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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

PHILIP THE EVANGELIST

St. Philip the Evangelist painting by Ann Chapin

by Timothy Cross

According to Ephesians 4:11, one of the gifts of the glorified Christ to His church is that some should be evangelists. In the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ - the story of the on-going mission of the Christian church - we meet one such person who was so gifted by Christ to be an evangelist. For in the book of Acts we encounter Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8).

An evangelist is one called and equipped by God to proclaim the ‘evangel’, that is, to preach the Gospel of Christ. The word Gospel means ‘Good News’, and good news is for sharing. Why is the Gospel good news? It is so because it proclaims that through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for sinners at Calvary, whoever believes in Him may know the joy of sins forgiven, peace with God and the certainty of a home in heaven for all eternity.

Whilst every Christian is called to be a witness to Christ - and every Christian is in fact a witness for Christ, for better or worse - an evangelist such as Philip is one specifically called by God to make the proclamation of the Gospel their life-work. Evangelists then have a key role in the eternal purposes of God, for whilst the Bible states that Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Romans 10:17) it also asks the pertinent question How are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? (Romans 14,15).

What though of Philip the evangelist? From the Acts of the Apostles we glean that Philip was a faithful man, a family man, and a friendly man.

A Faithful Man

Acts 6:3 tells us that Philip was one of seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom appointed initially to do the work of a deacon in the church at Jerusalem. These seven deacons assisted the remaining apostles of Christ by dealing with practical, day to day matters, thereby releasing the apostles from tasks which would hinder them from giving their full attention to prayer and … the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).

Nothing was beneath Philip when it came to serving the church. We recall Jesus’ words ‘He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much …’ (Luke 16:10). Philip’s humility is an example for all Christians to emulate, and his ‘back room’ work was certainly of great benefit to the on-going mission of the apostles, for Acts 6:7 reports how the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Persecution however - persecution by Saul of Tarsus, amongst others - caused many Christians to flee from Jerusalem. Philip was one such. But in seeking to stamp out the church, the devil over-reached himself, for Acts 8:4 tells us that those who were scattered went about preaching the word.

It is in Acts 8 that we read about Philip the deacon’s evangelistic exploits for Christ. Philip was able to preach the Gospel to great crowds. And, knowing the value of just one soul, Philip was also able to work on a one to one basis, acting as a spiritual midwife to lead a single soul to the Saviour.

Philip Evangelised the Crowds

Acts 8:5 ff. tells us that Philip was gifted by God to preach the Gospel to great multitudes, and lead large crowds of people to Christ. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip … So there was much joy in that city. Note carefully the content of Philip’s Gospel: he proclaimed to them the Christ, for the Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). The Gospel is occupied and preoccupied solely with Jesus - His glorious Person, His gory passion, His gracious pardon and His Gospel power. Philip - unlike many involved in ‘Christian’ service today - refused to be sidetracked. He would say with Paul we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) - nothing more, nothing less and nothing else, for there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12) and there is no other saving Gospel apart from the Gospel of the crucified Christ.

Philip Evangelised the Chancellor

Acts 8 also tells us of Philip’s giftedness as a personal worker, for the chapter relates how he led the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ethiopia to faith in Christ. Philip here was receptive to the leading of the Spirit of God, and very much under the sovereignty of God. It was almighty God Who caused the Ethiopian to seek salvation and study the Scriptures. And it was almighty God Who caused Philip and the Ethiopian’s paths to cross when they did. Whether to multitudes or to a solitary soul though, Philip’s message was the same, for Luke records Philip opened his mouth and … told him (that is, the Ethiopian) the good news of Jesus (Acts 8:35), so leading this important political dignitary to Christ.

Philip then did the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5) and he was faithful in his calling. He proclaimed Jesus as the only Saviour of sinners and he led sinners to Jesus, the only Saviour of sinners. He both brought Jesus to men and he led men to Jesus. Heaven alone knows the Christian influence the Ethiopian chancellor had when he got back to his native Ethiopia.

A Family Man

From Acts 21:8 we glean that Philip was a family man. He was living now in Caesarea on the coast, and he had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. We glean from this that Philip’s evangelism reached near as well as far. By now he had literally done some ‘home evangelism’ and passed on his faith to each of his four daughters, who then also became active in the work of the Lord in their specific spheres.

It would be easy to pass over the obvious fact that Philip was married with children. It shows that having a wife and family are not incompatible with Christian service. Enforced celibacy is contrary to the will of God as revealed in Scripture, for monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a divine ordinance, and the family is God’s basic building block of society. Enforced celibacy - along with polygamy, adultery and homosexuality - is clearly against the creator’s will, goes against His grain, and will reap what it sows.

Philip then was a family man. He most surely obeyed the injunction of Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. In love, he took the spiritual leadership of a godly home. In his house, no doubt, you would sense that Christ was actually the true head of the home, the unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every conversation.
Finally, we note that Philip the Evangelist was also characterised as being...

A Friendly Man

In Acts 21:8 Luke relates how we (that is, Luke, Paul and their travelling companions) departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Philip then put his house and home at the disposal of the Lord’s servants. He was hospitable (Titus 1:8). In 1 Peter 4:9 we read the injunction to Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another - and it is evident that Philip was given to ungrudging hospitality.

Christian hospitality was essential in the early church, as itinerant Christian workers would not have wanted to stay in the notorious inns of those days. Itinerant Christian workers were humanly dependent on the support of their fellow Christians. Philip thus helped those involved in the Lord’s work by opening up his home to them. His home was something of a ‘safe haven.’ He provided Christian workers with rest, relief and refreshment, and in so doing indirectly furthered the cause of Christ just as much as his direct preaching of the Gospel. 2 John 5 ff. could almost have been written to Philip:

Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service. For they have set out for His sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.

Philip was a friendly man. He welcomed his brothers and sisters in Christ into his home, and cared for them. He was a blessing - but no doubt he was also blessed himself in so doing, and experienced the truth of Christ’s words ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). Giving Christian hospitality often has surprising blessings in store for the giver. Hence Hebrews 13:2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

There then is Philip the Evangelist. His life’s work was to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and lead others to salvation in Christ. He was faithful to his calling - but he was also an ordinary family man with a wife and children, and being of a generous spirit, he opened up his heart and home to others who loved and served his Saviour.

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Last Update: 2016-09-01 12:11