Philip in Samaria
But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.Acts 8:4-8
Helen asked, Who is Philip? So let’s survey the options. There were numbers of men called Philip.
- Philip 1 – The father of Alexander the Great (1 Macc 1:1; 6:2), king of Macedonia in 359-336 BC. His influence for Greece and for mankind in general, lay in hastening the decadence of the Greek city-state and in the preparations he left to Alexander for the diffusion throughout the world of the varied phases of Greek intellectual life.
- Philip 2 – A Phrygian left by Antiochus Epiphanes as governor at Jerusalem (about 170 BC) and described in 2 Macc 5:22 as “more barbarous” than Antiochus himself, burning fugitive Jews who had assembled in caves nearby “to keep the sabbath day secretly” (2 Macc 6:11) and taking special measures to check the opposition of Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 8:8).
- Philip 3 – A friend or foster-brother of Antiochus (2 Macc 9:29), appointed by Antiochus on his deathbed as regent. Lysias already held the office of regent, having brought up the son of Antiochus from his youth, and on the death of his father set him up as king under the name of Eupator. The accounts of the rivalries of the regents and of the fate of Philip as recorded in 1 Macc 6:56; 2 Macc 9:29; Josephus, Ant., XII, ix, 7, are not easily reconciled.
- Philip 4 – Philip V, king of Macedonia in 220-179 BC. He is mentioned in 1 Macc 8:5 as an example of the great power of the Romans with whom Judas Maccabeus made a league on conditions described. The conflict of Philip with the Romans coincided in time with that of Hannibal, after whose defeat at Zama the Romans were able to give undivided attention to the affairs of Macedonia. Philip was defeated by the Romans under Flaminius, at Cynoscephalae (197 BC), and compelled to accept the terms of the conquerors. He died in 179, and was succeeded by his son Perseus, last king of Macedonia, who lost his crown in his contest with the Romans.
- Philip 5 – This Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles.
Simon (whom He named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Him).Luke 6:14-16
When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James).Acts 1:13
Philip belonged to Bethsaida of Galilee (John 1:44;12:21). Along with Andrew and other fellow-townsmen, he had journeyed to Bethany to hear the teaching of John the Baptist, and there he received his first call from Christ, “Follow me” (John 1:43). Like Andrew, Philip immediately won a fresh follower, Nathanael, for Jesus (John 1:45). It is probable that he was present at most of the events recorded of Jesus’ return journey from Bethany to Galilee, and that the information relating to these was supplied to John by him and Andrew. His final ordination to the Twelve is recorded in Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13. At the feeding of the 5,000, Philip was asked the question by Jesus, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5-7). He was appealed to by the Greeks when they desired to interview Jesus at the Passover (John 12:20-33). During the address of Jesus to His disciples after the Last Supper, Philip made the request, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8). There is a tradition identifying him with the unknown disciple who asked permission to go and bury his father before he followed Jesus (compareMatt 8:21; Luke 9:59), and says that he died a natural death.
6. Philip 6 – the Evangelist – one of “the seven” chosen to have the oversight of “the daily ministration” of the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). (Act 6:5)
After this incident, Philip went to Azotus (Ashdod), and then traveled north to Caesarea, preaching in the cities on his way. There he settled, for Luke records that Paul and his company abode in the house of Philip, “the evangelist,” “one of the seven,” for some days (Acts 21:8 ff). This occurred more than 20 years after the incidents recorded in Acts 8. Both at this time and during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, Luke had the opportunity of hearing about Philip’s work from his own lips. Luke records that Philip had 4 daughters who were preachers (Acts 21:9). The Jewish rebellion, which finally resulted in the fall of Jerusalem, drove many Christians out of Palestine, and among them Philip and his daughters. One tradition connects Philip and his daughters with Hierapolis in Asia, but in all probability, the evangelist is confused with the apostle. Another tradition represents them as dwelling at Tralles, Philip being the first bishop of the Christian community.
It is clear therefore that the Philip we have as the focus of this segment before us, is not the Apostle but rather one of the 7 deacons chosen. We have seen from the text above and the last Gems that it was not just the disciples (The Twelve) who were scattered but all of the believers. It is interesting isn’t it that Luke picks out two of those listed as deacons in Acts 6:5 and uses them in the stories which follow. It is strategic that neither of these men were apostles or numbered among The Twelve. This fits well with the role set for the believers to be the ones who were scattered and preached the Good News wherever they went. This is why Philip was called Philip the Evangelist,the one who is the prime example chosen to characterise those who took the Gospel everywhere. So one of the seven was the first martyr and the other was the first evangelist. The scene has now been set.
