October 6, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
Some of you are in school. Maybe you are in grad school or taking an online class. Maybe you are in middle or high school, and you live this every day. For others of us, we may have to rewind the memory bank a little bit to remember the last time we were given a report card.
For some of us, this was a wonderful experience, because it was always straight A’s. For others, it was a guessing game on how many licks you would get when you got home. I do remember this, though: There were many times (maybe it was on a report card or a test) where the teacher would show me mercy. He or she would see my effort and see that I was trying, and sometimes give me half credit. “Whew! At least I got something.”
I, for one, loved it when the teacher would give me the grade, and I should have gotten a 46, but on the curve, I got a higher number. I was like, “Thank you, Jesus, for the curve!” It’s beautiful. (Some of you may have hated the curve; that’s not the point.)
The point is this: We have all had those moments where we experienced mercy to get something. I want to take that idea that you’ve experienced and point our attention to Jesus. I am so glad that God showed me mercy when I was saved by His grace. I’m so glad that a prerequisite for my relationship with God was not a seminary degree or a full understanding of every deep theological concept. It didn’t require me to have all of Scripture memorized or perfect attendance in church. He showed me mercy.
He took me just as I was and changed me from the inside out; it’s beautiful. When I look at my life now, having been a believer for decades, having been to college, seminary, post graduate school, and checked all of those boxes off, here’s what I know: I can certainly articulate the Gospel better today than I did when I began my relationship with Jesus in 1984. I certainly can engage in debates of theology more effectively now than I could in 1984. But, I am no more saved today than I was in 1984 because of God’s grace and mercy.
The gap in time from then until now is not me becoming increasingly more saved, but rather, sanctified. That’s the word that we would use in our faith and our theology. I’ve become sanctified, growing to look more like Jesus, think more like Jesus, and act more like Jesus. It’s this process of growing and maturing, and I pray that if you evaluate your life and your relationship with Jesus today, you certainly can see sanctification, a measured growth in maturity over time.
Today, in our text, we are going to look in Acts chapter 18, and there is a new character who is going to come onto the scene who really spells out for us what sanctification can look like. As we’ve been walking through the book of Acts, the key character so far has been Paul. We’ve learned a lot about Paul. We’ve seen examples of Paul and some of those who traveled with him. And like that TV show you watch occasionally, a secondary plot starts to develop. That’s what begins to happen here.
There’s this new character who is introduced into the story, and his name is Apollos. There is this secondary plot that we’ll begin to see in the chapters moving forward, and there is a lot that we can learn.
I. Promising Potential
Here is the first thing I would encourage you to note or write down: There is promising potential when we begin to look at Apollos. Let’s look at verses 24 and 25. I’d love to make some observations along the way that God taught me as I studied this passage.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 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.
Now, what in the world is going on? Let’s understand, first of all, some things about Apollos, or even more so about this place where he came from. Alexandria was a thriving community. It was well known for its high concentration of Jewish scholars. In fact, it was in the city of Alexandria where the Septuagint was translated. The Septuagint was the Hebrew text translated into Greek. It happened there in Alexandria. That tells us that the people took education seriously and took studying the Scriptures very seriously.
We don’t know for certain where Christianity was introduced in Alexandria as a whole. We don’t know that confidently, but we know that it clearly was strong enough that Apollos heard about Jesus there and began to follow the Way. Luke describes as he writes here about Apollos that clearly he was someone who knew the Way of the Lord and who taught accurately about Jesus. But, we will notice moving forward that he still had some deficiencies. Maybe that whole “grading on the curve thing” happened.
1. Learning increases potential
Here are some things I want us to note. First of all, in verse 24 we learn some things about Apollos that I think you can apply to your life and I can apply to mine: Learning increases potential. That’s the first thing to note.
There are two words in verse 24 that I invite you to underline: educated and competent. Those are two important words. The fact that he was educated tells me that he had made the choice to learn. My dad used to always say that a leader is a reader. This is a choice, if I want to engage my mind and be challenged to think.
