Philip the evangelist talked about primarily in Acts 8, but a little in both Acts 6 and 21, is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. He is first introduced to us as one of the seven men set apart as servants in the church in Jerusalem whose job was to serve the Grecian widows who had been neglected in the daily distribution of food. The apostles knew that they couldn’t do the work of praying and preaching the word if they kept trying to carry on the work of serving the large number of widows in the city. They had the people who were being neglected choose seven men of faith and good reputation to appoint over that business. Philip was one of those men. Servants are often hard to come by. Often everyone wants to be a leader and few want to be servants. It is still somewhat like it was with Jesus on the night of the last supper when the twelve apostles reclined at the table while the Master of all arose and removed his clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist to wash their feet. Peter didn’t want the Lord to wash his feet but he didn’t want to wash the other men’s feet either. Philip served faithfully. It resulted in peace in the church and more people being converted to Christ.
But persecution arose in the church in Jerusalem and everything was thrown upside down. The disciples were scattered all over the area. It would have been an easy time to declare, “I tried. But now it is all messed up so I’ll just wait for the next opportunity to serve.” No, Philip chose a completely different route. He went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. Had he ever preached before this? If he did we aren’t told about it. But the apostles had laid their hands on him and he had power from God. So he chose a new mission and plunged into it with a vengeance. Notice that the first reference to his preaching was that he preached Christ to them. The crowds were paying attention to him because as they heard they also saw the signs that he was performing. He was using the miraculous power given to him to open the doors for the gospel to change people’s lives. He healed the paralyzed and lame. He cast out demons from people. He even attracted the attention of Simon who had been fooling the people with his magic for years.
“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized he continued on with Philip and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place he was constantly amazed.” (Acts 8:12-13) Notice that as Luke describes the preaching that Philip did among the people that led to so many being converted to Christ, he said he was “preaching the word” (Vs. 4), “Proclaiming Christ to them, ” (Vs. 5) “preaching the good news about the kingdom of God an the name of Jesus Christ.”(Vs. 12-13) Do you think Luke was telling us that on some days he preached the word of God which would have been the Old Testament Scriptures at the time and on other days he preached Jesus to them and then one some days he preached about the kingdom and name of Jesus Christ? I don’t believe that was the message the Holy Spirit of God was leading Luke to put down for us.
Instead I believe that he was telling us that to effectively preach Jesus involves preaching the word of God, about Jesus and His life, about the kingdom he rules over as king and about the power and authority of His name. The reality is that if we try to preach either the word or the kingdom without the center of the message being focused on Jesus, his reign and his authority then we aren’t doing the job correctly.
Think about each aspect for a moment. If we try to preach the Old Testament and fail to see Christ in it and that it’s whole message is leading us to Christ we are like the Sadducees of whom Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life but they are what testifies of me.” They knew the word but missed the main point. They were like folks who go to see a play and spend all their time thinking about the set and the costumes that they actors are wearing. They totally miss the point of the play. When we put the word of God into the place of God Himself we have turned the message into an idol and forgotten what it is all about. Think about how this applies to us. If he could preach the word and preach Jesus Christ at the same time, how much more should it be the case that I can preach the New Testament and keep the focus on Jesus. It is easy to turn the whole focus on seeing what advise I can offer from something Paul wrote on how to live a good life and have a wonderful family. But if I don’t get that family to Jesus I’m only helping them have a nice time as they move closer and closer to hell.
Notice also that preaching Christ and the word also involved preaching the kingdom of Christ and His name. This isn’t primarily about preaching the establishment of the kingdom or some structural aspects of it. It is about preaching that I need to allow Christ to reign as king in my life. I need to submit to his rule and put him and his kingdom ahead of everything else in life. When I think of having Jesus as king and his name as the authority on which I live life it means that every aspect of my life is under the reign of Jesus. It is easy when we focus our thinking on church for us to begin to think that living for God is something I do on Sunday’s when I go to church and sing praise, pray to the Father, take communion, give to Him and listen to a sermon. It is too often the case that we don’t take the concept of living for God outside the doors of the church building. When my focus is on the reign of Christ as king in my life and being in his kingdom all the time it means that I’m living under the king at home as a husband, wife, father or mother or even as the child in the family. I can’t leave that submission at the church building. Jesus isn’t just king inside a building. His kingdom goes to our job, to our activities and to our relationships. When he is king everything in life changes to allow Him to rule.
When we preach the good news of Jesus, it is vital that we make certain it involves the word of God, the kingdom of Christ and the name of Christ as the authority we move under.