Fighting With God
Robert Wurtz II
And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3 NKJV)
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7:51 NKJV)
It is interesting to consider just how long man has been actively resisting God’s authority. Our passage in Genesis 6:3 is a subtle commentary on the days of Noah; this would have been roughly 2800 BC, or nearly 5000 years ago. When we arrive at Acts 7:51 we have the same diagnoses, You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. In the 21st Century we have the same pattern of behavior. God is trying to establish His authority in the hearts of men and women and they do always “strive” or “resist.” I suggest that “always resisting the Holy Spirit” is the single greatest problem in mankind, and summarizes the relationship between God and unbelievers.
In Genesis 6:3 we have the word “strive.” The context is found with Noah a preacher of righteousness, bringing forth a message of salvation. This is God striving with people outwardly. In this way, God had used men as His means of striving with man since the prophet Abel in Genesis 4:8 (compare Luke 11:50-51). Just as Cain rose up to snuff-out his witness to the truth of obedience to God, the response of the masses has rarely altered course.
Inwardly, the people would feel the sting of their conscience, and the many strong impressions made upon them by the Spirit of God. The scripture is replete with men who quenched, grieved, resisted, vexed, and even blasphemed God’s Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, 1 Thess. 5:19, Ephesians 4:30, Matthew 12:24-32). This is the message of Stephen to the religious leaders, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV)
The very people who prided themselves as instructors of the foolish, and teachers of babes — men who had the form of knowledge and truth in the law (Romans 2:20 NKJV) — did always resist the Holy Spirit. In fact, Stephen added, as your fathers did, so do you. It had been a tradition in families for generations. Stephen went on to ask them which of the prophets did their fathers not persecute? He then went on to show that Jesus Christ, the anti type of all who had gone before Him, was given the most hideous treatment of all. The one who was the greatest representation of God was the one most persecuted by the rebellious. The treatment of a man was proportional to His capacity to represent God in striving with men. In other words, the more godly he or she was, the worse they were treated. This is the record.
When we read Stephen’s word ” resist ” it is natural to conclude that this is a simple non-compliance. However, this is not the case. Stephen employs a rare Greek word (antipiptō) used once in the New Testament. It means to “run against” or “to fall upon.” This is an allusion to Numbers 23 and Isaiah 63 in which God had done everything in His power to bring about His purposes for His people — nevertheless; they provoked (vexed) His Holy Spirit — who is not easily provoked (1 Cor. 13:5). This phenomenon could also be seen in the fact that the prophets’ words could not be resisted, but the prophets themselves could be, so they “ran upon” them as they soon did with Stephen.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. Acts 7:57–58 NKJV)
We may call to mind the words of God to Samuel at this juncture, for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7b) This is the final fact of the case. People do not want God to reign over them. This is the essence of the struggle. The sobering end to it all is found in the words of the Lord Jesus, “For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:26–27 KJV) This is the finality of those who go on resisting the Holy Spirit. In the end there is only going to be one kingdom and Jesus Christ is going to reign in it. The people who continually resist His will, and are bent on serving self and sin, will meet this horrible fate.
Fortunately, there was one man who broke ranks with the fathers and the Pharisees and left-off resisting the Holy Spirit. After a lifetime of religious service in the absence of God, Paul could not resist and receive the Holy Spirit at the same time. Many people want an experience in God, but they have no intention on submitting to His authority. This is how demonic activity can invade a person or a church. We simply must stop resisting if we are to receive. We must be willing to set aside the religious facade and get real with God. We have to respond rightly to even the most subtle dealings. Though multitudes without number have resisted and striven with the Holy Spirit, we can make a conscious choice to stop that pattern right now. We hear a lot about unconditional love, but not much about unconditional surrender. While there is still breath in our lungs we can lay down our weapons and surrender unconditionally to Him.