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
I intend to keep these questions and others that you feed me before us as we explore this passage:
- Why does Luke include this digression on Apollos at this point?
- How can Apollos be teaching about Jesus accurately?
- Where did he learn such things?
- How did he relate to Paul in order that Luke would slip him into Paul’s story?
- How is that he then needs to be taught more accurately by Priscilla and Aquila?
- What exactly was it that they needed to teach him?
- Was it only concerning baptisms that he required tutoring or more?
- What is the connection between Apollos’ time in Ephesus described in the insertion or the side track and Paul’s return to Ephesus in chapter nineteen?
- Was there tension between Paul and Apollos as some see in the words of the first letter to the Corinthians?
- Was it that Apollos’ teaching in Ephesus was inadequate?
I will leave my opening question, which came to mind as I started thinking about this passage more deeply, until the end so I can come to conclusions and not jump to conclusions. We will take the elements of the text one by one in order to understand this passage thoroughly.
- Is this passage a digression as some suggest?
- What is it that ties Paul to Apollos?
- What is Luke’s purpose in telling the story the way he has?
The timing of this is interesting to say the least. The way in which Paul and Apollos cross over in their time spent in Ephesus, then later on Apollos and Paul are in Ephesus at the same time. It is also interesting in the timeliness of Apollos being in Ephesus just after Paul had left and yet the providential element of him being there when Priscilla and Aquila were there, precisely the ones he needed to teach him. He taught at the synagogue to the best of his ability, having been instructed in the Way, and yet Pricilla and Aquila spot some inadequacies. So they take him aside or took him into their home in order to correct his inadequacies. Fascinating.
To begin, let’s analyze the first two verses of this passage to see what Luke tells us and what we can put together by reading between the lines.
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.Acta 18:24-25
I have emboldened the key words above. I will give you a glimpse behind the text from the meaning in Greek but then leave you to ponder the pieces in order to gather the meaning together, then we will step back and look at the overall meaning and purpose of what Luke has written for us.[logios] carries the meaning of “learned” or “educated” and “cultured” or “eloquent”, trained in the Greek arts of speech. [dunatos] “well versed”, “strong”, “capable” in his use of the Scriptures – or written word. Strong in his abilities to rightly handle the text of the sacred Scriptures. He had a good knowledge of the sacred writings and knew how to effectively use them.
Arrived from Alexandria – Alexandria developed as a centre for Christian learning on the north coast of Africa. We have a right to wonder where Apollos got his understanding firstly of the Scriptures, the Old Testament Tanakh. But as we shall see in the verses that follow, also his knowledge of the Way of the Christian faith and its relationship to Jesus or the LORD. Well the simple answer would be tied to the Ethiopian eunuch who was taught by Phillip and then took the message back to the north coast of Africa. It is clear that the teaching related to the Way, spread into the African continent in the early years and later learning centres were developed in Alexandria, Carthage and in Ethiopia. If Jews were there (and they were) then the Tanakh was there. Clearly Apollos had received training from his time in Alexandria.
Next we are told that he had been taught the way of the Lord (or some texts read God). The word used in the Greek text here is the word [katechemenos] or “catechize” – related to the Catechisms which became a summary of the agreed principles of the Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, in set modules used for religious instruction. The set body of teaching and interpretation that was passed on from generation to generation. At this stage in Apollos’ training such catechism could not have been in the form later used the Catholic Church but an initial set form in which the teaching about Christ and its significance was spread geographically.
- Apollos had been trained in Alexandria and had been taught the Scriptures (read Jewish Old Testament) and how to understand and use them.
- But also he had been taught the way of the Lord (God)
- He had been taught about Jesus through the stories and the account of the events of Christ and their connections with the Tanakh.
- It was [akribos] “accurate” – the teaching received was careful, well taught to ensure the understanding maintained the accuracy or veracity.
What was accurate? Well both the way in which Apollos had been taught and the way in which Apollos then taught in return. The word [akribos] appears both in verse 25 and again in verse 26. Luke emphasizes for us that Apollos was taught accurately the things concerning Jesus and that what he taught as a consequence of that was accurate [akribos]. It reminds me of the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others (accurately).” This is the way in which the Christian truth was passed on.
Not only did Apollos have the training required to do this but he was [zeo] in the way in which he did it. “Enthusiastic”, “fervent”, “burning with zeal”, “on the boil”. This could mean that he was full of human enthusiasm or passion or it could mean he was “boiling over with the Holy Spirit that had come into him” – One or other or both are in unison.
F F Bruce in the New International Commentary series on Acts puts it as – “Apollos combined great biblical learning and accurate knowledge of the story of Jesus with spiritual enthusiasm.”
So where was his inadequacy?
As a bird cannot exhaust the air in the sky nor a fish exhaust the water in the sea neither can we exhaust the grace of God.C.H. Spurgeon
It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop being restricted by old ideas.Ian Vail
We need to learn to apply the old tried and tested truths of God in new and relevant ways.Ian Vail
The best church for you to attend is one that doesn’t cater to you but calls you to serve others!Ian Vail
It’s funny how people will believe everything the media says but question everything The Bible says.Ian Vail