St Philip the Apostle
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St Philip the Apostle

by Angel Studios | February 2, 2023

Throughout the Savior’s mortal life, his focus was always on helping others. And while this often took the form of healings and other awe-inspiring miracles, we cannot overlook the spiritual healing and guidance that made up the bulk of the teachings of Jesus. As the Messiah, Jesus Christ’s mission was to save his people, and all people to come, by establishing his Gospel. But he also knew that his time on the earth would be brief. Whom could he entrust to carry on his work and help guide and protect his fledgling church in the tumultuous years following his ascension? What kind of men would be able to stand as his apostles, and spread his Gospel to all the world?

One such disciple is Saint Philip the Apostle.

Confusing Names

The name ‘Philip’ is not an uncommon one in the Bible. In fact, there are four different individuals named Philip mentioned in the New Testament. Two of the Philips were sons of the wicked King Herod (born from two different wives). But where things become complicated is that there is a disciple of Christ named Philip who is mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles. This Philip (usually called “Philip the Evangelist” by modern Christians) helped care for the poor, preached far and wide, and performed miracles in the Savior’s name. But Philip the Evangelist was probably not the same person as Philip the Apostle.

Here, we will focus on Philip the Apostle, pulling from the scriptures to create an outline of his life and works.

Who Was St. Philip the Apostle?

Hailing from a town called Bethsaida (John 1: 44), Philip may have been a fisherman, like the apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John. As far as we are able to tell, Philip was one of the first to take up discipleship and follow the Savior. He had possibly already been a follower of John the Baptist before encountering Jesus, and may be one of the two disciples who heard the Baptist identify Jesus as the Lamb of God and bear witness of him (John 1: 35-36).

Whether or not he had met the Savior previously, we know that Philip was personally called by Jesus, who found him before leaving for Galilee (John 1: 43). This experience must have made an incredible impression on Philip. To be chosen by the Messiah himself, of whom the scriptures had foretold and John the Baptist had born testimony, no doubt filled him with wonder and excitement. He sought out his friend Nathaniel to share the good news, and — despite some initial misgivings — Nathaniel also committed to follow Jesus of Nazareth, becoming a faithful and powerful disciple in his own right (John 1: 45-50).

As far as we are able to gather from the scripture, Philip’s service under the Lord was one of dedication and righteousness, but was not without certain moments of doubt. When the disciples were faced with the prospect of having to provide food for the crowd of 5000 listeners as Jesus taught on the mountainside, the Lord tested Philip by asking him how they would feed so many. Philip didn’t seem to consider a miraculous solution, instead commenting that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6: 7). Of course, the Savior had a different plan in mind; he multiplied the available loaves and fishes, and was able to feed everyone in attendance, with a large amount of food to spare.

Later, when Jesus was teaching the apostles at the Last Supper regarding the path to eternal life, Philip became confused, and asked that the Savior show the disciples the Father. Jesus gently corrected him, saying:

Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work (John 14: 9-10).

Philip may also have held a position of some authority among the other apostles, though apparently not on the same level as Peter, James, or John. Saint Philip might have been something of a spokesperson, particularly when dealing with Greeks in Jerusalem. Given his Greek name, it is possible that he was of partial-Hellenistic ancestry, and may have also spoken Greek himself. Whatever the case, when a group of Greek faithful came to worship during the Passover festival, they approached Philip to request permission to meet with Jesus. Philip in turn took the request to Andrew, and together the apostles told Jesus (John 12: 20-22).

What Does Tradition Say about St. Philip the Apostle?

Unfortunately, the scriptures tell us very little about Philip the Apostle after the Savior’s resurrection. It may be assumed that he was with the other disciples when the women came and told them about the empty tomb (Luke 24: 1-12), and later when Jesus showed himself to them and allowed them to inspect the wounds he had received when being crucified (John 20: 19; Luke 24: 33-43; Matthew 28: 16-17; Mark 16: 14). He was also likely present when the Savior ascended into heaven (Luke 24: 50-52; Acts 1: 1-10). He is mentioned by name as being with the apostles as they ordained Matthias to replace Judas in the ministry (Acts 1: 12-14), and also probably took part in the Day of Pentecost when approximately 3000 believers chose to follow the Teachings of Christ (Acts 2: 1-40).

But after this point, it is difficult to make any conclusive statements about Philip’s on-going ministry. Apocryphal works and later Christian traditions identify St. Philip the Apostle as a missionary who preached throughout Syria, Greece, and Phrygia (modern-day Turkey). Many believe that, like most of the other apostles, Philip was eventually martyred for his faith — either by being stoned, beheaded, or by being crucified upside down.

Learning from the Life of St. Philip the Apostle

Although not as well known as some of the other apostles, Philip nevertheless demonstrated a tireless commitment to Christianity. Even before he knew Jesus from anything other than reputation, he was willing and eager to leave his old life behind to pursue the divine call. Philip is also a fine example of missionary work, as he almost immediately went and found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus as well. But perhaps most importantly, Philip can teach us commitment. Through difficulties, trials, and possibly even to his own death, Philip remained faithful to the Savior and all that he represents.

Want to learn more about Jesus, his disciples, and the story of the life and works of the Savior’s ministry? Download the app today (available for Android and Apple devices), The Chosen, and see how Philip and the other Apostles followed the Messiah and helped create a better world.

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