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Bible read me 1The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 16:12-18

Final Instructions

12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will[a] to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers[b]—you know that the household[c] of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

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Last week’s post was about Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about the good treatment of Timothy, who was going to minister to them, young though he was.

Paul mentions Apollos, whom he urged to visit Corinth, then says that he did not wish to go at that time (verse 12).

Apollos is mentioned in Acts 18:24-28:

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[a] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak 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. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

My post on Acts 18:24-28 has much more about this Jewish convert who went to the southern part of Greece — Achaia — and ended up at the church in Corinth for a time. He was a highly eloquent speaker and some members of the congregation put more weight on his teachings than they did Paul’s.

In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to view all good preachers in unity. One should not be favoured over the other:

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers,[a] that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Matthew Henry explains that Paul really wanted Apollos to return to the Corinthians (emphases mine):

Paul did not hinder Apollos from going to Corinth in his own absence, nay, he pressed him to go thither. He had no suspicions of Apollos, as if he would lessen Paul’s interest and respect among them, to the advancement of his own. Note, Faithful ministers are not apt to entertain jealousies of each other, nor suspect of such selfish designs. True charity and brotherly love think no evil. And where should these reign, if not in the breasts of the ministers of Christ? 2. Apollos could not be prevailed on for the present to come, but would at a more convenient season. Perhaps their feuds and factions might render the present season improper. He would not go to be set at the head of a party and countenance the dividing and contentious humour. When this had subsided, through Paul’s epistle to them and Timothy’s ministry among them, he might conclude a visit would be more proper. Apostles did not vie with each other, but consulted each other’s comfort and usefulness. Paul intimates his great regard to the church of Corinth, when they had used him ill, by entreating Apollos to go to them; and Apollos shows his respect to Paul, and his concern to keep up his character and authority, by declining the journey till the Corinthians were in better temper. Note, It is very becoming the ministers of the gospel to have and manifest a concern for each other’s reputation and usefulness.

In the end, Apollos did return to Corinth and became an elder in their church. Some Bible scholars believe that Apollos wrote the Book of Hebrews. He is recognised as a saint in the Orthodox churches, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Paul then gives the Corinthians two instructions. The first is to stand firm in the faith with maturity (verse 13). The second is to do everything in love (verse 14).

John MacArthur has a whole sermon on these two verses.

Henry has a more succinct analysis:

The Corinthians were in manifest danger upon many accounts: their feuds ran high, the irregularities among them were very great, there were deceivers got among them, who endeavoured to corrupt their faith in the most important articles, those without which the practice of virtue and piety could never subsist. And surely in such dangerous circumstances it was their concern to watch. Note, If a Christian would be secure, he must be on his guard; and the more his danger the greater vigilance is needful for his security. 2. He advises them to stand fast in the faith, to keep their ground, adhere to the revelation of God, and not give it up for the wisdom of the world, nor suffer it to be corrupted by it–stand for the faith of the gospel, and maintain it even to death; and stand in it, so as to abide in the profession of it, and feel and yield to its influence. Note, A Christian should be fixed in the faith of the gospel, and never desert nor renounce it. It is by this faith alone that he will be able to keep his ground in an hour of temptation; it is by faith that we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24); it is by this that we must overcome the world (1 John 5:4), both when it fawns and when it frowns, when it tempts and when it terrifies. We must stand therefore in the faith of the gospel, if we would maintain our integrity. 3. He advises them to act like men, and be strong: “Act the manly, firm, and resolved part: behave strenuously, in opposition to the bad men who would divide and corrupt you, those who would split you into factions or seduce you from the faith: be not terrified nor inveigled by them; but show yourselves men in Christ, by your steadiness, by your sound judgment and firm resolution.” Note, Christians should be manly and firm in all their contests with their enemies, in defending their faith, and maintaining their integrity. They should, in an especial manner, be so in those points of faith that lie at the foundation of sound and practical religion, such as were attacked among the Corinthians: these must be maintained with solid judgment and strong resolution.

That said, we should act in love and charity:

We may defend our faith, but we must, at the same time, maintain our innocence, and not devour and destroy, and think with ourselves that the wrath of man will work the righteousness of God, James 1:24. Note, Christians should be careful that charity not only reign in their hearts, but shine out in their lives, nay, in their most manly defences of the faith of the gospel. There is a great difference between constancy and cruelty, between Christian firmness and feverish wrath and transport. Christianity never appears to so much advantage as when the charity of Christians is most conspicuous when they can bear with their mistaken brethren, and oppose the open enemies of their holy faith in love, when every thing is done in charity, when they behave towards one another, and towards all men, with a spirit of meekness and good will.

