APOLLOS – A CHARACTER SKETCH

Apollos is a very interesting character in the New testament. We don’t have much about him, but we know him in his relationship to Priscilla and Aquila and the Apostle Paul. He was a very a interesting man, and it is in Acts 18:24 where we are first introduced to him. It seems that the New Testament writers had a different philosophy than we do today, and they would drop things into a context seemingly unrelated to us, and yet for themselves it’s very important to the logical sequence of their book. The account of Apollos is think is dropped in the last part of chapter 18 to prepare the readers for these disciples of John the Baptist whom Paul is going to confront in chapter 19 verse 1 and following. You see Apollos had the same theological problem as those disciples did, and so we’re introduced to this very influential, very eloquent, and very intellectual oriented Christian preacher who knew no other baptism than John’s to set the stage for these disciples of John who didn’t know about the Holy Spirit either.

Now, here is a guy who is a Jew and yet he is named after a Greek god. I don’t why his parents did that for him, but apparently that was his name. So he is a Jewish person with a name of a Greek god, and we learn that he is from Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria was the second largest city of the Roman empire. It was known for having the largest library in the known world, and the social milieu was an intellectual kind of setting. It was the home of some great Jewish scholars like Philo who i guess was really the first to used extensively the Allegorical method of Bible interpretation as he tried to make the Old Testament conform to Platonism; and so many believed that Apollos was influenced by Philo. Others even attribute the authorship of Hebrews to him. We are not really 100% sure he grew up in that very large metropolitan city. There’s no way of telling, but what it says about him seems to imply that his background was an intellectual kind of thing. Apollos was a very eloquent preacher and intellectually oriented, in stark contrast to Paul who was not really a great preacher as some of us tend to believe. History has it that he even had some kind of a speech impediment (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1); he was not the kind of guy that you would listen to for hours and hours and keep your attention. Apparently, the Corinthian church preferred Apollos more than Paul not so much in their content as to their preaching style. There was a real tension there between Apollos and Paul in how the Christians perceived them.

Apollos knew his Old Testament, and he has been instructed in the ‘way of the Lord’ (cf. Acts 18:25). This ‘way of the Lord’ is a very interesting phrase, and it goes back in the Old Testament view of faith as a lifestyle to be lived (cf. Deut. 5:32; Ps. 27:11; Isaiah 35:8). Another way of saying that is Biblical faith is not a theology to be memorized nor is it a creed to sign your name on, it is a lifestyle of holiness to be lived. In the New Testament this thing is mentioned in the book of Acts as the first designation for the Christian faith because they weren’t called Christians till Antioch which comes later in the book of Acts. And of course we have John 14:6, where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” that also reflects this idea that that He is the lifestyle, He is the ancient pattern for living.

It seems Apollos had two major ministries: one, toward Jews and another toward Christians. He wasn’t an evangelist, he was an apologist toward the Jewish people successfully refuting them in public, and proved by the Scriptures that Jesus was indeed the Christ (cf. Acts 18:28), and he was also a teacher to the Christians. There are many passages about Apollos, but what interests me is 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 – “What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”. I think there is a very important Biblical concept here that we need to deal. I used to think when i was a new believer that the greatest call was the call to be a missionary or the call to preach, but really, it came home to me later that what we do as Christians is not as significant as what we feel that has led us to do it. I think every Christian is gifted (cf. 1 Cor. 12), and every member of the church is a minister. You see if you are a Christian plumber, or a Christian doctor, or a Christian whatever, and you feel that God has called you to do that, and you do your calling in a Christian way with the people you meet, then i think that is the highest calling of God in your life. You see it’s not what we do is important, it’s why we do what we do that is crucial. Here we have Apollos and Paul – Paul is the evangelist (starter of the church), and Apollos is the apologist (defender of the faith), and the teacher of the new believers. The fact that they are different in style, and have different spiritual gifts makes no difference. Somehow together there has to be a seed planter, and there has to be a waterer, but the seed planter and the waterer are not what is important, but it’s God that gives the increase. I think it’s important we see that. I think when we make distinction between spiritual gifts we get into trouble. I personally believe that all spiritual gifts are valid today. I don’t understand how they all work, but i affirm their validity and continuance. Apollos, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark, and all these missionaries together are doing the will of God. They are so different personality-wise, but God has made us in such a way that not one of us can do the Christian ministry alone. Paul and Apollos knew that it wasn’t competition between both of them – 2 types of personalities, 2 types of ministries; it was a blending, a balance so the church would function as it should. The emphasis is on God, we are mere instruments in the hand of God.