Stephen and Philip

Day 51

Acts 7 & 8

Stephen and Philip*. They were deacons in the first church. As such they were part of a team of seven men who oversaw the benevolent ministry of the church in Jerusalem; a church that may have been close to twenty thousand people. They also had powerful evangelistic and miracle ministries. Perhaps most importantly they were Hellenists; that is they were Jews who spoke Greek and adopted many aspects of Greek culture. They weren’t Gentiles, but they were very comfortable with many aspects of Greek culture. Through them God was preparing the church for the opening of the door of faith to the Gentiles that would come about ten years later.

* Don’t confuse Philip the Evangelist (the Hellenist deacon) with Philip the Apostle (one of the twelve disciples). They are two different men. The Philip we read about in Acts is Philip the Evangelist.

Stephen has the honor and distinction of being the first martyr of the church. A gate of the old city of Jerusalem bears his name because it is near the place where he was stoned to death. St. Stephen’s Gate.

Stephen was a first class debater with a keen mind and he also had a powerful miracle ministry. He was greatly used by God to bring many people to faith in Jesus and he was especially effective in leading priests to Jesus. When I think of Stephen I think of a man with an evangelistic and miracle ministry of someone like Reinhard Bonnke and the intellect and apologetic skills of someone like Ravi Zacharias. He was a powerful force for the gospel! A first century Ravi Bonnke!

When the Sanhedrin (the same religious council that had condemned Jesus to death) could not contend with Stephen’s intellectual arguments and his miracle anointing, they resorted to slander. They falsely accused him of blasphemy and put him on trial. You know the outcome. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he was given a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. We are told that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, but Jesus stood to honor His faithful martyr. Present at the stoning of Stephen was a young man named Saul. We will meet him tomorrow. This Saul would have the same kind of ministry as Stephen; a powerful combination of intellect and miracles. Another Ravi Bonnke!

Philip was another powerful evangelist who had lots of miracles in his ministry. He was one of the first preachers to take the gospel beyond Jerusalem. He took the message of Jesus Christ to the Samaritans. The Samaritans were neither fully Jewish nor fully Gentile — they were a sort of hybrid. Again you can see God preparing the church for the gospel to come to the Gentiles.

Philip had great results in Samaria in getting people saved, but the Apostles in Jerusalem weren’t satisfied until the Samaritan believers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. So they sent them Peter and John to lead them into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We see very clearly in Acts that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from salvation.

Water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit were very important to the church in Acts. We need to maintain a strong emphasis on these two baptisms if we want to have what they had. Book of Acts results requires book of Acts methods.