If you ask many Christians what they know about the Apostle Philip, most often they will describe the time when he witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. But, if you take a closer look, you will find that the Apostle Philip had a large role in the ministry of Jesus and the days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven. For this reason, a look at the biography of the life and death of the Apostle Philip can teach us many things.
Who was Philip?
We first see Philip mentioned in John 1:43-45 the day after Andrew and his brother Peter first started following Jesus. Jesus was in Galilee when he found Philip and said unto him, “Follow Me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the same hometown as Andrew and Peter (John 1:44). It is interesting to note that the very next thing we learn about Philip is that as soon as Jesus called Philip to follow Him, he found a man by the name of Nathaniel and told him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). This demonstrates to us two things. First, that Philip was a man that was searching for the Messiah that was foretold by Moses and the prophets and was willing to immediately follow Him when called. Second, that when Philip found Jesus, he immediately went and told Nathaniel so that he too would follow Him. This demonstrates Philip’s willingness to communicate the good news of Jesus’ coming, which would later make Philip a great evangelist.
Philip was willing to serve in the Lord’s ministry
Philip’s willingness to be ready to serve the Lord was later demonstrated in John 6:1-14 when Jesus found Himself being followed by about 5,000 people . Jesus asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed all the people. Philip quickly answered and said that two hundred penny worth of bread would not buy enough for everyone to eat, referring to the fact that there was not enough bread for everyone available. Jesus responded by telling the disciples to have the people sit down while He took five loaves of bread and two fish and blessed the food, which miraculously multiplied into so much food that it took 12 baskets just to gather up the leftovers of the bread. Philip’s willingness to be part of the ministry of Jesus would play itself out many times afterwards in the years to follow while Jesus was on earth and after His ascension.
What other notable events involved Philip?
• The first convert (John 1:43-51). The day that Philip met the Lord and told Nathaniel, he also heard Jesus tell Nathaniel that He saw Nathaniel under a tree before Philip called him. Nathaniel replied that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel (John 2:49). Jesus then said that because Nathaniel heard Jesus say that He saw Nathaniel under a tree that he believed. Jesus continued by telling Nathaniel that he would see greater things than these and made specific mention of a time when Nathaniel would see angels ascending and descending upon the “Son of man.” This is a direct reference to the vision of the ladder that Jacob had at Bethel when He was fleeing his brother Esau (Genesis 28:12). The encounter Jesus had with Nathaniel demonstrates the first convert through evangelism that experienced the truth of the gospel and the miraculous things that he would experience.
• The wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). The very next day after Jesus’ encounter with Nathaniel, Philip, along with the other disciples, was with Jesus at a wedding in Cana where he saw Jesus turn water into wine. This demonstrates to us that Philip saw the first public miracles by the Lord, which served to confirm what Philip believed about Jesus.
• The first prophecy of Jesus (John 2:12-22). After the wedding at Cana, Jesus, His family, and the disciples went to the temple where Jesus drove out the money changers from the temple and told of how they would destroy this temple (His body) and in three days He would raise it up. The Pharisees thought that Jesus was speaking about the physical building, but after His resurrection the disciples remembered what He had said and believed the prophecy that He had spoken.
• The day of Pentecost (Acts 1:1-14). After the death of Jesus Philip was assembled along with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them. Jesus spoke to them and instructed them to wait for the Promise of the Father (The Holy Spirit). After this Philip watched as Jesus ascended into heaven and heard the angels foretell of His return. This event marked the beginning of what would be Philip’s participation in the Lords work as an evangelist after His ascension to heaven.
• The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Undoubtedly the most notable mention of Philip is when the angel of the Lord sent Him from the work he was doing with the disciples in Samaria to the desert of Gaza. Philip arose and went as directed. There he found an Ethiopian eunuch that served in the court of Queen Candace of the Ethiopians. The Eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah about the Messiah that would be slaughtered like a lamb (Isaiah 53:7-8). Philip asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading, to which the eunuch replied he did not know who it was referring to. Philip then explained the Scriptures to the eunuch and the eunuch trusted Christ as his savior and was baptized by Philip. This event demonstrated the model for evangelism of using the Scriptures to teach about salvation by grace through faith in Christ. It also demonstrates that God calls us to go places that may not be in our comfort zone to share the gospel with others.
What can we learn from Philip?
We have no reference in Scripture of what happened to Philip until his death, but tradition tells us that he preached in Phrygia and died in Hierapolis. However, in addition to the things we have already learned about Philip as a brother in Christ and an evangelist , his death is not mentioned because what he did in life to share the gospel with others as an evangelist continues his story into eternity.
The Apostle Philip had a large role in the ministry of Jesus and the days following Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Philip was called by Jesus to follow Him and did not hesitate to go because he had been searching for the Messiah and believed immediately that Jesus was Him. Not only did Philip follow right away, he did not hesitate to tell others about Jesus so we can say that he was responsible for leading the man (Nathaniel) to the Lord by sharing the truth of the gospel. Philip also was one of the first to witness public miracles by Jesus and he was present to hear Jesus’ first prophecy about tearing down the temple and raising it up again in three days. Philip willingly participated in the work of evangelism that the Lord started on earth. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is seen as the model of evangelism, teaching grace through faith in Christ. His death is not something that has been documented and isn’t that a good thing? After all, it was his life as an evangelist that is most memorable and extraordinary.
More about the Apostles: Who Were the 12 Apostles? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version