Q: What can we learn from the vignette that Luke includes regarding Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila?A: In these verses we are called to ponder a phenomenon all too prevalent in the present day church–religious people who have not personally experienced the reality of the living Jesus Christ.
Apollos was a man who commanded attention by the power of his personality and eloquence. He was from Alexandria the epicenter of learning in the world at this time. He was a Hellenist– a man whose mind had been cultivated by and had synthesized both Hebrew and Greek cultural influences. He knew the Scriptures and was dynamic and passionate in his preaching. He must have had a real burden for the scattered Jews of the ancient world and preached and pleaded with them to repent for the kingdom was near.
Q: What was Apollos missing?
- Luke highlights that Apollos was part of a group of ascetic followers of John the Baptist.
- John’s followers were like the disciples of Jesus prior to Pentecost.
- they had obediently been baptized as a sign of their repentance and were eagerly awaiting the coming Messiah!
- Apollos knew of water baptism as a sign of repentance for sin but did not know of the regeneration that came with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- he did not know that a religion of self effort had been superceded by a relationship with Messiah Jesus.
- he did not know that Jesus had met the requirement of perfect obedience on our behalf.
- he did not know that Jesus accomplished an extraordinary exchange on the cross–he took our sin and gave us His righteousness as our covering.
- he did not know that following that substitutionary atoning death on the cross–Jesus did not stay in the tomb but rose to new life! Jesus is living still!
- he did not know that Jesus sent His Spirit to take up residence in believers as the only source of power to live the holy life that is pleasing to God.
- He did not know that religious activity, though correct in outward form, is offensive to God if it does not come from a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit.
- He did not know that the Christian faith is not only about turning from something (repentance of sin)–it is a turning toward someone (trusting Jesus)!
Key Thought: Apollos’ story is to help us see that it is possible to be powerfully religious but not regenerate and therefore still lost! If we know “about” Jesus but have not experienced an intimate union with Him we have religion not a saving relationship.
The Role of Aquila and Priscilla
- to their credit, this couple saw the passion of Apollos and wanted to see him embrace the living Jesus.
- they spoke to him not condemning him for what he didn’t know but by emphasizing the joyous truth that what Apollos was waiting for had already come!
- they explained with compelling winsomeness the triumphant adequacy of the indwelling Lord and the abundant joy that His constant Presence brought to living.
- their lives painted a vivid picture of what their words were expressing as truth and Apollos embraced their message and in so doing embraced Jesus Christ!
Luke summarizes how Apollos was redirected in his teaching when he states in verse 27, “he was a great help to those who by grace had believed…vigorously proving from Scripture that Jesus was the Christ”
- the opening verses of this chapter have Paul encountering more followers of John the Baptist and who needed the same enlightening truth as Apollos did.
- each time the message of the gospel is received and the fullness of the message of God’s grace penetrates hearts, Luke makes sure that the reader sees that it is experienced in the same way as the disciples did when gathered at Pentecost.
- He wants to emphasize that this is God’s confiriming sign–His way of revealing that true faith has been born in the heart –that a change agent has penetrated the religious activity of the person. It is an authentic work of God and it is happening consistently among Jew and Gentile alike.
- “the gift of tongues was given for adoration; the gift of prophecy for explanation. Praise and witness are sure signs of the indwelling Spirit.” (Ogilvie)
“For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
Chapter 19:8-22 – Light overtaking Darkness in Ephesus
- Paul was given a lengthy hearing in the synagogue in Ephesus — 3 months.
- He reasoned with his fellow Jews commending the gospel of grace boldly
- He moved to a lecure hall and continued teaching when the resistance to the message of Jesus grew too strong within the synagogue.
- another source tells us that he rented this hall during midday siesta hours–that is from 11-4.
- Paul would work to support himself making tents in the morning and evening hours but went to the hall and lectured between 11-4 everyday.
- He stayed in Ephesus for 2 years–so he taught 3,120 hours while he was there!
- Luke highlights that this work made it so that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (vs. 10)
- As we have noted on other occasions–when the gospel is progressing–Satan is attacking!
