Philip the Evangelist
James H. Bathgate, Port Seton
THREE TIMES in the Acts of the Apostles reference is made to Philip. He is introduced in chapter 6. 5 as one who takes his place with others in the assembly - 'Look ye out from among you', chapter 6. 3. There he had been prepared and now was to be selected for the particular need that had arisen in service for the saints. In chapter 8, his sphere of service is the world as commissioned by the Lord before His ascension, Mark 16. 15. The third reference to this man is in chapter 21. 8 where we see him in the home. These are three essentials in Christian service - right in relation to the assembly, the world and the home.
Philip's name is very suggestive; it means 'a lover of horses', which could be taken to indicate movement and activity for the Lord. It will prove profitable to follow him in chapter 8. 26-40.
(i) We look at him first as the messenger.
(a) He had a visit from an angel of the Lord in verse 26. Could not the angel have gone direct to the Ethiopian eunuch ? No, God has entrusted the message of the Gospel to those who know it experimentally. Each of us saved by grace can likewise enjoy a privilege which angels are denied, cp. Acts 10. 5, 6.
(b) The time factor entered into this man's experience. 'Arise go at noon', verse 26 (R.V.M.). It was probably the period for resting and might have seemed inappropriate but Philip did not question his orders on this score. He was prepared to go in God's time.
(c) The place did not seem promising 'Gaza which is desert', verse 26. Some might have questioned the likelihood of meeting anyone there, but he raised no difficulty.
(ii) His movements follow on. 'He arose and went', verse 27. He was not guided by self, or brethren, but by the Spirit of God, 'Then the Spirit said . . .', verse 29. Whilst we must be right as to self, and in happy fellowship with our brethren, final leading is by the Spirit of God. So convinced was he of such leadership that we read 'he ran', verse 30. There was an urge behind his movements. The first instruction was 'Go near', verse 29. How important it is for us today to get to where persons are. This is wonderfully illustrated in the Samaritan who came where the wounded man was instead of passing by on the other side, Luke 10. 33. The Master Himself gave a beautiful example of this to us in John 4, as He contacted the woman by Sychar's well. The last movement of Philip was out of the picture altogether, 'the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip', verse 39. The human vessel re¬moved, the man did not stand in amazement looking for Philip but 'went on his way rejoicing', verse 39.
(iii) It is important to have the right message. To the Samaritans, Philip preached Christ, verse 5, but to the eunuch 'he preached Jesus', verse 35, thus suiting the message to his audience. Those in Samaria had probably heard the woman's testimony, 'Is not this the Christ?' and Philip followed on the same lines. Now to the Ethiopian he preached the 'meek and lowly Jesus', from the very passage the man had been reading. Three things governed Philip's life - the Spirit of God, verses 29, 39, the Word of God, verse 35, die Son of God, verses 5, 35.
(iv) Finally we have his manner. The approach was apt -not forceful or harsh, but in a winsome way. 'Understandest thou ?', verse 30. From this point he was able to unfold the need of the individual and the Saviour's work to meet his need. 'Then Philip opened his mouth', verse 35. 'Then' -just at the right moment. May we have wisdom in these matters, and know just when to speak and what to say. This resulted in the man's conversion, and obedience to the Lord in baptism. Here the convert (no doubt instructed by Philip) expressed his desire for baptism to the evangelist whereas in the case of Saul, Ananias commanded it, Acts 9. 18 ; 22. 16. Let the preacher teach it and the individual desire it, and things will take fashion after die New Testament order. Although his work here was finished, Philip proceeded from this point to other places and continued to preach the good news, desiring to win others.