Overview of Philip and His Ministry
The main text used will be Acts chapter eight. In this article we will identify Philip, a man of God and Bible character; drawing out of the scriptures who he was and what his ministry was about. Thus practicing what is shown in the scriptures. I am fascinated with the life of Philip because I believe to be called by God to be an evangelist. As we look to Philip we can model an evangelism ministry after his.
In the Bible concerning Philip; there is nothing to indicate that he did anything to train others. He didn’t follow up on converts or do anything else but preach to new people in new areas led by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps once settled in Caesarea he did these other things. At some point he was married and perhaps his wife traveled with him. This is unknown. Philip was submissive to the apostles, but generally worked alone. Philip preached to crowds and witnessed to individuals (one-on-one). Philip displayed sign gifts and baptized those who were converted under his ministry. There’s so much more we can glean from God’s Word concerning this wonderful man of God. Let us begin.
Who is Philip?
First, Philip here is not to be confused with Philip, one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. John 1:43-44 Philip the disciple, who later was named an apostle Matt 10:1-2 Mark 3:18 Luke 6:14 Acts 1:13 who through Church tradition was thought to have preached the Gospel in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. A tomb believed to be that of St. Philip the Apostle was unearthed recently during excavations in the ancient Turkish city of Hierapolis. 
Philip is first introduced in Acts chapter six has one of the seven men the people chose for the purpose of managing the distribution of food to the widows who were in conflict with each other. Although the title deacon is not mentioned here, most today would recognize this to be the first example of deacons in the Church. In Acts eight is where the majority of the story of Philip takes place. Later in Acts we clearly see that Philip, one of the seven, is called an evangelist. Acts 21:8
In Acts twenty one we also see that Philip had four daughters. It doesn’t mention his wife. This is common in the Bible that the women are not focused on as much as the men. It would be safe to assume that Philip was married to produce his offspring, and they were not born out of wedlock. It doesn’t say when, or how long, he was married. If you do the math, scholars have put the timeline between Philip in Samaria (Acts eight) and when Paul and his party stayed at Philip’s house (Acts twenty one) to be about twenty years. Philip could have conceivably been married and had his first daughter when he left Jerusalem during the persecution.
Philip’s Ministry and Call
At least 15 people in the New Testament are referred to as apostles, a few as prophets, several as teachers, and a few (local church elders) as pastors of the churches. Only one person, however, is called an evangelist. Paul instructs Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” 2 Tim 4:5, but he was never called an evangelist. Only Philip, one of the original seven is called an evangelist Acts 21:8. 
The term evangelist was used to describe all preachers of the good news. Although a part of every minister’s duty, there are those whose entire ministry is devoted to preach the gospel and bring the opportunity of salvation to the unsaved. Philip is the only New Testament example we are given of this ministry. 
Over the centuries this ministry has not been given proper recognition on the local church level and it has slipped into gray territory. We often have evangelists trying to pastor local churches and pastors who are trying to travel as evangelists. This creates confusion for the saints, frustration for the ministers, and a lack of fruitfulness for the Kingdom. Some of our traditional viewpoints may lack clarity and accuracy because we have not seen the fullness of this ministry until recent years. Jesus is the pattern for all the New Testament ministries including the evangelist. 
From Acts 6:3 Philip had a good reputation among the people. He was full of the Holy Spirit. He was full of wisdom. By being appointed over some business in the Church we know that Philip was a man associated with a body of believers. He was not as the term goes: “a lone ranger”. Through persecution of the Church he was deployed beyond his familiar family of God; what we would call our “Home Church”. There are times when going into uncharted areas with the Gospel that you may be the only one. This could happen to someone on the job. They could be the only Christian. The issue of belonging to a group of believers, i.e. the local Church is an issue of the heart. Many street preachers today are not affiliated with a Church. I am not one of them.
Philip recognized and worked side by side with the apostles. Acts 8:14-15 Philip was faithful and obedient to the call of the Lord. Acts 8:26-27 Philip had hospitality as he hosted Paul and others. Acts 21:8 Philip was directed by the Spirit of God Acts 8:29 The other thing that could be added here is that Philip was a humble man and knew his limitations. He certainly didn’t have any selfish ambitions, if he had; he perhaps would have tried to stay in Samaria.
Philip Worked Alone
Despite the objections of people concerning this concept you cannot deny that Philip, the only one called an evangelist, worked alone. One could argue that he was married at that time and his wife was his companion and traveling partner in the ministry. Scripture just doesn’t say. I have two arguments why I think he was not married until later in life and therefore would have been alone in his first campaign in Samaria and most likely the rest of his ministry early on. Like previously mentioned, his wife could have been with him and it just does not mention her. If in fact his wife was an active partner paired up with Philip to do the ministry it seems strange that she is not mentioned like Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:1, Aquila and Priscilla Rom 16:3 1 Cor. 16:19 Peter’s wife is not mentioned by name but we know he was married. Matt 8:14 1 Cor 9:5 The second argument is that in Acts 8:39-40 when Philip was caught away miraculously, it seems reasonable that he was alone. It doesn’t mention Philip and his wife, or family, were caught away. My conclusion in the matter is that “Philip the evangelist” worked alone. I preach on the street corner alone about 70 percent of the time. The other 30 percent of the time is working with other believers, men and women alike.
Who Was Philip’s Audience?
Although the Samaritans, and the Ethiopian eunuch, had heard about God and to some degree believed in God; before Philip went to them with the Gospel they were unsaved. We see that he preached to the unsaved with the message of who saves us and how to be saved. There is no record of Philip preaching in a Church to Christians. We do know that the evangelist does play a role in the Body of Christ. Eph 4:11 The office of evangelist is a gift to the Church from Christ. This is to equip them to do the work of the ministry. Other New Testament passages concerning Samaria: Jesus goes to Samaria and encounters the woman at the well. John 4:4-42 Jesus instructs disciples not to go into Samaria. Matt 10:5 Samaritans would not receive Jesus – Sons of thunder want to call down fire. Luke 9:52-56 Jesus Heals the 10 lepers and only one returns to give God glory. Luke 17:11-19 Jesus tells disciples they will be witnesses in Samaria. Acts 1:8 The established Church in Samaria Acts 9: 31 Paul & Barnabas testify about Gentile converts in Samaria on route to Jerusalem. Acts 15:3
What Was The Content of Philip’s Message?
Philip’s content is found in three verses with four examples of what his message was. He preached Christ. Acts 8:5 | The things concerning the kingdom of God Acts 8:12 | The name of Jesus Christ Acts 8:12 | He preached Jesus Acts 8:35 | The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the centrality of eternal life and the Christian faith. We are told the subject matter of what Philip preached but we do not have an example of a sermon or discourse of his like we do of Peter or Paul.
The first thing mentioned is that Philip “preached Christ” Paul says For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2 We are not peddling (adulterating for gain) the Word of God, 2 Cor. 2:17 We do not commend ourselves. 2 Cor. 3:1 We are not sufficient of ourselves. 2 Cor. 3:5 We do not handle the Word of God deceitfully. 2 Cor. 4:2 We do not preach ourselves. 2 Cor. 4:5 The crucified and risen Christ is the main focus here.
The kingdom of God is something else that Philip preached on. We don’t know exactly what was expressed. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 Jesus then proceeded to talk about His second coming. I believe what is meant by the kingdom of God is within you is this; when you are born again. There is a coming kingdom as well and this is something that should be preached and taught. It effects the motivation for repentance and a host of other issues.
Philip preached the name of Jesus Christ which is a little different than preaching Christ. Here is what I think the difference is. Preaching Christ is to preach about his Messiahship, His work on the cross etc. The name of Jesus is what saves us. Acts 4:12 These are very similar however and overlap so I do not want to split hairs.
The last reference is that Philip preached Jesus. This was to the Ethiopian eunuch. I am sure this encompasses the whole of the Gospel. Philip apparently mentioned baptism in his Gospel presentation because the eunuch brings it up when he sees water.
Philip went – Acts 8:5 This implies action. He went somewhere. This is consistent with the Lord’s command to “go” Biblical evangelism is that, “we go to them” weather it is across the room or across the world. There is nothing wrong with inviting people to Church however this is not the Biblical pattern. It is to go. Mark 16:15
How Did Philip Communicate His Message?
The key verse in discovering how Philip communicated to people is found in Acts 8:35. In order to advance the Gospel you have to open your mouth and speak at some point. Fear can, and will, most always set in at the pinnacle point of a conversation when it is time to share the message of Jesus Christ.
Subtle attempts have been made to avoid such a task by replacing forthright verbal communication by some lofty human ideologies that lead to the justification of not sharing at all. I will address the two main ones. The first is based on a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assai which says, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” The idea here is to live your life as a Christian and keep your mouth shut, and in that way you will be a better witness by letting them see how you live. It is true that we shouldn’t have all talk and no action, and we should certainly live our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel. The second is a similar idea called, “Friendship Evangelism” which is making a friend over a period of time. This is a must before you can earn the right to verbally share the Gospel. In this method it is usually not shared until someone asks. Again here the philosophy is that in order to be an effective witness we must befriend someone to show we care and that upon the right time in the relationship we can then bring forth the Gospel in a more successful manner.
Both of these concepts are valid but are lacking the necessary element of speaking. I will suggest to you that the underline reason is twofold; the fear that comes with witnessing about Jesus Christ, and being ashamed of the Gospel. We must confess this and pray for boldness and then act in faith upon the command to preach the Gospel. The approach of confession and prayer is preferred to denial and the criticism to the ones who openly share their faith. Like two wings of an airplane; living the life and speaking forth.
…it pleased God thorough the foolishness preaching to save those who believe 1 Cor. 1:21. KJV but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; Titus 1:3
Speaking, Preaching, & Proclaiming
This is mentioned 7 times in chapter 8. Acts 8:4, 5, 12, 25 (twice) Acts 8:35, 40 There are 3 Greek words used here with the definitions below. In short, the difference I see in Euaggelizo & Kerysso is that Euaggelizo is speaking forth a certain message and in this case the message is the good news. Kerysso is more of a type of how one would speak, which would be proclaiming something. you could Kerysso the daily news headlines or the president’s latest speech. You could not Euaggelizo without having the content about Jesus Christ. Although both are rendered preach/proclaim the difference is the content of message, however; we also know when Kerysso is used in other passages in the N.T. the message is also about God, Jesus or the Word. That is why they seem so interchangeable.
Euaggelizō – to bring good news, to announce glad tidings a) used in the OT of any kind of good news 1) of the joyful tidings of God’s kindness, in particular, of the Messianic blessings b) in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation c) glad tidings are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him d) to proclaim glad tidings 1) instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation. Examples: Usage in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) when talking about and kind of good news as in a battle victory 2 Sam. 18:27. Used in the New Testament by an angel to announce the birth of Christ. Luke 2:10
Kēryssō – to be a herald, to officiate as a herald a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald b) always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed 2) to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done 3) used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian teachers. Examples: Usage of Paul when talking of his ministry. Acts 20:25 Usage of both words in these passages. Luke 4: 18 and Rom 10:14-15
Laleo – 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound 2) to speak a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech b) to utter articulate sounds 3) to talk 4) to utter, tell 5) to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts a) to speak. The apostles leaving Samaria Acts 8:25
Philip, the Itinerant Minister
We see the nature of Philip’s ministry in Acts 8:40 Jesus being compelled to stay traveled as well. Mark 1: 37-38, Luke 4:43 Jesus traveled in a circuit Mark 6:6 I have heard many criticisms about how an evangelist stays in one town for awhile and then leaves, as if this is somehow wrong. No, on the contrary, according to this passage the evangelist is to travel and spread the good news. It is not indicated how long Philip stayed in each town or area. It is thought there were some twenty years between the persecution that sent Philip out and from the time that Paul and company stayed at Philip’s house in Caesarea. Acts 21:8-9, This does not mean the evangelist has to travel, but that it is ok to do so. Something worthy to note here is that in Eph 4:7-16 it does indicate that in the gift of evangelist, they are also to equip the body of Christ. If you couple this passage with 1 Cor 12:4-6 We see there are differences, therefore I concede that there are some evangelists who do not travel across the globe but are placed in a ministry where there is more training (equipping) I know some.
