SERMON DELIVERED ON 09-21-19 

        In my last sermon in this series on the Book of Acts, we finished with Acts 18:23 where we see Paul, after spending some time in Antioch, setting out from there and traveling from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia.

       Acts 18:23: After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

       What follows is an insert of information about a Jew named Apollos and how this man was well trained in the Scriptures and one who had been instructed in the way of Lord and was accurately speaking with great fervor about Jesus. 

       Acts 18: 24-26: 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 fervor 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.

       It is said that Apollos knew only the baptism of John. How did he know about the teachings of John?  John taught in the Judean desert.  Apollos was a native resident of Alexandria Egypt who at some point had come to Ephesus.  There is nothing recorded as to Apollos having actual contact with John.  We simply are not told how Apollos became acquainted with the ministry of John.  He may have been in Judea at some point when John was actively preaching.  He could have been told about John’s teaching by others. We just don’t know. 

       What we are told is that Apollos was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. And he had been instructed in the way of the Lord, which led to his speaking with great fervor and teaching about Jesus accurately. Apparently Apollos had searched the Hebrew Scriptures and proven to himself that the man Jesus, whom John had proclaimed as the promised Messiah, was indeed the promised Messiah. Like we saw Paul doing and as we did in several previous sermons in this series, Apollos used a variety of prophetic passages from the Hebrew Scriptures to prove Jesus was the Christ.

       However, it is indicated that Apollos had a limited understanding of the Christ event.  It is said he “knew only the baptism of John.”  John preached a baptism of repentance in anticipation of the Kingdom of God about to appear as represented by the coming of the promised Messiah to Israel.

       Matthew 3:1-2: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

       Matthew 3:11: "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

       John was telling the people to acknowledge and repent of their sinful behavior in anticipation of the coming of Jesus who would teach the moral standards of the Kingdom.  It’s apparent that while Apollos taught accurately about Jesus being the promised Messiah, he did not know the full significance of His appearing. He may not have understood the salvation ramifications of the Christ event.  He may not have understood the covenantal transition that was facilitated by the Christ event.  At any rate, it is recorded that when “Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” 

       Priscilla and Aquila inviting Apollos to their home raises the question as to where their home was. It would appear to have been in Corinth from what we previously covered in this series.

       Acts 18: 1-3: After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

       Priscilla and Aquila had moved from Rome to Corinth where it is recorded that Paul met them and joined them in their occupation of tent making.  Were Priscilla and Aquila living in Corinth?  Is this where their home was?  From what we see of their interaction with Apollos, it would appear their home was in Ephesus. This matter may be resolved by what we see in Acts 18:18-19.     

       Acts 18:18-19: Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.  They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

       It would appear that the stay in Corinth was a temporary stay for Priscilla and Aquila. They may have been there on a contract basis to make some tents and then returned to their home in Ephesus.  It is apparent that at some point these two moved back to Rome where they established a house church. We know this because in his letter to the Romans, Paul asks that greetings be given to Priscilla and Aquila and to the church that meets in their house.

       Romans 16:3-5: Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.

       Continuing in Acts 18, it is recorded that after being given greater understanding about the Christ event by Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos wanted to go to Achaia and was encouraged to do so. It is apparent it was to Corinth in Achaia that he went as we will see when we begin Acts 19.

       When he arrived there, it is recorded that he was a great help to those who by grace had believed because he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. So as was true of Paul, Apollos used the Hebrew Scriptures to prove Jesus was the Christ.  

       Now it’s apparent that Apollos became a strong leader in the developing Christian community as we see that some choose to follow him while others choose to follow Paul and various other leaders of the Christian movement.  This became an issue for Paul 

       1 Corinthians 1:11-13: My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas;" still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

       Paul addresses this issue again in 1 Corinthians 3 and again in chapter 4 where he instructs the Corinthians that they are not to take pride in one man over against another.  It is apparent that some of the Corinthian Christians were identifying and elevating one Christian leader over that of another which was creating division.  Paul was very upset about this and made it clear this was not to be.

       1 Corinthians 3:4-7: For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 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 made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

       Paul makes it plain that the focus should be on God and not on the teachers and preachers who bring people to God. While we do see in Scripture instruction to give proper respect and esteem to those who preach the Gospel, it should never become a matter of pitting one such person against another, a situation that can only produce strife and division.

