The Two Philips

Some time ago I was pleasantly surprised by a question from one of our high school students. Maybe this will open the way for more. The question reads,

“In our dictionaries, they distinguish Philip the Apostle from Philip the Evangelist, or Philip the Deacon. Now I always thought that they were the same man. I was wondering what you think about this from a Biblical point of view.”

First of all, let me offer my apologies for not answering this before, because of the press of other duties.I do appreciate hearing from our readers, especially from our young folk. The fact is, that Scripture does distinguish between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist, or Deacon. Philip the Apostle is mentioned in John 1:43-44, where we read, “The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” Later, in Matthew 10:2-3 this Philip is mentioned among the twelve disciples. Now in Acts 6:5 we meet the other Philip. How do we know that this is not the same one? First of all, he is mentioned along with Stephen and five others as being chosen by the church in Jerusalem to serve as deacon. It is conceivable, of course, although not likely, that an apostle would be chosen as a deacon. But this is not the case, for in verse 6 we read that these seven men were set before the apostles (of which Philip was one), “and when they had prayed they laid their hands on them,” that is, they ordained them to serve in the office of deacon in the church. It is Philip the Deacon who is mentioned in Acts 7 as going down to Samaria to preach Christ unto those of Samaria. Verse 14 of chapter 7 tells us that the apostles heard that Samaria had received the gospel, and therefore they sent Peter and John there. It would not be necessary to send Peter and John to Samaria if an apostle had already been there to lay the gift of the Holy Spirit upon them. This same Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the way to Gaza. In Acts 21:8 he is called Philip the Evangelist, and we are told that Paul stayed at his home before going to Jerusalem for the last time. In verse 9 we are informed that this Philip had four daughters at home who prophesied. So it is quite evident from Scripture that distinction is made between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist, or Philip the Deacon. 

Liturgical Changes in our Churches

A reader asks,

There are many changes in the liturgy of our Sunday worship services. Why? Is this a good sign or a bad omen?

It is certainly true that many changes are being introduced into our Sunday worship services. When a visiting minister steps into the consistory room on Sunday he must first ask about the form of worship, for there are hardly two of our churches that have the same form of worship. Visitors from other churches do well to check the back of the bulletin to acquaint themselves with the form used in that particular church service. 

Whether these changes are good or bad is well worth considering. It is true that all change is not necessarily wrong. Change may be, and sometimes is a definite improvement. If a change adds to the solemnity of the service, enhances the service as a worship service of praise and adoration to our God, so that God occupies the central place in our liturgy, then certainly a change can well be recommended. 

But change for the mere sake of change is definitely wrong. There is a certain sense of wellbeing, of contentment in knowing exactly what takes place from moment to moment, so that one can concentrate all his attention on the singing, the prayer, the reading of Scripture, and the sermon. Our fathers have always maintained that the Word of God must permeate and dominate every worship service. Our thoughts must not be distracted from our fellowship with God, or from hearing Christ speak to us through His Word in the communion of saints. 

In the traditional form of worship as we are acquainted with it, the fathers wanted to emphasize that God speaks to His people, and His people respond in humble prayer, thanksgiving, and adoration. Our Sabbath is a weekly commemoration of the victory of Christ over Satan, sin, death and the grave through His glorious resurrection. Therefore we also have a foretaste of the eternal Rest in covenant fellowship with God, for we have His eternal promise, “I will be your God, and ye shall be My people forever.” 

The tendency in the churches of today has been to move away from that. In some churches so much time is taken up by soloists, choirs, and other forms of entertainment, that very little time remains for the reading of Scripture and the sermon. In other churches congregational participation is the popular thing. Various antics are introduced to attract the attention of the children and the young people. Group discussion and movies and similar forms of entertainment are introduced, so that the emphasis is diverted from God and His Word to mere man. 

Even though these evils have not found their way into our churches, we must still be on our guard against them. A clamor for change is not a healthy sign: When members of the congregation, whether young or old, find the services tedious and dry, or complain that they are not being edified and do not enjoy going to church, they may well ask themselves, first, whether the reason may lie with themselves. Changes can never please everybody. But a clamor for changes can only lead to ever more drastic changes. Outward stimulants do not cure the lack of spiritual enthusiasm or cold indifference. 

Above all, I would make a strong plea for unity and harmony in the liturgy in our churches. Consistories should strive toward that common goal as an expression of our unity in faith and godly walk. 

Demands and Obligation’s in God’s Covenant

Another reader asks,

“Why is there always spoken of a demand in the covenant or of an obligation that we have to fulfull or do? How can this be explained in harmony with the unconditional covenant?”

Let me assure you, first of all, that no demand in the covenant, and no obligation can ever depend upon us, as if in some form or manner we become a second party in God’s covenant who must somehow reciprocate to God for the blessings received, or do our part, even as God has done His part for us. 

Nevertheless, our Baptism Form does speak of our part in God’s covenant. We read, “Thirdly. Whereas in all covenants, there are contained two parts: therefore are we by God through Baptism admonished of, and obliged unto new obedience, namely, that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost; that we trust in Him, and love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.” 

Our Baptism Form is speaking of and to those who are indeed members of God’s covenant. They are assured through baptism that God has established an eternal covenant of grace with them, that Christ washes them in His blood and incorporates them into the fellowship of His death and resurrection, and that the Holy Spirit will dwell in them and sanctify them until they are presented without spot or wrinkle in the assembly of the elect in life eternal. 

In other words, they can and may, but also they will andmust trust in and love the Lord their God with their whole being. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” And again in Philippians 2:12-13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for (notice that ‘for’) it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” 

We can also express this in the words of Romans 6:14:”For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” That “shall” is the assurance to the child of God that the power and dominion of sin are broken by the cross. We are delivered from the bondage of sin and death, and therefore from the curse of the law, to walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. We live by grace, not by works. 

Therefore, whenever we speak of the demand in God’s covenant or of our obligation in the covenant, it must always be stressed that this is the fruit of grace wrought by God in us, so that we can and may offer to Him the sacrifice of our lives to His praise and to His glory. 

I hope I have answered your question. If not, feel free to write again.