Apollos - The Popular
(The Rest of the Story)
|(a) Acts 18|
(b) 1 Corinthians 1:1-17
(c) 1 Corinthians 2:1-4
(d) 2 Corinthians 10:1, 7-11
(e) 1 Corinthians 3:1-7
(f) 1 Corinthians 16:12, 19
(g) Titus (1:5) 3:12-13
A month ago, when we began our series on the often overlooked people
of the Bible, we started with Aquila and Priscilla, the husband and
team who assisted the Apostle Paul financially in his ministry. And
carried on a quiet but effective behind the scenes ministry of their
in at least four different cities in the Roman empire. When we were
to Aquila and Priscilla, we were, by necessity, also introduced to a
named Apollos, a man whom Priscilla and Aquila introduced to Jesus.
I must confess that between the time I wrote that sermon and the time
that I finally delivered it, I had to cut some pages out of my
The problem was that when I got deeper into my study on all three of
people, Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos, I found that I had bitten off
more than I could chew, which is why I skipped verses from the outline.
Well, today we get hear the rest of Apollos' story.
You may recall that we first met Apollos in the time intervening
Paul's second and third missionary journey. It was on his second
that the Lord directed Paul to change his travel plans, and have him
in Greece, rather than in Turkey.
Starting off in Antioch, Paul and went virtually straight through
to Troas, where Dr. Luke joined the group. From there they went on to
in northern Greece, where Luke stayed, and Paul continued on south to
and then to Corinth. Here the story picks up in Acts chapter 18:
And as you may remember, Aquila and Priscilla stayed behind in Ephesus
to continue the ministry that Paul started.
18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to
2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who
recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had
commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.
3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and
worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded
both Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was
by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.
6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his
and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From
now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain
man named Justus, one who worshipped God, whose house was next door to
8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on
Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing,
and were baptized.
9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not
afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;
10 "for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you;
I have many people in this city."
11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the
of God among them.
12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia [the southern province of
Greece], the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him
to the judgment seat,
13 saying, "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to
14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the
Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews,
would be reason why I should bear with you.
15 "But if it is a question of words and names and your own law,
look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters."
16 And he drove them from the judgment seat.
17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the
[or in our way of stating it, we might say, other ruler of the
since there was very likely more than one] and beat him before the
seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of
brethren and sailed for Syria [i.e. Antioch], and Priscilla and
were with him....
19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he
entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did
21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep
coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God
And he sailed from Ephesus.
So what does all this have to do with Apollos? Thus far, not much.
But it all has very much to do with the church in Corinth, and
we shall soon see, it is the church in Corinth that has everything to
with Apollos. But it is not in Corinth where we first meet Apollos. As
you may recall, it is here in Ephesus...
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria,
eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Apollos is an odd name for a dedicated Hebrew. Is that the name
his parents gave him? Or did he adopt it later in life as Paul
done with his name? What makes it so odd, is that it is a
akin to a god of Greek mythology.
Alexandria is where? Africa. Alexandria was like the Greek city of
Athens, which should be no surprise, since it was founded by a Greek,
the Great. Alexandria was noted as a center of learning - literature,
medicine, astronomy, etc. The libraries of Alexandria were world
There was also a substantial Jewish population in Alexandria, and they
were the ones two hundred years earlier, who were responsible for
the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Language. It was that Greek
of the Hebrew Scriptures which served as the Bible for both Jews and
in New Testament times. Apollos was no dummy, when it came to his
credentials. He was a good speaker, and a good teacher. He not only
the OT scriptures, but he knew how to teach it, and he apparently loved
25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and
fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the
[or the Lord Jesus, as several manuscripts say], though he knew only
baptism of John.
To simply capsulize what we covered about this in our earlier study,
comes to town, having heard and believed the message of the John the
and repeating John's message, "The Messiah is coming! The Messiah is
And as Dr. Luke tells us in Acts, Apollos does not merely repeat John's
message that the Messiah is coming, but he defends and documents this
from the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures. Only there's one
with this message. Apollos is a little behind the times in his
about the coming Messiah. So Aquila and Priscilla have the joy and
of taking Apollos aside and informing him that the Messiah has come,
His name is Jesus, and that He fulfilled those prophecies with His own
suffering and death on the cross on our behalf, with His bodily
three days later, His ascension 40 days after that, and with the gift
the Holy Spirit ten days later on Pentecost, and He will return one day
to finish the fulfillment of those prophecies.
