MOMENTS OF TRUTH
The Case of Apollos
7 July 2019
In Acts 18:24-28 we read concerning a man from Alexandria named Apollos. Luke, the inspired writer, here interrupts his account of the apostle Paul’s journeys to tell of Apollos work in Ephesus. Let’s read through Acts 18:24-28, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
We see Luke first describe Apollos as an Alexandrian. Alexandria, a city of Egypt, was a center of learning and philosophy. It was the home of an estimated one million Jews and had an enormous synagogue. His Alexandrian background had given Apollos the opportunity to learn and develop his abilities. He was an “eloquent man”. To search the Bible is to find that Apollos is the only man referred to in this manner. What this means is that Apollos was probably a learned man and cultured. He may have also been trained in rhetoric. Rhetoric is defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as, “1. The art of speaking with propriety, elegance and force. 2. The power of persuasion or attraction; that which allures or charms. We speak of the rhetoric of the tongue, and the rhetoric of the heart or eyes.” Apollos was skilled in this area.
We also know that Apollos was “mighty in Scriptures.” It is quite clear that he possessed a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures and the ability to teach them. We have to remember, to be “Mighty in Scriptures” was no ordinary accomplishment. Because this was in the days before the printing press. Apollos knowledge was acquired from manuscripts. Even today an accomplishment such as this is quite unusual.
With all of this in mind, it is quite clear from our text that Apollos had received instruction concerning the way of the Lord (Jesus), but only to a point. Either from John the Baptist or from one of John’s disciples. Apollos had learned that the kingdom was soon to come, that men should repent in order to be prepared for it, and probably that Jesus was the Messiah – a fact that John affirmed to his disciples during his ministry. We cannot know to what extent Apollos knew the teaching of Jesus. We only know he did know baptism in the name of Jesus. He only knew the baptism of John. John had baptized as a part of his mission of preparing people for the kingdom of Christ. He sought to turn the Jews’ hearts back to God so that they would be prepared to submit to the reign of Christ when it began. Their turning back to God included baptism. They were baptized with the faith that Christ would soon begin His reign. Not having learned that Christ had already died for our sins, been raised from the dead, and begun His reign from heaven, Apollos was still preaching the message of John and teaching the people to be baptized in anticipation of the Lord’s approaching reign. Though his knowledge was limited, he taught what he knew concerning the Lord, and he taught it with a fervency of spirit. Which means he was very zealous in his presentation of the knowledge that he held.
When we read that he taught “diligently” we also understand that he was careful to be accurate in his teachings. Which leads him to teach boldly in the synagogue. In this case we can see that he spoke courageously and without fear. He spoke forthrightly proclaiming all he knew regarding the Christ. One thing which is undetermined from Scripture is that we don’t know when he arrived in Ephesus if Apollos either requested permission to teach in the synagogue or if he was invited to do so.
Let’s take a few moments and consider that which Apollos taught. As we already stated as the Scripture states in Acts 18:25, he “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John.” We have to remember that John’s work was preparatory as we read in Matthew 11:10, “"For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.'” There is a significant distinction between the baptism of John and the Baptism of the Great Commission. The baptism of the Great Commission is in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. John’s was not. The baptism of the Great Commission has promise as we read in Acts 2:38, “"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” John’s did not. Those who obey the baptism of the Great Commission confess Christ as we read in Acts 8:37, “"If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Let’s remember that this was such a grievous error that the Apostle Paul baptized John’s disciples in the name of Christ in Acts 19:1-5, “And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism." 4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Obviously, Aquila and his wife Priscilla had been in attendance for the teaching of Apollos and probably themselves sought to teach the Jews who attended. When they heard Apollos, they recognized the deficiency in his knowledge, took him aside privately, and explained to him the truths he had not yet learned. This couple expressed a deep interest in him and in the truth. They were not so indifferent and learned as to think that “one baptism is as good as another.” They wanted his soul to be right with God. It is vital to know that accurate teaching must precede one’s immersion. A person cannot be taught wrong and baptized right. Further, it is commendable that Apollos, a learned and able preacher, possessed the humility to accept instruction from a tentmaker and his wife. Let’s not overlook the fact that we have here an example of a woman participating in teaching a man. Let’s also note that in this situation, this was not one where a woman violated the principle of teaching in a position of authority over a man. That is another study altogether.
