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Passage: Acts 7-8

On Sunday, November 23, 2014 (Last Updated on 11/23/2020), Yujin wrote,

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (Acts 2:43).

The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:5-6).

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).

The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing (Acts 8:6).

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).

When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:6-7; cf. 1 Timothy 4:14 with 1 Peter 5:1 where apostles were also called "elders").

The above passages are not simply a collection of verses, but key texts that clearly associate the conferring of the Holy Spirit to the laying on of the apostles' hands. This giving of the Holy Spirit was also accompanied by the powerful displays of miraculous healing, exorcism and the speaking of other tongues. What is important to observe is that the Holy Spirit and the accompanying power of the Spirit came only through the apostles and only through the laying on of the apostles' hands. Before this, only the apostles could do miracles, heal, speak in tongues, etc. 

Another significant thing is that that this ability to confer Holy Spirit power either was not or could not be passed on to the next generation. For example, the apostles did not or could not pass this power to give the Spirit to Philip, for Philip had to wait for Peter and John to come before the Holy Spirit was given. Simon the magician noticed the difference between Philip's ministry and that of the apostles, and he tried to buy the power from the apostles. He was a believer, but he did not possess their power. Even though Philip could do miracles, he could not confer this power to other believers.

While there seems to be no exception to the necessary presence of an apostle with respect to the conferring of the Holy Spirit, there does seem to be at least one exception to the necessity of a physical laying on of hands. When Peter went to Cornelius' house, it appears that those that received the Spirit and spoke in tongues did so without Peter perfoming the ritual of laying his hands on them (cf. Acts 10:44-47).

I do not believe it is mere omission that only the apostles are seen to be doing the miraculous in the early chapters of Acts, even though thousands came to faith in Christ. Surely, some among these thousands would have received one or more of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. But Luke writes that only the apostles had this power. Later, when the apostles place their hands on Stephen and Philip, these are given power. After this, when the apostles lay hands on those under Philip's ministry, it appears many receive power. Could it not be possible that Paul could write about the miraculous gifts to the Corinthian believers because He himself, as an apostle, laid his hands on them to confer this power on them? After all, Paul seems to suggest that he had a direct role in starting their church and perhaps even leading most of them to the Lord first hand (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:!5). In fact, in defending his apostleship, he mentions showing them the marks of a true apostle, namely doing signs, wonders and miracles (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12). Now, since the Corinthian believers had these kinds of powers as well through their spiritual gifts, Paul's argument would only make sense if he was the one through whom they received these powers.

If it is true that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit only came by direct contact with an apostle, and that this conferring of power did not continue on beyond them, then the modern claims of miraculous spiritual gifts may simply be fabrications, counterfeits and lies. I'm inclined to believe that this is closer to the truth than the claims by many in the charismatic community today. 

Passage: Acts 7-8

On Sunday, November 24, 2013, Yujin wrote,

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did (Acts 7:51). 

Who does this sound like? Doesn't this sound like the LORD in the Old Testament? Doesn't this sound like John the Baptist? Doesn't this sound like Jesus? No, these are the words of Stephen, standing before the high priest on trial for his life. 

I think most modern ministers would have encouraged Stephen to be more diplomatic, not to be so negative, and try to see the positives in the people that had falsely accused him and brought him to trial. 

Stephen would have none of it. He was like a firebrand, preaching the Gospel by way of conviction of sin rather than appealing to them with the love of God. Peter declared a few chapters before this,

And you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:23, 36).

Even as far as Athens in Greece, this type of confrontational preaching accompanied the proclamation of the Gospel:

Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:29-31).

Paul told the Athenians that they needed to wake up from their ignorance and repent of their idolatry, so that they might worship the true God. 

Friends, Stephen, Peter, and Paul were not being politically correct in their preaching. They should have been preaching just the positive gospel of accepting God's love rather than the negative message of repenting of sin. Yet, they did both and often highlighted the latter over the former. 

Today, our preaching of the Gospel has departed from the method and example of the apostles. It is more appeal and less proclamation. It is more about a faith that assents than a faith that commits. Yet, Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch that he would only baptize him if he believed with all his heart (cf. Acts 8:37). Peter and Paul both proclaimed to their Jewish and Gentile audiences that they must repent in order to be saved. 

Friends, let us not worry about political correctness. Let us not pander to our culture of accomodation and compromise. Let us embrace the boldness and forthrightness of Stephen and be willing to expose the sinful need of unbelievers. Let us proclaim the Gospel that requires repentance of sin as well as faith in Jesus. Let us not fail to declare that Jesus is the Lord as well as being the Savior. 

Passage: Acts 7-8

On Saturday, November 24, 2012 (Last Updated on 11/24/2013), Yujin wrote,

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money  and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:18, 19 NIV)

Notice something interesting here. Even though Simon was a believer (Acdts 8:13), he could not lay his hands on people so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. That is why he offers the apostles money to gain this ability. He recognized that only they had the ability to give the Holy Spirit's power; otherwise, he would have asked Philip. But even Philip, who had miraculous powers conferred upon him by the previous laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 6:6) could not in turn give this power of the Holy Spirit to others. He had to wait for the apostles (Peter and John) to come for the Spirit to be given in this way (Acts 8:14-17). Yet, prior to receiving this power, people believed and were even baptized (Acts 8:12). Therefore, this giving of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the apostles' hands was something apart from simple conversion. 

What should become clearer and clearer is that the giving of the Holy Spirit for the miraculous exercise of power, whether speaking in tongues, healing, etc., came only by direct involvement of an apostle, whether the Twelve or Paul. What this also means is that once the apostles were no longer living, there would be no more conferring of the Holy Spirit power to believers, as this was a unique ability of the apostles that was given to them to authenticate their eye-witness testimony to the risen Christ.

Now, this does not mean that believers are no longer "baptized" by the Holy Spirit when they come to faith, so that the Spirit lives within them as a seal of their eternal inheritance and to join them into the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:13). It may mean, however, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were limited to the apostolic age.

Passage: Acts 7-8

On Monday, February 27, 2012, Bill wrote,

Philip, chosen as a church elder by the apostles, was led by God to talk with an Ethiopian official.

(Acts 8:26-30,34, 36 and 38)

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means "queen of the Ethiopians"). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?" 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him

This was a great example of being led by the Holy Spirit to share the new Good News of Jesus. I have experienced God leading me to make conversation with a stranger, ultimately this opened the door to for me to share about what God has done in my life. The Ethiopian man (in above passage) was reading from Isaiah, a book which is known for messianic prophecy (prophecy about the messiah - Jesus) and yet he doesn’t understand. Philips encounter allowed him to interpret the Isaiah passage (the passage was a messianic prophecy) , and Philip was able to explain how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Lastly, in verse 36 we read that this man was baptized by Philip and gave his life to Christ. Philips faithfulness allowed him to participate in Gods plan!

I was thinking of how many opportunities I have missed to share the gospel over the years and participate in Gods plan. Philips simple obedience led to the conversion of this man and who knows how many this man influenced in his country. History records Christianity in Ethiopia can be traced back to the first century AD (this would be within the life span of this Ethiopian man) - coincidence…maybe not. Today more than 60% of Ethiopia is Christian. We never know the difference we can make by sharing the good news of Christ.

Passage: Acts 7-8

On Wednesday, November 24, 2010, John and Marsha wrote,

I like how when Stephen looked to Heaven he saw CHRIST standing for him on the right hand of GOD (not seated at the right hand -- interesting). It reminds me of how CHRIST stands for us when we stand for HIM. I pray that GOD gives us as instructors and students the strength to stand for CHRIST in the face of adversity!

-- John