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24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.

 

Paul’s ultimate destination was Ephesus. The Holy Spirit had prevented him from going there earlier (Acts 16:6).  Paul was now enroute to Ephesus.

18:24

Now [meanwhile] a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria,

While on his way to Ephesus, Apollos (short for Apollonius), who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, came to the city. Alexandria is near the mouth of the Nile River and on the Mediterranean Sea. It was a celebrated city throughout the Roman Empire. Alexandria had a library of 700,000 papyrus scrolls. This city was the location of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint.

an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.

Apollos, a Jew, knew the Old Testament Scriptures and could eloquently teach them. The word “eloquent” conveys the idea that Apollos was formally skilled in rhetoric.

The word “mighty” indicates Apollos was a dynamic speaker. Since he knew the Old Testament “Scriptures” thoroughly, he could speak to the Jews powerfully.

18:25

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord;

Apollos knew something about the Lord. He knew that John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for Israel and a few other elementary truths. The phrase “way of the Lord” did not mean Apollos was a Christian but that he had a good grasp of the Old Testament. However, his knowledge of the Messiah was pre-Pentecost. We see this in Acts 19:1-7.

and being fervent [boiling] in spirit,

This man from Alexandria was very enthusiastic about what he knew; he had a fervor about his spirit (Ro 12:11). However, his passion was muffled by being unaware of how God launched the church and baptized believers into the body of Christ.

he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord,

Apollos understood what he knew accurately, but the problem was he did not know enough. He taught the Old Testament accurately. This man knew the Old Testament and the teaching of John the Baptist, but he did not have a grasp of the New Testament church.

Somewhere along the line, no one had taught him that God’s economy had moved on from John’s baptism. John’s teaching looked forward to the coming Messiah and not to what happened after He came. Since that was true, Apollos did not understand the concept of the universal church and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

John’s baptism pertained to Israel’s repentance about the Messiah, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit was an entirely new entity (Ro 6:3-10; 1 Co 12:13; Ga 3:27; Co 2:12). John’s baptism was with water, but Christian baptism is spiritual and identifies believers with Christ and His work on the Cross.

Thus, Apollos was a redeemed Old Testament saint but had not become a believer in the New Testament sense. He did not realize that God had launched the church on the day of Pentecost.

though he knew only the baptism of John.

Although Apollos knew about the baptism of John, he did not understand God’s transition from the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and establishment of an entity called the church. His knowledge of the Messiah was incomplete. This was especially true in his limited understanding of the “baptism of John.”

Apollos believed in the coming Messiah, but he did not realize that Christ the Messiah had come, and that since His coming the Holy Spirit had launched the church (Acts 2). John predicted a future baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Mark 1:8). That occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5). Thus, Apollos’s message was not inaccurate but incomplete.

PRINCIPLE:

Enthusiasm is no substitute for clear doctrine.

APPLICATION:

It is not enough to declare an incomplete gospel. Apollos knew nothing of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He knew nothing of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer. His message was good to a point, but it did not go far enough (Ro 10:1-4). He was very enthusiastic about what he knew, but he did not know enough.

The baptism of John is not Christian baptism. John’s baptism identified the coming Messiah. Israel was to repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Luke set forth Christian baptism as the outward sign that an individual has received the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; 9:17-18; 10:44-48).

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