Apollos Goes from Ephesus to Corinth Part 1 of 3

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

June 2, 2015


Acts of the Apostles


Acts 18:24-28 (KJV)

24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 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.
26 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.
27 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:
28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.



Introduction

Paul began his third mission by visiting for the third time the churches established on his first missionary journey. His ultimate destination was Ephesus, where he had left Priscilla and Aquila. Before Paul’s return, the two encountered Apollos, who came to Ephesus from Alexandria. Luke describes him as a Jew who knew of Jesus and taught accurately about Him. But he was deficient in his Christian knowledge, knowing only of Johns’ baptism (v. 25). Priscilla and Aquila soon instructed him more accurately. He eventually went to Corinth. Paul in 1 Corinthians referred to Apollos’s ministry in Corinth a number of times.

This episode (18:24-28) and the following (19:1-7) underscore the transitional nature of this phase of church history. It may be assumed from 19:1-7 that Apollos had not received Christian baptism and probably had not received the Holy Spirit.


Commentary

24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.

It is evident the Lord intended that there be a major breakthrough for the gospel at “Ephesus.” First Paul had visited the city at the end of his second missionary journey, and had captured the interest of the entire Jewish community. Then Aquila and Priscilla decided to stay there, set up in business, and cultivate the ground in preparation for Paul’s return. During the time Paul was absent from Ephesus a church had been started, probably under the influence of Aquila and Priscilla. Now comes Apollos1 of “Alexandria,” gifted, eloquent, scholarly, and convinced that Jesus was Savior and Lord.

“Alexandria,” situated on the Nile delta in Egypt, was the second largest city (600,000-800,000) in the Roman Empire. It was famous for its lighthouse on the narrow island of Pharos, for its museum, for its university, and for its library, which ultimately contained 700,000 volumes. There was a large Jewish colony in the city. In New Testament times Jews made up about one-third of the population of the city. It was at Alexandria that the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek Septuagint version. There was a Jewish temple in Alexandria. The great center of the early church moved from Jerusalem and Antioch to Alexandria, and it remained important for several centuries of early church history. Alexandria was the home, too, of the Jewish scholar Philo, who lived there shortly after the birth of Christ. Philo, deeply influenced by the philosophy of Plato, tried to wed Biblical revelation to Platonic ideology. Athanasius, Tertullian, and Augustine, three great men of the early church, came from there. Apollos was obviously influenced by this background.

“And a certain Jew named Apollos,” “came to Ephesus.” His name, “Apollos,” is Greek. So he was a Hellenistic “Jew” of the Diaspora. He was a sufficiently important figure in the early church to warrant this mention of his coming to the metropolis of Ephesus. It shows us something of what was going on there before Paul’s return. By that time, Apollos had gone, but later Paul and Apollos were together in Ephesus, and it is clear from a number of references in Paul’s own writings that he regarded Apollos as a friend and a valued colleague (1 Corinthians 3:5-9; 16:12; Titus 3:13 (NIV)—“Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.”).

Apollos was a Jew “born at Alexandria,” which meant he had the background of the Mosaic Law. Somewhere along the line Apollos had been brought in touch with the gospel, had become a believer, and his great talents and abilities were placed wholeheartedly at the command of the Lord. One of his travels brought him to Ephesus, where he found that the gospel seeds had already been planted by Paul. He at once began to water the ground (1 Corinthians 3:6 (KJV)—“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase”). Soon God did give the increase.

Apollos was “an eloquent man,” trained in rhetoric and philosophy, whom God had endowed with considerable gifts, one of which was the ability to effectively preach that portion of God’s Word that he was familiar with at that time.

Apollos was not only a great communicator, he was well educated “and mighty in the scriptures.” More specifically, he had a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament “Scriptures.”This was the basis of his preaching in both Ephesus and Corinth. There is no way to tell how much of this man’s superior preaching was due to a gift of the spirit and how much was pure natural ability. If he had never been a Christian man, he would have been a mighty orator, and a leader of men. If a man has no gift of speech by nature, do not imagine God wants that man for a preacher, because He does not. (Some of you might disagree with that statement, and that’s all right; it is only my opinion.) He may have equally important work for him to do, but a preacher is born, not made. This man was “mighty in the scriptures,” and was gifted by nature with a gift which every man does not possess. It was a distinct ability, a natural power to know “the Scriptures,” and to see their inter-relationships. He was familiar with all their meanings and their relevance. He had a familiarity with “the Scriptures” which enabled him to impart to others that which he knew. This man, therefore, by birth and training, was remarkably well fitted for work in these Greek cities.

Apollos “came to Ephesus” while Paul was making the journey described in the previous verse Lesson: IV.D.1: Paul in Galatia and Phrygia (18:23).

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