November 18 (Daily reading: Acts 7-8) We were briefly introduced in Acts 6 to seven men who were appointed to a ministry of service in the church. These men were not relegated to a place of lesser importance or obscurity. Luke told the story of two, Stephen and Philip. “Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). He was brought before the Sanhedrin because people lied about him. They “saw his face like the face of an angel” (6:15), evidence of his being filled with the Holy Spirit. He accused his interrogators of murdering the “Righteous One,” the Messiah. He became the first Christian martyr when they stoned him to death (7:54-60). Luke wrote that Stephen “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” He prayed a prayer much like the one Jesus prayed on the cross: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” He set an example for all Christians who face opposition because of their faith.
Philip became a missionary to a city in Samaria. He “began proclaiming Christ” and performed miracles. “So there was much rejoicing in that city” (8:5-8). Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit in the manner he died, and the same was true for Philip in the manner he lived. An angel sent him to a desert road, where he came upon an Ethiopian official (8:27-40). The Holy Spirit led Philip to the man, who was reading from Isaiah 53. “Beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” After the official expressed faith in Christ and was baptized, the Spirit “snatched Philip away;” (and) “he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.” Philip became known as “the evangelist,” and he had four daughters “who were prophetesses” (Ac. 21:8-9).
– Al Gary