The Deficiency of Apollos

At the conclusion of Paul’s second journey, he returned briefly to Jerusalem and then to Antioch from where he had been “separated unto the work” God planned for him. He had carried two trusted laborers (Aquila and Priscilla) with him from Corinth and left them in Ephesus, planning to return there himself and evangelize the city at some later time, if the Lord willed (Acts 18:18-23).

In his absence Aquila and Priscilla continued to attend synagogue worship on the Sabbath. A man named Apollos came to Ephesus, attended the synagogue, and was given opportunity to speak to the group. The historian describes Apollos thusly: “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures. The man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught accurately things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John; and he began to speak boldly in the synagogue” (Acts 18:24-26a).

The text shows many good qualities about Apollos. First, he was an eloquent man: he spoke the word with grace, ease, and persuasiveness. Second, he was “mighty in the scriptures”: he was well-versed with the “Book of Books” and he used the scriptures properly for “he taught accurately the things of Jesus”. Third, he was “fervent in spirit”: he was anxious to share the knowledge he had with others. Fourth, he was deficient in knowledge: he knew “only the baptism of John” which would mean he knew nothing about the death and resurrection of Jesus for John only taught that the Messiah was coming. Apollos knew not that the kingdom of which John preached was “near” was here and that all men could be part of that kingdom through a “new birth” (John 3:3-5). He needed help and (perhaps through the providence of God) the help he needed was available to him, for when Priscilla and Aquila heard him they “… took him unto them and expounded unto him the way of the Lord more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

Another obviously good quality of Apollos was that despite the fact of his being very apt in the scriptures and able to express that knowledge well, he was not too proud to accept instructions which added significant knowledge to what he already had. John taught his disciples to “believe on him that came after him, that is on Jesus” (Acts 19:4). Since Apollos had been taught to believe on Jesus who came after John, he found in Priscilla and Aquila able teachers who soon corrected the deficiency in his knowledge.

Because Apollos wished to go to Achaia (Corinth), the brethren in Ephesus encouraged him and wrote the disciples there to receive him (Acts 18:27). This statement tells us that despite the fact that these disciples still assembled in the synagogue on the Sabbath, they knew the others who were disciples of Jesus as they were, communicated with each other and made decisions together, requiring a separate assembly. Therefore, we may properly conclude they met for synagogue worship on the Sabbath then also met somewhere on the Lord’s Day to remember their Lord, as He had commanded them (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The time would come when Paul would separate the disciples completely from the synagogue assembly (Acts 19:8-9).                                 

The newfound knowledge Apollos received aided him greatly so that he could benefit the Corinthian brethren Paul had recently left. The historian recorded the work Apollos did there “when he was come, he helped them much that had believed through grace; for he powerfully confounded the Jews and that publicly showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ”. Paul had left Corinth to preach elsewhere but Corinthian brethren still needed teaching from the scriptures and Apollos was able to help them. Paul wrote to brethren there, saying, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

We never reach the point when we “know it all”. There will never come a time, no matter how old we are nor what knowledge we possess, that we no longer need to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Timothy 2:15). We will always need to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:18). Remember, the knowledge which Apollos received did not come from Paul nor someone his equal; it came from two disciples who made tents for a living who were not “full-time” preachers. Those two growing disciples recognized in Apollos’ teaching a deficiency, a deficiency which they could correct and then they humbly (they took him privately) corrected his deficiency. The knowledge they supplied made Apollos a better qualified and safer teacher to “water” the newly-founded Corinthian church.

There is always a place in God’s kingdom for those who want to serve Him. There was a place for Paul; a place for Priscilla and Aquila; a place for Apollos and a place for me and you. Neither Paul, Priscilla, Aquila, or Apollos can do the work which you can do: their earthly pilgrimage is done. Jesus said “We must work the works of him that sent me while it is yet day. The night cometh when no man can work”. Night has come for Paul, Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos. It is still day for us. But, night will come before we know it. Let us work while still we can.

Jim McDonald

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