Study 8 APOLLOS: MIGHTY IN THE WORD
(Scripture Portion: Acts 18: 24 to 19:7)
All that we know about Apollos is recorded in Acts 18:24-28; 19:1;
1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 3:4-6; 16:12 and Titus 3:13. Apollos was a Jew (Acts 18:24). Alexandria was a celebrated city of Egypt, situated on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean, which was named after Alexander the Great who founded it. All that we are told about Apollos gives us ample material for our study, but there are several special lessons that will emerge.
1. Apollos was a man who possessed outstanding gifts.
We learn this from Acts 18:24-26, and we should notice the following:
- He was a learned man. Evidently Apollos was a great orator, probably even greater than Paul, and that is saying something - look up 2 Corinthians 10:10; and whenever he preached great crowds assembled to listen to him. This eloquence was a natural gift, which he had developed by experience and hard work.
- He had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He was a master of the Old Testament scriptures, and he had a great gift of exposition - he had the knowledge, plus the power to express what he knew. In order to become “mighty in the scriptures” he must have constantly studied the Word, comparing scripture with scripture, as did the Bereans - look up Acts 17:11. The exhortation for ourselves is 2 Timothy 2:15!
- He was instructed in the way of the Lord. This is a phrase which links us with John the Baptist - look up Luke 3:4 and 7:27. Apollos had come into contact with John the Baptist, or with some of John’s disciples, and he had been baptised and had also embraced his teaching. Apollos preached what John had preached years before. Are we “instructed in the way of the Lord”?
- Apollos spoke with great fervour. His soul was on fire and his enthusiasm overflowed - look up and compare Matthew 12:34 last part! God needs holy enthusiasts. If folk can become so enthusiastic about their football, their music or their political views, should we not be “boiling”, (for that is what the word ‘fervent’ means), about the gospel and the things of the Lord? - look up Romans 12:11. Matthew Henry calls Apollos “a lively, affectionate preacher”. We need to catch his enthusiasm!
- He was diligent, “careful” and “accurate”. So transcendent a theme as the gospel demands great diligence, care and accuracy of exposition on the part of its exponents. Beware of being slip-shod in doing God’s work. Always prepare and prosecute His work with prayer and care.
- He taught only the things of the Lord. He kept to the Book. He preached the Word - no mere political discourses would fall from Apollos’ lips - look up 2 Timothy 4:2.
- He was bold and courageous. He believed his message and he delivered it without fear or favour.
What a fine example of a preacher and worker Apollos was! And yet …
2. There was a very great lack in Apollos’ experience and in his ministry.
Like the twelve men in Acts 19:1-7, (who were probably his “converts”), and from Acts 18:25, we learn that Apollos knew “only the baptism of John”. John’s baptism was the baptism unto repentance - an act of confession and turning from sin which anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Apollos evidently had not heard that Messiah had come; that the Lord Jesus had lived and died upon Calvary’s cross, and had fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53:5-6); had risen, ascended and been exalted; and had poured forth the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. All this means that:
- Apollos was not a Christian in the full New Testament sense of the word. A Christian is one who believes that the Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth and has died for him and who receives Him into his heart as his personal Saviour (John 1:12), and confesses Him publicly by word of mouth (Romans 10:9-10).
- Apollos did not know the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He was not born again (John 3:3-5); a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17); or a member of His Body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Apollos only preached part of the Truth. He had great academic qualities, and all that he said was true, but he lacked spiritual understanding and discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14), and power (Acts 1:8), and he did not preach the gospel. He was like many today! Consequently, his ministry lacked convicting and converting power.
3. Apollos was led into the full light of the gospel by two humble folk.
Read about it in Acts 18:26. These two dear souls detected a lack in this man’s ministry. They did not criticise him or speak to others about this lack, but they prayerfully sought to help, and God owned and blessed their efforts. How humble the great and eloquent Apollos was to listen and receive instruction from Aquila and Priscilla, who preached the gospel to him and led him into its full blessing!
4. Apollos was only able to help others up to the level of his own spiritual experience.
That is all any of us can do. How different Apollos’ ministry was after he himself was rejoicing in a present, powerful, living Saviour! Probably the twelve men in Acts 19:1-7 lacked a full understanding of the gospel, and the way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus, because they had followed Apollos.
5. Apollos reminds us of the great diversity of gifts in operation in the Church.
Look up 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 - “Paul planted …Apollos watered… ”, and compare 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. We cannot all be planters, but we can all be waterers - watering the Lord’s vineyards with our prayers.
6. Apollos also reminds us that the servant is nothing and that God is everything.
Look up 1 Corinthians 3:6 “Paul… Apollos… but God gave the increase” - compare 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.
7. We must always be careful to respect the decisions made by our fellow-believers.
We must not judge or criticise others if they believe they are in the Lord’s will. They are responsible to the Lord for their own actions, and we must respect their judgment – look up 1 Corinthians 16:12.
Final Note: Martin Luther was of the opinion that Apollos wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews!