Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah.Acts 18:24-28
- What exactly was it that they needed to teach him?
- Was it only concerning baptisms that he required tutoring or more?
- What conclusions do you come to concerning what Luke meant when he wrote, “however, he knew only about John’s baptism.”?
I will take you back for a moment to Apollos’ strengths.
- Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt.
- He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism.
What makes sense for me is to look at Apollos as a well-trained Jew. He was also trained in the ways of the Greeks in Alexandria. He had been trained in eloquence and presentation techniques and public oratory. He was familiar with the Tanakh and had been taught the text and how to interpret it. I am not sure if he had reached the level of Beth Midrash – the House of Allusion. Neither am I sure that he was fully aware of all the teaching of Jesus. I guess the issue lies with the word “accuracy” [akribos]. Many think the accuracy was related to the methods rather than the content. What was it that he knew of the Way of the Lord. I suspect he knew the story of Jesus and the facts about Him. But I doubt whether he had been made aware of the depth of Jesus teaching.
Let’s look at the words “he knew only the baptism of John”: Luke presents this thought as a limitation. I.e. Apollos only knew baptism to the degree that John the Baptist knew it. John had preached the coming of Messiah and had even baptized Jesus as Messiah. Yet John really only knew to the point where he asked his disciples to go and ask if Jesus was the Messiah or were they to wait for another? John had identified Jesus as Messiah and even proclaimed that He (Jesus) would be the One to baptized in the Holy Spirit. But what did that mean to John? To most Hellenists (Greek speaking citizens) the concept of baptism related to ceremonial washings for religious cleansing. John’s baptism was the initiatory rite of joining the Messianic community. It is expressly a term related to the “baptism of repentance”. When Jesus was baptized by John, He did not need the baptism of repentance for His own sin. It was a statement of the fact that John was preparing the way for One who was greater. It was a sign of his Messiahship, not of His need to repent of sin.
The religious world of the time associated baptism as a rite whereby you could be baptized in the name of a god in order to make a statement that you belonged to the god into whose name you were baptized. John the Baptist made it clear to us that Jesus Himself didn’t need John’s baptism but rather he needed to be baptized by Jesus. John the Apostle and the writer of the Gospel made it clear that Jesus didn’t baptize people for repentance – rather He was the way to repentance to fulfil the Law. On the contrary this One would baptize in the Holy Spirit. What would John the Baptist have understood by that term? Especially when he was hazy as to whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah or not. His problem is most likely to be that he is looking at the Messiah and what He would do from a limited Jewish perspective. One who is coming as a King, not one is who coming as a suffering servant to save all mankind. John the Apostle make it clear in his Gospel that this One was none other than God in the flesh.
John the Baptist had the benefit of seeing the dove coming down on Jesus to the extent where he said, “I saw the dove coming down on Him and I keep seeing it.” (Bible Gem 14) It was burned into his mind. But he had not seen the Cross, nor more importantly the Resurrection, nor more practically the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit would be poured out. He had not been in the Upper Room when Jesus breathed on the disciples and imparted the Spirit to them. John the Baptist had no idea that the Spirit was meant to indwell the believer in a way never before imagined. Yet there was a hint of what was to happen with the Parable of the two sisters – Oholah and Oholibah – “Her Tent” and “My Tent is within Her”. (Ezekiel 23) It was always God intention to place His Law and His Presence within His people. The idea of the indwelling Spirit of God was a mystery to the Jews. It was only revealed in Jesus even though all three major prophets referred to it. John the Baptist was still locked into old Judaic concepts as were all the Jewish teachers of the Law. In fact they put more emphasis on the Oral Law (The Mishnah) than the TANAKH. Ultimately they taught that the convocation of the Rabbis was stronger than God Himself. John the Baptist had no concept of what he was saying when he spoke out God’s words over Jesus. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost had not yet occurred.
When Luke uses the words “Apollos only knew the baptism of John” this is most likely what he was meaning. How could John the Baptist know more of the Baptism of the Spirit before Pentecost? How could Apollos know the full story without experiencing Pentecost? Thus he has a significant inadequacy – one which Priscilla and Aquila explained to him. They must have taken Apollos aside (or to the privacy of their home) and explained the indwelling of the Spirit more fully. Armed with this awareness of the full message of God in Christ, Apollos was far more equipped to explain the ways and the ultimate purpose of God in Christ – explaining the way of God even more accurately. After explanation from Priscilla and Aquila and no doubt practical ministry Apollos was now able to minister the Spirit of God as well.
Thus Apollos was now better equipped to go and minister to the saints in Achaia and so the believers in Ephesus encourage him to do what he had in his heart to do. Even to the point of writing a letter of recommendation for him to the saints in Achaia. Take note, this is the first formal mention of a letter of recommendation being written. It matches too the reference Paul made in 2 Corinthians 3 and 5 to letters of recommendation being needed. The influence of the false apostles was such that they questioned even Paul’s credentials to minister, so it is interesting here that a letter of recommendation is drafted by those in Ephesus for Apollos to take with him. Now Apollos is armed with a letter of recommendation and more fully aware of, and understanding the work of Holy Spirit in his ministry. So he goes off to debate and refute the Jews in Achaia (including Athens). Corinth was in this region as well but across the isthmus in Peloponnese.
YOU are the only person on earth who can use your ability.
Anything That You Do Repeatedly Overshadows Anything That You Do Occasionally.Robb Thompson
Yield your ambitions, dreams and desires to God. Let God be God. It’s his job, and He’s really good at it.Ian Vail
If you’re gonna be a bridge, you better be prepared to be walked on!Ian Vail
Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.Mark Twain