Study 6 PHILIP: DEACON AND EVANGELIST
(Scripture Portions: Acts 6: 1-7; 8: 1-40; 21:8)
The title of this study suggests a very healthy combination. Philip was a deacon (Acts 6:1-7) and he was an evangelist (Acts 8:1-40) – indeed, he is referred to by the Holy Spirit as “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Now, of course, it does not fall to the lot of every believer to hold “office” or to fill a position of leadership in the Church, but every Christian may be and should be an evangelist. Philip was an evangelist. His business was telling others of Jesus and leading others to Him, and that should be your business and mine, for being an evangelist or a preacher is not a “professional” matter. Evangelism is not a profession, it is a passion. There was nothing professional about Philip; he was a layman. How indebted the Church in every age has been to the laymen, the men and women who engage in all the exacting duties of home, business or profession but whose delight it is to devote their spare time, energies, talents and their very lives to the service of God and of His Church.
In Acts 6:3 we read that the early Church wanted seven men with special qualifications. Philip was elected by the prayerful voting of the Church, and his name appears second in the list (Acts 6:5). Some men are forever hankering after office, position and power, and they can be a great hindrance in any assembly. Other men cannot keep out of office, for their grace and gifts are recognised and the Church needs them. Philip was of this latter type.
Then, in Acts 8 we read of Philip filling the role of an evangelist – first preaching to the crowd in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8), and afterwards preaching to an individual in the desert (Acts 8:26-40). The man with gifts to evangelise the masses will always be ready to speak to the individual soul about Christ. But most of us are not preachers in this larger application of the word; we are “personal evangelists”. Let us look at Philip as he appears before us in Acts 8:26-40, and see in him the pattern of a New Testament evangelist.
1. Philip lived in close touch with his Lord.
Compare Acts 8, verses 26 and 29 – “The angel said…” “The Spirit told…” and Philip heard! God does not shout His instructions and orders. If we would be used by Him we must be living near enough to Him to hear His voice – like Isaiah when he overheard the Trinity in conference (Isaiah 6:8). We must watch our private devotions. To be regular in these is the greatest possible achievement, and the place of easiest failure.
2. Philip was absolutely at God’s disposal.
He was R.F.A. Ready for Anything! Yes, and R.F.N. Ready For Nothing, if that was the Lord’s will for him. Ready to preach to the crowd in Samaria (verse 5), or ready to seek the dark-skinned Eunuch in the desert (verse 30). Ready to be in the public eye, or ready to leave it. He could sing from the heart:
- O, use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as Thou wilt, and when and where.
Can we say that, sincerely? When General Booth was asked the secret of his success in the Lord’s work he replied, “There came a day when God got all there was of William Booth.”
3. Philip was a man of unquestioning obedience.
Look at verse 26 – “The angel said…Arise”; and in verse 27 – Philip “started out…” Then look at verse 29 – “The Spirit said, Go to that chariot…”; and in verse 30, “Philip ran…” What a perfect illustration of obedience! There was no argument, there were no “ifs” and “buts” – but just, “All right, Lord, if You say so I’ll do it!” He could have offered many excuses…(think of them)…but he did not suggest one. God told him to go to seek the Eunuch, and he sought him, and in the pathway of obedience he won him for his Master (verse 37).
4. Philip knew how to handle the Word of God.
In verses 30-35 we have a beautiful illustration of how to lead a soul to Christ. Dr R. A. Torrey used to mention the four things which every Christian worker should know about the Bible:
- He should know how to use the Bible to show others the need of a Saviour.
- He should know how to use the Bible to show them that Jesus Christ is just the Saviour they need.
- He should know how to use the Bible to show them how to make the Saviour their Saviour.
- He should know how to use the Bible to meet all the differences that stand between the enquirer and the Lord.
5. Philip made much of the Lord Jesus.
Look at verses 5 and 35. His one theme was Christ. Philip knew what would happen if he uplifted Him in his preaching – look up John 12:32; and his message was the same, whether he was speaking to the crowd or to one man. God always and only honours the preaching and the testimony that honours His Son – look up John 5:22-23, and compare 1 Corinthians 2:2.
6. Philip was able to overcome discouragement.
This is important for anyone who would launch out into the Lord’s harvest field. We meet with many disappointments when we are working for the Lord, and we need to know how to prevent discouragement. Read Acts 8:9-24 – that was a blow for Philip! But the grace of the Lord is our all-sufficient resource in every time of disappointment and threatened discouragement – look up 2 Corinthians 12:9.
7. Philip was willing to be lost sight of.
We learn this from verse 39 – and look up and compare John 3:30. And the secret of it all? Philip was a man “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:3).