The Expository Files

 

 Apollos: Helping Those who had Believed

Acts 18:24-28

 
 
24 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. – Acts 18:24-28

Here is this man, Apollos. He is of the Jewish race and from Alexandria. He is a man with two important skills – eloquence and a good knowledge of the Scriptures.

With him, I’m going to say, his two best friends, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos comes to Ephesus and becomes acquainted with these two Christians. They provide for Apollos just the counsel and instruction he needed. Apollos was now able to use his eloquence and knowledge to refute unbelief – “showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” And, he helped those who believed.

Three good people, who still today can help us understand ourselves, better ourselves and become better engaged as God’s people. Let’s let Apollos help us.

APOLLOS WAS KNOWLEDGEABLE


Verse 24 says he was “mighty in the Scriptures.” Apollos was a Jew born at Alexandria. It is my understanding, Jews who were raised in this Egyptian city were generally highly educated.

Historians estimate, at the time of Apollos, about one million Jews resided in Egypt. Alexandria was an important center of academic learning. You may remember, The Old Testament had been translated from Hebrew into the Greek at Alexandria. The Jews had built an enormous synagogue. Alexandria was the second city of rank in the Roman Empire, and had the distinction of being a seat of learning. Jewish students received a thorough education.

But while all of that is historically true, and played a role in terms of opportunity, being born in Alexandria didn’t infuse knowledge into Apollos. Having access to books and classes and teachers will not, in itself, train or educate or make you wise. Apollos applied himself, took initiative and time.

And as he pursued his education – his primary object was apparently to become knowledgeable in the Scriptures. That doesn’t happen just because you live in a certain place. Knowing Scripture is the result of personal determination, discipline, devotion and it requires much time and effort. The rewards of such work are so valuable, so abundant and so satisfying - - there is no regret about the investment of time and mental energy.

I want to encourage each of us – not only to read Scripture, but to spend time focusing on the meaning; seeing connections in the text; discovering truth you have missed before; learning more of God, becoming closer to Christ – and being challenged to live a deeply reverent life with God. Apollos was knowledgeable. But also . . .

HE WAS TEACHABLE

Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside,” and “explained to him the way of God more accurately.” There was something Apollos didn’t know yet. He listened, he was teachable, and because of that good and honest heart, he was able to bring his preaching in line with truth and reality, TO BECOME EVEN MORE POWERFUL.

This couple – Christians – took an interests in Apollos that was sincere. They could have said nothing. They could have stood up and
humiliated Apollos. They could have marked him as a false teacher in front of others, but without saying anything to him. They did not take any of these immature approaches. They went directly to Apollos, taught him something he didn’t know yet and the outcome was good for everybody, and pleasing to God.

Not everybody who is knowledgeable is teachable. Here’s what I mean. Some students – at a certain point in their education – arrive at a place of arrogance, where they think and may say: Nobody can teach me anything! And when a student reaches that point (1) they shut themselves off from future learning, and (2) they lose their effectiveness as a teacher.

The old familiar expression is, “a know-it-all-attitude.” Sometimes people who acquire vast amounts of information, fall into a pit of ignorance because they decide they know it all. Not Apollos. Though knowledgeable, he was still teachable. That shows a good heart.

And along with that, we observe a healthy willingness to stand corrected. Something every one of us ought to have. No matter how much information we take in or how much we remember or how much Scripture we can quote, our imperfection, our capacity to make mistakes and our personal tendencies toward pride and prejudice – ought to be confessed.

If you reach a place in life where you are so stubborn, you cannot accept correction, you are no longer teachable - that’s decay of character. And it is not compensated for by all your previous accumulation of knowledge!

APPROACHABLE

Verse 26: “…they took him aside…” Here is a test of personal humility: Would you let someone take you aside? I’ve been taken aside a few times. I confess it can be unsettling. And, there is a tendency that must be suppressed to be immediately defensive.

I believe Apollos, though knowledgeable and eloquent, carried himself with people in such a way – he was approachable. I need to inquire of myself – Do people feel free to approach me. How do I carry myself; what is the message of my demeanor??

1 Cor. 10:12 tells each of us – “…let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” I should be constantly aware, I can be mistaken and I can be wrong and I can sin. I need to be teachable and approachable. It could be, some of the most valuable things you learn about yourself you learn in a context of criticism. If you automatically refuse all criticism and correction, you may shut yourself off from one of the great sources of edification available. Apollos was knowledgeable, teachable, approachable, and . . .

HE WAS IMMOVABLE

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Christians are people who are rooted and grounded in their faith. Ideally, we are determined we will not move away from Christ.

Now back to Acts 18, find verse 28, where it says that Apollos, after being corrected – now including the full truth of the gospel – “…vigorously refuted the Jews publically, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”

This work he did required not only knowledge, but firmness of conviction, courage and courage under fire. Apollos was immovable.

And he was immovable, not because he was an educated Alexandrian; not because he was a good public speaker and debator. He was immovable because he personally believed and practiced what he preached: Jesus Is The Christ! He really believed that, with all his heart and his preaching and living was based on that.

You know, you can be eloquent and knowledgeable, but movable; subject to compromise, yielding to temptation, and leaving the Lord and his work. If you could look behind the preacher’s doors - in some cases, you would be disturbed.

There are men who are tremendous public speakers and they know their subjects well. But in the discipline of life, they do not really know the author of Scripture.

There are preachers and teachers and elders – so weak in their character, the devil has been able to move them. Move them away from the Lord into adultery, dishonest gain, or some other kind of wickedness. Though we are disturbed about those falls from the faith – we can be encouraged by the example of Apollos. And, there are many Christians today – who show the same good traits in the way they live. Pray for them, thank God for them and be like them.

APOLLOS WAS ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD

Everything in the account leads us to believe, the Lord accepted the life of Apollos, through the cleansing blood of Christ – received by Apollos, through the activity of his faith.

In addition to the testimony of Luke in Acts, there are these mentions by Paul (1 Cor. 3:6 & 4:6), showing – Paul and Apollos worked together as fellow-workers but not competitors. So that people in Corinth would hear the gospel of Christ – and so that Christians would know how to live. Paul speaks with commendation of Apollos – and when this testimony is added to the Acts 18 account, there is every reason to believe, this man’s life and work was acceptable to the Lord. He was knowledgeable, teachable, approachable, immovable and therefore, accepted by the Lord.

Finally, I wanted to make this comment about Aquila and Priscilla. Leadership doesn’t mean getting people to follow you! Leadership means helping and teaching people, so that they follow the Lord more closely! Aquila and Priscilla didn’t want Apollos to follow them. They wanted Apollos to follow the Lord; their purpose was – to lead Apollos to teach and follow the Lord more closely.

So, there are three good people we meet in this brief text and all three direct us to valuable points of self-examination.

Am I seeking to be knowledgeable? Am I humble enough to be teachable and do I convey to people that I’m approachable? Am I – in the activity of my faith – strong and immovable? All of this is known by the Lord – and I know, each of us want to be acceptable to Him. Apollos greatly helps those who have believed through grace. I hope we are accepting the help of his example.
 

 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 18.11; November 2011

 

 

 

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