This article is part of our weekly series, “The Book of Acts and the Church Today.” You can see all articles in the series here.
You are surrounded by poor role models. So, Paul’s instruction is pertinent: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us (Phil. 3:17). In Acts 18:24–28, Luke spotlights a worthy example named Apollos. Scripture is modest on Apollos’s personal details; his life was only meant to draw attention to Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Apollos hailed from Egypt. In Ephesus and Corinth, he watered the seed Paul planted and became so prominent a preacher that he unintentionally developed a cultish following (1 Cor. 3:4–6). He apparently also served with Titus at Crete (Titus 3:13). Church history suggests that he finished his days as an elder in the Corinthian church.
What can Apollos teach us about a well-lived Christian life?
Christians Are Committed to Training
Apollos’s hometown, Alexandria, offered the best secular education available and he seems to have learned well. But Apollos had also “been instructed in the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25). In Luke’s language, he was catechized, systematically trained in biblical truth.
You don’t have to be a top-tier scholar to be a Christian, but you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18). Don’t be tricked by the Pharisees’ claim that Peter and John were “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13). The disciples lacked academic credentials but they were educated; for three years “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). We too must train our hearts and minds in communion with Christ. After all, “How much better to get wisdom than gold!” (Prov. 16:16).
Christians Handle God’s Word with Care
Apollos “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25). Like a man swinging a sword with strength and skill, Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24 KJV). Apollos didn’t know everything. “He knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25). John’s teaching was transitional; he taught a true gospel of salvation in the Messiah but without the fullness that would come through Jesus’ death and resurrection and the completed canon of Scripture.
Still, Apollos taught what he knew—no more and no less. He didn’t hold back. And he didn’t speculate. Apollos probably never said, “The way I like to think about God is…” Apollos teaches us to be humble in our limitations, to be faithful with what we know, and to press on toward greater knowledge.
Christians Use Their Gifts for God’s Glory
Because of his training in logic and rhetoric and his native, God-given abilities, Apollos was “an eloquent man” (Acts 18:24). He was the kind of guy people wanted to listen to. Some folks use smooth speech to impress people, but Apollos used his gift to benefit others. Through his eloquence “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:27).
You might not be eloquent like Apollos. No problem. But there is something special about your combination of talent and training. Your gifts are a sacred trust from God to help others glorify and enjoy him (Matt. 25:14–30). Hear Paul’s pronouncement and ponder how you might put it into practice: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6).
Christians Are Courageous
Apollos heeded God’s command to “Be bold and very courageous!” (Josh. 1:7). He spoke “boldly in the synagogue” (Acts 18:26). He “powerfully refuted the Jews in public” (Acts 18:28). And he was qualified to be courageous because he was spiritually well-informed. His knowledge informed his zeal. He was fervent “in spirit” (cf. Rom. 12:11). Apollos’s bold obedience and scriptural convictions were dependent upon the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 19:19–20).
Those who have been baptized into Christ through repentance and faith have the Holy Spirit. “We are not of those who shrink back” (Heb. 10:39). Why? The Spirit assures us that Jesus presently defends us and one day will return for us (Heb. 10:37). Time will almost certainly tell that courage is among the qualities most needed in believers today.
Christians Are Correctable
Apollos’ understanding of Jesus was far from perfect. But Apollos humbly recognized his limitations. So the well-educated, eloquent, and popular Alexandrian man was happy to be corrected by Priscilla and Aquila, ordinary artisans.
Being rebuffed is hard. We can deceive ourselves, thinking that we have little to learn. And pride can cancel our interest in correction. But if a professional prophet like Balaam could be challenged by a beast of burden (2 Peter 2:16), surely we should be sensitive to truth no matter who speaks it or how it is delivered to us.
Still, there are better and worse ways of offering redress. Priscilla and Aquila did it well. “They took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Loving, private correction is almost always better than harsh, public rebuke.
You should imitate Apollos. But you won’t be just like him. God wants you to serve him in your own way. And he will help you. More than anything, we see in Apollos the sovereign grace of God at work. Apollos is just one thread in the grand tapestry of God’s redemptive work. “What then is Apollos?” Just a servant (1 Cor. 3:5). So are we. But because we are part of God’s grand plan, we have every reason to walk according to the godly examples he has provided for us.