But it led to a competency in Scripture. The word competency in the Greek literally is the same word that we get dynamite from. Imagine this stick of dynamite. It may look static in nature, but it is very dynamic when it is engaged. There is explosive potential in that stick of dynamite; there is a strong sense of competency there. The impact can be explosive as he learns and increases his competency.
2. Committed to the cause
Here’s the second thing we can know about him in verse 25. Clearly, he was committed to the cause. What is the cause? It is phrased in verse 25 as “The Way of the Lord”. Often, when we read in the book of Acts in the New Testament, the church was named “Followers of the Way”. Where do we get this from?
In John 14:6, Jesus said. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” So, rather than calling themselves Christians or The First Baptist Church of Ephesus, they were Followers of the Way. They were following Jesus.
Clearly we see Apollos was educated. He wanted to learn. His competency or potential was beginning to grow, and he was committed to following Jesus and making the Way of the Lord known.
3. Enthusiasm is encouraged
The third thing we notice about him that we can learn from in verse 25 is, he was fervent in Spirit. I would rephrase this to say that enthusiasm is encouraged. In fact, the very word fervent there really spells out the attitude of being enthusiastic. And I would say this: Some of us by personality are more naturally enthusiastic than others, right? I mean, can we just be honest?
Enthusiasm is not anything I’m short on. But, not everybody is wired like me. So, for some of us, we just have to dig out enthusiasm; we have to fight to find it. But here we see enthusiasm is not a personality trait; it’s an expectation. It’s something that is encouraged. Let’s cross reference another Scripture in Romans chapter 12, verse 11. We’re reminded by Paul:
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
So there is this challenge for us. I see the beauty of who God is. I recognize the power of the Gospel. I identify that He has changed my life, and He has the ability to change other people’s lives. I can’t help but be enthusiastic about that. I’m expecting it!
Every day that we wake up, you and I should wake up like, “God, what do you have in store today?” There is this expected fervency in my spirit of enthusiasm, that God is going to do something great today. That’s a choice, really, that I’m going to be fervent in spirit.
Don’t throw rocks at me, but here is a good self-analysis question. Compare the level of enthusiasm you have on Saturdays in the fall (college football) with the level of enthusiasm you have when you come to church or when you spend time with Jesus. What is the contrast? We may not find it difficult at all to be enthusiastic while cheering on our team. Why can’t we have that same level of enthusiasm when we expect Jesus to work? Enthusiasm is encouraged.
4. Articulate the Gospel
The fourth thing we see in verse 25 is that he taught accurately. I would rephrase that to hi-light the importance of us being able to articulate the Gospel. Apollos worked hard. He studied hard. He wanted to learn. He was educated. That potential, that competency, continued to grow, but he needed to grow even more. He taught accurately and could accurately communicate who Jesus was, but we will see later that he still had room to grow.
Apollos showed great potential. Here is a statement that I’ll give to you that undergirds what I think we need to be careful about. Guard against believing that you have arrived. In your pursuit of Jesus, be guarded against an innate pride that may swell. “Hey, I’ve been following Jesus for 25 years. I’m teaching the LifeGroup. I’m giving. I think I have finally figured this out.” Be careful and be guarded against believing you had ever arrived.
Guard against believing you’ve arrived
Apollos was busy here. He was growing. He was active. He was bold. He was sharing the faith. But, he still had growing up to do. We’re going to talk about that more, but first I want to pay attention to his potential.
Has anybody ever told you that you’ve got a lot of potential? People have told me that, and I’ll be honest with you; I do not receive that as a compliment. You might as well clip my legs out from under me to say, “Hey, you’ve got potential there, Buddy.” What you really wanted to say is that I’m pathetic. Potential. Well, Apollos is competent. He’s this dynamite. He’s got potential.
Let me describe it to you this way: I used to coach a church league basketball team. These guys had potential. I was trying my best to draw it out of them. “Come on, Guys. Can we dribble and just keep our eyes up? Can we do that?” I mean, just basics here. But here’s the funny story.
We played together in the church league for a couple of years, and we still had potential, until one year, when we walked away with a championship trophy (2002 to be specific). Now here’s the story behind this trophy: It says Champion. That should mean something, right? Well, we went the entire regular season defeated. Not undefeated… but defeated. That means we didn’t win a game.
