
about how they should live. I’m doubtful that reality matches this
wishful thinking. Why? Because we often do not like to hear the
truth. When people don’t like what the Bible says, they reject it.
When people don’t like what prophets say, they reject them. What
about when people don’t like what the Holy Spirit says? Let’s plunge
into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about the
problem of resisting the Holy Spirit!

  1. Stephen’s Warning

    1. Some words can get you killed! Read Acts 7:51 to see what
      Stephen said to the Jewish leaders just before they killed
      him. What is the historic problem of God’s people? (They
      “always resist the Holy Spirit.”)

    2. Read Acts 7:52-53. What else have these people done? (They
      persecuted and killed prophets, they murdered Jesus, and
      they did not obey the law.)

      1. Why does Stephen put these four things together in
        his argument? (Jesus, the prophets, the law, and the
        Holy Spirit are all ways God uses to communicate with
        His people.)

      2. Why do these people get so angry about Stephen’s
        words? (We get angry when people tell us things that
        we know are true and we don’t want them to be true.)

    3. Read Acts 7:54-56. Who is prompting Stephen to say these
      things? (The Holy Spirit!)

    4. Think about your life. Do you obey the Bible, the law, the
      prophets, and the Holy Spirit?

      1. No doubt you are saying (and it is true), “I’m saved
        by grace, so I’m not required to keep the law.” Think
        about the logic of this. If God gave us the Bible,
        the prophets, the law, and the Holy Spirit to give us
        direction on how we should live, why would we not
        obey the law?

        1. What kind of attitude is appropriate toward the
          law for those of us saved by grace alone?

      2. As I honestly consider my own attitude toward
        instruction from God, I worry that I’m more like the
        stone throwing Jews than I am like Stephen. How about

    5. I’ve been studying the Book of Acts with a small group. If
      you are not familiar with Acts chapter 15, read it now.
      Then read Acts 15:23-29 to determine the conclusion to
      this debate. If you are a person determined to obey the
      Bible, the prophets, and the law, on what side of this
      debate would you be? (Read Genesis 17:9-11 and Genesis
      9:14. If you are determined to obey God, you would be on
      the mandatory circumcision side because it is a command
      straight from God. Even more important, it is a command
      about being in relationship with God.)

    6. Read Romans 14:1-4. (If you are not acquainted with this
      message, read the entire chapter of Romans 14.) What does
      Paul say here about those who are being very careful to
      try to do all that is written in the law? (He calls them
      weak. Especially, I believe Paul is saying that the Acts
      15:29 instruction to “abstain from food sacrificed to
      idols” is not binding. The vegetable eating issue was
      about avoiding meat because it might have been offered to
      an idol.)

    7. Let’s contemplate these difficult issues for a little bit.
      I started out confessing that I might have been a “stone
      thrower” because sometimes I resist some of the law. But,
      then we learned that the early Church tossed out the
      application of some of the law to the Gentile converts.
      Later, Paul calls those who are determined to follow every
      part of the law “weak.” Is it right to resist some of the
      rules? Or, are we a generation like the people that
      Stephen warned?

      1. If you regularly read my lessons, you know that I
        teach that the laws exist to make our lives better!
        How can people seeking a better life be called
        “weak?” (Clearly, we are missing some very important
        point that we need to discover!)

  2. A Check on Grieving the Holy Spirit

    1. Let’s revisit the decision to toss out circumcision for
      the Gentile converts. Read Acts 15:6-11. What is Peter’s
      argument against requiring circumcision? (That the Holy
      Spirit approved those who were not circumcised. These
      Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Acts 15:12. What argument is Barnabas and Paul making
      through these stories? (This shows that the Holy Spirit
      was part of the work done among the Gentiles.)

    3. Read Acts 15:28-29. Who does James cite in his letter to
      the Gentiles? (James cites the Holy Spirit as the basis
      for stating that a very clear instruction to Abraham and
      his descendants did not apply to the Gentile converts.)

      1. Notice that in Acts 7:8 Stephen mentions circumcision
        in a positive light.

      2. Notice that Genesis 17:12 applies the circumcision
        rule those who are not Jewish.

    4. Read Colossians 2:9-12. Does circumcision survive? Has it
      taken a new form? (Yes, that special relationship God
      spoke of with Abraham, now continues in baptism!)

      1. How is baptism like circumcision? (It is the cutting
        off of the sinful nature. In baptism we die with
        Jesus for our sins. In coming out of the water we
        enter a new life and relationship with Him.)

      2. What does this teach us about the law and listening
        to the Holy Spirit? (Nothing has changed about the
        goal of having a special relationship with God. The
        ceremony used has changed with changed circumstances.
        It teaches us that we need to keep a closer eye on
        what the Holy Spirit is doing. God has “big picture”
        principles that are unchanging. However, the Holy
        Spirit may show us that what we thought was a proper
        procedure or practice might change to better confirm
        to the big picture principles.)

      3. Read Romans 14:16-18. What are the big picture
        principles in this text? (“Righteousness, peace and
        joy in the Holy Spirit.”)

    5. Read Ephesians 4:30-32. What are the big picture
      principles here? What reflects being out of step with the
      Holy Spirit, and what reflects being in step with the Holy
      Spirit? (Fighting, anger and ill-will reflect a life out
      of step with the Holy Spirit. Kindness, compassion, and
      forgiveness reflect a life led by the Holy Spirit.)

  3. A Check on Us

    1. Read Ephesians 5:1-2. What self-test can we apply to see
      if we are in line with the Holy Spirit? (Our lives should
      reflect love – a willingness to give up our self for the
      benefit of others.)

      1. Let’s circle back to Stephen. Read Acts 7:51-53. Were
        these people acting with unselfish love? (No! They
        were violently resisting God’s messengers. When you
        look at it this way, it is clear that you and I would
        not have been one of the stone-throwing crowd.)

    2. Read Ephesians 5:3-5. Are these areas in which we push
      back against the Holy Spirit? Are these big picture issues
      that tell us if we are led by the Holy Spirit?

      1. Let’s look specifically at Ephesians 5:5. Paul boils
        all of these specific warnings down to being
        “immoral, impure or greedy.” Then he calls this
        idolatry. Does this make any sense to you? How does
        this involve idol worship? (Idol worship is
        worshiping something you made with your own hands. It
        is worshiping your own efforts, thus worshiping
        yourself. Immorality, impurity and greed are all
        about self. We engage in these things because we are

      2. Let’s bring this back to circumcision. Was the
        argument in favor of circumcision an argument about
        self? (Because I can see arguments on both sides of
        this question, this reinforces the importance of the
        leading of the Holy Spirit.)

    3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. What are we to test?
      (Everything. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to test
      all of your understandings of God’s will. If you reject
      the Holy Spirit, you will never be able to discern the
      will of God.)

    4. Friend, are you testing everything? Are you looking for
      the leading of the Holy Spirit on issues that are not
      clear to you? Why not determine, right now, to ask the
      Holy Spirit to lead your understanding.

  4. Next week: The Work of the Holy Spirit.