Philip The Evangelist

INTRODUCTION: Philip became an evangelist when he left Jerusalem after Stephen was martyred. After he had taken the gospel of Christ to the city of Samaria where many believed and were baptized, the angel of the Lord directed him to go south to the road that went from Jerusalem into Gaza. That brought him into contact with a man of influence in the court of Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. That man was returning to his country after being in Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews. As the man was reading scripture, Philip was directed by the Spirit to join him, and the truth of scripture brought that man to faith in Christ, after which Philip baptized him.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the King James 21st Century Version.


A - THE ANGEL OF THE LORD DIRECTED PHILIP TO GO TO THE SOUTH TOWARD GAZA

Acts 8 "26 And the angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south unto the road that goeth down from Jerusalem into Gaza, which is desert." 27 And he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasure and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning; and sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet."

COMMENTS: From the passages previous to verse 26 above, there is no information about whether Philip had any contact with Peter and John before he left the city of Samaria. There also is no indication that Philip stopped anywhere as he traveled to the south of Jerusalem, although Peter and John did so as they shared the gospel with Samaritan villages on their return to Jerusalem. The text states that the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and he apparently responded immediately as he arose and went south as he had been instructed. Philip is one of the select people recorded in scripture to have been directly spoken to by the angel of the Lord. When he was on that south road he came upon the eunuch who was a man of importance in the court of the Queen of Ethiopia. That man had been to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews, and he was reading directly from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. His chariot was stopped and he was taking time to read and reflect upon scripture that he had in his personal possession.

We have no information from the text of how this man had become one who worshipped the God of Israel. He may have been a Jew who had risen to high service in Ethiopia in similar manner to Joseph in Egypt, or as Daniel had done during the captivity in Babylon. The record from the book of Esther indicates that Jews had dispersed to many provinces of the Persian empire including Ethiopia. Esther 8 "9 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month (that is, the month of Sivan), on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded, unto the Jews and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, a hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof and unto every people in their language, and to the Jews according to their writing and according to their language."


B - PHILIP WAS DIRECTED BY THE SPIRIT TO APPROACH THE EUNUCH

Acts 8 "29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, "Go near and join thyself to this chariot." 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless some man should guide me?" And he besought Philip that he would come up and sit with him."

COMMENTS: Philip received specific instructions from the Spirit as he was told to go to the chariot which was stopped. Though we cannot know whether the phrasing indicates instructions within Philip's own thoughts because he was influenced by the Holy Spirit, my inclination is that in this case and with another passage about Peter, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to each man to prompt them to an action as part of their uniquely designated ministry. Acts 8 "19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, "Behold, three men seek thee. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.""

After Philip ran up to the chariot, he heard the man reading aloud from the scripture, and he asked him if he understood the passage. There is no mention of any other people being around, and no indication that the man was surprised that Philip had appeared and asked him the question. He seemed very ready to have this stranger help him as he simply said he could not understand unless he had some guidance. He invited Philip to be seated with him in the chariot (that word could also be translated to mean a carriage with seating).


C - THE ETHIOPIAN MAN WANTED TO UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURE

Acts 8 "32 The place of the Scripture from which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb before his shearer is dumb, so opened He not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation, His judgment was taken away. And who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." 34 And the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."

COMMENTS: The passage referred in the text above is now designated as Isaiah chapter 53, and part of verses 7 and 8, but chapter and verse designations were not in existence in that early period. There also was no New Testament as inspired scripture to verify the fulfillment of prophecy, but the events that had happened with Jesus were widely known, and Philip was well qualified to explain fulfillment of prophecy as he was one of the seven appointed by the apostles at Jerusalem. The full description in chapter 53 would be unquestionably applicable to Christ Jesus when expounded by Philip. When the eunuch asked if the author spoke of himself or someone else, Philip began with those verses and preached about Jesus. By taking verses from Isaiah before and after those quoted above, there is enough scriptural truth to declare that all people have sinned and that what Jesus had done is the remedy provided by God for any who will believe that report. His soul was made an offering for sin, and by the acknowledgment of that many people will be justified for Christ Jesus shall bear their iniquities and they will then be righteous before God. With the New Testament gospel accounts, we now have the scriptural fulfillment that Philip had first hand to share with others.


D - THE EUNUCH REQUESTED TO BE BAPTIZED BY PHILIP

Acts 8 "36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What doth hinder me from being baptized?" 37 And Philip said, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch and he baptized him."

COMMENTS: Philip traveled with the eunuch in the carriage for awhile, and when they came to some water, the man asked if there was any reason he should not be baptized. There is nothing in the text to explain why he asked about baptism. Philip may have talked about it since he had baptized men and women in Samaria, and now that they had come upon water it could have easily prompted the question. Verse 37 is not accepted by many Bible scholars because it does not appear in all ancient Bible texts. Either Philip did indeed have this exchange of comments in verse 37 with the eunuch, or in some other way he was adequately convinced that the man had truly been converted because they both went into the water and Philip baptized him. There is a possibility that the eunuch had a driver for the carriage, because the text states that he had commanded the "chariot" to stand still. Prior to this there was no indication of any others being present.


E - PHILIP WAS CAUGHT AWAY BY THE SPIRIT

Acts 8 "39 And when they had come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. And the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing through, he preached in all the cities until he came to Caesarea."