But, because it was church league, everybody at least gets a chance in the playoffs. Not everybody got a trophy, but everybody got a chance. We made it. We went to the first round of the playoffs, and the other team did not show up. Some may call that a forfeit; we called it a win, Baby!
The second round of the playoffs, the other team showed up, and miraculously, this motley crew with potential actually played, and we legitimately won a game. So then, where do we go? To the championship game! The guys walk in the gym, and the other team did not show up. You may call that a forfeit; we called it a championship.
Now, why do I tell you that story? Here, a group of guys with little to no skill but with a lot of potential, won because they showed up. They just showed up with their horrible lack of skill and said, “Hey, whatever you can do with this, let’s go.” And they showed up.
I would submit to you, this is a beautiful picture of what following Jesus looks like. Scripture says our righteousness is as good as a rag that you would wrap a dead body in. And God is just looking for our willingness and openhandedness to say, “Hey Jesus, I realize all I have is potential, but I’m going to show up. What can you do with me today?” And there’s this expectation of, “Lord, you take this potential and use it for your glory.”
II. Point of Teaching
Here’s the second thing for the day, if we continue the text, there is a point of teaching. Let’s read in verse 26:
26 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.
So, Apollos will show us that he recognized that we all must be open to learn and to grow. God sometimes brings along these teaching moments in our lives, these opportunities to grow.
Parents, you understand teaching moments well, because we take advantage of every moment that we can to take a situation as an opportunity to teach our kids. We do it all the time, and even sometimes we get the roll of the eyes, like, “Are you going to stop?” But we do it because we understand the urgency and the brevity of time we have with our kids. So, we want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have to turn a moment into a teaching moment.
I would submit to you that God has this great sense of urgency. Our life is but a vapor, and while we are here, He desires to walk with us, talk with us, grow us, and mature us so that we can be more bold and more courageous as we advance His name to the world. And certainly, we get a glimpse into Apollos’ personality. He did not lack courage. He did not lack boldness. He took what he had, walked right into the synagogue, and began to teach.
There is a warning here. He didn’t lack boldness in purpose, but boldness coupled with an inadequate grasp of the Way of the Lord, can be dangerous. Someone who is a gifted and motivating communicator can wreak havoc on our heart if that person is able to swoon us in with their words, but their articulation of the Gospel is not complete. That’s why we are reminded all throughout the Scripture to be on your guard so you are not falling asleep through hollow and deceptive teaching. So, be careful.
I really want our attention here to be on Aquila and Priscilla, because here in this verse, they exercise, or demonstrate, a lot of what we should see in the body of Christ. They took him aside privately. They were trying their best to live out Matthew 18. They took took him aside privately, and began to instruct him, correct him, or point out where he was wrong.
I don’t know this for certain, but one thing we do know about Aquila and Priscilla is, they had a habit of using their home as a house church. We learned about this in 1 Corinthians 19:19. So, it’s possible that when they pulled him away privately, they brought them into their home. Maybe it was in the context of one of their house church gatherings where they had this. We don’t know that for sure, but what we do know is they took what they observed, found a private moment, and were able to address this with him.
We are not 100% certain what this thing was that they wanted to address with him. I believe that there is a glimpse given to us in verse 25. He articulated the Way of the Lord, but there is this baptism moment that he wasn’t quite well-rounded in and fully understanding, because it says he understood the baptism of John.
So, my personal deduction is that Aquila and Priscilla used this moment to more adequately and thoroughly disciple Apollos in the understanding of what baptism is. I think it’s also noteworthy that, when we look at Aquila and Priscilla in the first part of Chapter 18, Aquila’s name is mentioned first and then Priscilla’s. Now we see it reversed. Priscilla’s name is mentioned first, and then Aquila’s name is mentioned second.
I think this is a subtle way for the Spirit of God to help us understand that a husband and wife can make a great team of ministry, working together. It’s a beautiful picture when we see a husband and a wife equally committed, serving the Lord together. I think we get a glimpse of that here.
