Is it possible to be competent in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, and accurately teaching the things concerning Jesus, and yet still be wrong? It seems so. In Acts 18:24–25, Apollos is said to be “competent in the Scriptures,” “instructed in the way of the Lord,” and was known to have “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” But in verse 26 it says, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” That’s amazing to me that someone could be as gifted a teacher as Apollos, and yet still come up short.
What was it that Apollos was teaching that was so “accurate” while still so wanting? I think the answer is as follows. It says in 18:24 that Apollos was in Ephesus at this time, and, according to 18:25, that “he knew only the baptism of John.” When Paul later came to Ephesus (19:1), he found disciples and asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed (19:2). They responded, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” These are, presumably, Apollos’ converts in Ephesus (cf. 19:3). These are the ones who heard Apollos “accurately teach,” but, as Priscilla and Aquila knew, the message was still lacking.
So what was missing? Think chronologically with me. There are essentially four stages in Jesus’ ministry:
- The preparation by John
- Jesus’ life and teaching
- Jesus’ death and resurrection
- Jesus’ ascension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Apollos obviously knew #1 (cf. 18:25). He had to have known something of #2 as well, thus, he could teach something about Jesus (also 18:25). But he clearly didn’t know about #4 (cf. 19:2). He may have also been unclear on #3, because after he met Priscilla and Aquila, and after Paul further educated his converts, the point of clarity still revolved around Jesus (cf. 18:28 and 19:4). Somewhere between points 2 and 4 Apollos went off track. The point here is that someone can be “correct” in some general religious instruction—even pertaining to Jesus—but actually be of no help to one’s audience if crucial teachings are neglected.
Okay, if you’ve persevered in reading this so far, here’s the payoff! Apollos was teaching things concerning Jesus’ life and ethics. But he neglected Jesus’ ascension to the throne of David whereby he rules the nations and pours out the Holy Spirit (very important points for Peter in Acts 2:24–36), and quite possibly something of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thus he was correct in what he taught insofar as it goes. But he was terribly wrong to leave out crucial components of the Christian message: that Jesus is raised, that Jesus rules the nations, and that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to his people. These are awesome truths! Sad that he neglected them. Praise God that he was so teachable when approached by Priscilla and Aquila!
This is helpful for us in many ways. It should challenge us all to orient our thought-lives, practical lives, and ministries around the gospel. We cannot merely teach general truths about God, or Jesus, or the Bible if they are not organized around the gospel and emanate from the gospel. The gospel is that God became man in Jesus Christ, that he lived a sinless life, that his death atoned for sins, that we was resurrected to life, and that now he rules heaven and earth, giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who repent and put their trust in him. If we teach otherwise-true things, but leave out the gospel then we are not truly Christian in our instruction and our ministries! For a lot of those general truths of Christianity (God is love, God hears prayer, God can help me through my struggles, etc.) are affirmed by nearly every other theistic religion on earth. But what is distinctive about Christianity? The gospel! That is what makes Christianity what it is. Without the gospel God is not revealed. Without the gospel we are not reconciled to God. Without the gospel our religion is reduced to a psychological balm, a new moralism for religiously minded folks. But with the gospel—the full gospel—we are truly Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8).
So, let’s be a people who understand the full counsel of God. Let’s be a people who revel in the gospel, grounding and orienting everything we do therein.
This post was written by Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski. He is the Director of Biblical and Theological Studies at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis and serves as Discipleship and Leadership Ministries Director with his church family, Northside Baptist Church.
Photo Source: http://providenceswfl.com/blog/read-the-bible-through-in-2014/