“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.
This 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;
and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
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;
for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
The more I grow as a Christian the more I am intrigued and interested in Apollos and what we have recorded about him in the biblical text. There are many things about him that we can all learn from, even in the short mention he gets in the biblical text. What I want to accomplish in this article is to help identify six characteristics he exemplified and why they are important for us to practice and grow in as Chrsitians. I’ll work through the text identifying each one and then give a brief sketch as to why it is vital for us as Christians to get to grow in those specific areas today.
1. Apollos was educated and a great communicator (…an eloquent man, vs.24)
While not all of us as Christians are called into a ministry where we become a public speaker, debater, etc. we should all want to be as effective in communication skills as possible. The major motivation is so we can communicate the truth of the Gospel and Christian doctrine as accurately as we can so as to maximize our being used by the Lord to reach those who are without Christ. This skill, just like any other, needs to be practiced and developed. This is one skill we should not balk on and should be taken very seriously as all of us as Christians are called upon to communicate the Gospel to others, no matter our overall call to a particular type of ministry.
Apollos was eloquent (learned, cultured, spoke well) and hence was very effective in his ministry work. An education certainly does not mean one has to go to seminary or anything like that, but it does mean we need training in discerning truth claims and get the education we need to master basic skill sets and continue to grow in them while acquiring new ones. We need to grow and press on to maturity leaving the milk of the word and start processing the solid food.1 So Apollos worked on speaking and growing in the skill sets he needed to be effective as a Christian, and we need to grow in doing the same.
2. Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (…he was mighty in the Scriptures, vs. 24)
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you,
and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,
so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:14-17)
After reading the words of Paul here to Timothy concerning the Scriptures it is no wonder it is important to be “mighty” in the Scriptures like Apollos. The Scriptures are how we learn about God and who He is, etc. They are full of wisdom and truth, which we are commanded to pursue. Just as food for thought, I would like to challenge us with this: How often are we growing in our knowledge of the Lord through His Word? Think about other things we have studied/learned, such as at our job, the effort we may have put out in earning a degree, beating our favorite video game, watching movies, etc. We put much time and effort into learning those things, some of which are important indeed, but not nearly as important as learning the Scriptures (I am talking to myself here at this point as well) which help equip us, teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us in righteousness. At this point I want to mention that this is intended not to focus on what we aren’t doing, but what we should be doing and help encourage us all to get started as soon as possible, because we will have to give an account to the Lord for how we spend our time. So I pray this is an encouragement to you and will help you put the study of Scripture in proper perspective and again, that we grow in this skill set as much as we can.
3. He was careful in his words and his studies (…he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, vs. 25)
Accuracy is important in every aspect of our lives. The importance of interpreting the Scripture to reach accurate conclusions (which takes much time and effort) as well as being able to articulate them properly is of vital importance to the Christian. Apollos was skilled in both of these areas and as a result was very effective for the Lord. I am sure many of us have been in religious discussions (or even non-religious discussions for that matter) where people seem to talk past one another. This is generally because they are not clear on what they mean by their terms, or they may just be lacking in the practice of articulating/explaining what they mean. Also, many times, those involved in the conversation just aren’t that skilled on the topic of discussion and the conversation suffers and becomes unfruitful because of it. The Gospel, as we already mentioned earlier, needs to be accurately and truthfully presented, as well as articulated carefully and clearly. So we need to have the search for truth as our primary goal in studying as well as in our carefully articulating the message.
4. He was able to speak boldly in public (…he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue, vs. 26)
Apollos had great knowledge and was a great speaker/communicator, this helped him to speak with confidence in public and deal with objections. The more we learn about a topic the more confidently/authoritatively we can speak on a topic. A reminder that while we may never end up being a paid public speaker, have you ever thought about how critical sharpening your knowledge and communication skills could come in handy in a practical way in your everyday life? What if you are constantly growing and developing your Christian worldview and you take an interest in say the moral argument for God’s existence.2 Furthermore, you have your son or daughter come home and tell you about an issue concerning immorality at their school. The school holds a meeting on the topic and it is open to all. You now have an opportunity (because of your consistent preparation and obedience to God’s command to study and grow in truth) to articulate and defend rationally the Christian case and show why what happened was immoral. Only preparation and practice can give us the confidence to speak on these topics boldly and I want to encourage all of those reading this to get started as soon as possible, especially as our culture becomes increasingly hostile to Christianity and “feelings” and “desires” rule the day rather than reason and truth. Unfortunately many on both sides are quick to run on emotions and avoid reason and truth, and this certainly is a shame. We need to make every effort to correct this since truth is to be valued, not every emotional whim or desire, which usually is what gets us into trouble.
5. He was teachable and received instruction when wrong (…they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately, vs. 26)
This is a very important point that we all need to reflect on more often. If we pursue the truth and identify and eliminate all falsehoods (which is our duty as Christians) we will grow in knowledge, wisdom and understanding. However, pride can be on the prowl. Knowledge can possibly “puff up” says Paul,3 however he didn’t mean to now ignore all the commands about gaining wisdom, knowledge and understanding, no, he meant to not be lifted up with pride just because we gain much knowledge. Knowledge itself is not a bad thing, and its pursuit is noble, it is only when coupled with pride that knowledge is dangerous. So pride along with much knowledge is the culprit here, not knowledge itself. Notice that those who are wise receive instruction well, they don’t blow up when challenged in their beliefs.
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel…” (Proverbs 1:5)
Apollos received instruction well, and grew from receiving it. He heeded the words of Priscilla and Aquila and didn’t blow up on them for challenging his wisdom and for that reason he became even more effective in his defense and articulation of the Gospel.
6. He powerfully refuted his opponents and demonstrated the truth of Christianity (…for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, vs. 28)
As Christians we need to not just make emotional and rhetorical appeals to persuade people to become Christians. We need to be able to demonstrate its truth by articulating the arguments and evidences for its truth and be able, as Apollos, to refute those oppose it. Remember, Jesus taught us that “the truth will set you free,”4 so if we aren’t showing what we believe to be true, then who in their right mind would want to believe us? No, people need to hear and know the truth or they won’t be free.
Notice Apollos used the Scriptures, this naturally meant that his target ministry was to the Jews because they would have been familiar with the Scriptures, and this is exactly what we find, as that is whom he refuted in public. He refuted their arguments (powerfully) in public to show the truth of Christianity. We need to know our target audience(s) as well and know what they believe and why they believe it. Unfortunately many of us as Christians do not even know what we believe and why, let alone the “whats” and “whys” of other worldviews, and this certainly is a shame. Apollos, as well as Paul knew their audience(s) as well.
Paul was effective with multiple audiences, he used the Scriptures when talking to the Jews, because they knew the Scriptures. He also knew and appealed to the writings of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens when witnessing them. This shows that we can’t just use a cookie-cutter methodology when it comes to evangelism and apologetics, as we need to spend the time learning our target audience, and continue to branch out and learn to effectively communicate the Gospel to those of different backgrounds and belief systems and show Christianity to be true. This is something Apollos did very well.
In closing I pray this helps us to realize the importance of growing in/developing the same skill sets that Apollos possessed in order that we can be as effective for the Lord as possible. I also pray you have come to a greater appreciation for one of the seldom mentioned characters in the history of the early church who was a key player and someone we should all seek to be more like as Christians, namely Apollos.