1. Who would you say is the most controversial person in the entire world? (Most likely it’s Jesus. Just to mention His name almost immediately polarizes people based on what they believe about Him.)
2. What are some of the wrong understandings about who Jesus really is? (Some don’t believe He ever existed—just a made up story; some believe He was simply a good man. Some even believe He was another prophet from God. Some believe He was God’s Son sent to be the Sacrifice for our sin, was crucified, arose on the third day and ascended into Heaven triumphant over sin death and the grave forever to reign over His people.)
Some people have a partial understanding about who Jesus really is because they have never heard the complete story. In other words their understanding is not completely accurate because they have never heard the complete truth about Jesus.
As we study the Bible, we may recognize that there are gaps in our understanding that keep us from fully comprehending the whole picture. In today’s study, we discover that Apollos had only a partial understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Two weeks ago we concluded Acts 17 with Paul preaching in Athens and revealing to them the god they had worshiped as an “Unknown God” was Creator God. From there Paul traveled to Corinth. There he met Aquila and Priscilla, a very devout Christian couple who were tent makers—Paul’s trade as well.
When Silas and Timothy came to Corinth they found Paul preaching and teaching in the synagogue. The Jews resisted and blasphemed so Paul shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
After many days there, Paul left to return to Antioch. Aquila and Pricilla went with him as far as Ephesus. Paul continued his journey to Caesarea, Jerusalem and back to Antioch. After spending some time there he left on his third missionary journey.
In the mean time in Ephesus, a believer named Apollos encountered Aquila and Pricilla.
A Partial Witness! Read Acts 18:24-26
We are not told exactly where the message Apollos was teaching fell short of the full truth, but evidently he lacked in some understanding in the area of baptism.
1. What are the dangers of a person teaching a partial truth and teaching it well? (Without full disclosure, a bad decision can be made with limited information available. A proper understanding of something is necessary before we can draw reasonable conclusions.)
When Christians do not have a complete understanding of the gospel, they could potentially confuse other believers based upon their limited knowledge. That is why knowledgeable Christians should come alongside new believers to explain the truths about God! That is another reason Sunday School is so important for a new believer.
As teachers, we must be certain of our facts before we teach it to others. If we teach one false truth, what are they to believe about other things we may be teaching!
2. How did the approach of this Christian couple strengthen Apollos as opposed to tearing him down?
3. What principles for confronting a person did they follow? (Rather than publicly correcting him they invited him to their home where they explained the way of God more adequately.)
People are more receptive to new truth when we take the time to have a personal conversation with them.
After listening to Apollos, this couple realized that he taught correct doctrine but had limited understanding about baptism. So they spent time with Apollos to improve his understanding on that subject.
4. Is there some area of Scripture I have limited understanding about and need to be certain of before I try to teach someone else?
5. Am I teachable—willing to learn from others?
A Complete Witness! Read Acts 18:27-29
Apollos crossed over to Achaia—modern day Greece, where Athens and Corinth were located.
1. How did the believers in Ephesus support and affirm Apollos’ ministry? (They sent a letter of recommendation with him. Apollos was not known by the people in Achaia.)
2. How can we encourage and support ministers, missionaries and strong church members who relocate to another place of service?
3. Apollos’ growth in spiritual understanding was extremely important to his preaching and debating in Corinth. What role did his background play in his effectiveness? (He obviously knew the Old Testament very well, and when coming to a full understanding about Jesus, he was able to demonstrate “through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.”)
The gospel was spread more effectively!
While Apollos was sharing in Corinth, Paul met some disciples in Ephesus and began to dialogue with them.
An Inadequate Understanding! Read Acts 19:1-7
There is a world of difference between an incomplete understanding and an inadequate understanding! One writer states: “This is a particularly relevant passage because we face similar issues in the church today.”
Paul seemed to indicate that the disciples he encountered were not believers in Jesus. They had a rudimentary, inadequate understanding that they had acquired through some direct or indirect contact with John the Baptist. They appeared to have missed John’s message that the one coming after him would be greater and would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The focus of the understanding these 12 or so men had was on John the Baptist, not Jesus.
1. What are the dangers of trusting in baptism rather than faith in Jesus for one’s salvation? (Our salvation becomes one about works. Trusting in baptism gives false hope!)
2. If baptism is not essential to our salvation, why do we need to be baptized? (Baptism is our public testimony that we are committed followers of Jesus; Baptism is a visual picture of what happened in our heart—I have died to sin and been resurrected to walk in a new life in Christ Jesus; Baptism is our first act of obedience as a new believer in Christ Jesus.)
John baptized people for repentance in preparation of the Lord’s coming. While John baptized only with water, Jesus baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit as well.
Paul asked these men if they had received the Holy Spirit. He wanted to know if they were believers in Christ. Paul taught the Ephesian believers that they received the Holy Spirit once they placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
The New Testament teaches that our assurance of salvation is grounded in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—Rom. 8:16; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 3:2; 1 John 4:13.
Summarize and Challenge!
While Apollos had a partial understanding, the men in Ephesus had an inadequate understanding of the truths of God’s Word.
1. What doctrines or truths from the Bible does someone need to understand to be saved? (Jesus is the Messiah. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised on the third day. Repentance and faith are two steps we take to come to Jesus for salvation.)
The Holy Spirit indwells every believer as a witness of our salvation in Christ!
2. Are there different approaches to sharing the gospel needed in various settings? Why?
3. When divine appointments occur, what steps do we need to take?
Encourage new believers by sharing how you grew up in your salvation and learned more about the Christian life. Share that our growth to be more like Jesus is a lifelong process and will only be complete when we are with Jesus in Heaven!
Pray, thanking God for our salvation. Pray that each person has already made that decision!