Philip the Deacon Acts 8:4-5

Philip the Deacon, not to be confused with Philip the disciple, was one of the original seven deacons selected to serve in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5). When the “great persecution” arose in Acts 8:1, Philip left Jerusalem and went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ (Acts 8:5–12). Many were baptized and Peter and John joined them and prayed for them. Philip was then told by an angel to go south to a road leading to Gaza where he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. Philip found the Ethiopian official sitting in his chariot, reading Isaiah and trying to understand the prophet’s words. Philip offered to explain, and was invited by the Ethiopian to come up and sit with him. As Philip explained the prophecy of Isaiah, the Ethiopian believed in Christ and asked to be baptized (Acts 8:26–39). Immediately following the baptism, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away to Azotus, where he continued to preach the gospel in the towns from there to Caesarea (Acts 8:40). Twenty years later, Philip is mentioned again, still in Caesarea (Acts 21:8–9). Paul and Luke and others were traveling to Jerusalem, and they stopped at Philip’s home in Caesarea. They stayed with Philip for several days. Philip had four unmarried daughters at that time, all of whom had the gift of prophecy.


 Question: Why was the role of deacons in the Jerusalem church needed?

Answer: The church was, as a regular practice, providing “daily ministration” for all the needy widows. But a cultural division in the church created a problem. Some of the early Christians in Jerusalem were Grecians (that is, Hellenistic Jews) and some were Hebrews (that is, Jews fully Semitic in their cultural background). Although intensely loyal to their Hebrew traditions, these Grecians were distinct in many ways from Jews whose forbears in recent centuries had stayed within the Holy Land. One key difference was language.6 The Grecians spoke Greek as their language of choice. If the Hebrews knew Greek, they preferred not to use it. Their language of choice was Hebrew if they belonged to the class of trained rabbis. Otherwise, it was Aramaic. Soon the Greeks started to complain that the daily handout to the poor was neglecting their widows.

To solve the problem, the apostles decided to appoint seven men as deacons whose duty was to serve tables, overseeing the program assuring that widows had enough to eat and enough of other necessities.Perhaps they would manage other practical affairs of the church as well. The new office freed the apostles to devote themselves wholly to spiritual ministries, especially prayer and ministry of the Word.