Today we read more details of the growing evangelization mission of Paul. We see him growing Churches in two major cities, Corinth and Ephesus. Later, letter he writes the Churches in these two cities will become part of the bible. In his travels he meets Priscilla and Aquila. They will travel with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus and help him grow the Church there. In Ephesus they meet Apollos.
Apollos is an important figure. By looking closely at what we are told about him we can deepen our relationship with Jesus.
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Right away we are told that Apollos is a Jew who has become a disciple as he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord”. He is “competent in the Scriptures” which both confirms his upbringing as a faithful Jew and suggests he was well read in the Old Testament. He teaches accurately “the things concerning Jesus”, was an eloquent man and was “fervent in the spirit”. So we infer that he was spreading the Gospel and attempting to covert people. But notice, we are NOT told that he is having any success. We are told that he teaches and that he speaks boldly in the synagogue but we don’t know if he was successful.
Then we are told something interesting. We are told Apollos “only knew the baptism of John.” First, this suggests that he had been baptized by John but had not yet been baptized by Jesus or any of the Apostles. Second, the verse clearly implies that by only knowing the baptism of John that Apollos is missing something. He clearly knows the scriptures and the gospel, he is eloquent and fervent in the spirit but something is lacking, he does not know the fullness of gospel.
Notice what happens next. “Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Priscilla and Aquila learned the gospel form Paul, who is an Apostle. The entire chapter before Apollos we were told who Priscilla and Aquila were and how they met Paul and came to travel with him. The entire first half of the chapter is establishing their bona fides in the apostolic line of teaching. By passing down the gospel in the apostolic line it is convey more accurately. This matches with what we read a few chapters ago, when the Ethiopian eunuch has reading the Old Testament book of Isiah. Phillip, a deacon in the apostolic line, asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch answered, “How could I without a teacher.” This is a theme that Paul especially will repeat over and over in his writing. The truth of the Gospel is passed must be passed down through the apostolic line, any less is inaccurate or incomplete.
What happens next? Apollos, armed with a more compete message wants to go out and evangelize. But he doesn’t just go out on his own. The brothers encourage him and send him with a letter of introduction. Why such a letter? So that the brothers in the Church he is traveling to will know that he is now established in the line of the Apostles. Therefore they know they can trust his teaching.
Notice what happens when Apollos message is tweaked by Priscilla and Aquila. “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” NOW, we are told Apollos begins to meet with success. Having been taught the gospel more accurately and having been brought into the apostolic line his message is all the more effective.
This entire chapter we read today is making an important distinction. Preaching the gospel out of the apostolic line, no matter how eloquently, no matter how well you know the scriptures, and no matter how fervently in the spirit is ultimately ineffective. Mere conforming you preaching to the Apostolic line give it the fullness that it needs to become effective.