26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and
Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way
God more accurately.
Now Apollos was no gullible dunce. He didn't simply swallow
Aquila and Priscilla told him simply because they told him. He weighed
their testimony against the evidence of Scripture which he already knew
and had committed to memory, and the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to see
it was true. Not simply historically true, Not only doctrinally true,
Apollos saw that it was true for Apollos. Jesus was more than
Redeemer of Israel. Jesus was Apollos' redeemer. Jesus was Apollos'
His Lord. His Savior... Just as Jesus your Redeemer, your Lord, your
Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God's promises to you.
So Apollos believed.
Gifted teachers such as Apollos are vulnerable to one glaring
They are hard to teach. But Apollos, with the Spirit's help, layed
his pride, and showed himself to be teachable in the presence of this
who were more knowledgeable and wiser than he. Popular teachers don't
like to be told they are wrong. So in my book, Apollos gets high marks
27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren [i.e.
Priscilla, and others we will meet in a moment] wrote, exhorting the
[in Corinth] to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped
who had believed through grace;
Now, I do not recommend that new converts to the Christian faith be
thrust into a teaching role. Not only do I not recommend it,
the Bible itself commands that we do not put new converts up on
a pedestal and adorn them with the awesome responsibility of publicly
the faith. In Apollos' case, however, he had one thing going for him
equipped him for this responsibility, namely a thorough knowledge of
Scriptures which protected him from imbalanced teaching and immaturity.
And, in truth, we do not know the duration of time between his
and his mission trip to Corinth. Whatever that length of time, it is
that the time was filled with continued counsel and instruction from
28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the
Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
And so Apollos embarked to Corinth, to pick up where Paul had left
off. Paul was forced to leave Corinth by hostile unbelievers. Apollos
able to encourage the Christians with the clear evidence of Scriptures
that what Paul had taught them about Jesus was absolutely true. The
that Apollos had never met Paul wasn't important. Both Paul and Apollos
had each in their own separate conversions met Jesus, and both Paul and
Apollos taught about Jesus from the same prophetic Scriptures.
And in the book Acts, that is the last we see of Apollos. However,
that is not the end of his story.
While Apollos was away, Paul came to Ephesus, his first stop on his
third missionary journey. And during Paul's nearly three-year stay in
he and his new Christian friends exchanged a series of letters back and
forth. And it is in those letters that the story of Apollos continues.
1 CORINTHIANS 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will
of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are
in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call
on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus
Who was Sosthenes? Remember, he was the synagogue ruler of Corinth
who got beaten up outside Gallio's court room after Gallio literally
the case out of his court. It appears that Sosthenes left Corinth with
Paul and Aquila and Priscilla and Silas and Timothy (it is
why Sosthenes might want to leave town), and that Sosthenes stayed in
with Aquila and Priscilla. Or it is also possible that Sosthenes at
stayed in Corinth, but then later went to Ephesus after he had heard
Paul was there.
As I mentioned, while Paul was in Ephesus, he and the Christian leaders
in the Corinth sent letters back and forth, in order to clarify some of
the confusion that the Corinthian church had about doctrine and
Paul wrote this letter, which today we call First Corinthians, in
to a previous letter which the leaders of the Corinthian church wrote,
listing some of their concerns and questions. No, I am sorry that we
have today any copies of the letters the Corinthians wrote to Paul, but
Paul, in this letter, makes reference to the questions that the
asked in their letter. There is also some evidence in First and Second
Corinthians that these two letters are not the only letters which Paul
had written to the church in Corinth, that there were others that
The very first controversy that Paul addresses in 1st Corinthians is
conflict in the church over the issue of leadership, apostleship, if
will. And guess who is in the middle of that controversy?
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no
among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind
in the same judgment.
11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren,
those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now I say this, that each of you says,
"I FOLLOW PAUL"
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you
in the name of Paul?
"I FOLLOW APOLLOS"
"I FOLLOW PETER"
"I DON'T FOLLOW ANY HUMAN AUTHORITY. I ONLY FOLLOW CHRIST."
