Today we commemorate Philip the Deacon. We take our devotional reading and prayer from Celebrating the Saints by William Weedon, speaking on Acts 6 and the works of seven chosen martyrs, including Philip.
In Acts 6, St. Luke relates how a disturbance arose in the early congregation at Jerusalem. The Greek-speaking Christians murmured that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of food, in favor of the Aramaic-speaking widows. The apostles, rather than sort the matter out themselves, wisely instituted what became the first auxiliary office in the Church. “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint over this duty,” the apostles advised. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the world” (Acts 6:3–4).
The suggestion was pleasing to the congregation and they selected seven men, including Stephen (the first martyr) and the man whom we commemorate today, Philip. The seven were presented to the apostles, who laid their hands upon them and put them into office. Many regard this as the start of the diaconate in the Church.
After Stephen’s martyrdom and the beginning of persecution in the city, many members of the Jerusalem congregation were scattered. Wherever they went, though, they carried the Good News about Jesus on their lips. Philip went to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the Good News there. Through his preaching and the miracles the Lord Jesus performed through him, the townsfolk were brought to faith, including the infamous Simon the Magician. According to Luke, “there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8) upon the advent of the Gospel.
After Peter and John came to Samaria and confirmed the work of Philip, the Spirit sent Philip on another task. He was the man chosen to bring the Good News to the Ethiopian eunuch, servant and treasurer of the queen of the Ethiopians. He had been to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home in his chariot, puzzling over the meaning of Isaiah 53. Philip drew alongside the chariot and preached the Good News of Christ to him and baptized him. And again we are told he “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).
On St. Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem, which led to his arrest, he was a guest for some days at Philip’s house (Acts 21:8–15). Philip had four unmarried daughters who were prophetesses. It was while Paul was staying there with them that the prophet Agabus foretold Paul’s imminent arrest and imprisonment if he journeyed to Jerusalem. Philip and the others begged him not to go, but Paul was determined. He was ready even to die for the Lord Jesus. Philip and the others finally ceased begging and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
Almighty and everlasting God, we give thanks to You for Your servant Philip the Deacon. You called him to preach the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land messengers of Your kingdom, that Your Church may proclaim the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer adapted from Celebrating the Saints by William C. Weedon, pages 184–85 © 2016 William C. Weedon. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.