Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 30 2020 - Acts 18:24-19:20 – The value of a teachable spirit

Apollos is a remarkable character. When he arrives at Ephesus he seems to have had a somewhat incomplete knowledge of the Christian message. He knew about John the Baptist and how he had preached about the one who was to follow him. He may have known that John pointed his disciples to Jesus, speaking of him as “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” But he appears not to have known of Jesus’ death and resurrection, nor of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless he preached boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus, full of zeal for what he knew of Jesus the Messiah.

However, what is really remarkable about this man is that, while he was clearly a powerful speaker and a forceful personality, he was also ready to sit and to learn from others who had a more complete understanding of the Gospel. I am also struck by the way in which Priscilla and Aquila are referred to; Priscilla’s name is mentioned first indicating, perhaps, that she took on the primary role in teaching Apollos more about Jesus. The readiness of Apollos to listen and learn from Priscilla and Aquila equipped him to go on to Corinth and to build up the church there, continuing the work which Paul had begun.

It is good to have zeal for the Lord and a passion for telling others about him, but it is important also to have a teachable spirit, a readiness to learn from others and not to think that we already know it all.

And then we have the account of Paul’s arrival at Ephesus. There he found a group of disciples who seemed only to have heard of the baptism of John. They are called disciples, indicating that, in some sense, they believed in Jesus. But, like Apollos, they may only have known what John preached concerning the one who was coming after him; they may have known nothing of Jesus’ death and resurrection – certainly they knew nothing about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Having no doubt taught them about Jesus more accurately, Paul baptised them and then laid his hands on them. They also received the Holy Spirit.

This passage seems to raise a number of awkward questions: How much do you need to understand to be a disciple? Under what circumstances might a baptism be viewed as defective and in need of being repeated? Did Paul get it right?

I suspect that none of these momentous questions troubled Paul. He saw a group of people who were seeking to be faithful to what they knew concerning the promised Messiah. Paul was keen for them to know so much more – that Christ had come; Christ had died; Christ was risen. He wanted them to enter into the fullness of the blessings poured out by the risen Christ: to know through their baptism that Christ had died for them and they had died in him; that Christ had been raised for them and that they shared in his resurrection life. Paul wanted them to experience the presence and power of the risen Saviour through the Holy Spirit poured out into their lives. Is this also our great concern?

Lord, give me an unquenchable zeal to proclaim Christ but also a teachable spirit and a readiness to listen and learn from others. Equip me through such listening and learning to become more effective in your service. Use me, as you used Priscilla and Aquila, Paul and Apollos, to encourage and build up your people. May we all know the fullness of the blessings of the crucified, risen and exalted Messiah.

Peter Misselbrook