Signs & Wonders
Philip had the gifting and ability to perform miracles. Acts 8:7 Concerning the signs & wonders that Philip did, it is worthy to note that these gifts were not limited to the apostles. Stephen as well did miracles Acts 6:8 Barnabus Acts 14:3 Corinthian Believers 1 Cor 12:10
Philip also baptized people and the act of baptism was evident in his preaching. If you follow the ministry of Philip then the role of the evangelist is to baptize those who believe. There are 3 baptisms recorded in Acts eight. Both men & women were baptized Acts 8:12, Simon himself was baptized Acts 8:13, and the Ethiopian Eunuch Acts 8:38. All three I believe were submersions. Also to note here is that here and other instances in the book of Acts baptism was done immediately as to associate it with conversion. To read more on baptism go to: Water Baptism Article
Early on in my witnessing and evangelism there was this immense pressure to follow up on the candidates. We had people fill out response cards and then try to visit them again in person. If that didn’t work we would try calling them. Even through invitations to Church, fellowships, and Bible study in most cases the people would not respond. That certainly says something about the actually conversions that took place. We know from the life of Paul and his associates that there was a lot of “follow up” for the new converts. Acts 15:36 However with Philip I found some startling observations:
No one stays for “follow up” in the city where Philip was, not even the Apostles. Acts 8:25 Surely if we had constructed the story here we would put Philip, after his initial preaching, to leave. The apostles we would have had stay and begin a pastoral and teaching ministry. The amazing thing is they didn’t. They left and went back to Jerusalem. Did they leave them in the lurch? Or turn them over to the care of the Holy Spirit? Remember this was not the first time the Gospel was in Samaria. Although Jesus told his disciples in Matt. 10:5 not to go to Samaria, He himself went and met the woman at the well. John 4:39-41
The Lord calls Philip to leave what we would call a revival and go somewhere else; the desert road that goes to Gaza. Acts 8:26-27 If we were asked to do this, it would seem strange to us and in fact we probably would question if it was from the Lord at all. To leave a thriving work to go down to a desert where no one is; that does not fit our idea of ministry or our Church planting program. The Lord knows what He is doing. It is our job to find out His will and then do it.
No one follows up on the Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 8:39 Out of the three examples this one is the most fascinating to me. Right after the eunuch believes and is baptized Philip not only leaves him, but the Lord miraculously takes Philip from that place to a whole other area. No one left the eunuch with a Church brochure or a list of Churches in his area. The eunuch never filled out a follow up card. I am not saying that practical things to help someone in their new found faith are wrong. I have done them. I just think that ultimately we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to do the “follow up”. He is certainly capable without our sometimes feeble attempts. Tradition has taught that the eunuch went back to Ethiopian and a Church was birthed due to his evangelism.
Some have debated if Simon Magnus was in fact saved, or he was a pretender or false convert. For conversation’s sake let’s say that Simon was a false convert. Outside of the Lord Himself, Philip is the great evangelist and yet he had the situation with Simon. The production of false converts does not always hinge on the methods or lack of truth spoken on the part of the evangelist as we see here. Note how Simon asks the apostles to pray for him. I think it is characteristic of someone who does not have a relationship with God.
Everyone is to share their faith, and yet I realize not everyone is called to preach on the street corner. I do so much appreciate those who have supported evangelism by praying and giving financially. And most often it is nice to have those words of encouragement from those believers that pass by out there. The general call is to go. We don’t need another directive concerning this, however; once we go then we look for specific direction from the Lord.
1. Jackie Bruchi, http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/27630
2 – 4 Victor Reichenbach, Casper Open Bible Church, Casper, Wyoming