Two days after Jesus was baptized of John in the Jordan river to fulfill all righteousness, as He was heading into Galilee, He called to Philip: “Follow Me” (John 1:43). We do not know what other words Jesus spoke to him, if any at all, but we are left with the distinct impression that Philip obeyed His Master’s call immediately. What this text reveals about not only the character of Philip but also our own character is quite helpful.
First, note that Philip was apparently looking for the Messiah. You cannot find something for which you are not looking. It is true that Jesus called Philip to follow Him, but I cannot help but think that Jesus would not have approached him if he had not been seeking the Messiah. If Philip had not been useable material for the Lord, there would have been no need to call him. His knowledge of the Law of Moses and his desire to tell others about Jesus strongly indicate that he was looking for the Christ. He had probably heard of Jesus if he had not heard Him speak.
It is truly a blessing to find those who are seeking the Lord, to find men and women who are amenable to the will of God and need only to be shown the way. We need more men and women like this, men like Apollos, who can be shown the way of the Lord more perfectly (Acts 18:24-28). It is also a lesson to us to seriously seek the Lord (Psalm 105:4). When the Saviour calls us (through His revealed word), are we willing to follow His will immediately? Do we stubbornly cling to our own will and desires, our own preconceived notions, or do we humbly submit and follow like Philip?
Second, take note of Philip’s acquaintance with the word of God, at that time the Law of Moses. Philip recognized in Jesus’ demeanor, His character, and His teaching, that He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17). He was familiar enough with God’s word to be able to identify those qualities in Jesus of Nazareth which proved Him to be the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies. How many Christians today lack knowledge enough to be able to know the difference between truth and error when it is being taught? How many can give a “thus saith the Lord” and a “book, chapter, and verse” for their beliefs and practices?
It is characteristic of all faithful children of God to know the Book. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). There was a time when members of the Lord’s church were known to be superior in their knowledge of God’s word over all others. There was a time when members of the Lord’s church engaged their fellow man in discussions of the Bible, and took on their man-made traditions by deftly wielding the sword of the Spirit. We need to rekindle that spirit in the Lord’s people so that the Lord’s church will grow by true conversion and not just mere swelling through associating with those that seek to be a part of some mere social institution.
Finally, note the zeal with which Philip sought out Nathanael. This same spirit was also found in Andrew, whom, the Bible tells us, “first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias” (John 1:41). Then, he brought him to Jesus (John 1:42). These are the same words Philip uttered to Nathanael, “We have found Him!” Do we have that same child-like joy over knowing the Lord that these men had? Do we call our friends and neighbors, and tell the stranger on the street, that we have found the Messiah? Can others sense in us our joy over finding salvation or do we show more joy over our new car or a new bowling ball than over finding the Saivour of the world?
When Philip told Nathanael of His exciting news of finding the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael scoffed, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45). If you are like me, you have probably come across the doubters yourself. But Philip’s response was, “Come and see” (John 1:46). Not long after, Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him (John 147). The proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes. When people doubt or scoff, we must invite them to come and see for themselves. When we have questions, we need to investigate and reason with the Lord (Is. 1:8).
Shouldn’t we rejoice over finding the Lord? Shouldn’t we be moved to tell others the joy we have found in the knowledge of salvation? We have found Him! So let us go tell others that good news.
Eric L. Padgett