There are men who are dead but still speak. They have recorded their thoughts in books, sermons, or other manuscripts. Historical biographers help tell their story and assist in keeping their message current. When Luke profiled a few men of God in Acts of the Apostles, we were given brief glimpses of their living witness.
Peter and John were the first profiles in Acts. We see their unity replacing their former rivalry. The catalyst was the Holy Spirit. Luke has granted us an enlarged view of Peter’s new life in Christ and his new ministry. Full of the Spirit, Peter had been transformed into a bold, courageous preacher of the Gospel (Acts 2, 3, 4, 10). He confirmed the Samaritan conversions (Acts 8), and he was the chosen preacher for the Gentile Pentecost at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). All of this was in addition to signs and wonders.
Stephen was highlighted at Luke’s introduction of the Hellenist deacons at Jerusalem (Acts 6); and he was profiled in Acts 7 as a preacher of Israel’s history to the Sanhedrin. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, transitioned from being a living witness to one who is dead but still speaking. Stephen became an indelible example for Saul, who became Paul at his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
Philip is Luke’s premier profile for a cross-cultural missionary preacher. Introduced with Philip as catalysts for the advance of the Gospel, Stephen’s martyrdom scattered the Hellenists in the church to Judea and Samaria. This began the second phase of the advance to the uttermost parts, prophesied by Jesus in Acts 1:8. Philip, like the apostles and Stephen, was granted supernatural favor to accomplish his contribution to the Great Commission (Mt 28:19–20).
In Acts, Luke offers concise views of community life, but he purposefully exposes the panoramic view to the function of the early church. All through this book, we learn that the early church preached Jesus wherever they went. They were spreading out, being fruitful and multiplying.
The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13, 15, 18) instruct us in legitimate apostolic succession. Mature Christians live the Christian life intentionally in the presence of new disciples. Problems are encountered and resolved. Examples are established and reinforced through circumstances and perseverance amidst persecutions.
Christ in us is the hope of glory for others to observe and imitate (Col 1:27). All that is Christ is slowly manifesting in each Christian through the work of the Spirit and the Word (Rom 8:29). God’s work in sanctifying His church produces conformity to His image, and the result is compliance to Christ’s commands (Ezek 36:27). This is noted in the acceleration of intensity in Luke’s presentation of Paul, consummated in Pauline terms, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race (2 Tim 4:7).”
Navigating our course requires surrender to the Holy Spirit’s direction (Gal 5:1, 16, 25). Luke illumined this idea with the divine directive for Philip to engage the Ethiopian eunuch with his living witness (Acts 8:25–40). Philip obeyed and engaged. The result was Jesus preached, then a new born-again believer, and a baptism into the eternal life of Christ.
People in the world, like the Ethiopian eunuch, have questions about God; and you have answers. Redeem the time allotted to you, know the Word of the Lord, be prepared for your divine appointments, surrender to the Spirit’s direction, preach the Word, and observe the salvation of the Lord in the baptism of your new brothers and sisters in Christ. Their story is added to your story, and together added to His story. We are blessed to witness life, and then commanded to live as a witness!
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 12, 2021