God’s People, part 274: Philip the Evangelist

Read Acts 21:1-16

“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48b, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Rev. Todd with Isobel Costello, founder and CEO of the Weekend Bag Program, Inc. For more information, visit https://www.weekendbagprogram.com/.

Part 274: Philip the Evangelist. Earlier on in this devotion series I wrote of two people. The first was the Apostle Philip, who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, and the second was of a Eunuch, who met Philip on the road to Samaria. In reading those two devotions and, indeed, in reading the Scriptures associated with them, one might presume that it was the very same Philip who was being written of. In fact, one could also deduce that the Philip in today’s Scripture is the same Philip.

If you presumed that, you are not alone. Early on in Christian tradition, Philip the Evangelist and Philip the Apostle were often seen as the same person. In fact, there is always a slight possibility that was true; however, the evidence within Scripture seems to suggest otherwise. What evidence you might ask? I will attempt to show you why most scholars believe that Philip the Evangelist is NOT Philip the Apostle.

First, and this is perhaps the most important fact, the twelve disciples are ALWAYS listed as apostles, and credited as being eyewitnesses to Jesus. We see this with Peter, James, John and the other original twelve apostles, especially at the beginning of Acts and in Paul’s own letters. Philip in Acts is never called an apostle, but is referred to as Philip the Evangelist as if to distinguish them. Before I list other reasons, I want to quickly pause, here. Philip the Evangelist was an apostle. There were many apostles in the early church. The word apostle was not exclusively reserved for the original twelve. In fact, that is probably how early tradition (2nd, 3rd, 4th centuries) came to confuse the two.

An apostle is simply one who is sent, as in sent into mission to bring the Good News to the masses. Philip, as an evangelist, certainly was an apostle, but he was most likely not THE Apostle Philip who knew Jesus. Another reason we can be fairly certain of this is that in Acts 6, “THE TWELVE” called a meeting in order to select seven Christians to head up a “food pantry” ministry of sorts to help the poor and needy among them.

The work had gotten too much for the Twelve to carry out while carrying out their mission to preach and teach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since Philip the Apostle was among “The Twelve”, he would not have been delegated to carry out what they were trying free themselves, including him, from doing. So, Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the seven chosen, must have been a different Philip.

In verse 8 of our Scripture reading today, we find out that Philip the Evangelist was, indeed, the same Philip chosen among the seven to hand out food to the needy. This is the same Philip who preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch and converted him to Christianity. Philip’s ministry started off small, working a food pantry type ministry to feed the poor; however, his faithful service grew to a passion to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to people, hence how he came to be known as Philip the Evangelist as opposed to Philip the Food Guy.

This is important and it should be a reminder to all of us in the body of Christ. We all start off carrying out seemingly insginificant duties; however, no duty in service of Christ is insignifant. I am a pastor now; however, that is not how I started off. I started off as a youth pastor. That led me into also becoming a Sunday School teacher. Then I became the co-coordinator of the Christian Education ministry at my church along with my youth responisbilities. Then I grew to help administrate ministries like the food and clothing ministries and other responsibilities. Eventually, that led me to where I am now.

There is no job too insignificant for one to do in the body of Christ. What’s more, the more faithful we are to the small ministries, the more Christ ups our responsibilities and leads us to knew levels of leadership. To those whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Philip the Evangelist reminds us of this, and his life challenges us to take the small ministries on as if they are THE MOST important ministries for us to be engaged in…because they are. One’s faithfulness to the task at hand will lead to other opportunities to serve. That fact CAN BE counted on!

As Christians, no task is beneath anyone. All are vitally important to the Kingdom of God.

Lord, help me to see the value in all ministries and help me to discern which ministries of the church need my skills and gifts most. Amen.

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