- sorcery, exorcisms, magic and occult were fascinating to the Ephesisans and it was possible to make a good living by dabbling in these activities.
- after seeing the power that Paul possessed by following Jesus, some Jewish sorcerers decided to co-op that power and make a few bucks by “using” Jesus’ name.
- Interestingly, when one evil spirit sought to cast another out for profit –the evil spirit recognized the pretense of power and turned on the exorcist beating and overpowering him.
- the powers that should have been working together had turned on themselves!
Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)
Outcome: Luke highlights the fact that many saw the counterfeit nature of the exorcists and were drawn to the truth that Paul had been preaching. The evidence of their belief was that they turned from their sorcery and to the word of God. (verse 18-20)
Q: If the church sought more cleansing of personal evil and displayed those changed lives, would we see “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” in our city and in our time? (verse 20)
Acts 19:23-41 – Evil presses a counter attack in Ephesus
- we have seen that one of the greatest challenges to the gospel message is when it bumps up against vested interests.
- Ephesus was a city heavily invested in worship of the goddess Artemis–local artisans had a big business centered on the manufacture of this many breasted idol.
- Luke gives a detailed description of how vested interests sought to squash the message that would ”rob” them of their livelihood.
Demetrius is the antagonist in the story and he managed to whip up a full scale riot against the Christian community.
As we often do, Demetrius covered his true motives with religious language to give them more acceptability with the crowd.
Rather than saying, “I don’t want this new faith because it will hurt my pocket book. ” he said that Paul and his companions were robbing Artemis of her “divine majesty.”
This scene is a wonderful study in “herd mentality” behavior– the people are whipped into a frenzy of emotion when they suspect their loyalites are being judged as somehow inadequate.
The assembly of people are gathered in the great Ephesian theater and Luke’s description makes me think of the atmosphere at our sporting events or rock concerts–passionate loyalties are expressed by loud, boisterous shouting and cheering.
Luke shares that most people didn’t know why they were in the arena–they were drawn by the excitement and the human love of “rubber necking.”
The town clerk became an agent of God’s purpose to restore order on this day. Rather than allow wide spread persecution to break out–God had reason break out and the emotion of the crowd dissipated as they listened to the clerk.
The peaceful resolution of the matter was a great grace and Paul thought it time to move on in his journey to spread the gospel.
What object of affection acts as an “Artemis” in my life? Materialism, Sensuality, Pride, Coldness of Heart, Self Protectiveness, Family or something else?
Am I like Demetrius–resentful if my pocket book is threatened? When I think about the Lord, how does He view my pocketbook?
Am I secure in God’s providential care–whether He rescues me from a riot or allows me to be go through it–do I translate both as His loving care?
Acts 20:1-38 Completion of the Third Missionary Journey
The stories have been more detailed in Luke’s account of the third missionary journey–Paul has lingered in places longer and those stays provided much writing material for Luke.
This journey was very productive not only in planting churches but in Paul’s writing ministry to those churches. It was during this journey that the theology of the Christian faith became refined in the letters that were sent to the community of believers in the places that Paul visited and hoped to visit.
- Farewell to the Ephesian Elders:
- Paul recounts with deep satisfaction and pastoral tenderness his time among the Ephesians.
- He focuses their attention on the future –especially his deep desire for their sanctification.
- He is gospel soaked and understands that their sanctification comes not through self effort but through the grace of God–just as their salvation had. (verse 32)
- He closes by quoting the Savior, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
- Paul knew that he had grown in Christ as he gave himself away for Christ and he commended it to the leaders of this church as the key to sanctification.
- It is clear that we cannot give away what we have not received–the evidence that we have received grace is that we give grace to others!
“Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38 The Message)
Note: No one would have wanted to cling to Paul when he was apart from Christ–in fact, people lived in fear and fled from him when he was ruled by religion and self determined plots to kill whatever he disagreed with.
Ponder the tenderness of the scene above–think about the wonder of a transformed spirit–consider that the Ephesians were seeking to cling to the Christ within Paul–He is most compelling and compassionate!
Do you have a heart response like that with Christ? Do you long to cling to Him not wanting to let Him go?