Paul at Caesarea with Philip the Evangelist: Part 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

“We came to Ptolemais” which is known today as “Acre.” It was famous in the days of the Crusades. The Christian crusaders gave it the name of Acre, or John of Acre, to honor a magnificent church which was built in it, and which was dedicated to the apostle John. In ancient times it was the southernmost fortress of the Phoenicians. This Christian church had been founded probably about the same time as the church at “Tyre.” “Ptolemais” was situated on the Mediterranean coast, on the north side of a bay which extends, in a semicircle of three leagues, as far as the peak of Mount Carmel. At the south and west sides, the city walls were washed by the sea, and for maximum assurance, the whole city was surrounded by triple walls. It was in the tribe of Asher (Judges 1:31), and was originally called Accho; but was called “Ptolemais” in honor of one of the Ptolemies, who beautified and adorned it. It sustained several sieges during the Crusades, and was the last fortified place wrested from the Christians by the Turks.

“And saluted the brethren” means he embraced them; gave them expressions of affection and regard. No doubt, Paul had visited these Christians before, since “Ptolemais” lay on a road that he had traveled a number of times (11:30; 12:25; 15:3). He now spent a day with “the brethren,”perhaps again being tied to his ships schedule.

With only a “day” to spare, Paul made full use of the time by looking up the Christians in town. Paul never passed up an opportunity to meet with the Lord’s people, to minister to them, to enlarge their missionary vision, and to keep them informed of God’s work in the world. The presence with Paul of a number of his Gentile converts must have greatly added to the church's vision.

8 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

The clause, “We that were of Paul’s company” suggests that they had been accompanied thus far by some persons who were going only as far as Ptolemais. This clause, however, is missing in many manuscripts, and many Bible commentators and others have called it bogus. It is also missing in the Syriac and the Vulgate. Luke does not say whether the travelers went to this area by road or by boat. Presumably, it was by boat.

“The next day we . . . departed, and came unto Caesarea. On two occasions at least (9:30; 18:22) and probably more, Paul had passed through Caesarea. Almost certainly he knew Phillip and on this occasion stayed with him for a number of days. Phillip was last heard of in 8:40 as having come to “Caesarea” some 20 years earlier. He had apparently made the city is home ever since. His title “the evangelist,” may have been given to distinguish him from the apostle (though they still tended to be confused.) But it was no empty title. “Philip” could just as well have been known as “one of the seven,” but he had earned the right to be called by this name (8:4-40).

Arriving in “Caesarea,” the Roman capital of Palestine, there was one logical place to go— “the house of Philip the evangelist.” Paul and Phillip were well acquainted, perhaps even friends, and he may have stayed with Phillip on another occasion, therefore it’s not surprising that the first place he went was “Into the house of Philip,” . . . “one of the seven” deacons, according to Acts 6:5: “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.” (Acts 6:5) These were men chosen by lot for the office of deacon. They did many things that were helpful to the apostles—serving communion, waiting tables, caring for widows, and some, like Phillip were preachers (evangelists) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After his participation in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, he went to Caesarea, and probably made his home there. Some believe that Phillip’s “house” was the place where the believers of Caesarea assembled to worship God.

“The evangelist” refers to one who announces good news. In the New Testament, it is applied to a preacher of the gospel, or one who declares the glad tidings of salvation. It occurs only in two other places, Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:5. The precise rank of those who bore this title in the early Christian church cannot be determined. It is evident, however, that it is used to denote the office of preaching the gospel; and since this title is applied to “Philip,” and not to any other of the “seven” deacons, it would seem probable that he had been entrusted with a special commission to preach, and that preaching did not pertain to him as a deacon, and does not properly belong to that office. The business of a deacon was to take care of the poor members of the church, Acts 6:1-6. The office of preaching was distinct from this, though, as in this case, it might be conferred on the same individual. Phillip’s evangelistic work was described in chapter 8.No one else in Scripture is called an “evangelist,” though Paul commanded Timothy to do the work of an “evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

This, of course, has to be understood in the Jewish context and in light of the transitional nature of the period. The prophetic gift possessed by the “daughters” of Phillip was quite in keeping with the prophecy of Joel 2:28 as quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost— “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). The Holy Spirit maintains a tactful silence about what these women prophesied, but their presence and their service to the church were noted by Luke— “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Though they were prophets, they made no prediction concerning Paul, as far as we know. That role fell to another (Agabus, v. 10).

Paul had already written to the Corinthians that it was the Holy Spirit’s view that women be silent in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35), a truth he later elaborated in his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:11-15). However, the four daughters of Phillip had the gift of prophecy and were definitely prophets. The New Testament had not been written yet; so the gift of prophecy was needed in the early church. Perhaps, the prophecies were told to their father, who subsequently informed the church.

The fact that these four daughters of Phillip were “virgins” may indicate that they had been called by God for special ministry (1 Corinthians 7:34). The early church regarded these women as important sources of information in the early years of the church. Since women are not to be preachers or teachers in the church (1 Corinthians 14: 34-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-12), they probably ministered to individuals in their home or, in other non-church gatherings.

Perhaps the most significant observation in the present narrative is the testimony that there were women in that early church who were recognized as having the gift of prophecy. In his Gospel, Luke mentioned Anna, who was also a prophetess who foretold the future redemptive role of the infant Jesus (2:36-38). Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, pointed to the prophesying of “daughters” as a sign of the gift of the spirit in these last days (Acts 2:17).

This stay at Caesarea must have been a delightful time for the whole missionary team. For Philip, his family, and the church it was also a breath of fresh air from the world outside of Palestine.

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