Paul then mentions Stephanas and his household, the first converts in Achaia (verse 15), the part of Greece in which Corinth was located, and tells the Corinthians to be subject to them as well as every other fellow worker and labourer in the church (verse 16).

MacArthur gives us some background on the earliest years of Paul’s ministry in Achaia:

The south part is the ancient Achaia – he preached Christ. In fact in the seventeenth chapter of Acts it tells us that he preached at Athens and some believed including Dionysius the Areopagite and another person as well believed, and then he went from there on – and probably some others in addition to those two – then he went on into Corinth and there he preached and there were many who believed. There was Crispus who was the leader of the synagogue. There was Gaius who probably, according to Romans 16:23, was Paul’s host while he was there in Corinth. And there was this household of Stephanas, and there was the household of one named Chloe, and there were many others who believed. Now watch. What he’s really saying here is that God was going to grow a church in Achaia. That was His plan. And as a guarantee that God was going to grow a church, God gave some first fruits

Further, there may have been other individuals saved before him and perhaps he was the first household and that’s why he’s designated as first fruits. But either he’s included in the first fruits or he’s the first household saved in Corinth. The point simply being that he was the guarantee. By the Spirit of God giving this family and this household, God was in effect saying there’s going to be a full harvest in the city of Corinth. And there was, there was a great church built there, a wonderful church to which Paul ministered for one and a half years teaching the Word of God. And this group was the beginning of that church.

Henry says that Stephanas would have been a man of high social rank, yet, once converted, he and his household devoted themselves to serving the church in Corinth:

They have disposed and devoted themselvesetaxan heautous, to serve the saints, to do service to the saints. It is not meant of the ministry of the word properly, but of serving them in other respects, supplying their wants, helping and assisting them upon all occasions, both in their temporal and spiritual concerns. The family of Stephanas seems to have been a family of rank and importance in those parts, and yet they willingly offered themselves to this service. Note, It is an honour to persons of the highest rank to devote themselves to the service of the saints. I do not mean to change ranks, and become proper servants to the inferiors, but freely and voluntarily to help them, and do good to them in all their concerns.

Both commentators use the word ‘addicted’ in describing the service of Stephanas and his household, because that is what the word ‘devoted’ means in Greek.

Henry says:

they had moreover addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, to serve the saints.

MacArthur explains:

Now let me go back to the word devoted. It’s the word tassō. Moffett and Morris, in his commentary, say that the root meaning of this word is addicted. Did you get that? Addicted. What a great thought? They have addicted themselves to the service of the saints. Isn’t that great? They have addicted themselves to it. Now you say well, what is the service of the saints? Well, the word service or ministry, and your Bible may say ministry, is diakonia, from which we get deacon. Now diakonia originally meant a table waiter, and it came to mean anybody who serves somebody else in the church out of love. Any loving service is diakonia.

Now the New Testament describes all kinds of diakonia. For example, it talks about the diakonia of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:5. It says, “there are many services,” and then it goes on to describe the spiritual gifts. So spiritual gifts is one kind of diakonia. If we’re addicted to serving the saints, it means we’re addicted to using our spiritual gifts. Another one, in Acts 11:29 and 2 Corinthians 8:4, it speaks of the diakonia of giving. So that when we give our money that is serving the saints. Not as many of us are addicted to giving as perhaps we ought to be. So being addicted to the serving of the saints means we serve the saints through our spiritual gifts. We serve the saints through giving.

Stephanas, along with Fortunatus and Achaicus, went to stay with Paul in Ephesus; Paul says they have made up for the absence of the rest of the Corinthians (verse 17), which is a wonderful thing to say to such a wayward congregation. Paul loves them all, the good and the not so good.

Paul says that the three men’s presence has refreshed his spirit as well as the Corinthians’, therefore, the congregation should give them recognition, or respect, for that (verse 18).