What we can learn is this truth: Unexpected events can be teaching moments. When we started this conversation, I pointed out to you that I believe Acts chapter 18 and the character development of Apollos would help us see sanctification at play. Here is where we begin to see it.
Unexpected events can become teaching moments
Apollos walked in, and he was just doing his best. He was working hard, and there was an unexpected event that he experienced with Priscilla and Aquila coming into his life and teaching him. If I were to go back through my life, comparing where I was in 1984 to where I am now, I can identify several teaching moments along the way.
Maybe it was an experience that I had where the Holy Spirit taught me directly. Maybe it was a teaching moment where I sat, someone was preaching, the Lord really spoke to my heart, and I wrote something down. Maybe it was some other experience where I watched the provision of God on display. Or, it may have just been standing in the beauty of His creation, overlooking the mountains and stars, seeing His handiwork on display.
There have been so many moments on my journey that have been teaching moments for me, and this is one of those moments for Apollos. I pray that you can define those moments in your life, because that’s what the process of sanctification looks like.
But let’s be specific with what I think Priscilla and Aquila were addressing with Apollos here, and that’s clarity on baptism. Let’s use this as a moment to make sure that we are all on the same page regarding what baptism is. This is an important thing. In fact, if you go through our new members’ class, here is what we teach about baptism:
Here at Calvary we teach about baptism…
1. Follow the example of Jesus (Mark 1:9)
Jesus was baptized. He set that example for us. We want to do it as well.
2. Because Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:18-20)
What did he say in the Great Commission? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” So, He commanded this elevation of baptism.
3. It demonstrates that I am really a believer (Acts 18:8)
It is a step of obedience, demonstrating that Jesus is the Lord of my life.
4. It illustrates my new life as a Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17)
That’s the beauty of it. That’s why we got in the habit of using the language, “Are you here today to profess to the church and to the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life?” That is not the moment that you begin a relationship with God; that’s already done. This is an act of obedience to illustrate what has already happened in my heart.
5. Every baptism in the Bible was by immersion (Acts 8:38-39)
Immersion means “under the water”. It is important that we do it this way, because that is the way they did it in the Bible. So, we want to follow Christ’s example and be baptized, and we want to do it the way that He was baptized.
Here is a fun fact for you. The word baptize, literally translated in the original language, means “to immerse”. That’s the literal translation of that word, and you might be interested to know historically how we even got this word. In 1611, the King of England decided,”I want the people of England to have a newer Bible in their own language.”
This became the King James Version of the Bible. So what did he do? He enlisted his scholars that were part of the Church of England. If you’ll remember, King Henry VIII developed the Church of England, this whole church and religious system, out of the Roman Catholic Church, because they would not endorse his divorce.
He said, “If you are not going to say my divorce is okay, I’m just going to start my own church.” It would be called the Church of England. But really, the way that they practiced their faith still looked, sounded, and smelled a lot like the Roman Catholic Church.
And so, by habit, they sprinkled in their baptism. Here, King James commissions translators to begin to give us a new version of Scripture in English. And so, what did they do? The scholars went to work. They took the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and they translated it into English. So, if you are tracking there, that means part of the King James Version was actually a translation of a translation, but that’s another story.
The translators get to this word in Greek, baptizo, and it means “to immerse”. Now, what do you do if the king has commissioned you, and he thinks baptism is by sprinkling? You are supposed to translate this verse, and if you translate it “to immerse”, off with your head. So, what did they do? The just created a new word. They transliterated it, rather than translating, and made this new word called baptism.
So, when people asked, “What does that mean?”, they could just figure it out. They just transliterated the word; now we have this word baptism. But, it literally means “to immerse”.
Why do we immerse when we baptize? -because that’s what the Bible teaches. That’s what Jesus did, and we want to follow His example. It is a demonstration to the world. I interject all of that to say, perhaps some of you, like Apollos, needs some course correction regarding baptism. Maybe you were not baptized in the right order (saved first and then baptized). I encourage you to pray about it, if that is the case.
III. Powerful Partnership
There is a powerful partnership that we see in verses 27 and 28:
27 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, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Notice, Apollos comes in with boldness. He comes with education and competency. He comes with the ability and the desire to teach. He’s been corrected by Priscilla and Aquila. Now, he wants to keep on going.
