Pastor James J. Barker

Text: ACTS 7:51-60


1.     In Acts 7 we have Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin (cf. Acts 6:8-15).

2.     This is the longest sermon in the book of Acts.  It was in fact, Stephen’s last sermon.

3.     Stephen’s message is as long as Paul’s three sermons put together, and Stephen’s message very well may have been used by the Lord to bring conviction to Paul’s hard heart (cf. Acts 7:58).

4.     In Stephen’s message, he starts with Abraham, the father of the Israelites, and then reviews the history of the Israelites, stressing God’s election (in choosing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), God’s providence (in the case of Joseph), God’s chastisement and deliverance (their bondage in Egypt), leading up to the days of King David and King Solomon.

5.     The final portion of Stephen’s message is very brief, compared to all the time he spent with the early days of the patriarchs and with Moses.

6.     It appears that Stephen may have intended to speak longer but was interrupted by the angry mob (cf. 7:53, 54). 

7.     I would like to focus our attention this morning on verse 54 – “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”



1.     Years ago I heard a pastor say, “If I have personally offended you, then I am sorry.  But if the Gospel offends you, then I cannot and will not apologize” (cf. 7:51-54).

2.     In our efforts to reach sinners, let us be careful that they find no fault with our message.  We must carefully and clearly present the Gospel.  Stephen faithfully preached God’s Word to them.  But rather than repent, they “gnashed on him with their teeth” (7:54b).

3.     There are a lot of sinners gnashing their teeth at us these days.  If we preach the Gospel we can expect that.  But let us be careful that they find no fault with our message.

4.     The angry Jews killed Stephen (7:57, 58). They should have realized that Stephen was right and they were wrong by the gracious way he forgave them (Acts 7:59, 60).

5.     What an amazing contrast we have here between the murderers and Stephen (7:54ff). 

6.     But there was one unbelieving Jew in the crowd who was apparently moved by what he saw. And that was Saul of Tarsus (7:58—8:1; cf. 22:20).

7.     It was Tertullian who said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” 

8.     Stephen was the first martyr, but after his death multitudes were saved.  We see that in Acts 8.  And in Acts 9 we see the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Then in Acts 10 we read about the conversion of Cornelius, and now the Gospel was going out to the Gentiles.

9.     We are often told that after His ascension into heaven, our Lord was seated at the right hand of God the Father.  For example, Hebrews 1:3 says our Lord “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

10. Hebrews 10:12 says, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”

11. But here we are told that Stephen saw Jesus “standing on the right hand of God” (7:55, 56).

12. I believe our Lord got up off His throne to welcome Stephen!



1.     Stephen called them “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears” (7:51).  The term “stiffnecked” is found frequently in the Bible, notably in the OT. It always means haughty, obstinate, stubborn, intractable, and pigheaded (cf. Ex. 32:9, 10; 33:3, 5; 34:8, 9).

2.     If perchance there be any stiffnecked sinners here this morning, let me plead with you to turn from your stubborn ways.

3.     According to the Bible, people that are stiffnecked are disobedient and unteachable (Jer. 17:23).

4.     One of the worse things about being stiffnecked is that sinners pass it on to their children (Acts 7:51b; cf. II Chron. 30:8).

5.     Children are never judged for the sins of their parents, but unfortunately children often fall into the same sinful habits of their parents.  I have seen this time and time again.

6.     To be “uncircumcised in heart and ears” is very similar to being stiffnecked (Acts 7:51).  To be stiffnecked means to be impenitent, whereas to be uncircumcised in heart and ears means to be unregenerate (cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6).

7.     Jeremiah 4:4 says, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart.”

8.     Many people are religious, but lost.  Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.”

9.     The worst sin in the world is to reject the Lord Jesus Christ.   John 3:18 says those who do not believe in Christ are “condemned.”

10. John 3:36 says, “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

11. First John 5:12 says, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

12. Ephesians 2:12 says those without Christ are hopeless and without God in the world.

13. Stephen’s message cut deep because he reminded the Jews that they had murdered the Son of God (Acts 7:52; cf. 2:23; 5:29-33).

14. We see the phrase “cut to the heart” in both Acts 5:33 and 7:54.  In both situations, the Jews decided to murder the preachers (cf. 5:33b; 7:58).

15. However, we see a similar expression in Acts 2:37 – “they were pricked in their heart.”  In Acts 7, Stephen was killed.  In Acts 2, three thousand souls were saved (Acts 2:41).

16. Personally, I’d rather see three thousand souls saved!  But Stephen went straight to heaven and that’s even better.  And thousands of souls have been saved as a result of his godly testimony for Christ.

17. By comparing Scripture with Scripture (cf. 2:37; 5:33; 7:54), we see that the Holy Spirit brings conviction.  Sometimes this conviction leads to repentance and salvation.  But sometimes it leads to death and violence.



1.     One of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible is the personality of the Holy Spirit.  By personality, we mean the Holy Spirit has intellect; He has emotions; He has a will.

2.     There are several warnings in the Bible about sinning against the Holy Spirit.  These warnings teach us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, because you can only sin against a person; you cannot sin against an inanimate force.

3.     For example, Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.”  You can only grieve a person.  And it certainly is a terrible sin to grieve the Holy Spirit.

4.     In Acts 5:3, Peter told Ananias that he was guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit.  This too is a terrible sin because as Peter says in Acts 5:4, lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God.

5.     Furthermore, the Holy Spirit can be quenched.  First Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Quench not the Spirit.”

6.     Here in Acts 7:51, we see that the Holy Spirit can be resisted.  Way back in Genesis 6:3, the LORD said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man.”

7.     Hebrews 10:29 refers to sinners who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, “and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.”

8.     Stephen concluded his message by charging his listeners with continually and persistently opposing the work of God (7:51, 52).

9.     They “always resist the Holy Ghost” (7:51).  I hope there is nobody here today guilty of doing that.



1.     We have focused on the phrase, “cut to the heart,” but have not spent much time with “they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54).

2.     In the Bible, gnashing the teeth signifies fierce rage.  Job said, “He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.  (Job 16:9).

3.     David wrote, “they gnashed upon me with their teeth” (Psalm 35:16).

4.     But “gnashing of teeth” can also refer to the anguish of eternal damnation.  Whenever Jesus spoke of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” He was referring to the torment of eternal hellfire (cf. Matt. 24:51).

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