AN EXPOSITION OF ACTS 18:24-28
24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
The story of the Christian Church provides an opportunity to study the biographies of select men and women. Some are worthy of praise and emulation, while others bring shame and dishonor to the cause of Christ.
In Acts 18, about the year AD 56, the Church was introduced to a Jewish man named Apollos. Being born at Alexandria, Egypt, a city founded by Alexander the Great, Apollos was given a common name. The first governor left by Alexander in this African province was called Apollonius. From his place of birth, there are several characteristics about Apollos that can be surmised.
First, Apollos was most likely a cosmopolitan man. In the city of Alexandria, East and West met for trade of goods and services, as well as ideas. Education was emphasized in Alexandria reflected in the housing of the most extensive libraries of the ancient world. As a Jewish man, Apollos would have been trained in Judaism. As a cosmopolitan man he would be familiar with the world of Greek ideas, and the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, and Philo.
Second, Apollos was an eloquent man. When he spoke, people wanted to listen to the way he was able to put words together in an attractive manner. He knew how to speak with passion, and with voice inflection, so that his listeners were not bored with a monotone discourse.
Third, Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures. He was familiar with the disputes between the Pharisees and Sadducees over doctrine. He knew about the conservative school of Hillel, and the more liberal beliefs of the school of Shammai. He was able to answer common questions about the Scriptures in a way that amazed and satisfied individuals.
Fourth, Apollos was a man who liked to travel. Though born in Alexandria, Egypt, we find him in Ephesus, about 6, 304 miles away, as the crow flies. In Ephesus, Apollos would find a corrupted form of Christianity. It was in Ephesus that “science falsely so called” was found, and “vain philosophy.”
The science of Ephesus was not an inquiry into the laws of God, but rather a desire of the intellect for amusement and enjoyment. If they had been relevant, the people of Ephesus would seriously discuss popular movements, such as the theory of evolution, climate change, globalism, euthanasia, transgenderism, and homosexual marriages. In a prosperous economy people have time to give serious consideration to the most depraved ideas of the human heart. While the world satisfied itself with intellectual curiosity, Apollo concentrated on studying the Scriptures and expounding the known Word of God for he was instructed in the way of the Lord.
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent [burning] in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
The word for “instructed” means he was catechized. The word “catechism” means “to teach orally.” It refers to a formal set of instruction. There are basic Christian doctrines which Apollo had been taught. Biblically, the foundations of the Christian faith are listed in Hebrews 6:1-2.
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
Basic Bible Doctrines
Doctrine of Repentance from dead works (Human Good vs. Divine Good)
Doctrine of Faith toward God
Doctrine of Baptisms
Doctrine of Laying on of Hands (Authority)
Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead
Doctrine of Eternal Judgment (Heaven and Hell)
Since the days of the apostles, the Church has catechized its members in the sphere of saving faith. One of the earliest statements of the faith is found in 1 Timothy 3:16. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
It is important for every Christian to know the fundamentals of the faith. For this reason John Calvin wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion, published in Latin in 1536, and in his native French in 1541. Local congregations are wise to have a way to formally and systematically instruct individuals in the way of the Lord, as Apollos was instructed.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
Because he was so well educated, because he was so articulate, because he was such an effective communicator of ideas, because he knew he could persuade others, Apollos spoke boldly in the synagogue. However, when Aquila and Priscilla heard him speak, they became alarmed. Despite his zeal for the Lord, Apollos was doing more harm than good with all of his natural gifts.
A lesson is learned. Knowledge is not enough. Zeal is not enough. Natural gifts are not enough. Holy boldness is not enough. There must be truth. And so it was that Aquila and Priscilla, with Christian grace and gentleness, took Apollos aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
The truth that Apollos did not fully understand, was that Jesus was the Messiah. Apollos knew only the baptism of John.
Apollos held correct views of the Messiah, in as far as he understood the way of the Lord from the Old Testament. Apollos was expecting a Saviour that would be humble, obscure, and a sacrifice for others, in opposition to the prevailing notions of the Jews of a coming conquering king.
It is possible that Apollos had personally heard John the Baptist preach the gospel of repentance. Certainly he had submitted to the ritual of John’s baptism. But that was all he knew.
Apollos thought it was enough. But it was not. There was so much for Apollos to know and enjoy.
Specifically, Apollos could know the One of whom John said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” Apollos could know the Messiah Himself. And because He could know the Messiah, Apollos could know of the baptism of Jesus.
John preached repentance, and baptized with reference to the One that was to come after Him. But Apollos could preach about the One who did come, the Suffering Saviour who did die on the Cross of Calvary, was buried, and rose again the third day from the dead.
It was a far superior message that Aquila and Priscilla gave to Apollos. It was a message which he embraced. Because he embraced the full gospel, when he was disposed to move on into Achaia, Aquila and Priscilla could recommend him in the work of the ministry.
27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
A person who truly believes the gospel is in a better position to help others who have believed the gospel.
Now the way the gospel is believed is through grace. There is a common grace of God which is extended to all of humanity. But there is a special grace of God given to some. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, they know it and they follow me.”
The grace that comes to those who are to be the heirs of salvation is free, but it is not cheap, nor is it ineffectual. Individuals cannot, and will not, believe the gospel apart from a redeeming grace that produces evangelical faith and genuine repentance.
“Do you know of God’s redeeming grace?” The question is not, “Do you know about God’s redeeming grace?” Rather, “Do you know God’s grace personally in your own heart?” Can you say, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His?” If not, seek someone like Aquila or Priscilla who can show you the way of God more perfectly. Then, you will be able to help others which have believed through grace.
28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Once Apollos understood the gospel more fully, he was able to prove to the Jews, from the Old Testament, that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Messianic passages given by the prophets. Jesus of Nazareth was Christ, He was the Messiah.
Practical Lessons to Learn
Religious knowledge is of limited value. A person must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Redeeming grace must complement God’s common grace. Those who know the baptism of John must know the baptism of the Spirit, the baptism of the Cross, and the baptism of the believer because they are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In the providence of the Lord, every sincere Christian will find their Aquila and their Priscilla to help them know the gospel better. Aquila (eagle) was a Jew, a native of Pontus, and a tentmaker by occupation. Fleeing from Rome because of a decree by the Emperor Claudius commanding all Jews to leave the Imperial City, Aquila went with his wife Priscilla to Corinth. He was living there when he met Paul. Because they were of the same trade, they lived together. When this holy couple came to faith is uncertain. What is certain is that they were devout students of Scripture, understood the gospel thoroughly, and were zealous promoters of the Christian cause in the city of Corinth.
We can only teach what we know. No one can teach what is not known. Therefore, embrace anyone who is able to help you to understand the gospel better. Apollos is to be commended because he was humble enough to learn. Not everyone who is naturally gifted is so inclined. There are people who are puffed up with their own knowledge and gifts, They are unteachable. The wise man can be wiser still.
Effective evangelism is based on a willingness to evangelize. Apollos went to the synagogues, and he went into the public arena to present Christ. May the Holy Spirit give us holy boldness to make disciples.
Make sure you know the six foundational, or basic, Bible doctrines: repentance from dead works, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of eternal judgment.