4 June 2011

Acts 18:22-28

"He began to speak boldly in the synagogue: but when Pricilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately." (v. 26)


There is always more for us to learn - but that process needs gracious teachers and willing listeners. Both are seen in this interesting incident.

Apollos comes from Alexandra, a centre of education and philosophy. The details of his personal spiritual journey are not given but he is clearly someone who, having been taught about the "Way of the Lord" (v. 25), is able to pass on that message to others with eloquence (v. 24) and "burning enthusiasm" (v. 25). He is able to teach accurately "the things concerning Jesus" (v. 25), but something is missing. Apollos knows only "the baptism of John" (v. 25). He is presumably ignorant of the importance of Baptism in the name of Jesus - as was offered by Peter on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:38).

Reading this passage today it is perhaps difficult to imagine this situation. How can someone know all that Apollos apparently knows about Jesus and be able to speak with such power and authority and yet be unaware of such an important aspect of the life of the early Church. We need to remember that in the middle of the first century, when these events took place, a more formal understanding of the key elements of the Christian faith was only gradually being established. There were various strands of understanding, and issues regarding the essential elements of faith for a Christian believer were still being actively debated.

In this context, after Priscilla and Aquila had heard Apollos speak, they "took him aside" (v. 26) and helped him to understand the faith in more detail. The phrase "took him aside" may mean that they took him to their home or it may mean that they went quietly to a corner for the conversation. What is clear is that they did this in order to encourage him and to develop his understanding. This was not a matter of criticising him openly or embarrassing him in public.

Apollos, in response, takes their comments as constructive criticism - by the time he leaves Ephesus the believers there are able to send him on his way with a letter of commendation (v. 27). There is much for us to learn from Pricilla and Aquila about how to give good advice - and from Apollos about how to receive it.

To Ponder

How are you going to keep on learning more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus?

What can you learn from this incident about how best to give advice - and how best to receive it?

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.