1. Encouragement from those who sent him
The first thing we see in verse 27 is encouragement from those who sent him. I want you to notice in verse 27 the word for encouraged. This is the only time this specific word is used in the entire New Testament. But here, these believers saw the potential in Apollos, and the word literally means they “urged him”. They pushed him. They encouraged him. It’s as if they are saying, “Don’t ever quit. Don’t ever give up. Keep learning. Keep preaching. Keep proclaiming the Good News. Keep telling other people about Jesus. Go, go, go!”
It is as if they are cheering him on, and you can get a sense that they even go so far that they write a letter in advance of where he’s going. “You are going to love meeting this guy. He is awesome!” Imagine the confidence that Apollos now has to be walking in with this.
How can we do that? How can you encourage others? Sometimes it’s really simple. Sometimes you can encourage others by sending words of encouragement, writing them an email, sending them a text, writing them a postcard, or actually sending snail mail. You could send or speak a word of encouragement.
Don’t you love it when somebody looks you eye to eye and speaks encouragement to you? You love to receive that; be willing to give that. You can be a blessing by sending or speaking a word of encouragement and then by praying for one another, intercessory prayer, lifting one another up to God. That’s a way that we can be a blessing.
2. A blessing to those who received him
I want us to notice then, second, that he was a blessing to those who received him. We notice in the text in verse 27 that he goes to those who have believed. For those who were already following Jesus, he was a blessing.
Apollos gives us a glimpse of a disciple maker who:
– BUILDS those who believe
– REACHES those who need to see Jesus
He’s a building those who believe and at the same time, to the Jews around him who don’t yet believe, he reaches them by using the Scripture. He’s building, and he’s reaching. He’s encouraging, and he’s proclaiming the Good News. Reach. Build.
3. Impactful to those who heard him
The third thing is, he’s impactful to those who hurt him. We see it in verse 28. He understood that the Jews were eager to seek the Messiah. That was wired into their expectations. They were constantly looking for the Messiah. Many of them thought it may be Elijah that would come back, and they were just looking. Who is the Messiah? Where is the Messiah? When is He going to come?
Apollos is boldly saying, “Hey, Elijah is not the one you are looking for. His name is Jesus!” He’s trying to point them to Jesus, and what I want us to notice is, he did not necessarily use his boldness, his eloquence, or persuasive speech. What do we see in verse 28? He used the Scripture. He used the living, breathing, authoritative Word of God to help them see who Jesus is.
Go back and read Acts chapter 17. It illustrates the components of having a Gospel conversation. One of the ingredients was actively using God’s Word, because it is the living, breathing Word of God that’s sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces the heart. Someone may forget what I say, but I just want to plant God’s Word in someone’s heart and watch God go to work.
So, what do we do with all of this? There is so much that we can observe and learn from Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila, and we can glean a lot about what we need to do. Perhaps it’s the need for us to grow, to deepen our understanding of Christ and who we are in Him. Perhaps it is the need for us to step into our responsibility to build others up or to reach into the world, communicating through Gospel conversations, the power of Scripture. Pray about what you should do next.
• Today, I hear the truth of Christ from Scripture and choose to follow Him. • Today, I recognize that I need to be baptized.
• Today, I commit to encourage others by helping them grow in Christ and their understanding of Scripture.
• Today, I choose to partner with other believers and desire to join this faith family.
- The evidence of the Spirit of God working in the life of Apollos affirmed his salvation, even though he still had a lot to learn. Read Ephesians 3:13 and discuss the power of the Spirit of God sealing our hearts. Share ways that the Holy Spirit has affirmed your faith by showing His presence in your life.
- Apollos exhibited great enthusiasm for Christ in Acts 18:24-25. Read Romans 12:11 and discuss why every believer should display enthusiasm, regardless of personality type.
- Acts 18:27-28 describes Apollos as building those who believed and reaching those who did not. These are two points of emphasis for our church. How are you building other believers and reaching those who do not believe through relationships and Gospel conversations?