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus
[the other Synagogue ruler] and Gaius,
15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
Paul then dedicates the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians to this
issue alone, trying to get the folks to unite in their worship of
and not divide over their worship of the Lord's servants, and he wanted
them to unite in their appreciation of the various ways God has
to them through those same servants.
There is ample evidence in Scripture that Apollos was the better public
speaker than Paul.
1 CORINTHIANS 2
1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with
of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus
and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words
of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God.
2 CORINTHIANS 10
Inferring from Luke's description of Apollos over in Acts, and from
response to criticisms leveled against himself, I surmise that Apollos
was a much more eloquent than Paul. Apollos was more convincing,
even more entertaining, than Paul. Clearly, Apollos was quite an
communicator of truths of Scripture, leading many scholars today to
if perhaps it is Apollos who is the unidentified author of the New
book of Hebrews. He sure fits the profile.
1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and
of Christ; who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold
7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If
anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again
this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's.
8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority,
which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I
shall not be ashamed;
9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters.
10 "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but
bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."
11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by
letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are
Now take a peek at that next verse in 2 Corinthians 10:
12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with
who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves,
comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Is Paul here talking about Apollos? Did Apollos stayed in
to build his own reputation at Paul's expense, to take credit for the
work that Paul had done for the Gospel? I can say in all confidence,
unequivocally, the answer is No. While Paul was unashamed to defend his
apostleship, he would not say one word in criticism of Apollos. Why?
1 COR 3
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual
people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until
you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy,
and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
4 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of
Apollos," are you not carnal?
5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers
whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who
but God who gives the increase.
Now, where was Apollos as Paul was writing this? The last we
had seen of Apollos thus far was
the Ephesian church bidding him farewell to go preach in Corinth.
Was he still there in Corinth?
Or had he moved on to some other city? Answer: Neither.
1 COR 16
12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to
to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this
however, he will come when he has a convenient time.
After Paul arrived in Ephesus, Apollos finished up his teaching tour
in Corinth, and returned to Ephesus and finally met Paul himself. Not
did he meet Paul, he became one of Paul's lifelong assistants. This
highly of the humility of both men, humility motivated by their
focus on Christ and His mission to save the lost. If I may read between
the lines in what Paul says to those who participate in the "who's the
best Christian teacher on TV and Radio" game, or "who's the best
in the pulpit": "Apollos and I are on the same team. We are friends.
So what's your problem?"
Who else in on the team?
19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet
heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
We catch one more glimpse of Apollos later in Paul's ministry. Although
Luke does not report this, it appears that Apollos continues to work as
Paul's assistant and as an extension of Paul's ministry, as so many
whom we have met in this series had done. The only other time we see
cited is in Paul's letter to Titus ... and who is he? Ah, that will
to be another sermon on another day.
Paul wrote this letter some time after the conclusion of the events
in the book of Acts. Acts closes with Paul taken as a prisoner to Rome,
where he stayed under house arrest in his own apartment for two
years. Then what? The evidence is clear from Paul's own letters and the
documentation of the earliest church historians that Paul was released and continued to
travel and do mission work for several years before his final arrest
execution. It was during that time of travel Paul wrote this letter to
his young assistant Titus.
...and Paul goes on to describe the qualifications for pastoral
4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and
from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should
in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders [or pastors]
every city as I commanded you;
The verses that interest us are...
Now, I don't know who Artemas is. I do know who Tychicus is. You have
seen his name at least three times in our series thus far. Zenas the
Sorry, I don't know him. But it seems that Zenas and Apollos are not
preaching and teaching, but simply serving as the courier of Paul's
to Titus, and Paul is here asking that Titus give them what they need
the way of supplies for their return trip.
12 When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come
to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter
13 Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with
that they may lack nothing.
There is a whole lot more we can glean from this references and others
Paul makes in other letters that helps chart his course of travel
this period of his ministry... but that's another study for another
And that's it for Apollos - a gifted teacher who never lost his love
of learning about the Lord, and never lost his zeal for helping others
to grow in faith, who, in spite of his abilities and popularity, kept
focus not on himself, but on the Lord Jesus Christ. His delight was to
have others know Jesus, too. In whatever our individual areas of
may the Lord give us such a focus, such a sense of mission for Him.