Portrait of a disciple: Philip, deacon or evangelist?

(Acts 8:5)  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Philip, means lover of horses. If that is of any eternal value to you, God bless it! Philip was also the name of an apostle, and one who was known as one of the seven. The one I endeavor to discuss here is the latter. This Philip, plausibly one of the first deacons and later referred to as an evangelist. Was he one or the other? Was he both? We know enough about Philip from the book of Acts to confirm a few things.

Philip was:

  • selected as a deacon (therefore not one of the twelve) (Acts 6:1-5)'Philip' photo (c) 2009, Missional Volunteer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
  • a servant of tables and widows (Acts 6:2)
  • full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3)
  • a preacher of the gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:5)
  • a performer of signs and miracles (Acts 8:6,13)
  • a messenger of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12)
  • spoken to by Angels of the Lord (Acts 8:26)
  • directed by and submitted to the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26,29,39)
  • sensitive to opportunities to preach Christ (Acts 8:30-37)
  • qualified to baptize (Acts 8:38-39)
  • found at Azotus, preaching in all the towns en route to Caesarea (Acts 8:40)
  • in Caesarea at least 25 years amongst the Gentiles when Paul came to enter his house (Acts 21:8)
  • the father of four unmarried prophetesses (Acts 21:9)

Well, that is quite a list. If the bio of this man were en-scripted on a conference brochure, it surely would bring registrants! Honestly, doing careful evaluation of the activities mentioned in the scripture give us cause to think there was much more that Philip did that was not recorded for us. But then again, Philip was found in Caesarea where his journeying ended in Acts 8 some 25 years later. One could infer that he took retirement. But one could also infer that he remained there and did the work of an evangelist. Luke, the author of Acts, ascribed Philip as an evangelist should we?

So following well accepted conjecture that the appointment of the seven in Acts 6 is evidence of the first deacons in the church, we look to the question, was Philip a deacon?

Deacons are:

Philip was:

With minimal references to that which an evangelist actually does (Acts 21:8, Eph 4:11-12, 2 Tim 4:5), one must consider what information is actually available. Since it is obvious that Philip served in the capacity of deacon, we return to the question, was he an evangelist?

If Paul wrote to Timothy, and exhorted him to do the work of an evangelist, we could learn some characteristics of an evangelists calling from what he was instructed.

Timothy was to:

an Evangelist is to:

  • preach the gospel from the scriptures
  • correct errors in the church
  • prepare leadership for the church
  • and spread the gospel from place to place

In conclusion, a candid look at the capacity of Philip from the book of Acts tells two stories. One, he was worthy of their calling, and served the church as a deacons. Two, he served well in preaching the good news.

Philip, served as both a deacon (Acts 6:1-5) and an evangelist (Acts 21:8).

Both narratives of the function of Philip in the book of Acts illustrate the principle of service that a disciple is to emulate (John 13:10-14) in the church of Jesus Christ. As a deacon, Philip may have served tables, but it is unlikely that the requirements of his calling were restricted to delivering soup and sandwiches (more on this in another post later). Philip’s role as a deacon epitomizes the function of his role as an evangelist. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, he served his brethren through a posture of service and the function of a gift given to the church for its building and perfecting (Eph 4:11). The evangelist is not just a preacher of the gospel to the lost he is an essential component to the equipping of the saints. Philip was not just A deacon or just AN evangelist!

Philip was a disciple living worthily of the calling with which he was called (Eph 4:1). It just happened that he was fulfilling his calling, exercising the gifts he’d been given, and building up others in the church. His gifts and abilities were not requisite of ecclesiastical offices; they were requisite of service to the church of Christ! (Eph 4:11-16)

What do you think of this perspective? Do you think it is easy to get caught up in the ‘professional’ perspective of believers and the usage of their gifts? Have you ever experienced a desire to exercise your spiritual gifts but were unable to due to non-recognition as a ‘vocational office’?

(edited 9/19/12)



This post is part of a series:

  1. Portrait of a disciple: Philip, deacon or evangelist?
  2. Portrait of a disciple: Stephen the sacrifice?

Reading through the eyes Jesus gave you, the Jesus Lens

How to RBuy now at Amazon.Com!ead the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael James Williams, Zondervan, 2012, 288 pages. Interest Group: Christianity/Bible/Reference

An Amazon search for “how to read the bible” yields an easy 5,529 results! Add some other search parameters and you are bound to expand that number exponentially. No question about it, there are plenty of books on reading the bible.

