The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
APOLLOS, MIGHTY IN THE SCRIPTURES
- We are introduced to Apollos in Acts 18:24.
- Apollos is mentioned ten times in Scripture (cf. 19:1). In addition to the book of Acts, he is mentioned seven times in the book of I Corinthians, and is also mentioned in Titus 3:13, where the apostle Paul says, "Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them."
- Apollos was named after Apollo, a prominent heathen deity, worshipped by both the Greeks and the Romans. Apollo was the son of Zeus, whom the heathen considered the "Father of gods and men."
- Zeus supposedly ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus the way a father rules his family.
- Acts 18:24 says Apollos was a Jew, and many scholars have wondered how Jewish parents could name their son after a pagan god.
- Therefore, some have speculated that Apollos' parents were Gentiles who later converted to Judaism, i.e., proselytes (cf. 2:10; 6:5; 13:43).
- Therefore Apollos may have been brought up as a Jew by religion, but not he was not a Jew by nationality.
- Apollos was born in Alexandria (18:24), an Egyptian city situated on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It was the second largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome).
- Alexandria boasted the greatest library of antiquity, with 700,000 volumes, and was known for its philosophy, literature, and rhetoric.
- There were many Jews living in Alexandria. In Apollos' day, perhaps one-third of the people were Jewish.
- The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek in Alexandria. This translation, known as the Septuagint, helped spread the Word of God throughout the Greek-speaking world.
APOLLOS WAS MIGHTY IN THE SCRIPTURES (18:24).
- This same word "mighty" is used in Acts 7:22 where it says, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds."
- In addition to being "mighty in the scriptures," Apollos was also "an eloquent man" (18:24). This is the only time we see the word "eloquent" in the New Testament.
- Strong's Concordance says the word means, "learned, a man of letters, skilled in literature and the arts, especially versed in history and the antiquities; skilled in speech."
- Therefore, Apollos was a very impressive man, a man of culture and great ability, with strong rhetorical powers. Apollos was so eloquent and so fervent that some Christians actually preferred his preaching to Paul's. "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ" (I Cor. 1:12).
- We often read verses like Acts 18:24 without considering their great significance. Apollos was "mighty in the scriptures" in a day when few people could even read and write, and even fewer had access to the Scriptures. Yet Apollos was "mighty in the scriptures."
- Here is an interesting quote from D. Edmond Hiebert, "His native abilities and educational advantages had been sanctified in their subjection to the task of communicating revealed truth in a vivid and arresting manner. This occupation with the Old Testament Scriptures laid the foundation for his future usefulness in the Christian church. No substitute yet exists for an experiental mastery of the Word of God" (In Paul's Shadow).
- "No substitute yet exists for an experiental mastery of the Word of God." May we desire to be "mighty in the scriptures" like Apollos!
- When Apollos arrived at Ephesus he soon discovered that the Gospel seed had already been planted by the apostle Paul. Later on, Paul said in I Corinthians 3:6, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."
APOLLOS WAS FERVENT IN THE SPIRIT (18:25).
- This word "fervent" is found only twice in the New Testament. The other reference is Romans 12:11, "Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."
- The word "fervent" means, "zealous." It literally means, "boiling over." Apollos was boiling over in his zeal to preach the Gospel.
- The prophet Jeremiah was a fervent preacher. He said, "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jer. 20:9).
- We need more fervent preachers like Jeremiah, and we need more fervent preachers like Apollos! The great evangelist George Whitefield was such a fervent preacher. He would stand on a hill and preach to thousands of people. Millions heard him preach the Gospel.
- David Garrick was considered the greatest Shakespearean actor of the 18th century. David Garrick said, "I would give a hundred guineas, if I could say 'Oh' like George Whitefield."
- Whitefield's friend John Wesley was a fervent preacher. Charles Finney was a fervent preacher. These men saw great revivals.
- Because Apollos was "fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord" (18:25).
- Fervency is evident in the believer's speech.
- Apollos had been "instructed in the way of the Lord," and he "taught diligently (accurately) the things of the Lord," but he knew "only the baptism of John" (18:25).
- We cannot be sure exactly what this means. Certainly Apollos understood that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Being "mighty in the scriptures" Apollos would be familiar with the great Messianic prophecies like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.
- Apollos knew the facts of our Lord's earthly life and the miracles He did, but perhaps he had incomplete information concerning our Lord's death, and resurrection, and ascension, and His presence now at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.
- Perhaps Apollos was unclear about what happened on the day of Pentecost when the believers were all baptized by the Holy Spirit.
- Perhaps Apollos was unclear about the local church. Whether Apollos had traveled directly from Alexandria to Ephesus is not stated, but he probably had not visited Jerusalem or Antioch, where he would have learned "the way of God more perfectly" (18:26).
- Someone said Apollos "was in the dimness of the dawn, and he mistook it for noonday" (Herbert S. Seekings, cited by Hiebert).
APOLLOS WAS TEACHABLE (18:26-28).
- Oftentimes, educated, scholarly people are proud and unteachable. But this was not the case with Apollos. He was a humble man of God.
- We never finish learning (especially when it comes to learning the Bible), and we certainly can learn from others, even humble tent-makers like Aquila and Priscilla (18:26; cf. 18:1-3).
- Aquila and Priscilla had a big advantage over Apollos because they had been discipled by the apostle Paul (cf. 18:1-3, 11, 18, 19).
- So when Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue, Aquila and Priscilla "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (18:26).
- This means Aquila and Priscilla did not want to correct Apollos in front of other people, so they took him aside privately (18:26).
- What they taught him did not contradict his doctrine, but rather completed and confirmed it -- "more perfectly" (exactly, accurately).
- Adam Clarke said, "This eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, who was even a public teacher, was not ashamed to be indebted to the instructions of a Christian woman."
- Undoubtedly it was through the influence of Aquila and Priscilla that Apollos was disposed (desired) to pass into the province of Achaia (18:27). Aquila and Priscilla probably told Apollos all about the flourishing church in Corinth.
- The brethren in Ephesus gave Apollos a letter of commendation, encouraging the church in Corinth to receive him (18:27; cf. 19:1).
- This is the first known reference to letters of commendation, a practice that is still with us to this day.
- In II Corinthians 3:1, Paul says, "Need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?"
- The fact that there were other "brethren" in Ephesus besides Aquila and Priscilla indicates that the church in Ephesus had already been established. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians was written about ten years later. By that time it was an established church.
- So Apollos moved on to Corinth, where he greatly helped those "which had believed through grace" (18:27). " For he mightily (forcibly and vigorously) convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ" (18:28).
- The Scofield Study Bible says "mightily convinced" means "powerfully confuted," i.e., Apollos vigorously argued with them and refuted them.
- I have been preaching tonight about the great preacher Apollos, but I do not want to underestimate the influence of the godly couple who "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (18:26).
- Aquila and Priscilla are referred to six times in the Bible -- three times here in Acts 18; Romans 16:3-5; I Corinthians 16:19; and II Timothy 4:19.
- Both Romans 16:5 and I Corinthians 16:19 refer to "the church that is in their house." Not all of us are called to preach, but we can open our homes to people and teach them the Word of God.