Sunday, November 13, 2016

Understanding the Way of God More Perfectly

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 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. 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:For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." 
Acts 18:24-28, KJV

We need more Aquilas and Priscillas. 
Many of my fellow Christians enjoy going to their churches, participating in small groups, Sunday School classes, and services. They may like to dig into the word of God, read some Christian books and claim some Bible promises here and there. Then there are the men and women that take it to the next level, and like to geek out on Bible study: they devour commentaries, underline and highlight every other verse in their Bibles and are usually up for a theological debate on Facebook, and spread the word in some form or fashion elsewhere. You might say some of these passionate Christians fashion themselves to be modern-day Apolloses - eloquent and mighty in the scriptures (at least in their own minds).
Apollos was more than likely well-educated. The Bible points out he came from Alexandria, Egypt on purpose. It was an epicenter of learning, philosophy and education in Biblical times and was famous for its library ( The Bible also states that he was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures. You can imagine that he could hold people's interest with the way he spoke and he knew his Bible very well. At that point, much of the New Testament was still being written, so he would have been more familiar with the Old Testament and its prophecies of a coming Messiah. He had heard of and been taught according to the ministry of John the Baptist. He was very passionate about his faith to the point where he would visit synagogues and preach and teach "diligently the things of the Lord". 
Now on one particular Saturday, he was visiting a synagogue in the Greek city of Ephesus. As was his custom, Apollos began to preach, teach, and proclaim what he knew "boldly". I believe he was thundering away and the man was on point. I believe he was able to have much of the effect that old John the Baptist did when he would preach by the river Jordan: people weeping and responding in repentance and getting baptized. But on this particular Sabbath, something different happened. There was this sweet Christian couple in attendance that loved the Lord dearly and who just happened to have had the opportunity to be educated at the feet of the Apostle to the Gentiles himself - Paul. When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos,  I think they looked at each other and they recognized that the man was gifted and his heart was in the right place. They could also tell from his teaching that he was ignorant. He only knew part of the story. So, with love and encouragement, they pulled him aside when the opportunity was right and proceeded to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle for him.
What was the result? By the time he got to Achaia he "helped them much that had believed through grace" and "mightily convinced the Jews" and could point out in the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. So how was this teaching different than the baptism of John? First, remember that John was beheaded before Jesus was crucified. The New Testament didn't go into effect until the death of Christ as Hebrews 9:16 teaches us, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." John the Baptist's ministry was that of a Jew preaching to other Jews that were under the Old Testament Law. His ministry was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah (Matt. 3:3) and he proclaimed,  "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:" (Matt. 3:11). Many of the religious leaders of the day prided themselves in following the letter of the Mosaic Law and putting on an outward show, but on the inside, they were cold and dead.  "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27 KJV) So, Apollos, was used to preaching repentance to Jews under the Old Testament Law...calling them to turn from a dead spirituality and instead follow God from the heart. Yet Aquila and Priscilla corrected him and showed him that true salvation comes from believing in Christ - a free gift by the grace of God that can only be received by faith. Even turning over a new leaf by repenting and following the Law of God from the heart could not accomplish what Christ had freely offered on the cross. Paul the Apostle would later write a letter to the church of Ephesus where Aquila and Priscilla were located, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 KJV) So, Apollos, with the humility to receive the truth, amended his knowledge and beliefs and subsequently went on to "mightily convince the Jews" not only of believing through grace but showing that Jesus was the promised Messiah - the Christ.
There are many well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ out there who are like Apollos when he first showed up at Ephesus. They are eloquent, mighty in the scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, and speak and teach the word of God diligently. Yet, like Apollos did, they fall short of understanding and teaching the New Covenant Gospel - a gospel of 100% grace by 100% faith. They sing, "Jesus paid it all, All to him I owe, Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow...", yet in practice they feel and think and behave like he didn' they need to do more or be more or that some of the debt is left unpaid by Jesus and they still have to "take care of it". So, yes, be like Apollos in all those ways (eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, etc), but also be like him in receiving the way of God more perfectly. Put away the Old Covenant, put away the baptism of John, and fully embrace and rest in the New Covenant, the finished work of Christ and the grace of God. After that, then follow the loving example of Aquila and Priscilla and help the brethren to truly know, experience, live, love and teach the grace of God.