Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Can we resist the Holy Spirit?
Yes. Let me explain.
Stephen is preaching to Israel. He recounts all of the God’s blessings that have been bestowed on Israel. Let’s look at them; God reveals himself to Abraham, promises the land of Canaan to his children, promises Abraham a ‘seed’ (Jesus), gives the covenant of circumcision, delivers Israel from Egypt, promises the ‘prophet’ (Jesus), gives the tabernacle, gives the covenant of Law, gives Israel the land previously promised, and all the prophets. Israel despises each and every one of these blessings. And now the Great Prophet, the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, God’s only Son has been despised and rejected by Israel. Stephen then utters those words in question, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.”, followed by a question, “Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Stephen’s argument against Israel is that they have resisted the Holy Spirit because they have resisted the Spirit’s work among them. The grumbled in the wilderness, they apostatized in the promised land, they murdered the prophets, and now they have murdered their Messiah.
In the same way we resist the Holy Spirit when we do not obey the Word he has inspired, the Bible. We resist the Holy Spirit when we despise those who exercise their gifts given by the Spirit.
The question as it relates to ‘Irresistible Grace’ or ‘Effectual Calling’ is completely different. When the Holy Spirit regenerates the elect, that work is irresistible. When he calls the elect, that work is irresistible. When he gives faith and repentance, that work is irresistible.
Hebrews 4:9-10 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Is this “rest” entered upon being saved by grace, or is it the heavenly rest that is entered upon Christ’s return? When are we to rest from works?
I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. We will never rest from work completely. Just as God has never rested from work completely. However, God has rested from certain works. We are told that he has rested from his work of creation. And, Christ has rested from the work of redemption.
The question then is, does ‘resting’ in this context imply total cessation of activity? God has rested from creating, but does he still uphold his creation? Christ has rested from his work of redemption, but does he still intercede for the redeemed before his Father? The answer to both questions is, “Yes”.
We know that we have been given life through no power of our own, and yet we still work, exercise, eat, sleep, etc., to sustain that life. We also have been given spiritual life by Christ’s work of redemption, yet we are told once and again to work out our salvation, maintain good works, walk worthy of the calling we have been given, etc.
The difference in these examples is simply this, in our physical life we eat, sleep, etc., in order to sustain our life, but with our spiritual life we pray, worship, evangelize, help others, etc. out of the life that has been given to us and is being sustained by God.
But what does any of this have to do with the question? Well, for one thing, work is a necessary component of our spiritual life. So, even while we rest in Christ (our Sabbath), we are at work for him. And when we get to Heaven we will not stop ‘working’. Our eternity will be spent worshiping God in all his glory.
The challenge for us now is to live in light of this reality. We live by faith right now, and the writer of Hebrews defines this faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Our hope is for the day of perfect rest, but we have that substance, or down payment if you will, right now by faith. And the rest that we have right now is the evidence that there is a perfect rest coming.
On a side note, I think it is very helpful to read scripture with a hermeneutic of ‘already/not yet’. We already have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3), but not yet (Eph 1:14). The Kingdom of Christ has already come (Luke 17:21), but not yet (Luke 17:22). We are already new creatures (2 Cor 5:17), but not yet (1 John 3:2).