Philip was a deacon, chosen because he was a man of “good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). He was among seven selected to assist the apostles in the ever-expanding congregation in Jerusalem’s early church.
Of the seven, two take a prominent place in the historical narrative. Stephen preached boldly to the religious elite in Jerusalem, and paid with his life, becoming the church’s earliest martyr (Acts 6-7).
Following Stephen’s untimely death, “a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Philip, the apostle, stayed in Jerusalem. Philip, the deacon, in obedience to Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), carried the Gospel into a new sphere, past Jerusalem and Judea, to Samaria.
“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them” (Acts 8:5). “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9) because of their ethnic background as half-breed Assyrian-Jews. Philip was racially colorblind and forcefully broke societal norms. “Red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight…”
Like the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:1-42), the people of Samaria readily received the Gospel. “The crowds were all paying attention” (Acts 8:6) as Philip preached the Good News concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah!
God had demonstrated His powers through Peter and the Apostles, as miraculous signs accompanied the advancement of the Kingdom (Acts 3:1-8; 5:12-16). Likewise, the people of Samaria “listened and saw the signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:6–8).
Philip could have remained in Samaria. He might have built a mega-church, an empire, but he wasn’t concerned about personal popularity or selfish gain. “An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: ‘Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is the desert road.) So he got up and went’ ” (Acts 8:26–27). Philip immediately left behind the excitement of the growing crowds and went to a quiet and lonely spot on a deserted road, miles from civilization.
Again, Philip pressed the boundaries of Christ’s Kingdom, past Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, to the uttermost ends of the earth. On that desert road, Philip found an African man, black skinned, likely dressed in odd, foreign garb. The lone traveler was “an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud” (Acts 8:27-28).
What are the odds, the likelihood that Philip’s travels would intersect with the Ethiopian’s? There, in the middle of nowhere, Philip climbed into the Ethiopian’s chariot and introduced the seeker to the Eternal One who seeks the lost and lonely. By God’s Amazing Grace, the Gospel was carried forth…
I’m just guessing, but I’ll suggest that the Ethiopian never grew weary of telling the story of the One who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies (Isaiah 53:7-8). Jesus, the Christ, the King of kings, the Lamb of God Who takes away our sin, the Savior of all mankind, “was led like a sheep to the slaughter” (Acts 8:32). Jesus graciously died on Calvary’s cross so we could live!