Methodological, pedagogical, philological, or just plain introductory methods can all explain how to get into and read the bible. What many believers would benefit from the most is reading the bible effectively. Scholars of all sorts can explain to you the content and intent of religious literature, regardless of their creed or allegiance, but the true effectiveness of reading the bible is found in doing it, internalizing it, and obeying it.

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture is Michael Williams’ attempt to remove the hype and the proverbial fluff and get to the nuts and bolts of understanding scripture. If you are disciple of Jesus Christ, it should be a no-brainer. However, this is not always the case. Fundamentally, Jesus is the one who has enabled us to see the truth of his words, it is through him we should read the truth of scripture.

I elected to review the book and the author’s insights as he views the letters of John through the Jesus Lens. The author of John’s gospel makes his agenda clear from the onset, the deity of Christ. The Jesus Lens tells us that we must see through the events of this gospel and discover the Father in the Son. Likewise the Son in the Father is a revelation that is important to the life of the disciple. Because of this union with each other, Jesus is divine and human. Without the perfection of deity, the imperfection of humanity could not be redeemed.

The epistles also attributed to John reveal the importance of truth and obedience to that truth. It is the Jesus Lens that again demonstrates the physical manifestation of God’s love through the human presence of the divine son. Jesus Christ sets forth the standard and the instructions that enable us to follow in his footsteps. In other words, practicing the life he enables us to do through the life that he lived here on earth. This same revelation of truth and similitude to Jesus Christ is found in the refutation of error and the behavior we provide toward others, hospitality.

Williams’ has done many old and new believers alike a great favor. He has pared down the truths of each book of the bible and allowed us to view them through the Jesus Lens. With a summary, contemporary application, and reference to how to read each book with Jesus as our interpreting lens, William’s has developed an excellent tool. Whether you use it as a desk reference or a review tool after finishing a book in the bible, this book is very helpful for reminding us to see Jesus in all things, including our bible reading plans.

I received this book from Zondervan for the purpose of review. No books were harmed in the reviewing of this book.

I’m a little legalist…

…here is my law book, here is my clout. When the truth is spoken hear me shout, tip me over and knock my phylacteries out…

Gal 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

I suppose the safe assumption we must take when reading Galatians 5 is that it refers to the false gospel being perpetrated to the Galatians and the battle with the legalism being forced or taught to and upon them. As I read this text I could not help but to think about the practical implication this has on the swinging pendulum of Christian’s and their preferred positions on doctrines. The perpetual motion of the pendulum remains consistent in its swinging to and fro and varies in its heights of degree.

One thing remains certain as I attempt to bear through this one, no matter what we understand about what is legalism and what is not, the Apostle Paul plainly states that we as believers are to enjoy freedom. But this freedom is not reckless abandon and overindulgence in the things of the world. It is freedom from the snare and death wrought through exposure to the Law’s awful curse. The pendulum swinging to the degree of freedom allowing moderation of all things worldly is tough for me to justify as Paul states,

Gal 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

In most cases the things that I want to do, even in my “freedom” are against the Spirit, and most times cause grievance of that same Spirit.

Going on to examine the self-control, as a fruit of the Spirit, and how it sets precedence of moderation instead of cessation of indulgence is another difficult task to face. Is this a matter of maturity and sanctification? Does one eventually come to a position, in this life, and in this flesh where they can actively and openly practice the things the flesh is weakened by in moderation? Does it make one legalistic if they choose complete abstinence from those very things that would cause the flesh to become weakened and in turn promote the same practice as safe practice? I face the task within myself and my state of ongoing sanctification to oppress these desires for the sake of bearing a testimony to the world. While I affirm that we cannot be removed wholly from the world around us (1 Co 5:10), we can bear a powerful testimony (Php 2:15) that exemplifies the love of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and the truth of the Cross, of which alone lies our ability to boast in anything.

As much as I’d like to further this discussion by examining the doctrine of separation, I feel enough is covered for now. In prayerful consideration of the ever growing gray area of Christian liberty I ask that we consider not what it is that we can profitably get away with, but what is holy, un-defiled, and righteous in the sight of God, and convicting in the sight of the world without implicating human judgment upon them?

 Gal 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Ten reasons not to be a Pharisee

Whether it is looking onward toward what the future may bring, or reflecting on the past in what the Lord has brought me through, It’s all been one huge learning experience. Each day brings about deeper teachings from the Scriptures; the Word of our Lord, and the refining work that it does in each and every believer. In this perspective the main thought that had been recurring most can be summed up in the following ten reasons I’ve decided not to be a Pharisee.

