Philip

Normal people are sent. We tend to have trouble believing that statement. When Jesus was preparing His disciples for their mission and His departure, He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all the commands I have given you,” (Matt. 28:19-20).

That command seems simple enough, but even the disciples had trouble getting it into gear and living the life of a sent priest. Just after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples stood, almost cemented into the hilltop, staring upward. A pair of men quickly re-oriented their gaze back to earth and asked, “why are you standing here staring into heaven?” (Acts 1:11). This question was a polite re-direction – almost with a grin on their faces, we can hear the men asking “what are you doing? You’ve got work to do!” The story of Acts is the story of the church from that moment forward – of normal people being sent as priests into the world.

Philip is one of those normal people. While Peter, Paul, James, Barnabas and others receive major attention in Acts detailing their ministry (several chapters), Philip receives almost no attention (about 40 verses). Philip was a Greek-speaking Jew. This meant he was not considered one of the religious or social elite. He likely held a normal job to support himself and, while he didn’t preach at the church in Jerusalem or write theological texts, Philip did serve in the local church, helping organize aid for starving widows. He was a normal guy who served in the church (Acts 6:1-7). At best, the world would look at Philip and call him “ordinary”; at worst the world (and its’ cult of celebrity) would look at him (and you or I) and say “he’s a nobody.”

Despite being labeled as normal or ordinary, Philip lived a sent life. Acts 8 records that after persecution started in Jerusalem, Philip, like all the other believers and leaders except the apostles, fled into the countryside (Judea) around the city. Though he was in the midst of personal loss (the death of his friend Stephen), Philip used his refugee status to tell others about Jesus in Samaria and Gaza. Even the location of Philip’s ministry (Samaria) was considered by the religious and societal elite to be backwater countryside unworthy of their attention. Yet wherever he went, Philip’s ministry was defined by “preaching the Gospel to all the towns,” (Acts 8:40).

In the book of Acts, it is normal people like Philip who build and advance God’s Kingdom by being sent priests. Ironically, the ones the world would see as special, chosen, or elite – the Jewish ruling class and High Council – were the ones who were most deeply opposed to the Gospel and its spread. The celebrities and “movers and shakers” of the day were too preoccupied with themselves, their prestige, and maintaining status. The task of spreading the news of the arrival of God’s grace in Jesus fell to normal men and women like Philip.

Similarly today, we might be tempted by the cult of celebrity where power and prestige are measured by Instagram likes, Facebook friends, and re-tweets. But that path leads only to the dead-end of idolatry, slavery, and destruction through pursuing temporary pleasure and status over eternal glory. History reveals time and again that God’s kingdom is rarely advanced by celebrity endorsement. Even when it is, the result is often a mixed bag (like Constantine’s “conversion” of the Roman Empire or the pop-icons of our day who give the Gospel lip service).

When we think about our own story and journey, how many of us have been personally taught to follow Jesus by celebrities? For most of us, we heard the Gospel from someone we knew – a co-worker, a parent, a teacher, a coach, a friend – and then we were taught what it means to follow Jesus in our lives by those same people. We may have been exposed to the Gospel by a popular Christian teacher, author, or pastor, but we likely did not learn how to daily follow Jesus from them. That task and responsibility fell not to a celebrity minister, but to a normal person – a mechanic at Michelin or a coach on the soccer field.

This week as you lead a regular life, remember that God’s kingdom is advanced not by celebrities, but by normal, ordinary people who are His priests. Just as we came to know and follow Jesus because of the influence and efforts of normal people around us, so we now have a responsibility to go into the world as normal people whom God calls His priests to share His gospel. Living as sent priests compels us to show our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers that God offers peace and a spiritual life that cannot be compared to the pleasures and celebrity of this world.

Post Series: We Are Sent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *