Considering Philip

Posted: April 29, 2014 in evangelism

The Evangelist

I have been reflecting lately on the word ‘evangelist’ found in the New Testament. It appears only three times – in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministry gifts; in Acts 21:8 naming Philip as an Evangelist; and finally in Paul’s instruction to Timothy: ‘Do the work of an evangelist’ (2 Timothy 4:5). Given that this commandment to Timothy is really God’s word to all of us, to ‘do the work’ of the evangelist, whether we feel gifted/called or not, it may be worth exploring Philip’s activities in Acts 8 and beyond. What does it take to do the work of an evangelist?

Preparation. Luke tells us of Philip earlier in Acts, that he was selected to serve because he was ‘filled with the Spirit and wisdom’ (Acts 6:3-5). In any age of the church, it takes more than just zeal or even spiritual empowerment to be a successful witness, we also need to be wise! Those zany Corinthians had the Spirit, no doubting it, but needed to be ‘adult’ in their thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). The lost deserve a church who are intelligently seeking for them. That’s what I would want if I were lost at sea, or in a desert: a smart rescue operation! Get anointed but get wise too.

Public. When Philip steps out from the preparation place to the public place, we notice he is able to minister in differing contexts – in large public gatherings (Acts 8:6) with great demonstrations of miraculous power (Acts 8:13), and in private conversations (Acts 8:27) with a single individual. Not everyone is at home with either, or both. But God may call us into these, within the space of a single day as with Philip. Miracles follow the message, expect them, be bold.

Preaching.  The New Testament rarely gives us a verbatim report of what the apostles preached on each and every occasion, but there are a number of clues about the content of Philip’s message: ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Kingdom of God’ (Acts 8:12, 35). Not the church, not his favourite theology or pet doctrine, but the powerful truth of the Son of God and the life He came to give. Whether he was a ‘hell fire and brimstone’ speaker we don’t know, but the crowds were left with ‘joy’ when he spoke (Acts 8:8, 39) so there’s a hint! He could also explain difficult Bible passages (Acts 8:35). Oh and let’s be clear – you can’t share the Gospel fully without words.

Progress. Philip’s story doesn’t take up too much space in the Bible, but on both occasions when he finishes preaching, we are told that baptism in water followed accordingly (Acts 8:12, 36). Perhaps modern day evangelists like us could take a leaf out of his book. Let’s see conversations turn to converts, and decisions turn to disciples. When Philip preached, they left with a baptism certificate and a wet face, not just the planting of a seed. Let’s stay on the journey until the water tank where possible. We are ‘disciple makers’ in the Great Commission.

Private. Finally, in later chapters of Acts, Luke gives us a tiny but helpful insight into Philip’s family life. He had four daughters, each of whom were prophets (Acts 21:8-9). Imagine going to their house group, or even just ‘saying grace’ in their home…  But the dedication of these girls is very special information. Perhaps they saw that the public ‘preacher Philip’ was no different from ‘Dad’ at home. Perhaps he made sure that his first and primary converts were the members of his own family. Whatever the truth, these girls didn’t hate church, or resent God, or find the claims of Christ to change lives to be false. The faith of their father was in them, and the Spirit had gifted them too. It’s good when faith starts and finishes at home. As for me and my house, well… you know the rest.

Philip’s life, both public and private, was full of surprises to me. Let’s be encouraged to do the work of an evangelist. All the time.

  1. Caroline Harvey says:

    Thank you Peter, great inspiration

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