A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 18:24-28. Apollos visits Ephesus.
*Meanwhile*, during the year or so which must have elapsed since Paul left Corinth, *A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus* (24a). Luke goes on to tell us three interesting facts about him. First, *he was a learned man* (though ‘logios’ could mean ‘eloquent’, as in RSV, NEB) *with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures* (24b). Alexandria had a large Jewish population at that time. It was here that the LXX had been produced some 200 years before Christ, and here that the great scholar Philo, Jesus’ contemporary , lived and worked, struggling by allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament to reconcile Hebrew religion with Greek philosophy. Did Apollos himself interpret the Old Testament allegorically? Perhaps Luther was right in being the first person to propose Apollos as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. Secondly, *he had been instructed in the way of the Lord* (i.e. the Lord Jesus). He also spoke with great fervor (‘fervent in spirit’, as in Rom. 12:11, probably meaning ‘spiritual ferment’), thus matching erudition with enthusiasm. In addition, he *taught about Jesus accurately*. He was therefore, although Jewish, a Christian teacher (25a). Thirdly, however, *he knew only the baptism of John* (25b), whom Luke knew to have been the Messiah’s forerunner (Lk.3:1ff) and to have belonged to the law and the prophets, not the kingdom (Lk.16:16). Since Apollos can hardly have known John’s baptism without also knowing his teaching, he must have been familiar with John’s witness to Jesus as the Messiah. But how much more did he know? At all events, when *he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, and “Priscilla and Aquilla heard him* they recognized that his understanding was defective, invited him to their home, and *explained to him the way of God more adequately* (26), literally, ‘more accurately’ (RSV), the comparative of the adverb *akribos* used in the previous verse.
It is not possible to be sure which Christian truths Apollos knew when he taught ‘accurately’ and which were explained to him ‘more accurately’. On the one hand, Luke could hardly have described him as ‘instructed in the way of the Lord’ if at that stage he was still completely ignorant of the death and resurrection of Jesus. On the other hand, if his knowledge was largely limited to John’s baptism and teaching, his grasp of these events may have been minimal, and he will also have needed to hear about Jesus’ commission, exaltation and gift of the Spirit. Such truths as these Priscilla and Aquilla taught him. Their ministry was timely and discreet. As Professor Bruce remarks, ‘how much better it is to give such private help to a preacher whose ministry is defective than to correct or denounce him publicly!’.
Next, *when Apollos wanted to go to Achaia the brothers encouraged him*, for he was better equipped now for a wider ministry, *and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed* (27). *For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ* (28). Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 1 – 4 Paul himself wrote appreciatively of Apollos’ ministry in Corinth and generously acknowledged him as a fellow-worker in God’s field. ‘I planted the seed,’ he wrote: ‘Apollos watered it, but God made it grow’ (1 Cor. 3:6).
Tomorrow: 3). Paul in Ephesus (19:1-41).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.