Lessons From Philip: Called to Serve
Posted by January 25, 2012on
A first-century deacon still has a lot to say to us today about how to serve God and others.
Recently I had the opportunity to serve as a counselor at Winter Camp. One thing I had to do before camp was to come up with a dorm name based on a biblical character. This was designed to help teach the campers some biblical lessons, and it also gave us a starting place in producing a skit.
Here are some of the spiritual lessons we found in studying our biblical character, Philip.
There are several Philips in the Bible—one was an apostle, one was a deacon and another was Herod’s brother. My dorm’s focus was on Philip the deacon, whose story is primarily found in Acts 8. But his story begins in Acts 6.
Chosen to serve
The 12 apostles discovered they had to delegate duties of service because members were being neglected and the apostles needed to focus on teaching the Word of God. They chose seven men who were “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Philip was among these seven (Acts 6:1-6).
Philip, like the followers of Jesus Christ today, was called out for special service for God. We are to be living God’s way as an example and teaching others to live this way of life. We all have different areas of service, but we all have to do our part.
Later, Philip went out and preached Jesus Christ’s message and did many miracles in the city of Samaria. This brought joy to the people (Acts 8:5-8). Ultimately, God is the One who did the miracles and provided joy in people’s lives. Philip was just a tool in God’s hands.
When we obey God and follow Him, then we will live the kind of lives that encourage others and bring them joy; but also, God will bring joy in our lives (Psalm 85:12; Romans 15:13). God’s way of life works. It is the path to true happiness and success. When we devote ourselves to Him, He will bless us beyond measure.
God deals with Simon the Sorcerer
Before Philip came, the people of Samaria were deceived by the sorcery practiced by Simon who came to be known as Simon Magus. When Philip preached about the Kingdom of God, the people believed and were baptized; even Simon believed (Acts 8:9-13). But we find out how shallow Simon’s belief actually ran when we continue reading in chapter 8. He just wanted power and a following for himself. He was living Satan's selfish way, and would corrupt the true way of God.
But ultimately, we see that it is God who conquers Satan here. Satan’s powers and abilities are nothing; they are useless when God wants to carry out His will. God is the supreme head of the universe.
“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. … What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:28, 31).
Our lives are entirely God’s. We are not our own. He is our creator and has every right to do with us what He pleases. He loves us and will do no wrong toward us. We have to put our trust and faith in Him.
Helping the Ethiopian treasurer
After the encounter with Simon Magus, Philip was sent to help the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-29). Many times, we focus on the eunuch in this story, but what about Philip? What message is in this for us as servants of God? Philip was given an instruction, and he did it. The lesson for us is we also have to follow God’s lead.
Notice a phrase that is easily read over in verse 26, “This is desert.” Typically, a desert is not an easy thing to travel through. Sometimes we have to go through trials and hardships to get to where God wants us to be so that He can use us. Men and women throughout the Bible had to endure tremendous difficulties just to get to the point where God was ready to use them.
Joseph, for example, had to endure perhaps 13 years of slavery before God elevated him for His purpose. Then Joseph told his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
During those tough times, we have to remember to continue to do what is right. God’s Spirit is what leads us. We have to follow. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
Once Philip got to where he needed to be, he was ready to help teach the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:30-38). Are we willing to give an answer for what we believe? Do we have the understanding and wisdom to guide someone? Notice, Philip wasn’t forcing his beliefs on anyone. The Ethiopian eunuch wanted to learn. Can we tell the difference?
Again, being led by God’s Spirit, Philip was sent to Caesarea to teach there (Acts 8:39-40). Philip’s life was one of service to God.
Wherever we go and whatever path is set before us, we must continue to serve and live God’s way of life, teaching and being an example for others. That’s the biggest lesson we learned when studying the story of Philip.
Johnathan Armstrong attends the Little Rock, Arkansas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, and is a graduate student working on his doctorate in physics.
For more about Philip and about service, see: