There are three Philips in the New Testament, all mostly forgotten. None were mentioned in the great faith chapter in Hebrews (11) but two out of three lived with a faith in Jesus worth finding.
Philip the Apostle.
First, there was a Philip from Bethsaida (a fishing village) among the 12 disciples. He was the pragmatist who calculated how much it would cost to feed a crowd (John 6:7). Later, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?” (John 14:9). Philip had missed Jesus’ teaching point that seeing Him amounted to seeing the Father. But after the risen Jesus ascended to heaven, Philip was among the apostles devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:13) and, presumably, much more.
Philip the Tetrarch.
Another Philip in the Bible was a son of Herod the Great, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis. He married a woman named Herodias who left him to marry his brother, Herod Antipas. John the Baptist had the moral courage to stand up to Herod Antipas (tetrarch of Galilee) and say, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:4). Herod was not amused.
Philip the Evangelist.
The third Philip emerges from three passages that reveal several wonderful qualities of faith worth finding and keeping:
- Acts 6:1-7. Not long after Jesus’ resurrection, the number of His followers in Jerusalem increased rapidly. The early church attracted both native Hebrew and Hellenist disciples. When some Hellenist widows in the Jerusalem church were being slighted in the daily serving of food, Philip was among the seven servants chosen to resolve the dispute that ensued. Each humbly deferred to the apostles decision. They were “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The result of this practical table-waiting ministry was that “the word of God kept on spreading.” (vs 7). Even some priests in Jerusalem obediently believed.
- Acts 8. As the early church learned how to handle her internal disputes, persecution quickly rose from outsiders. Christians scattered abroad and preached Jesus wherever they went. Philip went to Samaria where his energetic preaching (and healings) attracted enthusiastic crowds and inspired great rejoicing (vs. 8). A former magician named Simon saw great power in Philip and came to believe and was baptized. Simon’s sincerity, however, turned out to be questionable. Later, on the south road from Jerusalem to Gaza, Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch (court official to queen Candace) and clearly explained a passage in Isaiah that pointed to Jesus the Messiah. The Ethiopian confessed faith and was baptized. Then, the Spirit of the Lord “snatched Philip away” and he ended up in Caesarea. The persecution of preachers back then was real but it did not deter the early church from amazing growth because bold but humble preachers like Philip were still willing to go wherever the Spirit led.
- Acts 21:7-14. When the missionary Paul arrived in Caesarea, he was welcomed into the house of Philip the evangelist, a family man now with four faithful virgin daughters who were prophetesses. Twenty years previously, Paul presided over the brutal stoning of Stephen, one of the seven servants mentioned above. No doubt Stephen had been Philip’s friend. Yet, now he was hosting his friend’s killer in his own home. Philip trusted fully in Paul’s forgiveness. He understood the transforming power of grace. Now, fearing Paul would come to great harm in Jerusalem, Philip and others did their best to beg Paul not to go. They cared but Paul persisted. They submitted to God’s will.
Points of Inspiration!
The first Philip may have been a slow learner but Jesus saw great things in him and we see him as a man of prayer. The next Philip had power, but not enough to keep his wicked wife. The third Philip can be found in the following 12 points of inspiration:
- He served the early church willingly, humbly, and unselfishly.
- He helped resolve social and racial tensions in the church.
- He submitted himself under the authority of the apostles.
- He enjoyed a good reputation.
- He was filled with and led by the Spirit.
- He was known for his wisdom.
- He was willing to be uprooted and spread the gospel as a refugee.
- His healing and preaching ministry inspired great joy.
- He was a powerful preacher, baptizing many regardless of skin color.
- He knew his Bible well.
- His outreach to strangers did not hinder his ministry to his family.
- He preached forgiveness in Christ and practiced what he preached.