  1. They were known as a brood of vipers. (Matthew 3:7)
  2. They set a standard of unobtainable righteousness through men. (Matthew 5:20)
  3. Fellowship with sinners was not an option for them. (Matthew 9:11-13)
  4. There piety was based upon their strict keeping of tradition. (Matthew 12:2-8)
  5. Being called an evil and adulterous generation by the Lord is not good. (Matthew 12:38-39)
  6. They were blind guides leading others to a pit, of which the Lord instructed the disciples to let them be. (Matthew 15:13-14)
  7. They produced leaven that was dangerous and puffed up with error and falsehoods. (Matthew 16:11-12)
  8. They plotted and attempted to ensnare the Lord by questioning His words. (Matthew 22:15-46)
  9. There problem was very clear to the Lord, but not to them. (Matthew 23)
  10. They preferred the death of the Lord over that of a murderer. (Matthew 27:26-31)

It might be a good idea (according to the Gospel of Matthew) not to choose the Pharisaical sect of the Jews, or the Sadducee’s as a career choice. If you have already embarked on this journey, allow me to suggest you turn back now.

2011 – My year in reading

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” ~ Erasmus

I was reflecting back on the books I read last year and thought I would list them to see just what I had posted. Some of the reviews of these books will be published here either as re-posts from my old blog, or new posts containing unpublished reviews. This is the list to the best of my knowledge. I am sure that there are countless blog posts, PDF’s, books I forgot about, and various journal publications that I read along the way, but these are ones I know for sure I read because I wrote reviews.

This list is in no particular order.

The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd –  Jonathan Edwards

The Quotable Chesterton – Kevin Belmonte

Come to the Table – John Mark Hicks

Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper – Ben Witherington III (My Review)

Fasting: The Sacred Practices Series – Scot McKnight (My Review)

Keep You Greek, Strategies for Busy People – Constantine R. Campbell (My Review)

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream – David Platt (My Review)

Following Jesus, the Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship – Jonathan Lunde (My Review)

The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms – Brian L. Webster and David R. Beach (My Review)

Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God – David Platt (My Review)

Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices – Frank Viola (My review)

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word – George Guthrie (My review)

What’s With Paul and Women?: Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 – Jon Zens (My review)

Except for Fornication: The Teaching of the Lord Jesus on Divorce and Remarriage – Van Parunak (My review)

Desiring God, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Revised) – John Piper (My review)

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity – Frank Viola (My review)

Man Alive: Transforming Your 7 Primal Needs into a Powerful Spiritual Life – Patrick Morley (My review)

As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission – Alan Padgett (My review)

Well, there you have it. I think the overall theme of my reading habits was “Ecclesiology” or, the study of the Church. You can probably sprinkle a bit of Christian Living and Theology in there as well. I enjoyed most of these books and I am generally not too critical in my reviews. I like to take most books as they are, allow them to impact me for what they are worth, and incorporate the views of others into my perceptions of the world. It sure makes things interesting most of the time, and helps me keep my closed mind slightly cracked!


Nourished through the vine

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Let us consider the whole of John 15:1-14, and the words of the Lord himself as the vine and the Father as the vine dresser. In John 15:1-6 we see that unless the branch is in the vine and is tended by the Father, it cannot receive nurturing from the root that goes down deep.

As we see in John 15:7, Jesu'Twisted  -  Avia Venefica' photo (c) 2010, Avia Venefica - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/s gives us more characteristics of branches in the vine. The branches are those that dwell in Christ. Because there is a relationship, one that is a matter of life or death for the branch, it would make sense for us to attribute nourishment to the Words of Christ, which are essential to the branch. You and I, fellow disciples, depend upon the truth of the Lord. If the Word is in you, then the desire for the Father’s will is in you, and that which you ask of him is given you, because you do his will.

The Father is glorified through the fruit bearing branch, a distinction of disciples who dwell in the vine. Jesus Christ provides the foundation of the Father’s nourishment, and it is a trickling down of grace, feeding the fruit of righteousness that bears out glory for the Father. The Father is glorified in the Son, the Son is glorified in the disciple. Therefore, God is glorified in Man. We should be characterized as products of God glorifying behavior (John 15:8)

The Father loves Christ, the vine. The Christ loves us, the branches, and we shall go on in this love, which bears fruit. Jesus again shows us a relationship occurring here, keeping his commandments, is abiding in his love. Jesus personifies this with obedience to the Father’s commandments, which abide in the Father’s love. And the Father and the Son are one. Abiding in Christ is abiding in the Father (John 15:9-10).

