|Philip the Apostle|
Philip the Evangelist
Our first lesson for today [the Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 8:26-40] introduces us to a man named Philip. Since we give very little coverage on this man, he qualifies for our series on the great unknown heroes of the Bible.
In truth, the Bible talks about two men named Philip, and both of them are relatively unknown. And besides the coincidence of their name, there is also a similarity in their character: The both loved Jesus. And they were both passionate about introducing people to Jesus.
Philip the Apostle
The first Philip we meet in the Bible is not the Philip about whom we read this morning. It's the other one, Philip the Apostle, one of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus. And we first meet him in John 1:43-46.
The scene is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, in the city of Capernaum, on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. He as already called Andrew, Peter, James, and John to be His disciples.
John 1:After meeting Jesus, Philip is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Savior of the world. So he immediately goes to share this wonderful information with his best friend, Nathanael. Nathanael is a natural born skeptic. He needs more evidence than the enthusiasm of his friend Philip. Rather than arguing the case with Nathanael, Philip merely invites him to meet Jesus and see for himself.
43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote; Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Once again, near the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, that we find Philip introducing someone to Jesus. The context is the time following Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead, and a couple weeks prior to the Passover, when Jesus was crucified. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus had made the headline news, and Jesus' name had become a household word. There were many a curious folk who wanted to see Him, much to the consternation of the religious authorities.
John 12:20-22These were Jewish people who were living in other parts of the world. If only culture and language were the test of identity, they might be considered Gentiles. But they were still Jews by heritage and descent. And they had made a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the homeland, to worship at the Temple for the great feast of the Passover.
Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.
21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."The one other notable characteristic of Philip the Apostle, besides his gift for bringing people to Jesus, is his ability to "state the obvious."
22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
John 6:You know this story. It is the feeding of the five thousand. And one thing we tend to overlook in this story is that Jesus singled out Philip, to tutor him in a lesson in faith.
1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.
2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.
3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little." [200 denarii = pay for 200 days of work]
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him,
9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"
During His ministry with the Twelve, a lot of Jesus tried to teach them went right over their heads, and they did not grasp what He was telling them until after His death, resurrection, and ascension. Philip, on the other hand, did have a sense that what Jesus was trying to tell them was very important, and Philip tried very hard to understand it. We find him doing this during the Last Supper.
John 14Whatever became of Philip later on, after Jesus ascended into heaven, we don’t know. Doctor Luke names him again as one of the Twelve in the first chapter of Acts. But where he went after that, what he did, and what happened to him, we are only left with the conjecture of tradition, which says that Philip the Apostle continued his ministry in Turkey, as also the Apostle John did.
6 Jesus said... "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."
8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
Philip the Evangelist
Doctor Luke introduces us to the other Philip in Acts 6, describing him not as an evangelist, but a church deacon:
However, the story that immediately follows this is the story of the murderous execution of first of the seven deacons, Stephen , followed by open persecution of Christians, which forces many to flee for their lives.
But God uses the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem to chase them out of their comfort zone, send them out to other areas of the world, and spread the word of life and salvation in Jesus Christ to people of other lands and languages. And Philip the Deacon is one of those who goes to tell other people about Jesus, other peoople who would never have set foot in Jerusalem, who would not have even been allowed in Jerusalem’s temple.
But Philip is not allowed to settle down yet. God sends him on to continue his evangelistic mission, this time to someone from a different continent, and quite a different skin color.
And the story that follows is the conversion of Saul, who later becomes known as the Apostle Paul.
It appears that Philip Number Two settled there in Caesarea, a Roman naval port and army base. We don't meet Philip again until much later in book of Acts, but he is still there, an now he has a family with him.
The historical context is the conclusion of Paul's 3rd missionary journey. Paul, Luke, and a host of others are on their way back to Jerusalem, where Paul is about to be arrested.
A Modern Day Philip
The work that these two Philips have done continues to this day.
I recall an evening about ten years ago when I received a telephone call from a man who had once come to my home as a door-to-door salesman. [Be careful how you treat those salesmen, because it may later reflect on your Christian character.] This man was out of the business of selling windows and siding, and was now working a chaplain for the Salvation Army in Dallas.
The alcohol detox unit at the men's dorm had taken in a deaf man that evening, and they needed help communicating with him. The chaplain recalled having met me many months earlier, and he was able to find my phone number. He asked that I come an help interpret for the staff so they could complete their intake process, and get the man settled in.
When I arrived at the Salvation Army men's dorm on Harry Hines, I asked for the chaplain, and I was told that he was in the chapel conducting the evening prayer service. I went into the chapel right at the conclusion of the service, just as everyone was about to leave, and one of the men was already engaged in a conversation with the chaplain. So I took a seat in the back pew of the chapel to wait for the two of them to finish talking.
The chapel was small and I could hear every word that each one said, and it was evident to me that I should participate in their discussion simply by staying where I was and praying fervently for both the man and the chaplain.
The man stated quite explicitly that he was not a Christian, that he had studied the Bible, as well as Christian history and doctrine, and had studied the work of great Christian teachers. It was clear that this man's claims were not merely idle boasting in order to make an impression, but he was genuinely knowledgeable about the basics of the Christian faith. But he also had some concerns, and some very serious doubts. And what seemed to trouble him most was, as he said to the chaplain, "I am Jewish, and I am not at all convinced that Jesus is the Messiah."
The chaplain replied very simply, "You seem to know the Bible quite well. Let me give you a little test. I am going to read a chapter out of the Bible, and you tell me if it is from the Old Testament or the New Testament."
That piqued the man's interest. He was game. So the chaplain started reading:
"Hold on," the chaplain said. "Let me read the whole thing."
"Because it is describing the crucifixion of Jesus."
"Take a look," said the chaplain, as he handed the man the Bible. "Tell me again, is it the Old Testament, or New Testament?"
The man gazed at the text quite stunned. He was looking at the Old Testament book of Isaiah. This was the very same text that had hooked the Ethiopian official and had, with the help of Philip #2, introduced him to Jesus.
The chaplain said to the man, "I, too, am Jewish. And it was this text from our own Scriptures which convinced me that Jesus is indeed our Messiah. How about you?"
After a long silence, the man said, "Yes, I believe."
The two of them prayed, and heaven rejoiced.
What about you? Have you held Jesus at arm's length, like this man had
done? Are you ever in search of excuses to justify your hesitancy to surrender
your life to Jesus, your Messiah? He gave His life for you, and He offers
you God's complete acceptance. He offers you the peace of mind and soul
which you seek. Can you refuse so great a gift?