Henry’s commentary says that the men gave Paul more details about what was going on in the Corinthian church, possibly allaying his worst fears:

They gave him a more perfect account of the state of the church by word of mouth than he could acquire by their letter, and by that means much quieted his mind, and upon their return from him would quiet the minds of the Corinthians. Report had made their cause much worse than it was in fact, and their letters had not explained it sufficiently to give the apostle satisfaction; but he had been made more easy by converse with them. It was a very good office they did, by truly stating facts, and removing the ill opinion Paul had received by common fame. They came to him with a truly Christian intention, to set the apostle right, and give him as favourable sentiments of the church as they could, as peace-makers. Note, It is a great refreshment to the spirit of a faithful minister to hear better of a people by wise and good men of their own body than by common report, to find himself misinformed concerning them, that matters are not so bad as they had been represented. It is a grief to him to hear ill of those he loves; it gladdens his heart to hear the report thereof is false. And the greater value he has for those who give him this information, and the more he can depend upon their veracity, the greater is his joy.

In closing, MacArthur gives us this insight on 1 and 2 Corinthians:

No other church is so rebuked as this.

On the other hand that is an evidence of love, because love is something that admonishes and rebukes when sin is visible. In fact I just would call your attention to the fact that if you take the 16 chapters of 1 Corinthians and you take the 13 chapters of 2 Corinthians that totals 29 chapters written to straighten out one church. Now in terms of chapters that makes it the longest book in the New Testament. There’s no other book that has 29 chapters. The closest is Matthew and Acts but this one had 29 chapters, because there was so much to say, because there was such a mess in Corinth. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have 29 chapters written about me to try to straighten me out, but that’s what happened in Corinth. The book is loaded with rebuke but it is also loaded with love, because you see, it’s love that calls to righteousness. Isn’t it? It is love that rebukes always. It’s love that says, “Here is the way; walk ye in it.”

My next post on 1 Corinthians 16 concludes the book. After that, it is on to 2 Corinthians.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 16:19-24

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers,[a] that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

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Last week’s post introduced 1 Corinthians, explaining more about Corinth and the Christians there.

Unlike the Thessalonians, who were devout, the Corinthians had shortcomings in their beliefs and conduct. Paul counselled and corrected them in this letter.

One of the big issues with the Corinthians involved the divisions within their church. Groups of them followed certain leaders. One faction aligned itself with Paul, another with Apollos, yet another with Cephas as well as one group claiming to follow Christ alone.

Paul addressed this factionalism in 1 Corinthians 3, excerpts from which follow (emphases mine):

2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

As we know, continuing squabbles lead to genuine strife and destructive division that can put an end to a church — or any other organisation for that matter.

Paul warned the Corinthians about the end result:

16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

He also took issue with their notional wisdom. Philosophy was very popular in Corinth:

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

1 Corinthians 4 is about the role of Apostles (i.e. Paul) and ministers in the church (e.g. Apollos) and how the congregation should treat them.

He begins by saying that ministers of the church should be faithful, above all. Paul said he was not concerned if the Corinthians judged him, because only the Lord could judge him:

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul knew that the divisions among them were causing them to be full of pride, each faction believing it was better than the other.

Therefore, he wrote that he and Apollos were faithful stewards of the church and, as such, just as they did not go beyond what Paul had taught them (‘beyond what is written’) or in Scripture, nor should the Corinthians in esteeming their respective faction over another (verse 6).

Matthew Henry explains:

The advice the apostle would by this means inculcate was that they might learn not to think of men above what is written (above what he had been writing), nor be puffed up for one against another (1 Corinthians 4:6). Apostles were not to be esteemed other than planters or waterers in God’s husbandry, master-builders in his building, stewards of his mysteries, and servants of Christ. And common ministers cannot bear these characters in the same sense that apostles did. Note, We must be very careful not to transfer the honour and authority of the Master to his servant. We must call no man Master on earth; one is our Master, even Christ, Matthew 23:8,10. We must not think of them above what is written. Note, The word of God is the best rule by which to judge concerning men. And again, judging rightly concerning men, and not judging more highly of them than is fit, is one way to prevent quarrels and contentions in the churches.

This is a perfect illustration of why pride is a sin. It destroys, never heals:

Pride commonly lies at the bottom of these quarrels. Self-conceit contributes very much to our immoderate esteem of our teachers, as well as ourselves. Our commendation of our own taste and judgment commonly goes along with our unreasonable applause, and always with a factious adherence to one teacher, in opposition to others that may be equally faithful and well qualified. But to think modestly of ourselves, and not above what is written of our teachers, is the most effectual means to prevent quarrels and contests, sidings and parties, in the church. We shall not be puffed up for one against another if we remember that they are all instruments employed by God in his husbandry and building, and endowed by him with their various talents and qualifications.

Verse 7 seems obscure, but Paul is really asking what makes everyone have such a high opinion of themselves, when everything they have with regard to gifts or talent comes from God.