Now let’s address the other questions you asked.
Were the other disciples involved in similar exciting activities that aren’t included in our scripture? (Kev)
That is the point of the way Luke has begun this segment. That these ordinary, normal believers were the ones to overcome the opposition which has now developed into full blown persecution and murder. These believers have now become the witnesses to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Note the way in which Luke carries the story on the back of Philip’s witness. How does Philip bear the message? He just simply tells of his first hand experience of the Messiah. He does exactly what Jesus told them all to do – be His witnesses. As soon as that happens, God Himself adds to Philip’s words the accompanying signs to confirm what he was saying was true. This is exactly the same as what happened to Peter and John and the other disciples, including Stephen. The same accompanying signs are occurring once more – the very signs that accompanied Peter and the others and the same signs which Isaiah foretold would happen with the coming of the Messiah. Only a fool or someone with a hard heart would not make the connection. As a result, the demon possessed were set free and the paralysed and lame were healed, just as the prophet said they would be. Just as Peter had told the crowds in Jerusalem, the message of the prophets is the same and the outcomes are the same and in accord with the words of the prophets. The same ones whom their ancestors had persecuted and killed. The message is clear, concise and inescapable. And where was this happening? In Samaria no less. Cynthia highlighted this fact with her question – Why are those places mentioned and why them only? This is exactly the same order and pattern as was set in Acts 1:8 but the action moves straight from Jerusalem to Samaria. We don’t have an intermediary stage through Judea heading to Samaria. The action goes straight to Samaria. If you Jews choose to reject the truth then these witnesses will take the Good News of Messiah’s arrival to those despised Samaritans.
Bruce’s question highlights another important yet puzzling element of the story. Is the city named Samaria or is that the name of the region?
There is a textual problem here because there are two readings seen over the available manuscripts. Should the verse read “a city of Samaria” or should it be “the city of Samaria”? Does it mean Philip was in “one of the cities of the region of Samaria” or does it mean “the city of Samaria”? If it is the latter then what does that mean? There are two possibilities – either it infers the capital of Samaria or it means the city of Samaria inferring it is a city so famous and well known that everyone knows which one it was. Was it because of its infamy, in which case it is either Shechem or Gilgal because of what happened there. How could this place be receiving the good news of the Messiah and seeing the results of which the Prophet Isaiah wrote when the leaders in Jerusalem rejected the witness? Isn’t that the point? If you will not receive the Good News willingly then it will be taken to those whose reactions will shame you – those despised Samaritans. Despised because of the very events which took place in Shechem and Gilgal so long ago.
Now finally, we come to the highlighting of verse 8 and whether the theme of the passage is one of joy or is something else going on here?
- Why is verse 8 coloured in yellow? Is it important? (Bruce)
- Is the general theme irrepressible joy?
I don’t believe that Joy is the general theme. I think it is a contrastive statement causing us to consider the reaction of these Samaritans in contrast to the Jews. Everywhere the Good News of the Kingdom goes it should produce joy and thankfulness. The very point of the coming of the Kingdom is the restoration of the Life of the Age to Come. There ought to be great rejoicing. But this reaction of the Samaritans contrasts to that of the reaction of the Jews, especially the leaders. The reaction of the Jews is to kill the messenger, while the reaction of the Samaritans is to receive the news with joy and thankfulness. Who then is it who stands condemned? Oh, the ramifications of this are huge. It is very clear who receives the blessings of God and of course that is the point.
Little did those of you who responded realise that you hit the nail on the head with your questions which highlight some very important features of the story. Even more so when one of the themes of Luke’s first Book is joy. He liberally laces his Gospel with joy and rejoicing. Enough for the moment but there is always more.
God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.Hudson Taylor
The saddest thing one meets is a nominal Christian. I had not seen it in Japan where missions is younger. The church here (UK) is a “field full of wheat and tares”.Amy Carmichael
What are we here for, to have a good time with Christians or to save sinners?Malla Moe
I tell you, brethren, if mercies and if judgments do not convert you, God has no other arrows in His quiver.Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne
The more obstacles you have, the more opportunities there are for God to do something.Clarence Jones
Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.William Carey
God’s part is to put forth power; our part is to put forth faith.Andrew Bonar