03 January, 2020

Acts 7:51—“… ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye”

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:42).

“These unbelieving reprobates who rejected the gospel and stoned Stephen are said to have always resisted the Holy Spirit, as did their unbelieving Israelite fathers who constantly resisted the prophets of old.  One of course can only resist a ‘drawing’ influence, as God continually sought to draw Israel to Himself in the Old Testament and these Jews to Himself through the ministry of the apostles.”


Prof. David J. Engelsma

It is the plain testimony of Scripture that God’s predestination, or will and desire to save some only, is the source of all salvation.  Thus does God receive the glory in the salvation of the sinner—not the sinner himself, who, on the view of the well-meant offer, distinguishes himself from other sinners by virtue of his accepting the offered salvation.  This is the issue; it must not be forgotten.

As for Acts 7, the context clearly shows that Stephen accuses the Jews of opposition to the Word of God and those who brought it (see vv. 52, 53).  The text could more accurately be translated, “ye do always oppose the Holy Ghost.”  In fact, the Greek verb translated “resist” is antipiptoo, which means “oppose, contradict” and the like.  The lexicons do not even give the word “resist” as a possible translation of the word (cf. Thayer).  What the deacon charges his opponents with is opposing the Holy Ghost in His presence in the Word and in the preachers of it.  No desire for the salvation of these men is expressed or implied.  One can oppose another without the implication that that other wishes one to accept him.   The devil opposes God and Christ by contending against the Word and the church (antipiptoo).  But God has no desire that the devil be saved by accepting the Word.  Nor is the devil’s saving acceptance of the Word a motive of God in sending the Word out. 
Men ought to understand the truth of Acts 7 by reading it in light of Romans 9.  God sends the gospel forth with the determination that it save some but harden others.  This chapter is clear and decisive. (DJE, 03/01/2020)

This text is quoted in favour of a common, gracious, inward restraint of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the unregenerate, and also interpreted to mean an gracious attempt by the Spirit to try and save an individual, but ultimately is thwarted by the resistance of that individual.
Others use this passage to support the notion that grace is not “irresistible” after all.


British Reformed Journal

[Source: Issue 9 (January - March 1995), p. 9]

[The Calvinist] interpretation of such verses as Acts 7:51 [is that] the resistance made by these persons was not to a direct working of the Spirit in them, but rather to the working of the Spirit in His ministersnot any operation of grace, but the external call of the Word. Furthermore, as Zech. 7:11-12 and other verses clearly show, to refuse the Spirit of God is to reject the words spoken by His ministers. This resistance is not a refusal to accept the offer, but simply a refusal to hear the preaching of the Word of God. And it is this external and objective proclamation of truth that the Holy Spirit uses in addressing and, by irresistible grace, drawing His elect.



Rev. Martyn McGeown

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 41, no. 1 (Nov. 2007), p. 66.]

The sense in which the reprobate “resist the Holy Ghost” needs to be clarified. They resist Him as they resist the preaching (Acts 7:51). They resist Him by opposing preaching and persecuting preachers, but the inward gracious works of the Spirit in the heart are irresistible and particular to the elect. The inward works of the Spirit in the heart of the reprobate are not gracious. They harden the wicked in their sins.



More to come! (DV)

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