Henry says that verse 7 also includes the ministers in their midst who headed the various factions. Those ministers were false teachers:

Here the apostle turns his discourse to the ministers who set themselves at the head of these factions, and did but too much encourage and abet the people in those feuds. What had they to glory in, when all their peculiar gifts were from God? They had received them, and could not glory in them as their own, without wronging God. At the time when they reflected on them to feed their vanity, they should have considered them as so many debts and obligations to divine bounty and grace. But it may be taken as a general maxim: We have no reason to be proud of our attainments, enjoyments, or performances; all that we have, or are, or do, that is good, is owing to the free and rich grace of God. Boasting is for ever excluded.

This is very important:

There is nothing we have that we can properly call our own: all is received from God. It is foolish in us therefore, and injurious to him, to boast of it; those who receive all should be proud of nothing, Psalms 115:1. Beggars and dependents may glory in their supports; but to glory in themselves is to be proud at once of meanness, impotence, and want. Note, Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.

More will follow on this subject next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 4:8-13

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 18:24-28

Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[a] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak 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. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

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Last week’s passage was about Paul’s return to Caesarea, probably Jerusalem — although St Luke, the author of Acts, did not say — and then on to the churches in Syria and Asia Minor that he had founded.

Meanwhile, Paul’s friends from Corinth — Priscilla and Aquila — were ministering in Ephesus (Efes in Turkey).

During that time, Apollos, a learned Jew from Alexandria (Egypt) arrived in the port city. He was very well spoken and knew his Scripture equally well (verse 24).

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur state that Alexandria had a large Jewish population. MacArthur says that there were four different Jewish districts in the city.

Henry’s commentary tells us that Alexandria’s Jews numbered greatly because they had been sent into exile:

there were abundance of Jews in that city, since the dispersion of the people, as it was foretold (Deuteronomy 28:68): The Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again.

Henry also explains Apollos, the name (emphases mine):

His name was not Apollo, the name of one of the heathen gods, but Apollos, some think the same with Apelles, Romans 16:10.

As for Apollos the man, he tells us:

He was a man of excellent good parts, and well fitted for public service. He was an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures of the Old Testament, in the knowledge of which he was, as a Jew, brought up. (1.) He had a great command of language: he was an eloquent man; he was aner logios–a prudent man, so some; a learned man, so others; historiarum peritus–a good historian, which is an excellent qualification for the ministry: he was one that could speak well, so it properly signifies; he was an oracle of a man; he was famous for speaking pertinently and closely, fully and fluently, upon any subject. (2.) He had a great command of scripture-language, and this was the eloquence he was remarkable for. He came to Ephesus, being mighty in the scriptures, so the words are placed; having an excellent faculty of expounding scripture, he came to Ephesus, which was a public place, to trade with that talent, for the honour of God and the good of many. He was not only ready in the scriptures, able to quote texts off-hand, and repeat them, and tell you where to find themHe understood the sense and meaning of them, he knew how to make use of them and to apply them, how to reason out of the scriptures, and to reason strongly; a convincing, commanding, confirming power went along with all his expositions and applications of the scripture. It is probable he had given proof of his knowledge of the scriptures, and his abilities in them, in many synagogues of the Jews.

Apollos was a Messianic Jew, one who knew of the Messiah’s imminent coming as prophesied by John the Baptist (verse 25). There were many followers of John the Baptist who evangelised his prophecy throughout the ancient world. Whoever taught Apollos did so carefully and accurately. Many of John the Baptist’s followers who evangelised did not know that much about Jesus’s ministry or that He died on the Cross, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. (Had John the Baptist lived, they would have.) Apollos was one of these people.

Note that verse 25’s words, ‘fervent in spirit’, carry an explanatory footnote: ‘Or “in the Spirit”‘. On this point, our two commentators disagree somewhat.

Henry says:

Though he had not the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, as the apostles had, he made use of the gifts he had; for the dispensation of the Spirit, whatever the measure of it is, is given to every man to profit withal. And our Savior, by a parable, designed to teach his ministers that though they had but one talent they must not bury that … He was a lively affectionate preacher; as he had a good head, so he had a good heart; he was fervent in Spirit. He had in him a great deal of divine fire as well as divine light, was burning as well as shining. He was full of zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of precious souls. This appeared both in his forwardness to preach when he was called to it by the rulers of the synagogue, and in his fervency in his preaching. He preached as one in earnest, and that had his heart in his work. What a happy composition was here! Many are fervent in spirit, but are weak in knowledge, in scripture-knowledge–have far to seek for proper words and are full of improper ones; and, on the other hand, many are eloquent enough, and mighty in the scriptures, and learned, and judicious, but they have no life or fervency. Here was a complete man of God, thoroughly furnished for his work; both eloquent and fervent, full both of divine knowledge and of divine affections.