COMMENTS: When the Spirit of the Lord "caught away" Philip, there is the sense from the text that it was a sudden occurrence probably more than by his own decision, and the Eunuch saw him no more. When the same Greek term appears in other passages, the context indicates that there would be a sudden action brought about by a force outside of the individual, and the word has that meaning in the Greek. Jesus gave us a very comforting assurance that we cannot be "snatched away" from the Lord when we are his. John 10 "28 And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who gave them to Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." We who are Christians have the firm hope that when the time set by the Lord has come, we will be "caught up" from this world to be with him forever. 1 Thessalonians 4 "14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so will God bring with Him those also who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord: that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord." What a glorious expectation we have in the Lord for the day we will be "caught up" to him!

The explanation of the scripture passage in Isaiah and the baptism by Philip were enough to make the eunuch joyful, and the abrupt departure by Philip did not hinder that joy as he then continued his journey back to Ethiopia. The text states that Philip was found next in Azotus, which was a city in the opposite direction from the journey to Ethiopia. Azotus was a port city on the Mediterranean, and there were other cities along a route that would lead northward to the coastal city of Caesarea. Philip took an unspecified amount of time as he preached in all the cities on his way to Caesarea, and the text gives no explanation of his reason for going there, but that city became a place of consistent Christian activity as recorded in parts of the rest of the history in the book of Acts.

After Saul was converted by the risen Lord and was diverted from his violent persecution of Christians, scripture records his visit back to Jerusalem. Acts 9 "26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join himself to the disciples, but they were all afraid of him and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord on the way and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Grecians, but they went about to slay him. 30 And when the brethren heard of this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him forth to Tarsus. 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had rest and were edified, and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied." This was a few years after Stephen was martyred, so Philip was likely in Caesarea at that time unless there were other journeys by him that are not recorded in scripture.

Philip had been in Samaria before Peter, and when Peter ministered in Caesarea and some cities to the south, it was after Philip had earlier preached along that route on his way north to go to Caesarea. Acts 9 "32 And it came to pass, as Peter was passing throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints who dwelt at Lydda." Peter healed a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden with palsy for eight years and many people were converted after that. Peter was then summoned to nearby Joppa because a certain disciple named Tabitha (which interpreted means Dorcas). had just died. Peter prayed alone with her in the room and she was revived. As word of this spread many in Joppa turned to the Lord. Joppa is about 30 miles south of Caesarea along the Mediterranean coast, and Lydda is about six miles from Joppa. Peter stayed in Joppa for many days, and from there he was called to Caesarea. And Cornelius the centurion waited for him, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. While Peter was there the Holy Spirit came upon Gentiles, and this was the first record of Gentile conversions.


F - THE LAST MENTION OF PHILIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Acts 21 "7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais and saluted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. 8 The next day, we who were in Paul's company departed and came unto Caesarea, and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and lodged with him. 9 And this man had four daughters, virgins, who prophesied. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet named Agabus. 11 And when he had come unto us, he took Paul's girdle and bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus saith the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" 12 And when we heard these things, both we and those at that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am not only ready to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14 And when he would not be dissuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done." 15 And after those days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem."

COMMENTS: When Paul was on his final journey to Jerusalem where he would be taken prisoner, his traveling party stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist, who is clearly identified by the phrase "one of the seven." The word evangelist is used only three times in the scriptures, and Paul used it in general terms in Ephesians, and again as he wrote to Timothy. Ephesians 4 "11 And He appointed some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers;" 2 Timothy 4 "5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry." When Paul made this stop at Caesarea it was a few decades after his conversion. By this time Philip had four virgin daughters and the text says they prophesied. There is no other reference to Philip in scripture after this, but he was part of the Christian community there.

Paul left with his companions for Jerusalem, but he later returned to Caesarea as a Roman prisoner, and he was held there for about two years. Governor Felix had a Jewish wife, and he deferred the efforts of the Jerusalem Jews from gaining custody of Paul after hearing their weak case. Acts 24 "22 And when Felix heard these things, having a more complete knowledge of that way, he deferred the hearing and said, "When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter." 23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, but to let him have some liberties, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintances to minister or come unto him." He was kind to Paul but did not set him free, so Paul was still a prisoner when Festus replaced Felix as governor. With Philip being a resident of Caesarea, and the conversion of the centurion and other Gentiles years earlier, there would have been a Christian community in Caesarea to host Paul's companions and to supply Paul's needs while he was a prisoner.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, the ways in which you directed Philip after he left Samaria with such specific timing and purpose blessed me as I studied more carefully. I began to understand what an important role Philip had in spreading the gospel as he became an evangelist and supplemented the ministry of the apostles. I know, Lord, that You had prepared not only Philip to meet that eunuch, but you had set the timing just as the eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah with time to contemplate the meaning. Because of the spark generated by that passage, I then examined the surrounding verses in Isaiah to have a better idea of how Philip could use that as a starting point to go on to witness about Jesus. Help me, Lord, to continue to diligently study scripture so it will be the firm basis of how I share with others about the one who is my Lord and Savior. May I willingly submit if your Spirit is working within me to act on an opportunity that you have prepared. I don't want to miss the times when you may place me with someone who has a real desire to know more about the God who is revealed in scripture. Though I may not have such an important role as did Philip with an influential man who immediately responded in faith to the gospel message, may I be faithful to carry on in my Christian walk for many years even in the simplest of terms. Thank you Lord, that Philip provided an example of this as he was still in Caesarea decades later when he was host to Paul who was on his way to Jerusalem. Amen.

Published 30 June 2014