Now for Acts 7:51. I will quote it and the two verses that follow, to get the immediate context:
"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept [it]."
Now, as you read it in that context, you may have already figured it out by yourself (like you did the Esau-Pharaoh connection). But before we get into the meaning of it, let me give you some passages that are very clear about whether God can be thwarted:
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)
"But our God [is] in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." (Psalm 115:3)
These are just two of a ton of passages about God's plan always being accomplished. Everyone that God the Father gives to God the Son will come, no doubt about it. Acts 13:48 says "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," showing that those in that crowd who had been appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world were irresistibly drawn. They could not have rejected the Word on that day.
Having said all that, we can definitely say what Acts 7:51 does not mean. It does not mean that the Spirit was trying to draw those Jews to Himself, wishing they would come, but He was powerless to save them unless they were willing. In fact, as you see the verse in context, there is absolutely no evidence that God was wanting to save those people. Instead, Stephen was giving a scathing rebuke to those Jews who rejected Christ, saying that they were resisting the Holy Spirit just like their ancestors resisted the Holy Spirit. And how did their ancestors resist the Holy Spirit? They persecuted and killed the prophets -- those who were filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament times. And how did they themselves resist the Holy Spirit? In the same way -- they persecuted and killed the New Testament prophets, including Christ Himself, and soon to be Stephen. The verb "to resist" used here means "to fall out against, to oppose." Other verbs in the Bible that have the same root mean "to be in a state of war with" and "to be arrayed in battle against." These Jews were in opposition to the Holy Spirit. They were opposing the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was not trying to enter them -- what a poor, pitiful, weakling Holy Spirit that would be, where mere man could stop Him from doing His work! On the contrary -- "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in POWER, and in the HOLY GHOST, and in MUCH ASSURANCE (1 Thessalonians 1:5)! And, as the gospel is "an aroma from life to life" to some, it is also "an aroma from death to death" of others (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). That is, it is the power of God unto salvation for the elect, and it is the power of God unto damnation for the reprobate. The elect are saved; the reprobate are hardened. The gospel always does its work, and it is always successful! Even if not one soul gets saved under a ministry of the true gospel, it has done the work that God had planned it to do! Praise God!
I could go on and on with that one. Oh, how I love to declare the almighty power of God to save wretched sinners -- and to do whatever He wills with us puny humans! May God open your eyes to HIS AWESOME MAJESTY!!
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