Luke does not provide for us the reason for Apollos’ desire to go into the province of Achaia. It is clear that there were Christians in Ephesus at the time, perhaps as a result of the preaching of Paul and the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla. These Christians wrote a letter of commendation to the saints in Achaia. Apollos would be a stranger to the Christians in Achaia, but this letter from those who knew him would eliminate their natural questions regarding the faithfulness of Apollos and enable them to accept him readily. When we read concerning “exhorting” the disciples this means “Encouraging” them. In both cases, the Ephesians encouraged the Achaians to accept Apollos and the Ephesians encouraged Apollos to go to the Achaians. We read that when Apollos went to Corinth, the capital of Achaia, he accomplished much good in helping the work there to progress. It is quite clear that Apollos thoroughly refuted the arguments of the Jews and publicly exposed their errors and utilized the Scriptures proving that Jesus was the Christ. Form the language we read that the Jews were evidently vigorously opposing Christianity in Corinth, and one with knowledge and the ability of Apollos was a powerful influence in the church Paul had started, there was no hint of jealousy in the heart of the great apostle Paul only love and appreciation for his fellow laborer as we read in 1 Corinthians 3:4-8, “For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” From this verse we understand the progression of the sower as Paul provided the seed, Apollos, followed and watered, but it was God that gave the increase. It’s important to see that Paul used Apollos and not some other name as the one who provided the watering. It shows the great maturity in Paul that many today lack when it comes to serving God and reaching the lost. It takes more than one person to help in bringing a lost soul to Christ. Notice that the apostle Paul says as well as in 1 Corinthians 16:12, “Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.”
One of the wonderful things about the Word of the Lord and being a child of God is watching others “Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as Peter tells us to do in 2 Pet. 3:18. In the case of Apollos we get to see him grow, and grow quickly. He utilized his talents and abilities, some learned and some possibly natural, to further the cause of Christ. One of the greatest aspects of Apollos was his willingness to learn! He didn’t think he “knew it all.” He was receptive to the teaching of Acquilla and Priscilla. We don’t see him become defensive or get angry because a woman was also trying to help him better understand the truth of Jesus Christ. Notice again what we see of Apollos by reading our text again. Let’s read through Acts 18:24-28, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
Everyone needs to take heed to what he or she has learned concerned the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we truly have the truth or are we lacking in knowledge? Have we searched the Scriptures as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Do we understand what we read in Scripture as Philip asked the eunuch in Acts 8:30, “Do you understand what you are reading?" The eunuch held the same disposition as Apollos for he replied in Acts 8:31, “How can I, unless someone guides me?" As Philip helped the eunuch reach the necessary understanding for salvation, Acquilla and Priscilla helped Apollos do the same. We know the eunuch went on his way rejoicing after being baptized and we know the Apollos continued to teach. However, he now taught “the rest of the story” since he had been taught and now understood. Every Christian needs to do as Paul instructed Timothy to do in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” This was the case for Apollos. He had the willingness and desire to teach the truth of the Gospel, he simply didn’t have it all yet, he had to be taught. Let’s all be open in heart and mind, to take in the entirety of Scripture and learn the truth of the Gospel so we can help ourselves and others get home to heaven when this life is over.
There is a song we sing from time to time to help us with the attitude of longing to be taught the truth. It is entitled “Teach Me Thy Way.” It was written in 1919 by B. Mansell Ramsey. (#112 in our Hymns for Worship Book). The first verse says, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord, Teach me Thy way! Ty guiding grace afford – Teach me Thy way! Help me to walk aright, More by faith, less by sight; Lead me with heav’nly light, Teach me Thy way!” The 2nd verse says, “When I am sad at heart, Teach me Thy way! When earthly joys depart, Teach me Thy way! In hours of loneliness, In times of dire distress, In failure or success, Teach me Thy way!” the 3rd verse says, “When doubts and fears arise, Teach me Thy way! When storms o’er spread the skies, Teach me Thy way! Shine thru the cloud and rain, Thru sorrow, toil and pain; Make Thou my pathway plain, Teach me Thy way!” The 4th verse says, “Long as my life shall last, Teach me Thy way! Where’er my lot be cast, Teach me Thy way! Until the race is run, until the journey’s done, Until the crown is won, Teach me Thy way!”
Let each one of us make the choice to obey Christ as the apostle Paul explains in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you 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;”