At points in Luke’s account of the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman world, he mentions a man named Philip. Not the Apostle Philip, but a Christian man who serves God in four different capacities during thirty years of ministry. There is much to learn from this life well-lived.
Philip the Servant. We first meet Philip in Acts 6:1–6. A group of widows was being overlooked in the daily serving of food, and the Apostles directed that seven men be put in charge of this mundane but important task. Philip was one of these men.
The noun diakonos “deacon, servant” is not used here, but a related noun diakonia “ministry” is used, as well as the verb diakoneo “to serve.” Even if these men weren’t given the title of deacons, they did the same sort of work. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was essential. Philip was a man of humility, happy to wash feet. His service allowed the leaders to focus their attention on “prayer and the ministry of the word,” the spiritual job that God Himself had given them. Philip’s service allowed all the work of the church to move forward smoothly. It also gave him the confidence (1 Timothy 3:13) to prepare for greater works.
Philip the Teacher. In Acts 7, Saul attacked the Jerusalem church, scattering the disciples. Each of those members planted himself like a seed in his new community, and began to grow. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.”
What a man of courage! Philip had been driven out of his home by persecution. He had watched one of his six fellow servants, Stephen, be stoned to death for his vocal faith. Rather than lay low, Philip immediately spoke up.
You don’t need to be a polished pro. Why not this very week reach out to your neighbor, your friend, your cousin, your co-worker, with the good news of the gospel? Invite them to worship. Invite them to study. Explain the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). Philip’s boldness allowed him to convert many Samaritans, including the most famous man in town, Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9–13).
Philip the Evangelist. Soon, Philip was given a new task. I suggest this marks a subtle shift in his work. In Samaria, he acted faithfully where he found himself. In Acts 8:26, God appointed him to carry the gospel to new territory. God said, “Get up, and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There, Philip met an Ethiopian official who was reading Isaiah. Philip introduced himself, used Isaiah to explain the gospel, and baptized him. I like to think that Philip’s work started the evangelization of northern Africa, as the newly-saved eunuch brought back the gospel with him.
And the eunuch wasn’t Philip’s only encounter. Luke says that as Philip made his way back north from Azotus, “he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea,” a large city on the shore of the Mediterranean (Acts 8:40). The Lord needs more people who have the same “where-He-leads-I’ll-follow” attitude. People who spend the requisite time learning the Bible, so that they can go out as soldiers, planting the gospel into new hearts. People who think of preaching not as a life of convenience, who do not search for “a good congregation,” settling behind the protection of a gilded pulpit, but who think of preaching as a life of service wherever God should lead.
Philip the Father. Luke says the least about this part of Philip’s life. Nevertheless, I would guess that this was the part that gave Philip the greatest sense of pride and satisfaction: his role as a father to “four virgin daughters who were prophetesses” (Acts 21:8-9).
It seems that for 25 years, Philip remained in Caesarea, sinking down roots and raising his family, preaching the gospel. And while reaching out to the community, he did not neglect reaching out to his own family.
I wish I knew more about these girls, but it’s safe to say that they were committed to righteousness in the midst of a sinful Greco-Roman society, and that they were busy and useful to the Lord in spreading the truth. Let us never forget that the most important mission field is our own kitchen table. Let’s be sure that we give our efforts to making sure that we save our own children, and give them the foundation they need to pass on the faith to their own children as well, so that when Jesus returns, the whole family will share a legacy of faith. –John Guzzetta