When Satan couldn’t stamp out the Christians using persecution, he tried to destroy them from within. With all of the Greek-speaking visitors from the day of Pentecost, who probably stayed with the Jewish Christians in the city, there was a tremendous economic burden on the community there. After all, who would want to go to their homes so far away when Jesus was going to come again? Everyone wanted to learn about Jesus from the apostles and be part of the loving fellowship of Christians in Jerusalem.
To meet the economic need, “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). There was a daily distribution of food, but a misunderstanding nearly tore the church apart. “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1). Fortunately, love triumphs over misunderstandings. The “Hebrews” (Native Aramaic-speaking Jews) chose seven men, probably “Hellenists” (Greek-speaking Jews who were visitors to Jerusalem), to oversee the distribution. It was as if the Hebrews said, “Brothers and sisters if you feel that we have wronged you by neglecting your widows, we will let you oversee this program and even take care of our Hebrew widows!” Division was averted, and Satan lost.
One of the seven men who was chosen to care for the widows was Philip. Like the other six men, Philip was recognized for being full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. He cared about people! Unfortunately, after this, Stephen, another one of the men chosen to care for the widows, was stoned and became the first martyr. “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). This included Philip, who hung up his apron and joyfully began preaching to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1 – 25). Again, love triumphs over prejudice! The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other, but the gospel of love, brought by Philip, broke down those barriers. It’s no wonder God chose Philip to take the good news to an Ethiopian official on a lonely desert road (Acts 8:26 – 40). The chapter concludes when “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts 8:39).
I’ve always found it interesting that God made Philip walk all the way to the Gaza road, then run to catch up to the Ethiopian’s chariot, but miraculously carried the evangelist to Azotus. From there, Philip continued to preach up the coast of Judah until he arrived at the Roman city of Caesarea, where he settled down, found a wife, and raised four daughters who became prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
So what can we learn from this Philip?
- He was willing to serve.
- He was ready to preach the Good News to everyone, including outcasts.
- Philip listened – and obeyed!
- Philip was a family man.