Jesus’ Disciples: Philip

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 12, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As we continue making our way through Jesus’ twelve disciples, Philip is next on the list. We know that Philip was a native of the town of Bethsaida, where Andrew and Peter also came from. After Andrew and Peter were called, Philip was next according to John 1:43-45:

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote —Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

As with all of the other disciples, Philip responded quickly to Jesus’ call on his life. Following that account is the story of Nathanael becoming a follower of Jesus as well.

Philip is mentioned a few other times along with being included in the lists of the disciples. In John 6:5-7, during the account of the feeding of the 5000, Jesus asks Philip about buying bread for that entire crowd to eat. Philip, of course, responds that they couldn’t possibly have enough money to buy food to feed that huge crowd. Jesus was testing Philip’s faith; John informs us that Jesus already knew that He was going to perform a miracle to feed that crowd. Philip is just being realistic of course, in that they didn’t have that kind of money to buy that much food. He likely did not yet fully understand what Jesus was going to do to show His glory in that experience.

Philip is also mentioned in John 12:20-22. Some Greeks who were attending a festival found Philip to ask about meeting Jesus; Philip then went to get Andrew, who brought them to Jesus.

We don’t see any more about Philip in the gospel accounts, but we do learn more about him in the book of Acts. After the killing of Stephen (Acts 7), the disciples scattered to different areas, and Philip ended up in Samaria. Acts 8:4-8 tells us: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” We see Philip performing miraculous signs and bringing great joy to the people as he also preached the Word to them. He was clearly carrying on Jesus’ mission in this way.

A bit later, in Acts 8:26-40, we see the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. This eunuch was a very important official to the queen of Ethiopia. There was nothing pre-planned about this event, but it happened as Philip was traveling and he was obedient to what the Holy Spirit was telling him to do. Philip doesn't question the Spirit's instructions, but he just does them. Rather than judging the eunuch for not understanding the scripture or immediately starting to lecture or instruct him, Philip asks questions to understand the situation to best minister to this man. He continues to listen and respond to what the Spirit asks him to do. In this encounter, the eunuch ends up being baptized and becoming a believer in Jesus as his Savior, and it is believed that this encounter is what brought the Christian faith to Ethiopia.

We can learn many important lessons from this encounter Philip had with the Ethiopian eunuch. First, we often feel like we just need to get where we’re going. But for Philip, paying attention to the journey and not just his destination was what was important. If Philip had just continued on because he needed to get where he was going and hadn’t stopped to discuss Jesus with this one man, the course of the Church would have been changed.

Second, we need to be responsive to God both in our actions and in our timing. If we do things in our timing, we’ll likely mess them up. But if we follow God’s timing and don’t let our fear of “what ifs” get in our way, we can make a big impact for His Kingdom.

Third, our initial reaction when we meet someone struggling with ideas about God is often to give advice, instruct them, or just give up on them. Philip doesn’t do this; instead, he asks questions, seeking to understand where this man is coming from so he can best help him. Philip is not immediately pushing his own agenda, but he is seeking to understand what this man is seeking. He is being invitational, not judgmental. Inviting this man into a conversation allowed Philip to share love rather than simply judging him for not understanding the Scriptures.

Finally, numbers aren’t the most important thing. Philip could have been spending his time preaching to many people at this time, but at this point, he was called away to reach just one. This is a divine encounter that God set up so that God's will would be done. It may seem like Philip could spread the gospel better by teaching a large group, but reaching this one person was what God had planned for Philip, and through that one person, the Church in Ethiopia grew and flourished. Philip did what God asked him to, and God did the rest.

Perhaps this lesson is what Jesus was starting to teach Philip back at the feeding of the 5000. Philip needed to pay attention to the miracle that God was going to do. What God does may not make sense to us through our worldly ways of thinking, but God’s timing and God’s plan are always better than anything we could imagine.

We can learn from Philip that we should pay attention to what God is asking you to do, and who He is calling you to spend time with. God knows we're in the process of learning how to follow Him. If we mess up, that’s ok; God will still work in the situation for His good purposes. God gives us opportunities like what Philip had so we continue to be responsive to Him. Pay attention to what God’s Spirit is speaking and calling you to in your life; you never know how God may use that situation for His Kingdom.

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