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Bible Gemz 1759 - Paul and Apollos Compared - Who was the GOAT? (Acts 18:24-28)

February 11, 2018

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 18:27-28)



Was there conflict or rivalry between them?


There is no evidence whatsoever that there was conflict between Paul and Apollos. 


Here are all the references to Apollos in the New Testament:


Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” (! Cor 1:12)


When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. (1 Cor 3:4-6)


So whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

 (1 Cor 3:22, 23)


So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. (1 Cor 4:1, 6)


Now about our brother Apollos—I urged him to visit you with the other believers, but he was not willing to go right now. He will see you later when he has the opportunity. (1 Cor 16:12)


Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos with their trip. See that they are given everything they need. (Tit 3:13)



Is there any hint that there was a problem between them?


I think not.  The division was not being driven by rivalry between Paul and Apollos, the division was driven by the Corinthians themselves and fueled by the false apostles who were claiming Paul was not a true apostle because he was not successful as the world measures success. Look at the boasts Paul makes throughout his second letter to the Corinthians. He boasts of his weaknesses not his strengths. Paul’s weaknesses bring forth Christ’s strength and power. His argument is designed to show we shouldn’t look for success as the world sees it. Rather we should follow God. That may bring pain, suffering, and apparent failure but God is the One who turns it to good and profit for the recipients of the gospel. 


It was the false apostles, expressed in the words of their Corinthian followers who claimed Paul couldn’t speak well, was incoherent fool, a babbler, boring, weak in eloquence and nothing. Certainly not Paul himself. Where Paul writes such things it is with an ironic twist. It would have almost been better if he had written, my critics say . . . but he didn’t. So it appears Paul himself is saying he is those things, when in reality it was his opponents who were claiming such things. 


The way Paul has written the above statements indicates Apollos was in agreement with him on these things. However we cannot know for sure because there is no record from Apollos that has survived from antiquity.  Some claim Apollos wrote the Letter to the Hebrews but it is impossible to substantiate. If he did, there is certainly no hint found within Apollos had an issue with Paul and what’s more Apollos name is not mentioned at all in the content. The only Biblical references are found above.  Jerome wrote that Apollos was so upset by the divisions in Corinth on the part of the factions that he retreated to Crete and only returned to the Corinth once the division was healed by Paul’s letters. 



Was Apollos a better preacher than Paul?


One of those who initially asked me the questions in this vein has answered his own question: 

How do you define better? Each of us have spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and it is how we use them. Both men used their gifts working together for God. Both were successful in their own way in spreading the Gospel. The old adage ‘horses for courses’ applies here with Paul in Ephesus and Apollos in Corinth. There is no doubt that Apollos spoke with great fervour but he spoke only of the baptism of John and Paul could be a boring speaker (2 Cor 10:10).”  It seems you are siding with Paul’s critics here. I don't think Paul was in any way boring. Paul himself could be passionate, enthusiastic and full of zeal as well. 


Just check your own experience here dear reader. How do we measure preachers in order to decide the best? The appeal of one preacher over another is a purely subjective thing. Just be grateful that God has given you variety and leave it at that. Yes some preachers can be boring but I think neither Paul nor Apollos fit into that category given the evidence of the Bible. But then I have never heard either one of them preach.  



Did Apollos have more success than Paul in Ephesus? 


Those who think this, think it on the basis of claims that Paul failed before the Areopagus in Athens and they claim that his comments in his first letter to the Corinthians show that he was not going to try the intellectual method again. From that point on Paul would only preach Christ crucified.  Some claim from Luke in Acts 18:28 - He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate. Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah – that this makes it clear that Apollos had great success. But so too did Paul, Luke makes that clear too. The overall purpose of Acts is to show the success of the gospel in any and all situations. There is not the slightest hint that Luke was comparing Paul with any other preacher or apostle, Apollos, Peter or anyone else.   Preachers are merely seed planters, it is the power and the Spirit of God which brings the results, not the prowess of men and women. Never forget that fact. To compare preachers of old with modern day preachers to seek to determine who was the Greatest Of All Time (the GOAT) is fruitless. It is a pointless exercise. 



You can’t persuade anyone into the kingdom and if you do they will most likely leave when the going gets tough, and it will. Ian


The more concerned you become with things that you can't control, the less you will do to improve the things you can control. John Maxwell 


You are dangerous to the enemy when you value what God says more than the affirmation of others. Ian


When people praise you, don't let it go to your head. When they criticize you, don't let it get to your heart. Nicky Gumbel


People only bring up your past when they are intimidated by your present! Rick Godwin


Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until they open their mouths.





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