7:51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.
Uncircumcised in heart and ears - that's quite a sermon illustration. What is he talking about?
Circumcision began with Abraham and it should have ended with the birth of Jesus. It didn't of course for the simple reason that it became just another religious duty empty of the meaning it should have had.
You will remember that the big issue in Abraham's life was that he couldn't have children. He had everything else. He was wealthy, respected, successful, wise, and had a gorgeous wife. His inability to produce a child was a serious psychological blow to his manhood. God added insult to injury by asking him to cut off his foreskin. This was a physical blow to his manhood. It was symbolic of the weakness of human flesh. In spite of all his successes in life Abraham was powerless to have a child. God needed him to understand this. It is a bedrock principle of our human reality. We are nothing without God. Every breath is a gift from him. The air we breath is itself a perfect blend of gases. Our bodies filter out all the impurities and take the oxygen we need into our blood why expelling what we do not need. Every cell and every organ have a system of taking in what is needed from our blood and getting rid of what is garbage for them. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made and that is just scratching the surface.
The complex miracle of a child being conceived and then born is a wonder we too easily take for granted. Talk to the couples who desperately want children but are powerless to have one. They will tell you how painful and humbling it is. They will tell you what a helpless feeling it is.
Humility - The realization we are not the all powerful, all knowing kings and queens of our lives. To shift our trust from ourselves to God is a path that first must travel through the land of humility. Circumcision was a physical reminder of the weakness and limitations of human flesh. Cut your flesh and leave it in God's hands to do for you what you are powerless to do for yourself. That was the symbolic meaning of circumcision. It marked Abraham's family as the line through which the Messiah would come. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. No matter how much we desire to be His we are weak. All our goodness is like a filthy rag. Without Him we are nothing. Had Messiah not come we would have no hope. As Jesus said to Nicodemus that night:
"16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Are you starting to see it?
Circumcision is symbolic for giving up on ourselves, for getting over ourselves, for trusting Jesus completely. When Stephen told the council they were uncircumcised in heart and ears it was because they knew what he was saying was true. They could hear the truth. They knew what he was explaining was right. Their hearts were convinced and yet none of it mattered. They had already chosen their own way over Jesus. They refuses to "cut off their flesh".
That's the real battle. No one will be lost because they didn't know. They will be lost because they knew yet refused.
Hearing they won't listen and seeing they refuse to see the Truth.
Symbolic circumcision must occur every moment of every day. His Word must cut through our preconceived ideas, prejudices, everything. Like Paul said: "I die daily."