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June 3, 2017

Sermon Acts 18:24-28 . . . “People to meet in heaven:  Apollos”

“People to meet in heaven:  Apollos”

Acts 18:24-28

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Let me begin this morning with a question--what do Donald Knuth, Michael McConnell and Henry Schaeffer all have in common?  Before I answer the question, first let me tell you a little more about them.

Let’s start with Donald Knuth.  Knuth was born in Milwaukee, then attended the Case Institute of Technology.  While a student there, he rewrote the code for the school’s mainframe computer, and co-founded a magazine called, Engineering and Science Review.  When he graduated in 1960, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in mathematics at the same time.  After he earned his doctorate at Cal-Tech, he joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he now holds the title of Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming.  He’s created several computer languages and has received numerous awards and degrees for his ground-breaking work in computer programming.

That’s Donald Knuth.  Now let me tell you about Michael McConnell.

He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, then attended the University of Chicago where he earned his law degree.  After he served in the Reagan administration in the Office of Management and Budget and as Solicitor General, he became a visiting professor at Harvard and Stanford Universities.  He’s argued thirteen cases before the United States Supreme Court and has served as a federal judge.  He’s regarded as one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the country, and is often mentioned as a candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court.  Michael McConnell.

Finally, there’s Henry Schaeffer.  After he was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical physics from MIT.  After he earned his doctorate, he taught at the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Paris and the Australian National University.  He’s written more than 1,150 technical papers and, for years, has been the sixth most cited research chemist in the world.  It’s no surprise.  He pioneered the field of quantum chemistry.

So back to my question—what do Donald Knuth, Michael McConnell and Henry Schaeffer have in common?  If you said they were intellectuals, you’d be right.  All three are incredibly intelligent men.  And if you said they were Christian, you’d be right again, proving that you can be both intellectual and Christian at the very same time.

So it was for a man named Apollos.

If you would, please turn in your Bible to page 1180, as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start at chapter 18, verse 24, where it says “Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus.”

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.  He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.  And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him.  When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Let’s step back for just a moment to see what’s going on.

It was barely twenty years after Jesus died and rose again, and the church was growing large and strong.  As Luke wrote in Acts chapter 6:  “The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  And he wrote:  “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

And somewhere in that number, a man named Apollos came to believe in Jesus too.  And, as Luke wrote in verse 24, he was a native of Alexandria.

So what do we know about Alexandria?  Actually, quite a lot!

It was located on the Nile delta in Egypt, and was the second largest city in the empire, second only to Rome itself.  It was famous for its lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  For centuries, it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world.

And since it sat on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, it was a major center of the international shipping industry, and was one of the most important trading centers in the world.

But the best reason we know Alexandria today is because of its library, one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world.  Entire rooms were dedicated to the sciences of anatomy and astronomy.  Its shelves were filled with works on physics, geography and engineering.  Men like Euclid, (the father of geometry), Hipparchus, (the father of trigonometry), and Archimedes, (thought to be the greatest mathematician of all time!), all studied there.

So when the text said Apollos was a native of Alexandria, that’s a big deal!  He wasn’t just some hick from Podunk, U.S.A.  He lived in one of the most powerful, learned, and elite cities in the world.

And somehow, by the grace of God, he came to Christ.  He learned He was the Messiah, the sinless Son of God, who atoned for the sin of all the world.  And he believed.

As it says in verse 25:  “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.  And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.”

Let’s stop there for just a moment.  “Fervent in spirit,” it said.  Do you know what the word for “fervent” is in the original language?  It’s the word, “zeo.”  It’s a word that means, “to burn,” “to boil,” “to be hot”!  When it came to Jesus, Apollos was literally fired up!

But he didn’t just teach with passion and power.  Luke wrote, “He taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.”  In detail, he shared the good news of His life, death and resurrection.

But there was a problem.  It says in verse 25, “He knew only the baptism of John.”  You see, when Apollos preached, he preached about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.  But apparently he didn’t know what came next--the power and the promise of Pentecost.

Now look at verse 26:  “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

In other words, when Priscilla and Aquila heard him preach, they heard his glorious eloquence, his matchless oratory, his deep fervency, but they knew something was missing.  Something was wrong.  

But how do you carefully and tactfully tell a good preacher he’s wrong?  Invite him over for dinner!

So that’s exactly what they did.  Just as soon as the service was over, they put on their best spread--fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy.  And as their stomachs warmed and their friendship grew, Aquila and Priscilla talked about the Savior’s death, about His atoning blood, His resurrection and ascension, and the good news that He would soon come again.  They spoke of the life, message, and ministry of the Lord Jesus.

Then what happened?  Fresh from the University of Alexandria, after sitting at the feet of Philo, the greatest teacher of Jewish law, a first-rate student, a scholar of Greek learning and oratory, astronomy, mathematics and science, he could have said, “Who are these lowly little tentmakers telling me what to preach?”  

But that’s not what he said at all.  Instead, quietly, respectfully, and humbly, he came to know more fully the way of the Lord.

And that’s a first lesson we should learn from this man named Apollos.  No matter who you are, no matter how much you know, never stop learning the way of the Lord.

And what happened when he more fully learned the way of the Lord?  Look at the end of verse 27:  “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Back in 1930s, during the days of the Great Depression, Ira Yates owned a sheep ranch out in west Texas.  But times were tough, and there wasn’t much money in sheep, so he barely was making a living.  And with little money for food or clothes for his family, he lived on government subsidy.  So there he sat, day after day, watching his sheep graze, trying to find some way to pay his bills.

Until one day, a crew of men stopped by to say there might be oil on his land and asked permission to drill.  Yates agreed and signed a contract.

And sure enough, at a little over a thousand feet down, the drillers struck a huge oil reserve, coming in at eighty thousand barrels a day.

But that was just the beginning!  The more they drilled, the more they found.  So far, they’ve pumped more than a billion barrels of oil from his land, and, they suspect, there’s a billion more, making it one of the largest oil reserves in the United States.   

Though Ira Yates lived in poverty, he was a multi-millionaire.

As American poet and novelist, Annie Dillard, once wrote:  “As Christians, we play on the floor like children with chemistry sets, not knowing the power we hold in our hands.  For if that power should ever come together, we wouldn’t be wise to wear a straw hat or a velvet hat like we wear to church.  We ought to wear crash helmets or construction helmets, because the power of God is so strong, that we would need something to protect ourselves from it.”

That’s the power Apollos came to know.  And that’s the power and the promise of Pentecost.

  One more thing.  Now we can’t be sure, because the Bible doesn’t say.  But it’s very possible that Apollos wrote one of the books of the Bible, the letter to the Hebrews.  It’s the book that tells of the sufficiency and the supremacy of Christ.

And if he did write it, we are so very glad he did!  For it’s there that we find words like these:  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  He wrote:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  And he wrote:  “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 That’s Apollos’ Savior and that’s our Savior--the Lord Jesus Christ.


We thank You, dear Lord, for calling the weak and the poor among us, and the incredibly intelligent too.  Help us to use our gifts, whatever they might be, all for Your glory.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen


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