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Acts 6:23, 5a; 8:48, 2631, 3435; 21:89comment (0)

May 28, 2009

By Thomas Fuller

Related Scripture: Acts 6:23, 5a; 8:48, 2631, 3435; 21:89

Bible Studies for Life
Director of Ministry Leadership Development, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Acts 6:2–3, 5a; 8:4–8, 26–31, 34–35; 21:8–9

The word “evangelist” evokes various thoughts and feelings among people. Many think of an evangelist as one who preaches itinerantly in revival services or evangelistic crusades. The word literally means, “a messenger bearing good news.” Philip was such a man — an evangelist. He gained that description not because he occupied a specific office or held a certain job, but because he loved to tell others about Jesus. And Philip did this in a variety of ways.

Jesus’ commission to declare His good news is still upon us; and we, like Philip, can be good news people wherever we are today.

Be Willing to Serve (6:2–3, 5a)
This is not the same Philip who was counted among Jesus’ disciples — the apostles; it was the apostles who recommended that the church select men to “serve tables.” Philip was among the seven whom the church put forth and the apostles blessed to function in this capacity. He, like his six colleagues, was regarded as being “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.”

Though the ministry to which Philip was called was more domestic in nature, the qualifications for service were no less rigorous spiritually. Serving God’s people in very ordinary ways was, and still is, a legitimate means of bringing the good news of Jesus to others. As Jesus knelt to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13:1–5), He embodied the good news of God’s gracious love, and He called His disciples to love (serve) one another in the same way as a witness to the world (13:34–35).

Focus on the Messiah/Preach Christ (8:4–8)
As Philip’s circumstances changed, his devotion remained the same: He declared Jesus to others. The stoning of Stephen in Jerusalem (7:54–60) was followed by a period of intense persecution of the Jerusalem church. Many of the believers fled Jerusalem, scattering in different directions. Philip went to “the city of Samaria,” and there he “preached Christ.” Doing this, he was faithful to Jesus’ example (John 4) and to Jesus’ command to share the good news with people of a different culture.  Neither prejudice nor cultural differences prevented Philip from telling others about God’s saving grace in Christ. How easy it might have been for him to focus on the many issues that stood between Jews and Samaritans. Instead, Philip stayed focused on Jesus, and his ministry brought “great joy” to the people.

Explain the Scriptures (8:26–31, 34–35)
Philip is likely most well known to believers for his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.  In this instance, he was not preaching to an assembled crowd but sharing one-on-one with another individual. How difficult it must have been to leave the thriving ministry in Samaria to go out to this desolate area, but Philip was obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. There he came upon this man — a man of great authority from the royal court of Ethiopia (modern-day Sudan) — reading from the Old Testament Scriptures (Isaiah 53). Obviously the Spirit of God was already at work before Philip arrived on the scene. Telling the good news of Jesus looked different here than in previous instances for Philip. Rather than serving or preaching, here Philip explained how Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant.

Share Your Faith with Your Children (21:8–9)
The work of evangelism begins at home. If we share the good news of Jesus from the joy He brings to our hearts, we will want to tell it first to those who are nearest and dearest to us. Philip obviously did this, as we read about his four daughters who “prophesied.” From their father’s example and intentional efforts to nurture them in the faith, these women became faithful servants of the Lord. This was Paul’s discovery as he stayed “many days” with Philip. Philip’s hospitality toward one who took part in the stoning of Stephen, one of Philip’s co-laborers in the work at Jerusalem (6:5), is a beautiful picture of the gospel’s reconciling power.

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