Lesson 42: Paul's 3rd Missionary Journey (Continued/At Ephesus)
Acts, Lesson #42. We are ready to read Acts 18:24-25-26. But, before we do, let's review this much. Paul was in Galatia revisiting those churches: Derby, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia for the third time. This is the beginning of the third missionary journey. But, before Paul arrived at Ephesus, Luke turned his pen to the events in Ephesus before Paul got there. Let's read v.24-25-26. "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Prescilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Apollos was born at Alexandria, which is in Egypt - city #34 - a sort of second Athens, in that it was a place of learning, except that Hebrew literature, including the O.T., was a heavy part of the curriculum in Alexandria. Apollos was a polished man. He knew the O.T. - "Mighty in the scriptures" v.24 said. Eloquent, i.e., he had capability; he was fluent and expressive. He was fervent in the spirit. He was diligent to teach. He spoke boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus. Quite a reputation! I sense he was well received. Very commendable, he would put many of us in our day to shame. He was instructed in the way of the Lord, v. 25 says. He taught about the coming Messiah. But, the most amazing thing is, he knew only the baptism of John, i.e., John the Baptist. What does this mean to you? Did this make him a Baptist instead of a Christian? Well, not exactly! There never was but one Baptist in the scriptures and that was John. And, even there it has reference to his occupation and not his name. John himself said: Christ must increase, John must decrease, that's John 3:30. So if there was only one Baptist and he decreased; there should not be any today, right? That's right? Some may think they are; but not scripturally. Apollos knew only the baptism of John. Now, what does that mean? John the Baptist's work was preparatory to the kingdom. It was prophesied that way (Luke 1:17). It was preached that way by John himself (Mark 1:8-9). Now, lefs try to keep this simple. The word baptism (or baptize) is used several ways in the N.T. Let's review three of those ways here and now: 1) John the Baptist's baptism, we'll call it the first one. It was an immersion in water, preparatory to the kingdom or the church. 2) Holy Ghost baptism - John said Jesus would do this, Mark 1:9. And, this had nothing to do with water. John the baptizer made this point, in that same verse (Mark 1:9 ). Then Jesus gave this contrast in Acts 1:5. Do you remember? Jesus told the apostles, "John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not may days hence." You know that Jesus was talking about the POWER that came to the apostles ten days later on Pentecost. But, you will remember, Jesus called it a baptism. 3) O.K. now, baptism is what Peter told the people on Pentecost do do. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins (Acts 2:38): And this was water baptism, we established that in Acts 10:47 at the household of Cornelius.
Now, Apollos knew only the first, i.e., the baptism of John, the preparatory baptism. John's baptism was for the remission of sins, not men but later. He preached "the baptism of repentance for remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). It was not in a name. It was not in the name of Jesus Christ as Acts 2:38 says. It was not in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost as Matthew 28:19 says. There was no promise, i.e., the indwelling of the H.S. as Peter promised in Acts 2:38. Peter told those that were baptized on Pentecost "ye shall receive" this promise. John's baptism did not include this promise. May I repeat again, John's baptism was preparatory. Those baptized by John and his disciples were not added to the church because there was no church. Not at that time! The church or kingdom was established later on Pentecost. Remember, John's baptism was a baptism of repentance for remission of sins. They repented, changed their lives to conform to righteousness. Their sins were not forgiven then and there because sins are paid for, i.e., cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. And Jesus, the Christ, had not yet died on the cross at that time. Thus, they were baptized in preparation to receive the remission of sins when Christ's blood would be shed. Thus, they were prepared for citizenship in the kingdom when the kingdom (or church) would be established. They were immersed in water and they were not immersed again when the kingdom came because they were prepared ahead of time in this respect, i.e., if they stayed faithful. When the kingdom was established on Pentecost they were in a sense charter members. And, to reinforce this point, let me re-read a verse from Pentecost you can probably quote by now (Acts 2:41): "And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Who were the three thousand added to? Surely you get it, the "them", that the 3,000 were added to, were the charter members as we've called them here. This included the apostles and many other disciples. So, the kingdom had more than 3,000 citizens the first day. Apollos knew only the baptism of John. He was still teaching John's baptism, he was teaching preparaory for the kingdom after the kingdom was established. We don't know the explanation for this. If he had been baptized 25 years before, let's assume it was by John the baptizer. Then, if he had never learned about Jesus dying on the cross, if he had never learned about Jesus' resurrection and the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost; I suppose he was a member of the kingdom and hadn't learned it yet. But, on the other hand, if Apollos had been baptized ignorantly after Pentecost by (or with) John's baptism; then Apollos was baptized for the wrong purpose and needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins so he could receive the promise and be added to the church. Which was his condition? We do not know. It was probably the latter; but either one seems a little far out. But whichever the case may have been Apollos needed to change his teaching. He was still teaching people to prepare for charter membership after there could be no more charter members. Get the picture? Now, I apologize for taking so long on that point. But, I had an ulterior motive. I hope, this background will save us time in Chapter 19.
