The Bare Soul
June 13, 2010
Acts 8:26 - But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)
Philip the Evangelist was an ordinary fellow made extraordinary by his obedience to God. A good part of Acts chapter eight gives us a glimpse into the life of Philip as he ministered the gospel. To understand his effectiveness, one should first look at the scripture references to Philip up until the time of his being sent forth. The "Philip" spoken of here should not be confused with Philip who was one of the twelve apostles. Scripture clearly shows that this Philip, who later became known as Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one chosen by the twelve to help serve the Hellenistic Jewish widows (Acts 1:6). Which begs the question regarding how Philip became known as "the Evangelist". It would be quite easy to read over these passages and not really understand the preparation of heart that this disciple of Christ undoubtedly submitted himself to before demonstrating his evangelical anointing. We read that Philip was commissioned to help these widows then we see nothing of him in scripture until the Great Persecution arises as a result of his fellow servant, Stephan (see Acts chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8). At this juncture, the twelve apostles are the only stalwarts to remain in Jerusalem and the rest of the church is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Everyone including Philip, the soon to be evangelist.
Philip's character is only spoken of in regard to the other seven and their criteria for selection. However, these traits were paramount in shaping the destinies of at least two of the seven which we read about from chapters 6 through 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 6:3 states: Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Through the simple appointments to wait on widow's, one man's destiny would bring him to a death by stoning as the first martyr of the early church (Acts 7:58). The other man, Philip, would take the things he learned as a disciple and would spread the Gospel throughout ancient Palestine. He came to a place where he had grown in such an intimate relationship with His Savior that he was compelled to testify of His grace. This anointing came by what we see in verse 3 of Acts chapter 6. First of all, Philip was one of these that had a good reputation. Character is different than reputation. Character is who a person really is, deep down. Reputation is how others perceive one's reputation. Philip undoubtedly had a life that was unquestionably upright in the sight of all. Was he human and did he have failings? Most assuredly he did. However, a good reputation is often perceived by how honest a person might be, whether they were always right or not. A person of good reputation in God's sight will admit their failings yet give God the glory regarding the man or woman they've become. This is the outward manifestation of an inward work that can only come by the second criterion, being filled with the Spirit. Only by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, can one develop the good reputation that the seven possessed. And how does one stay filled with the Spirit? Obedience! Jesus said that we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14). (This, we shall see will be critical in the development of Philip for his life-calling.) And lastly we see in Acts 6:3, that being filled with the Spirit is not enough but one must be filled with wisdom. This is critical in knowing how to deal with situations that would baffle most worldly-minded people but clearly shows the working of God as it is demonstrated.
From what we have discussed, we now can see Philip as an anointed servant that has been brought up at the apostles feet in a life of obedience and love toward the Lord Jesus. So, when the persecution arises, we see a fully-equipped disciple set upon the path of evangelism to tell others of what God has done for him. Philip is rife for divine appointments. And that is exactly what happens when he meets the Ethiopian eunuch. But before we discuss that encounter, let us look once again at our lead verse. Luke the author of Acts makes a point to tell us that Philip was so in tune with the Spirit of God that he heard an angel give him a command. Now, if Philip (or you or me) were not walking closely with God, he might have dismissed this as a demon from hell or even his own mind in trying to trick him. Luke also tells us as a piece of background information that where Philip was commanded to go was a desert road. Many might have considered this ludicrous and dismissed this "angel" as a figment of their imagination. For, after all, why would God want this disciple of His to go out and evangelize on a desert road? If it was today, one might say, "It doesn't make sense. I know that God wants me to have this high-profile ministry and speak to hundreds and thousands of people. Surely, God does not want me to go out to some proverbial "desert road"?" However, what Philip found on this barren expanse was an Ethiopian eunuch that would forever change both of their lives. This extraordinary event is detailed in Acts chapter 8, verses 25 through 40. As we know, the eunuch is part of the royal palace of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. Through Philip's obedience and leading this eunuch to the Lord, it undoubtedly sparked a move of the Holy Spirit that is still being felt in that African nation. (Many Ethiopians today say that they can trace their spiritual lineage back to this eunuch.) The point is that through one man's obedience a whole nation was touched. And it came from the heart of a humble servant who waited tables and who eventually turned a nation upside down for the Gospel.
Philip is one of these touchstone characters in scripture that show us how God can create divine appointments through simple obedience. God is not looking for supermen or women. However, He is looking for that man or woman of good reputation, those that are not "perfect", but are people of character that would demonstrate that to others. This, of course, comes from being filled often and repeatedly by the Holy Spirit, ever allowing God to shape the character within. And finally, to have God's wisdom to know when He is speaking and to act upon it with His words to set the captive free. This, beloved, is possessing a life like those seven. While Stephen had his divine appointment with death, Philip lived for years spreading the gospel to a dying world. Will we be as Philip, people of high repute, filled with the Spirit and the wisdom of the Lord? If so, I can promise that we too will experience the adventure of a life-time -- a life filled with divine appointments orchestrated by heaven itself!
Holy Father, make us a people that heeds your voice, shaping our characters so that our good reputations would be known to all. Fill us with your Spirit and give us the wisdom to encounter those whom you've ordained for life eternal. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,
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