Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
Acts 18:24-28 (NIV)
Apollos probably isn’t someone you’ve heard very much about. He is mentioned in only three books in the New Testament – Acts, 1 Corinthians and Titus. In Acts we are told that he was a Jew from Alexandria, in other words he was an Egyptian. He is said to have had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and taught about Jesus accurately. Despite this he needed to be instructed more fully by Priscilla and Aquila. So even with all his learning and knowledge, he was open to instruction.
It is obvious from Luke’s description of Apollos in Acts that he was well-respected. I particularly like the detail that the fellow-believers in Ephesus encouraged him when he wanted to go to Achaia.
In 1 Corinthians 3 we again come across Apollos. Paul writes about him, but this time it is clear that there is potential for division in the church. This division caused people to take sides, some declaring that they followed Apollos, while others followed Paul and yet others following Cephas (Peter). Neither Paul, Peter, nor Apollos was the source of the division. It was the believers who wanted to align themselves with one of them. All three were strong orators, able to defend the gospel and to reason with the Jews about Jesus being the Messiah. They had all seen people won for Christ and built up in the Christian faith. Yet those in the church at Corinth wanted to favour one over the others.
Read how Paul deals with the division and the wisdom he brings to the situation:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NIV)
Paul knew that following a preacher/teacher may appeal to human nature, as we all have our preferences, but the truth is that the identity of the preacher is not relevant. Belonging to Apollos’, Paul’s, or Peter’s group did not really matter. What mattered is that they recognised each other as fellow-workers. Where one planted the seed, another watered it, but overall it was God (through the Holy Spirit) who would bring about the increase.
Paul obviously held Apollos in high regard. When we meet him for the last time it is in Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul asks Titus to do all he can to help Apollos on his way. With the letter to Titus being written about 8 years after 1 Corinthians, we can assume that Paul did not blame Apollos for any division that could have happened at Corinth.
Ask yourself if you have shown preference for the preacher, rather than the message being preached. In the 21st century we can be just as guilty of falling into the sin of treating some preachers as idols, by following them rather than the Christ they reveal to us. When all is peeled away, the only thing that matters is Jesus. Jesus is everything!
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