The clearest command is that the Lord’s joy might remain in the disciples and that their joy might be full. John the Baptist experienced joy that was full. Examples in the fourth gospel, the epistles of John, Phillipians, and in 63 other New Testament uses all convey a literal ‘fulfillment’ and experiential ‘joy.’  Keeping the commandment of God gave Jesus joy. Obedience to God is fulfillment of the commandments, and the love, spilling over from that which welled up within him, love for the disciples, fulfills the commandments as well. (John 15:11-12)

He gives us yet another command, “…love one another, as he loved you.” The love for his own, of which no man can have any greater portion of, is to lay down his life for his friends. If you are a friend of God, you do whatsoever he commands you. (John 15:13-14).

We abide in Christ by keeping his commandments, and therefore we abide in the Father. The product of this flow of affection is an outpouring of mercy, grace, and a proclamation of truth. This as James states, results in us being doers of the word, not just hearers (James 1:22).

We cannot just hear it, and respond to it. We must speak it. John the Baptist did it, the disciples did it, Paul did it, and most importantly, the Lord did it. We must abide in the Father.

Lord, I give you thanks for being obedient to the Father. To you I beg, to feed me from the soil of your truth.

Going to school in your underwear?

The public school system abhorred and revered by many at the same time. During my years of mandatory attendance, I was one of the former. Some had a wonderful experience and went on to advanced placement programs. Others, unfortunately (fortunately) went on to escape with a diploma and a future of blue collar jobs or manual labor. Although I could lament my personal experience ad-nauseum, I will spare you and cut to the chase.

During my school years there were two recurring dreams. One of them was the dreaded waking up and going to school, coming home, and being relieved it was all over. Then the alarm would go off and I would quickly realize that it was actually time to get ready for classes and I was only dreaming. Oh the despair! It felt like two days combined into one.

The second dream occurred in a rather similar fashion but was more of a nightmare. I recall awaking to the sound of the alarm, and then mysteriously appearing in the school hallways during class change. This was not so bad, as I usually enjoyed the real-life experience where we got to catch up with friends, chat with girls, and decide whether or not we would cut out to McD’s for lunch or not. But the dream itself was devoid of all the pleasantries of school social time. Still in a full state of dreamlike reality, I would gaze down and realize that I had only come to school in a towel, or my underwear. Yes, even tighty-whiteys. POOF! Then I would wake up, and it would be time for the real school day to begin. Rest assured, I remembered to be fully clothed before leaving home!

So as you are asking why am I reminiscing about the days of old and telling you my underwear stories, let me tell you what brought all this to mind!

Gen 3:10  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

So what exactly is it about being naked that brings shame to Adam? Adam’s situation is due to his own disobedience. Sinfully, he undermined the instructions of YWH, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and now sought to skirt admission by blaming his shame on his nakedness.  The author of Genesis tells us previously,

Gen 2:25  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

A closer look at the wording in this account demonstrates that there was no shame in being naked or in this case, unclothed. Genesis 3:10 demonstrates that Adam’s nakedness is being found “stripped” of a “covering.” I would assert this nakedness is now revealed to Adam as being shameful because he is no longer wearing “innocence.” Adam thought more of his particular consequences than the actual sin he had committed. Hiding himself behind the covering of fig leaves, Adam was still ashamed of his nakedness before the presence of YWH. Adam could not stand to face YWH alone in repentant confession, but gave in to alternate measures, found a scapegoat, blamed his wife, and she in turn points the finger at the serpent. Both were guilty for their own actions, and both stood uncovered before YWH, with nothing to cover their transgressions.

Job 31:33 (KJV)  If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom…

As comedic it might seem, my dreams of arriving at school in my skivvies pale in comparison to the shame demonstrated by true nakedness. By being stripped of innocence, virtue, and a right position before YWH all is laid bare and the true state of our spirit is revealed to him.

Clothing becomes irrelevant. My shame in my dreams was related to the perception people had of my appearance. My ego was affected by the embarrassment that would be experienced hearing the cruel words of my teenage peers.  But Adam experienced shame because he knew that the jig was up. He had been caught, and now he had to answer to the one who already knows what is in our hearts.

Heb 4:13  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Psa 139:11-12  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”  (12)  even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you

Although our own culture cannot decide on whether the exposure of human flesh is acceptable or shameful, all of mankind will soon stand naked and exposed before the throne of YWH. It is on that day that true nakedness will confirm that self-deception is fruitless. Hemlines, billboards, and showing up to school in underwear will no longer be of concern. Only the exposure of our personal transgressions before YWH will free us from shame on the day of our judgment.

We must place ourselves in the care of the Son of Man, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother.

Heb 4:14-16  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  (15)  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  (16)  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

“The veil of night is no disguise,

No screen from thy all-searching eyes;

Thy hands can seize thy foes as soon.

Thro’ midnight shades as blazing noon.”

– Albert Barnes