Food for Friday

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Acts 7:54

This is the second occasion in the book of Acts in which listeners to the Gospel are cut to the heart, although the expression used in Acts 2:37 is ‘pricked in their heart’. In the first instance, the people are responding to Peter’s great message on the day of Pentecost. The result of being pricked in their heart that day was the salvation of some three thousand souls, possibly the greatest response in history to any individual Gospel message. But as our text relates, the results are just the opposite after Stephen’s Gospel message to the Sanhedrin. Instead of repentance and faith, the Sanhedrin responded with rejection and rage. And those Jewish leaders will forever have to bear the responsibility of the great difference.

The difference was not because of a difference in Peter’s and Stephen’s preaching; both were eloquent and very direct. The difference lay in the hearts of the listeners. There are three reasons why Stephen’s defence before the Sanhedrin caused the listeners to be cut to the heart: they could find no fault with his message, they were condemned by his message, and they were resisting the Holy Spirit. Opponents of the Gospel message today find their hearts cut for the same reasons.

Those who oppose the Gospel today cannot refute its message, any more than the Sanhedrin could refute Stephen’s words. Men will mock and scoff at the Word of God, even though they have been unable to prove one word of it untrue or inaccurate. With all of its message of love and salvation, the Bible also is absolute in its condemnation of sin and the need for repentance. Those who love their sin dislike the condemnation of it, even though they cannot refute it.

Opponents are also cut to the heart by their resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit. Before He can bring sinners to the Saviour, the Holy Spirit must convince men of sin, and that He does, as each of us has experienced. We all had to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is accurate in identifying our ungodliness and rebellion. But such an acknowledgement clashes with our pride. Thankfully, we were brought to an end of our pride. But the opponents of the Gospel refuse to let go of their pride. That means directly resisting the strivings of the Holy Spirit. And they are cut to the heart.

Our prayer for sinners today must be that the Gospel message will cut to their hearts to repentance and not to resistance. – Jim MacIntosh

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