Now, let's review briefly. Paul was in Galatia. Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus. Apollos came to Ephesus and spoke boldly in the synagogue, v.26. Apollos knew only the baptism of John. When Aquila and Prescilla heard Apollos, they detected right away that Apollos' teaching was in error. It was unfortunate that such an eloquent man was teaching error. But, a most beautiful thing happened here. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. It would appear Priscilla was active in this bible study. They did not do a lot of public criticism to his back They took him unto them (that's in the middle of v.26). Women are not to usurp authority over men, that's in I Tim. 2:11-12; but here is an example of a woman who assisted her husband in teaching another man. They must have taken Apollos home, got him around the kitchen table, gave him a cup of coffee, had a prayer, opened up their scrolls, read the very same passages Apollos had used in the synagogue that day, and then; taught Apollos about Jesus; about His death and resurrection, His ascension, Pentecost and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. And, the indications are that Apollos accepted their help, made amends and changed his teaching. Isn't that commendable? It was commendable on the part of Aquila and Priscilla because they recognized error and helped correct it. You see, they were not so ignorant and naive as many people today. I'm talking about religious advisors, preachers, ministers and denominational clergy, so-to-speak. Those that say: It makes no difference, baptism is not important, unnecessary, do it any way you want: sprinkling, pouring, affusion, babies - some even baptize for persons already dead by proxy, they say. You can find any mode, any purpose, and any manner, if you go to the right creed book and the right place. But, creed books were written by men. They are doctrines and commandments of men. Their general conference or representative assembly revises, and revises, and re-revises the revised, to suit their fancy. They have to have a new copy everytime the council meets. It sells a lot of books. But, it leaves honest, God-fearing-people, ignorant and marred up in error. Oh-how-pathetic! Think about Apollos - he didn't let his Alexandrian education go to his head. This causes me to appreciate the man (Apollos) even more. Apollos was willing to learn from even a tent-maker, in an humble way. He was interested in truth. He was not interested in a lot of bunk that fed his belly and murdered his soul. I could do you a real sermon on that, but we better move on to v.27-28.
Let's read: "And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." O.K., as we have said, Apollos, henceforth taught Jesus as the Christ and him crucified. Apollos went from Ephesus to Achaia and we learn later that included Corinth. We are told what was in that letter but we are not told who wrote the letter (that Apollos took). I would assume Aquila's name was one on that list. Aquila had spent more than a year and a half in Corinth, because he was there when Paul came. He must have known a lot of brethren at Corinth. And, Apollos was a lot of help at Corinth, v.28 says: "he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly." He must have given the Jews in that synagogue, that joined hard unto Justus' house, a real run for their money. He "helped the brethren much," see that toward the end of v.27. This attests to his capability and eloquence that Luke told us about, hi writing to the brethren at Corinth (at a later time). Paul said: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (I Cor. 3:6). So, it's evident, Apollos got his baptisms straightened out and was a very successful preacher at Corinth. This is the first time, in the book of Acts, this kind of a letter has been mentioned, commending a disciple from one congregation to another. This was not the kind of letter denominational people talk about today when they transfer their membership from here to there. Aquila and others could see the potential of Apollos and they knew that if anybody could convince those Jews at Corinth, Apollos had a good chance. They were merely trying to help his chances.
