A STRATEGIC ENCOUNTER
“After spending a considerable time with the Antioch Christians, Paul set off again for Galatia and Phrygia, retracing his old tracks, one town after another, putting fresh heart into the disciples.
“A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story.” Acts 18:23-26 (The Message).
How clever of God to set Priscilla and Aquila up for their encounter with Apollos in Ephesus! They had accompanied Paul on his return journey from Corinth to Antioch but remained in Ephesus while he continued on his journey home. No explanation was given, but God knew that there was to be a meeting with Apollos in Ephesus.
What a treasure Apollos turned out to be! How he came to be a believer from Alexandria is not recorded either. No doubt believers moved about in the empire, taking the message of Messiah wherever they went. Apollos was well trained in the Old Testament Scriptures and a native of Alexandria, a port city in Egypt where he would have grown up in a cosmopolitan culture, meeting people from all over the empire as they brought their goods to trade.
An introduction to the Messiah put a match to the Word, and Apollos was alight with the truth and comfortable in the company of Jew and Gentile alike. His passion and enthusiasm to spread the message took him to Ephesus where he “accidentally” ran into Priscilla and Aquila. They had been in Paul’s company long enough to have an accurate understanding of the gospel. Who better to take him under their wing and bring him up to speed with the things of the Lord?
Apollos was humble enough to be taught by these two “lay” people, sharpening his knowledge and skill as a preacher which he used to great effect in the synagogue in Ephesus, The fact that he was also, like Paul, a Jew who had recognised that Jesus was their Messiah, must have enhanced Paul’s credibility among the Ephesian Jews.
Why was it so important that Apollos be corrected regarding the baptism of John? After all, baptism is baptism, isn’t it? Does it matter into whose name it is done?
Yes, it matters a whole lot because baptism was an initiation into an office or movement, identifying the baptismal candidate with the leader of the movement and what he stood for and practised. John’s ministry was a preparation and introduction to Jesus as Messiah. His baptism was an initiation into and identification with him in what he was preaching. It was a baptism of repentance, preparing his hearers to receive the kingdom of God which Jesus had come to usher in.
The baptism of Jesus was an initiation into and identification with Him and His completed work of atonement for sin and reconciliation with the Father. To be baptised into Jesus meant being identified with the three-in-one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in what they had done to restore God’s rule in the people’s hearts.
Once Apollos had got that right, he became a fully-equipped and powerful ally of the apostles and the church, using his gift to bring encouragement to the church and enlightenment to his fellow Jews who, in the main, had rejected the gospel and become enemies of God.