Philip—A Zealous Evangelizer
THE Scriptures contain many accounts of men and women whose faith is worthy of imitation. Consider Philip, a first-century Christian missionary. He was not an apostle, yet he was used powerfully in spreading the Kingdom message. In fact, Philip became known as “the evangelizer.” (Acts 21:8) Why did Philip have that designation? And what can we learn from him?
Philip appears in the Bible record soon after Pentecost 33 C.E. At that time the Greek-speaking Jews began murmuring against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, claiming that their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution. To handle the matter, the apostles appointed “seven certified men.” Philip was among those chosen.—Acts 6:1-6.
These seven men were “certified.” James Moffatt’s translation says that they were “of good reputation.” Yes, at the time of their appointment, they were already known to be spiritual men with practical thinking ability. It is similar with those who serve as Christian overseers today. Such men are not appointed hastily. (1 Timothy 5:22) They must have “a fine testimony from people on the outside,” and fellow Christians should know that they are reasonable and sound in mind.—1 Timothy 3:2, 3, 7; Philippians 4:5.
Evidently, Philip cared well for his assignment in Jerusalem. Soon, however, a wave of bitter persecution broke out and scattered Christ’s followers. Like others, Philip left the city, but his ministry was not over. Before long, he was busy preaching in a new territory—Samaria.—Acts 8:1-5.
Opening Up New Territories
Jesus had foretold that his disciples would preach “both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) By preaching in Samaria, Philip was sharing in the fulfillment of those words. The Jews generally had little respect for Samaritans. But Philip did not prejudge these people, and his impartiality was blessed. Indeed, many Samaritans got baptized, including a former magician named Simon.—Acts 8:6-13.
In time, Jehovah’s angel directed Philip to go to the desert road that ran from Jerusalem to Gaza. There Philip spotted a chariot carrying an Ethiopian official who was reading aloud from Isaiah’s prophecy. Philip ran alongside the chariot and struck up a conversation. Though the Ethiopian was a proselyte with some knowledge of God and the Scriptures, he humbly admitted that he needed help to understand what he was reading. Hence, he invited Philip to get on the chariot and sit with him. After a witness was given, they came to a body of water. “What prevents me from getting baptized?” the Ethiopian asked. Philip promptly baptized him, and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing. Likely, this new disciple spread the good news back in his homeland.—Acts 8:26-39.
What can we learn from Philip’s ministry involving the Samaritans and the Ethiopian official? Never should we assume that individuals of a certain nationality, race, or social status will not be interested in the good news. Instead, we should declare the Kingdom message to “people of all sorts.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) If we make ourselves available by preaching to all, Jehovah can use us in the work of ‘making disciples of people of all the nations’ before the end of this wicked system arrives.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Philip’s Further Privileges
After preaching to the Ethiopian official, Philip witnessed in Ashdod, “and he went through the territory and kept on declaring the good news to all the cities until he got to Caesarea.” (Acts 8:40) In the first century, these two cities had substantial Gentile populations. On his way north to Caesarea, Philip likely preached in prominent Jewish centers, such as Lydda and Joppa. Perhaps that is why disciples could later be found in these areas.—Acts 9:32-43.
The final mention of Philip occurs some 20 years later. At the end of his third missionary journey, Paul disembarked at Ptolemais. “The next day,” says Paul’s traveling companion Luke, “we set out and arrived in Caesarea, and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelizer.” By this time, Philip had “four daughters, virgins, that prophesied.”—Acts 21:8, 9.
Apparently, Philip had settled in Caesarea. But he had not lost his missionary spirit, for Luke calls him “the evangelizer.” This expression often indicates one who leaves his home to preach the good news in unworked regions. The fact that Philip had four daughters who prophesied suggests that they followed in their zealous father’s footsteps.
Present-day Christian parents should remember that their children are their most important disciples. Even if such parents have had to relinquish certain theocratic privileges because of family responsibilities, like Philip they can remain wholehearted servants of God and exemplary parents.—Ephesians 6:4.
The visit of Paul and his companions gave Philip’s family a fine opportunity to show hospitality. Imagine the interchange of encouragement! Perhaps it was on this occasion that Luke gathered the details about Philip’s activities, later included in Acts chapters 6 and 8.
Jehovah God used Philip extensively to further Kingdom interests. Philip’s zeal enabled him to spread the good news in new territories and to promote a healthy spiritual atmosphere in his home. Would you like to enjoy similar privileges and blessings? Then you would do well to imitate the qualities displayed by Philip the evangelizer.