       As covered in my last sermon in this series, after Paul spent considerable time ministering in Corinth he left and traveled to Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem and then up to Antioch Syria. This is considered the end of his second missionary journey.  After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.  This is considered the start of his third missionary journey. The indication is that when Paul left Corinth he appointed Apollos to look after the church at Corinth.  Now he returns to Ephesus.

        Acts 19:1-5: While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"   They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"   "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

       In returning to Ephesus, he finds some disciples who apparently had come to understand that the man Jesus was the promised Messiah to Israel but new very little beyond that.  As was true of Apollos, they were followers of John the Baptist who preached a message of repentance in anticipation of and preparation for the coming of the Christ, the anointed of God.  It is evident they knew nothing about the Pentecost event and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. 

       When Paul asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed, they said they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.  When Paul asked them what baptism they received, they answered it was John’s baptism. John’s baptism is seen as a baptism of repentance. What does that mean? 

       Why did the Jews of John’s day respond to John who appeared to them wearing garments made of camel's hair and wearing a leather belt around his waist, a guy who was living on locusts and wild honey?   They responded to John because first century Israel was expecting the Messiah to appear in their generation.  Some thought John was that Messiah.  But, as we know from Scripture, John was the forerunner prophesied by Isaiah to lay the ground work for the coming of the Messiah.

       Baptism, as practiced by John, is not in evidence in the OT.  From where did John get the idea to baptize in water for the remission of sin?  God may have simply given this protocol to John through revelation.  On the other hand, John may have been following OT symbolism of water being used to signify cleansing from sin.  In Isaiah 1:16, Israel is told to wash and make themselves clean.  In Ezekiel 36, God is quoted as saying “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.”  In Psalm 51: David asks God to wash away his iniquity and cleanse him from sin.

       It may be because water was used in OT times as signifying the removal of sin that John got the idea of water baptism for the forgiveness of sin.  John was still living under the Old Covenant.  It would have been quite normal for him to use Old Covenant imagery in his ministry of repentance.  Just as water was used in OT times to signify cleansing from sin, so John used water baptism as confirmation of one's willingness to repent and change the direction of one's life.

       The Scriptures show John the Baptist preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Some may question how John’s baptism of repentance could forgive sin.  Don’t the Scriptures teach that it is only through the sacrifice of Christ that sin can be forgiven?  

       When John was baptizing, the death and resurrection of Jesus had not yet occurred.  As one commentator I read put it, those baptized by John received forgiveness on credit so to speak as did those in OT times when animals were sacrificed.  Hebrews 10:4 clearly teaches that the blood of sacrificed animals could not take away sins.  Only the shed blood of Christ can do that.  The same goes for baptism.  Baptism does not wash away sin.  The blood of Christ can only do that.

       All forgiveness of sin prior to the sacrifice of Christ appears to be provisional.  It all was looking forward to the eternal forgiveness that would become available through the Christ event.  It is apparent the baptism of John was designed to prepare people for the soon to occur ministry of Jesus. To repeat, baptism, in and of itself, does not forgive sin. This can only be accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Baptism is simply an outward signification of our acceptance of the message being preached.

       In the case of John’s baptism, it was the people’s acceptance of John’s message that that they needed to repent in view of the imminent coming of the promised Messiah to Israel. Once this Messiah appeared, baptism became a signification of acceptance of Christ and his atonement for the sins of the world.      

      Paul told the Ephesian disciples John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He then explained that John told the people to believe in the one that would come after him which was Jesus.  On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus thus showing that baptism is not in and of itself effectual but represents what is effectual, salvation through Christ.     

       As was true of John’s ministry, Jesus also preached repentance in that He taught obedience to the tenets of the Kingdom of God.  Scripture records that as people came to believe in Jesus and respond to His teaching, His disciples baptized these people.

       John 4:1-2: The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.

       As people came to respond to the teaching of Jesus they were baptized by his disciples as a public confirmation of their decision to repent and follow the teachings of Christ. 