O.K., let's go to Chapter 19. First two verses: "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him,we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." So, Paul finally made it back to Ephesus after revisiting the churches in Galatia. When he arrived at Ephesus, Apollos was gone. He discovered "certain disciples." These certain disciples were undoubtedly those whom Apollos baptized, knowing only the baptism of John. Thus, when Apollos discovered his own error with the help of Aquila and Priscilla; they may not have known what correction to apply to these disciples or they many not have had the opportunity or they may have decided to wait for Paul's council. And again, these could have been baptized by those Apollos baptized, without Apollos' knowledge or Aquila's knowledge. It does not mention Aquila; but, the conversation (in v.2) where Paul asked these certain disciples the question: "Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?' Now, Paul could have been clued in by Aquila or the question could have happened incidentally in a more innocent way before Paul conferred with Aquila. We don't know how it happened. But then- answer, which was an admission of their ignorance about the Holy Ghost, even to the existence of the Holy Ghost; must have shocked Paul. How could this be? All disciples of Jesus; became disciples of Jesus by being baptized in that name, i.e., the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Why were they thus, in darkness on this matter?
It would naturally prompt Paul to inquire further. Let's read it, v.3-4-5. Ready? "And he said unto them Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." O.K., there's the bottom line - John's baptism. Notice Paul's remedy! Analyze his speech closely! John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. John himself said this (Mark 1:4); but they were to believe on Him; which-should-come-after, i.e., Jesus. You will remember, I spent about 10 minutes of your time (in ch. 18) discussing Baptism #1, Baptism #2 and Baptism #3. Luke quotes Paul, and covers the whole subject in one verse (v.4). Can you see why, their immersion in John's baptism was not valid? It was valid at one time, but that time had passed. When they were taught this: "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (v.5). One would be tempted to say they were re-baptized. But that wording is incorrect. You see, they were for the first time in the name of the Lord Jesus. Thus, they were baptized, not re-baptized. "In the name of the Lord Jesus." Here is an abbreviation of Matthew 28:19, or the great commission, where Jesus said: "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost" The Holy Ghost or H.S. (same thing) is involved in your conversion, when you are baptized in this name. And, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). And, this immersion in water, in the name of Jesus Christ, is for the remission of sins. Nothing else will get it. Not even John the Baptist's baptism, to my knowledge. Now, there's more than 25 different brands of "so-called baptist" today. Some might, but, I never heard of it - Baptist today do-not come anywhere close to teaching or practicing scriptural baptism. They teach that one's sins are forgiven when they believe, i.e., when one develops faith in Jesus Christ; at that point, one is saved, (sins forgiven), they say. That's where their creed books and the bible part company. But, that's their doctrine! They do baptize, to make one a baptist - not a Christian. In their view, one is a Christian if he has faith in Jesus Christ. Then, he must be baptized or immersed to become a Baptist As I said: Baptist baptism today is not for remission of sins. They ask the candidate to repeat (or accept) something like this: "I believe that God for Christ's sake has pardoned my sins." This is repeated before immersion. Thus, I trust you understand: The claim to remission of sins (i.e., pardon of alien sins) is brazenly confessed before immersion in water. And, as I said, that is not scriptural baptism. I say this to emphasize what the bible teaches. I do not say this to stigmatize my Baptist friends and neighbors. They will tell you, that is their doctrine. If they teach it, they surely won't object to me teaching it for them. Those men at Ephesus, did not object to Paul teaching them the purpose of John's baptism, even though that baptism was not valid. They set a good example. When they found out what was right they obeyed it. And I think one would be hard pressed to find a scriptural example that teaches any stronger than this one does that when we find ourselves in error; we simply correct the error and go on from there. Apollos was not too proud to do it! These brethren at Ephesus were not too proud to do it Why should we? Our eternal destiny is rooted in it. And to anchor it anyplace else would be foolish.
OK., shall we read some more? V.6-7, put an eyeball on it. "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve." - O.K., about one dozen, a right sizable number. And, I would assume an important part of the nucleus of the congregation at Ephesus. After they were baptized, Paul laid hands on them, the H.G came on them and they received some spiritual gifts; the ability to speak foreign languages, teach, etc., I would assume. Apparently this was for edifying this little band of disciples and evangelizing the city. We know a good bit more about this congregation from the N.T. Paul later wrote them a letter from prison at Rome after he had come to visit them again. Jesus himself wrote them a letter by the hand of the apostle John almost a half century later, recorded in Revelation 2:1-7. Here in Acts 19 we learn a good deal MORE about Paul's activity at Ephesus. He had much success, a long stay and some exciting times. But before we cover this; let's take a break. Have a good day!