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Lesson 11: Grieving and Resisting the Holy Spirit *

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 you?

    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 selfish.)

      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.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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