Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

“The Twelve Whom Christ Chose”

# 6 : “Philip : Surefooted And Skeptical”


This is Philip the apostle - not to be confused with Philip the deacon in Acts 6 who later became an evangelist. The name “Philip” is a Greek name. Although all twelve of the apostles were Jews, this man always went by his Greek name. He probably had a Jewish name as well, but it is not recorded in Scripture. According to John 1:44, Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Peter and Andrew. These three, along with James, John, Bartholomew and Thomas were all fishermen from Galilee. The first three gospels do not reveal anything about Philip, they only give his name. But John's gospel mentions him four times (1:43-46; 6:5-7; 12:20-22; 14:8-11). By carefully analyzing Philip’s words and actions in these four incidents, we are able to see his character.


I. Philip’s Call, John 1:43-46.

Apparently, Philip was the first one whom Jesus called to be his disciple. Jesus found Philip (v. 43), but Philip also found Jesus (v. 45). Someone once asked, “Does God find the person or does the person find God ?” The answer to that is yes. God seeks after the true heart that seeks him.

Philip had a seeking heart. Apparently, he and Nathaniel had been studying the Old Testament scriptures and had learned that God had promised to send the Messiah and he understood that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise.

He also cared about his friend, Nathaniel, and had a soul-winner’s heart. The people whom we are most likely to be able to introduce to Christ are our friends. We need to constantly care about the soul and eternal destiny of our friends. Philip cared about Nathaniel and invited him to “come and see” for himself if Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.


II. Philip’s Character, John 6:5-7.

On the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand, Philip is mentioned. The event gives deeper insight into the character of Philip. Jesus’ question to Philip was a test, “to prove him.” Jesus already knew the answer. But what about Philip ? Why did Jesus single out Philip with the question about where they could get enough food to feed the great multitude ? For one thing, Philip was from the area where this event took place. Some Bible scholars have suggested that Philip was in charge of food, just as Judas was in charge of the money. For some reason, the thought that Jesus could perform a miracle had never entered the mind of Philip. He had seen Jesus turn water into wine and perform many healings, but Philip, as his answer reveals, was a man of practical, common sense measurements, who was methodical and mechanical, a facts-and-figures guy, with very little understanding of the supernatural. He was analytical, pragmatic and pessimistic. He had too much arithmetic to be adventurous and was so stuck on facts that he missed faith altogether. He was like a man standing in front of a mighty waterfall wondering where he could get a drink. His answer basically was, “We can’t do it. Send them away and let them fend for themselves.” What he should have said was, “Lord, you made the water into wine at Cana. You have the power to make food to feed these people.”


III. Philip’s Caution, John 12:20-22.

These Greeks, who apparently were practicing the religion of the Jews, had come to the feast. They approached Philip expressing a desire to see Jesus. Perhaps they chose Philip because he was warm-hearted and approachable or perhaps because of his Greek name. But Philip didn’t take these Greeks directly to Jesus. Instead, he checked it out with Andrew. Then together they told Jesus. This incident reveals that Philip was neither decisive nor forceful. Can you imagine what Peter would have done ? He would probably have grabbed those Gentiles, dragged them into the presence of Jesus, and said, “Lord, here are some Greeks who want to see you.” But not Philip, he was very cautious and sure-footed.


IV. Philip’s Confusion, John 14:8-11.

Philip is mentioned by John for the final time in an incident which took place in the upper room on the eve of the crucifixion. For three years, Philip had gazed into the only face of God men ever saw - and yet he said, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Philip was a skeptical person who needed proof. Jesus’ mild rebuke reminded Philip of Christ’s deity.

Like all those who follow Jesus Christ, Philip had personality strengths and weaknesses. He had a seeking heart and a soul winner’s compassion, but he lacked faith. He was reluctant, insecure, unsure, analytical and skeptical - yet the Lord used him. In fact, someday Philip and the rest of the apostles will reign over the tribes of Israel in the kingdom.


Historical tradition of the early church tells us that Philip wound up dying as a martyr because he wouldn’t deny Christ. It is said of Philip that he was stripped naked, hung upside down by his feet, and pierced in his ankles and thighs so that he would slowly bleed to death. He had only one request : that his dead body would not be wrapped in linen like the body of his Lord - because he was not worthy.

I’m glad that God can use the slow, faithless, analytical skeptics.