MacArthur is less generous:

He was a powerful man in terms of teaching. And let me just say at this point that his power at this point was the natural. He was not a Christian at this point, so consequently, did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. So the power in his life was expressed really through his natural abilities, not yet having the Gifts of the Spirit as we know them. Later on, when he comes to Christ and he receives the Holy Spirit and gets the Gift of the Spirit in those areas, I mean, he becomes so devastating … But in this point, in the natural–and by that, I don’t mean that the Spirit didn’t touch his life, because nobody can know anything apart from the Holy Spirit, right, in any dispensation. So, I’m not disqualifying the Spirit. He had the Spirit’s work in his life in a very general sense, not in the specific sense of the Gift and the indwelling that the New Testament Saint knows. But he could, in his own natural ability, speak and communicate and was learned in the Old Testament. And believe me, it didn’t take him long to make an impression.

Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak in the synagogue and understood that he did not have the story of Jesus Christ as Paul had related it to them. So, they took him to one side and explained it to him, as they had been taught (verse 26). MacArthur thinks they might have shared a meal with him followed by a long discussion about the life of Jesus and how He fulfilled Scripture.

The well educated Apollos learned from two tent makers. Henry tells us:

[2.] See an instance of truly Christian charity in Aquila and Priscilla; they did good according to their ability. Aquila, though a man of great knowledge, yet did no undertake to speak in the synagogue, because he had not such gifts for public work as Apollos had; but he furnished Apollos with matter, and then left him to clothe it with acceptable words. Instructing young Christians and young ministers privately in conversation, who mean well, and perform well, as far as they go, is a piece of very good service, both to them and to the church. [3.] See an instance of great humility in Apollos. He was a very bright young man, of great parts and learning, newly come from the university, a popular preacher, and one mightily cried up and followed; and yet, finding that Aquila and Priscilla were judicious serious Christians, that could speak intelligently and experimentally of the things of God, though they were but mechanics, poor tent-makers, he was glad to receive instructions from them, to be shown by them his defects and mistakes, and to have his mistakes rectified by them, and his deficiencies made up. Young scholars may gain a great deal by converse with old Christians, as young students in the law may by old practitioners. Apollos, though he was instructed in the way of the Lord, did not rest in the knowledge he had attained, nor thought he understood Christianity as well as any man (which proud conceited young men are apt to do), but was willing to have it expounded to him more perfectly. Those that know much should covet to know more, and what they know to know it better, pressing forward towards perfection.

MacArthur says that learning from Priscilla and Aquila was the moment of conversion for Apollos:

They told him the fullness of the facts regarding Christ. Oh, man, there’s the conversion of Apollos right there in those verses. And the Spirit doesn’t say much about it. Why? Because it wasn’t much of a change. He was already a saint.

Henry had good words for Priscilla:

Here is an instance of a good woman, though not permitted to speak in the church or in the synagogue, yet doing good with the knowledge God had given her in private converse. Paul will have the aged women to be teachers of good things Titus 2:3,4.

It is thought that Priscilla had more spiritual depth than her husband Aquila, which is probably why Luke put her name before his so often.

Apollos decided to go to Achaia, so the men from the church in Ephesus sent a letter of introduction (verse 27). Achaia was the province where Corinth was located. Corinth was the centre of government for Achaia. Paul appeared before Achaia’s proconsul, Gallio.

Luke did not state why Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, however, a few possibilities spring to mind. First, the Jews in Ephesus were largely receptive to Paul’s teaching, and Priscilla and Aquila were building a solid congregation there. Secondly, Corinth might have resembled Alexandria with regard to intellectual life. Thirdly, and most importantly, Apollos might have wanted to finish the job that Paul had started. Corinth still had Jews who were hostile to the Gospel message.

When Apollos arrived in Achaia, his eloquence and precision reassured the converts (verse 27). Furthermore, he was also able to powerfully refute the errors of the Jews in scripturally demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah (verse 28).

