Sermon Summary - Apollos The Preacher/Teacher - Acts 18:18-28
Apollos The Preacher/Teacher
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Luke summarizes the last few months of Paul’s second missionary journey and the beginning of his third missionary journey with very little detail. This leaves unanswered questions such as, Why did Paul take a vow? What was the vow he took? Should he have taken a vow? And what exactly did Apollos know about the historical Jesus before Priscilla and Aquila taught him more accurately? While the unanswered questions are frustrating, this passage is also encouraging, because Luke gives us the picture that God has many servants. Someone has preached the gospel in Rome, most likely where Aquila and Priscilla were converted to Jesus, and someone has reached Alexandria, Egypt, where Apollos was converted to Jesus.
In Acts 18:18 Luke tells us how Paul cut off his hair because he was under a vow. What does that mean? In the Old Testament, a vow means one is separating themselves for a particular purpose or consecrating themselves unto the Lord. Vows are never commended in the New Testament to Christian Jews or to Christian Gentiles, but here Paul did it. From there, they jump on a ship to Ephesus and Paul goes directly to the Jews in the synagogue to preach (Acts 18:19). What is shocking is that these Jews, say, “don't leave, tell us more,” (Acts 18:20). And what's more shocking, Paul says, “No.” But he says, “if the Lord wills, I will come back here to you and this synagogue here in Ephesus,” (Acts 18:21). Evidently, the Lord willed, because a year later he made it back.
So he leaves Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus, a married couple who were close friends of his. They were Jewish believers, who were very able to share the gospel. A small Jewish community and possibly with Gentile God-fearers to begin with is there in Ephesus. Paul gets on the ship and he sails to Caesarea, then to Jerusalem and then to Antioch in Syria (Acts 18:22). He stays there for a few months and his second missionary journey comes to a close. Acts 18:23 begins Paul’s third missionary journey. Here Luke summarizes his 1300 mile journey in one verse. Paul goes back to all of these churches that he planted on his first and his second missionary journeys through the region of Galatia and Phrygia. Paul was not just driven to evangelism. He was deeply concerned about the spiritual growth of churches.
And now Luke directs his focus away from the Apostle Paul and onto Apollos in Acts 18:24-25. Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures.” He knew them backwards and forwards. But what Jesus commanded, for some reason, he doesn't know about. He knows of John's baptism of repentance and somehow he's teaching some things accurately about Jesus. But he has some some theological holes that Aquila and Priscilla hear and say, “ah, we need to fill him in” (Acts 18:26). His preaching as they hear it was not wrong. It just was incomplete. This very gifted, knowledgeable, smart man had the humility to receive correction from a tent maker and his wife.
So they're in the new church there, most likely having meetings already in Aquila and Priscilla's house. Apollos is there teaching and preaching. And then he felt like the Lord was calling him to Greece, Corinth, Athens and Cenchreae. So Aquila and Priscilla write a letter of recommendation for Apollos (Acts 18:27). When he arrives in the city of Corinth, he is very beneficial, first to the believers there. He was so powerful and competent with the scriptures, and he knew how to let the scriptures speak and shut the mouths of the adversaries of the Gospel (Acts 18:28). Secondly, Apollos and his preaching ministry to the church was a great boost to those who, through effectual grace, believe. And what this shows is that preaching the gospel to unbelievers in evangelism is important. But no less important is the ongoing preaching of the Gospel, and it's wonderful implications to the community of Christians (Eph. 4:11-16).
So Apollos is in Corinth, playing his part. He wasn't perfect, but like all of us, he was in process. And the Corinthians were in process (Cf. 1 Cor. 1:11-13). God uses people like Apollos who only knew the baptism of John. But he grew and he learned. We see later that Paul was greatly affirming and encouraging about Apollos’ ministry of the word (1 Cor. 16:12).
So a major core of the Christian life, is community. It is eating meals together in community for our spiritual nourishment. The scripture is the food of the soul for every true believer. And our key in the eating is to follow Apollos’ humility. Humility appreciates the Priscilla's and the Aquilas in our lives. And when the meal is served up in the preaching of the word, we are to come to the table, as the Corinthians did when Apollos arrived. And so, in preparing for mealtime on Sunday mornings, a word to the wise: you should not wait until you get here in order to prepare your heart. We should imitate Apollos, in his humility and teachability.
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