       In the case of those who expressed faith in Christ and repented and were baptized prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, they did so in anticipation of what was to come.  It prepared them for the salvation that would become available to them through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This salvation is tied to receiving the Holy Spirit which was first made available as an indwelling dynamic of eternal life on that first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. 

       The disciples Paul encountered at Ephesus apparently had a very limited understanding of what the Christ event was all about.  After Paul explained to them the full significance of the Christ event they were baptized into the name of Jesus which is to say they were baptized into the significance of what Jesus was all about.   

       Acts 19:6-7: On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.      

       When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. They probably did this to demonstrate to them that they had graduated to a new dimension of relationship with Christ.  I will not here discuss the tongues phenomenon as I treated this issued in some depth earlier in this series.

       Acts 19:8-10: Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

       It is apparent Paul stayed in Ephesus for some time and aggressively taught about the kingdom of God.  Notice it was the synagogue where Paul preached which again tells us he was addressing the Jews and probably proselytes to Judaism.  He is seen as teaching the kingdom of God, something we seeing Paul doing throughout his ministry.  In teaching about the kingdom he was teaching about Christ and also teaching about what the kingdom of God is all about.  Now I could spend the next three or four sermons explaining what Paul was teaching when it is said he was “arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.”  However, I will save that for another time.  Teaching about the Kingdom of God was the focus of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of Paul.  After I finish this series on Acts I am thinking about doing a series on what exactly is the Kingdom of God and what does it all encompass and represent? 

       We see that Paul was once again met with resistance to the message he was bringing.  So Paul left them and took the disciples with him and carried on discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  It is uncertain who Tyrannus was. There were lecture halls found throughout Greek cities of Paul’s day where a philosopher or some other notable person could teach. Tyrannus may have been such a person. 

       Acts 19:11: God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

       During His ministry, in speaking to his disciples, Jesus said that anyone who has faith in Him will do what He had been doing and that he will do even greater things because he was going to the Father and as we know He had promised to send the Holy Spirit which is in part defined as a spirit of power.   

       We saw earlier in this series how Peter performed miracles including raising the dead.  It is reported that the very shadow of Peter passing over someone produced healing.  Now we see Paul doing similar things.  These men were able to do these things through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Apparently some Jews who were practicing exorcisms thought they could do what Paul was doing.   The results are interesting 

       Acts 19:13-16:  Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

         It is obvious that these Jewish exorcists were not converts to Christianity and did not have the power of the Holy Spirit as did Jesus, Paul, Peter and other of the disciples. These Jews were exposed for the frauds that they were much as Simon Magus was exposed as a fraud as we covered earlier in this series.  This incident however did produce some good.

       Acts 19:17-20: When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

       This incident produced some serious soul searching. Sometimes the creation of a little fear can go a long way toward turning lives around.  Fear tactics have been used by Christian ministers for centuries to virtually scare people into conversion to Christianity. Tens of thousands of fire and brimstone sermons have been preached to move people to accept Christ.  So called altar calls are often preceded by ministerial rhetoric warning those in the audience that this may be their last chance to accept Christ.  This is especially the case in Pentecostal and other charismatic fellowships.

       Having grown up as a youth in the Pentecostal Church, I experienced many such services where scare tactics were used to bring people to the altar to accept Christ.  When I was around 10 or 12 years old my parents and I were attending a “revival” meeting where at the end of the service the minister claimed to had received a vision where he was told that someone in the audience was receiving their last chance to receive Christ as personal savior.  My parents knowing that I had not yet done so, virtually pushed me out into the isle to join others who were walking up to the church altar to be saved,

        As I have probably pointed out in the past, such coercive tactics are not found in Scripture. However, we do have examples in Scripture of supernatural events waking people up to Divine realities which in turn bring people to respond to a message or teaching about God and his purposes. Here in Acts 18 we see that happening.  We see people coming to realize that what Paul was teaching was the real deal and could not be counterfeited as was tried by the Jewish exorcists.   

       This led to people repenting and abandoning their former lifestyles and seriously considering what Paul was teaching.  How many of those who were led to repentance continued to live lives of response to God we don’t know. Some time ago I saw an interview with Billy Graham where he was asked how many of those who answered to his altar calls followed up on their decision for Christ and pursued a changed life. As I recall, the percentage was rather small.

       We will continue in Acts 19 next time.