Henry explains verse 28:

Unbelievers were greatly mortified. Their objections were fully answered, the folly and sophistry of their arguments were discovered, so that they had nothing to say in defence of the opposition they made to the gospel; their mouths were stopped, and their faces filled with shame (Acts 18:28): He mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, before the people; he did it, eutonos–earnestly, and with a great deal of vehemence; he took pains to do it; his heart was upon it, as one that was truly desirous both to serve the cause of Christ and to save the souls of men. He did it effectually and to universal satisfaction. He did it levi negotio–with facility. The case was so plain, and the arguments were so strong on Christ’s side, that it was an easy matter to baffle all that the Jews could say against it. Though they were so fierce, yet their cause was so weak that he made nothing of their opposition. Now that which he aimed to convince them of was that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Messiah promised to the fathers, who should come, and they were to look for not other. If the Jews were but convinced of this–that Jesus is Christ, even their own law would teach them to hear him.

Apollos was a highly important church leader in Corinth, as Paul readily acknowledged in 1 Corinthians 3:6:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

MacArthur also says he was a better public speaker than Paul and had a better physical presence:

He was probably without equal as a speaker. You say, “Was he greater than Paul?” Well, very possibly. He was a greater preacher than Paul. Paul said to the Corinthians, in I Corinthians 2:1, “I, Brethren, when I came to you came not with excellency of speech.” Paul never did really value his preaching ability. Interesting. I don’t know if you ever read this verse. Interesting. II Corinthians 10:10, it says, “His letters say they are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible.” So he’s a lot better writer than he was a body, and he was an even better body than he was a speaker. Now, that’s a interesting little insight into the possibility that Paul perhaps was not as great an orator as was Apollos, and I’m only making the comparison because I want you to know the stature of this man. He was without peer, as far as we could see in the New Testament, as a preacher, as a speaker.

Shortly after Apollos arrived in Corinth, a church schism arose. Wikipedia has a simple explanation about the purpose of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Paul’s Epistle refers to a schism between four parties in the Corinthian church, of which two attached themselves to Paul and Apollos respectively, using their names[9] (the third and fourth were Peter, identified as Cephas, and Jesus Christ himself).[10] It is possible, though, that, as Msgr. Ronald Knox suggests, the parties were actually two, one claiming to follow Paul, the other claiming to follow Apollos. “It is surely probable that the adherents of St. Paul […] alleged in defence of his orthodoxy the fact that he was in full agreement with, and in some sense commissioned by, the Apostolic College. Hence ‘I am for Cephas’. […] What reply was the faction of Apollos to make? It devised an expedient which has been imitated by sectaries more than once in later times; appealed behind the Apostolic College itself to him from whom the Apostolic College derived its dignity; ‘I am for Christ.'”[11] Paul states that the schism arose because of the Corinthians’ immaturity in faith.[12]

MacArthur says that Apollos left Corinth for a time because the schism distressed him:

And such a holy man was he that later on when he saw the factions in Corinth, it so grieved his heart that in I Corinthians 16:12, Paul had asked him to go back and he wouldn’t go back to Corinth. The factions that came in Corinth weren’t Apollos’ fault any more than they were Peter’s fault, Paul’s fault or Christ’s fault. But they grieved him.

Wikipedia has more interesting information about St Apollos, venerated by the Orthodox churches, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

Apollos’ origin in Alexandria has led to speculations that he would have preached in the allegorical style of Philo. Theologian Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, for example, commented: “It is difficult to imagine that an Alexandrian Jew … could have escaped the influence of Philo, the great intellectual leader … particularly since the latter seems to have been especially concerned with education and preaching.”[14] Pope Benedict suggest there were those in Corinth “…fascinated by his way of speaking….[13]

Apollos is mentioned one more time in the New Testament. In the Epistle to Titus, the recipient is exhorted to “speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way”.[16]

Jerome states that Apollos was so dissatisfied with the division at Corinth that he retired to Crete with Zenas; and that once the schism had been healed by Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, Apollos returned to the city and became one of its elders.[17] Less probable traditions assign to him the bishop of Duras, or of Iconium in Phrygia, or of Caesarea.[9]

Martin Luther and some modern scholars have proposed Apollos as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, rather than Paul or Barnabas.[9] Both Apollos and Barnabas were Jewish Christians with sufficient intellectual authority.[18] The Pulpit Commentary treats Apollos’ authorship of Hebrews as “generally believed”.[19] Other than this, there are no known surviving texts attributed to Apollos.

Hebrews is one of my favourite books in the New Testament. If Apollos wrote it, you will see — if you don’t already know — how persuasive and clear he was.

Next time — Acts 19:1-7

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