‘Philip the Evangelist,’ or ‘Philip one of the Seven,’ or ‘Philip the Deacon’ – these are the three names by which Philip is called, each of them intended to distinguish him from Philip the Apostle, with whom in both ancient and modern times he has often been confounded.
Philip the evangelist was one of the seven men whom the Jerusalem church chose to administer its welfare program (Acts 6:1-6). After the killing of Stephen and the expulsion of Christians from Jerusalem, Philip went to Samaria, where many responded to his preaching (Acts 8:4-13). He then travelled south towards Gaza and led a God-fearing Ethiopian official to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:26-39). From there he moved north along the Mediterranean coast, preaching in all the towns as far as Caesarea (Acts 8:40). The next mention of Philip is about twenty-five years later, when Paul’s party stayed with him in Caesarea for a few days. He had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:8-9).
Philip the Deacon
The first mention of this name occurs in the account of the dispute between the Hebrew and Hellenistic disciples in Acts 6. He was one of the seven appointed to superintend the daily distribution of food and alms, and so to remove all suspicion of partiality.
The name of Philip stands next to that of Stephen; and this, together with the fact that these are the only two names (unless Nicolas be an exception;) of which we hear again, tends to the conclusion that he was among the most prominent of those so chosen. He was, at ally rate, well reported of as “full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom,” and had so won the affections of the great body of believers. (Acts 6:3-5)
Philip the Evangelist
The martyrdom of Stephen was the beginning of a systematic persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered over Judea and Samaria ( Acts 8:1 ), and even as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch ( Acts 11:19 ). Thus, the influence of the new teaching was extended, and a beginning made to the missionary movement.
The story of Philip’s missionary labors is told in Acts 8:5-13. He went to the chief city of Samaria, called Sebaste in honor of Augustus (Greek Sebastós ). The Samaritans, of mixed Israelite and Gentile blood, had, in consequence of their being rigidly excluded from the Jewish church since the return from exile, built on Mt. Gerizim a rival sanctuary to the temple. To them Philip proclaimed the Christ and wrought signs, with the result that multitudes gave heed, and “were baptized, both men and women.” They had been under the influence of a certain sorcerer, Simon, who himself also believed and was baptized, moved, as the sequel proved, by the desire to learn the secret of Philip’s ability to perform miracles.
The apostles ( Acts 8:14 ) at Jerusalem sanctioned the admission of Samaritans into the church by sending Peter and John, who not only confirmed the work of Philip, but also themselves preached in many Samaritan villages.
The conversion of The First Gentile
The next incident recorded is the conversion of a Gentile, who was, however, a worshipper of the God of Israel, a eunuch under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians (Acts 8:26-39).
As he was returning from worshipping in the temple at Jerusalem, he was met by Philip on the road to Gaza. Philip expounded to him that portion of Isaiah 53:1-12 which he had been reading aloud as he sat in his chariot, and preached unto him Jesus. It is another sign of Philip’s insight into the universality of Christianity that he baptized this eunuch who could not have been admitted into full membership in the Jewish church ( Deuteronomy 23:1 ).
After this incident, Philip went to Azotus (Ashdod), and then traveled north to Caesarea, preaching in the cities on his way. Acts 8:40
Visited By Paul 20 years Later
There he settled, for Luke records that Paul and his company abode in the house of Philip, “the evangelist,” “one of the seven,” for some days ( Acts 21:8 ff). This occurred more than 20 years after the incidents recorded in Acts 8. Both at this time and during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, Luke had the opportunity of hearing about Philip’s work from his own lips. Luke records that Philip had 4 daughters who were preachers ( Acts 21:9 ).
One tradition places the scene of his death at Hierapolis in Phrygia. According to another, he died bishop of Tralles. The house in which he and his daughters had lived was pointed out to travelers in the time of Jerome.
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