Posted by: genelnicholsblog | August 19, 2015

tested but trained

There are four lists in Scripture naming the Twelve Apostles.  Philip is named fifth in every list.  Scholars believe this can be interpreted as meaning he was the leader of the “second group” of four – Philip, Nathanael (Bartholomew), Matthew and Thomas.  By most standards, Philip played a minor role in the account of the Twelve; in fact, his name is never mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark or Luke!  Only the book of John makes reference to this man.  But don’t be fooled — like the rest of the Twelve, Philip was used by God greatly in the early church.

If you zero in on the accounts in the book of John where Philip is involved, it is easy to piece together some characteristics of the man.  When he was first recruited by Jesus Christ, he readily believed … and then went straight to Nathaniel to tell him who he had met.  He was most likely already a student of the Scriptures and his heart was ready for the Savior.  Philip also seems to be very pragmatic and analytical … a realist.  And as is the case with all of us, an asset can become a liability.  Let’s look at a favorite story of mine as a child, the story of the loaves and fishes.  This time, however, let’s concentrate on Philip and his reactions.

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”
John 6:5-7

Scripture refers to 5,000 MEN in the crowd; with women and children, there could have been anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 hungry people there!  Practical Philip had probably already been counting heads.  It was approaching supper time and no one seemed to be preparing to go.  The closest McDonalds was about 2,000 years away.  Jesus turns to Philip and asks where they could possibly go to buy enough food to feed everyone.  I suppose Jesus could have chosen to ask Philip because he was the organizer, the advance man who reserved lodging and meals for the group.  But Scripture is clear as to Jesus’ intentions in asking in verse 6 where it says, “… he said this to test him …”

Jesus knew these men better in the 18 months they traveled together than they knew themselves.  He knew their strengths and weaknesses, and he knew what Philip would say before he said it.  Jesus may have been testing Philip, but he was also training Philip.  From a practical, earthly perspective, it WAS impossible to buy enough food to feed all those people.  But from a heavenly, divine perspective it was a piece of cake (pun completely intended).  Philip had traveled with Jesus for months and he had seen Him perform miracle after miracle.  Yet he still said all the money they had would never be able to feed those people.  I like the way John McArthur says it in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men.  Paraphrasing, McArthur said Philip had looked into the face of God for months and still did not “get it.” His earthbound thinking made him miss the power of the Son of God whom he lived with each day.  Oh, the mundane things in our lives: the stresses, the busyness, the bills, the kids.  All these earthly concerns focus our thoughts and attention on the physical (the right here and right now), and severely limits the power of our God in our lives.

We get another glimpse of Philip in John chapter 12; a heartbreaking exchange between himself and Jesus Christ at the last supper.  In spite of Philip’s narrow vision, God used him greatly in the early church.  Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records that Philip was the second apostle to die (8 years after the first, James).  He was stoned to death, in what is modern-day Turkey.

For all his wrong thinking, Philip is responsible for multitudes coming to Christ.  He didn’t think he could feed them on that one particular day, but he learned that they never had to hunger or thirst again through the Gospel he carried afar.

His story is our story.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: