Understanding The Bible
"Apollos: The Minister Who Was Willing to Learn"

APOLLOS: The Minister who was willing to learn
"But concerning Apollos our brother ... "  1 Corinthians 16:12

J. Deering, AncientPath.net

Quick Links to specific locations in the text below:

1.  Introduction to Apollos 2.  Keeping within the bound of definite knowledge
3.  Criticism well received 4.  Humbleness at the feet of Jesus
5.  Gratitude for new light 6.  Encouragement makes the difference
7.  Differing gifts bring great blessing 8.  The constructive builder VS the destructive critic
9.  When to keep your nose out of things  

A man who can divide honors with Paul is worthy of study.

Acts 18:24a
"Now a certain Jew named Apollos, and Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, Alexandrian by Birth."

History Of Alexandrian Culture
In Alexandria the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible was made, and this Greek Old Testament exerted a tremendous influence on the Jews of the Dispersion and upon early Christians.

Alexandria had the greatest library of antiquity and a great university.

Apollos was acquainted with the new rhetoric of Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Mosaism, and the new exegetical method, and knew how to express his opinions with force.

"A Mighty Interpreter Of The Scriptures"
Luke (Book of Acts) calls him an eloquent man (logious) (which also means learned).  Apollos was "able" (dunatos) in the use of the Scriptures (dynamic, dynamite).  Apollos was "fervent in spirit."  Paul commends fervency (Romans 12:11) as one of the marks of sincerity.  The word means literally boiling over.

Taught in Synagogues "The Baptism of John"
AD 56 came to Ephesus
Acts 18:24b (continued)
"Came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.  (25) The man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John;"

Acts 18:26  "He began to speak boldly in the synagogue."

Apollos did not lack the courage of his convictions and was careful in his statements about Jesus to keep within the bounds of his definite knowledge.

He is apparently the first Christian preacher who expounds Christianity from the standpoint of the philosophy of Alexandria.

Met Priscilla and Aquila
Acts 18:26
"But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately."

Learned of the Perfection of Christ
It is always a tragedy for a minister to be deficient in his knowledge of the cross of Christ.

The Care of the Correctors
Aquila and Priscilla were evidently surprised and delighted with this remarkable preacher and saw at once the obvious defects in his knowledge of the Gospel.  But they did not stop with this discovery, nor did they indulge in public criticism of the limitations of Apollos as an expounder of the faith. They could easily have closed the door of service for this brilliant man.  But they apparently invited him home after worship, probably for dinner.  "They took him unto them", (indirect middle) took him to themselves."

Criticism is a delicate task, a sort of spiritual surgery, and, though greatly needed, is very difficult to perform without doing more harm than good.  Preachers, like musicians, are highly sensitive, particularly about their sermons and their knowledge of the Gospel which is their specialty.  Apollos had a great acquaintance with the Scriptures and philosophy and rhetoric.  He was lacking in some important items about Jesus.  It would have been easy to give him offense and to add to his eccentricity.  But Priscilla and Aquila were beyond a doubt people of tact.  They "expounded unto him the way of God more accurately" (akribesteron auto exethento).  Fortunately they did not have to contravene any of his positions.  He was correct as far as he went.  Only he did not go far enough.

The attitude of learning
Here is a profound student of the Scriptures, a master in Old Testament interpretation, who is glad to sit at the feet of Priscilla and Aquila and learn more of Jesus.  That is the place for all of us, at the feet of any one who can teach us more about Jesus.  We cannot know too much about Him.  We cannot be to accurate in our knowledge of Him. The passion of Paul in his later years was to know Jesus, for Christ always eludes us just a bit.  There is always more to learn about the unsearchable riches of Christ.

One can easily imagine how the heart of Apollos burned within him and how his eyes glistened as he learned of the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecostal Power of the Holy Spirit, the Gentile campaign for world conquest.  Evidently Apollos exhibited profound gratitude for the new light that had been turned upon the great problems of Christianity.

There is hope for the man who is ready to learn.  One is never to old to learn. The minister who is always learning will always have a hearing.  There is no dead line for him. That comes the minute one stops learning. Apollos is rebuke to the preacher who is content to preach his old sermons through the years without reading the new books or mastering the old ones.

Preached in Achaia
Acts 18:27
"And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace;  (28) for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

He seemed to be just the type of man that would suit the situation in Corinth.  Priscilla and Aquila knew Corinth well; and the Corinthian brethren in Ephesus no doubt felt that they had made a great "find" for their church in the metropolis, just like a modern pulpit committee.

Preached in Corinth (By the recommendation of the brethren in Ephesus), he watered the seed of Paul.

It will be recalled that in Corinth the Jews had blasphemed Paul for preaching this very doctrine (Acts 18:6) and had brought Paul before Gallio.  The issue was still sharply drawn between Jews and Christians in Corinth.  Apollos was doubly welcome because of his great knowledge of and skill in the use of the Scriptures.  He "Argued them down" (diakatalegxeto).  He did not necessarily convince the Jews though he disputed "vehemently" (eutonows Luke 23:10).

But the powerful apologetic of Apollos made a profound impression upon the Christians in Corinth.  He was hailed, and rightly so, as a champion of the faith. Apollos was a new type to them.  The scholastic and philosophical turn of his mind was pleasing in Corinth.  Paul did not have the excellency of speech from the rhetorical standpoint or the persuasive words of wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1-4) and Apollos had and that many of them liked.  It is one of the blessings of life that men have different gifts.  God can use them all.  It would be a great misfortune if preachers were just alike in intellectual equipment and in style of speech.

Acts 19:1-5
"And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus ...."

Paul calls him an apostle like himself, in 1 Corinthians 4:9, although he had no seen the risen Christ and was not a personal follower while Jesus lived on earth.

1 Corinthians 1:1-4:21
The divisions: "Paul and Apollos"

1 Corinthians 3:4-4:1
"For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?  (5) What then is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. (7) So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.  (8) Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  (9) for we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. ... (:21) So then let no one boast in men.  For all things belong to you, (22) whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, (23) and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.  4:1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."

So Paul rejoiced in the work of Apollos who succeeded him in Corinth, as Jesus rejoiced in the work of John the Baptist who preceded Him (John 4:36f).  The one who sows and the one who reaps rejoice together.  Each preacher enters into the labor of others.  There is no cause for jealousy, but only ground for gratitude.  It is part of the preacher's business to learn how to fit his work into that of the man who preceded him.  He must be a constructive builder, not a destructive critic.

Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 3:16-21 with some severe words about teachers who destroy the temple of God.  He is undoubtedly has in mind the factional leaders in Corinth.  It is bad enough when a man builds with wood, hay and stubble on the good foundation.  Fire will test the quality of every preacher's and teacher's work.  He may himself be saved, but all his preaching foes up in smoke, dry enough as some of it is.  It is pathetic enough from the preacher's standpoint, but it is far worse for a preacher to be the cause of the ruin of a church.  Some men are church- builders; others are church destroyers and wreck church after church, or keep some in ruins always.

The difference between Paul and Apollos was not so much a difference of views as in the mode of stating those views; the eloquence of St. Paul was rough and burning; that of Apollos was more refined and polished.  Some were so disgusted that they actually made a partisan use of Christ's name and started a Christ Party (1 Corinthians 1:12).

While there a parties or factions developed that followed Paul or Apollos in their style (this was not encouraged by Apollos and was written against by Paul).  The factions were not fully developed until both Paul and Apollos had left Corinth (to Ephesus together).  No reason is given as to just why Apollos left Corinth, but perhaps he had sensed the apex of his career there.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians dealing with these factions
1 Corinthians 16:12
"But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity."

Paul sends a letter to Titus, at Crete, recommending Apollos to him.
Titus 3:13
"Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them."

Apollos goes to Crete and stays until sometime after Paul's letter to the Corinthians concerning the Paul / Apollos problems.

Paul begged Apollos to go over (to Corinth) and see what he could do (1 Corinthians 16:12), but he would not come.  Apollos was right to stay away, and not to fan the flame by going back himself.  He had not caused the trouble; he would not add to it.  Paul himself is reluctant to go as yet (1 Corinthians 4:18 f).  They both set a good example for preachers when a church is divided over the ministers.

Apollos continues his ministry and eventually holds the high office of Bishop of a major city.  It is clear that Apollos and Paul continued to be friends.  The froth and the foam pass away, but the name and the work of Apollos remain as a part of the glory of Christianity.

Quick Links to specific locations in the text above:

1.  Introduction to Apollos 2.  Keeping within the bound of definite knowledge
3.  Criticism well received 4.  Humbleness at the feet of Jesus
5.  Gratitude for new light 6.  Encouragement makes the difference
7.  Differing gifts bring great blessing 8.  The constructive builder VS the destructive critic
9.  When to keep your nose out of things