Luke introduces us to Apollos in Acts 18:24-28.
A Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out 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 wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
Most of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated men from the countryside (Acts 4:13), but by the power of Jesus they spread the truth everywhere.
Apollos came from the opposite background. He was born in Alexandria, one of the wealthiest, most cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities on the planet. The standing of Alexandria in the first century cannot be overestimated. It vied with Rome for title of largest city in the world, and with Athens for title of most learned. It had been founded by Alexander the Great to control Egypt, but also to be a beacon of Hellenization. It was a place where Jewish learning and Greek culture often mingled.
That Apollos was “mighty in the Scriptures” would suggest that he made the most of the opportunities afforded to him in Alexandria. He had a powerful mind able to understand and retain a lot from the Bible. He was also “eloquent,” and used his ability to present the truth publicly.
Somehow, sometime, Apollos heard of the ministry of Jesus (some think he may have been a disciple of John the Baptist). Realizing that Jesus was indeed the Christ promised in the Old Testament, he began boldly proclaiming the truth.
Apollos was smart and capable. He was the proverbial ten talent man. Sadly, the world has no shortage of people whom God has given intelligence and ability and opportunity, but who do not have a renewed heart and devotion to Jesus; who squander their talents, or worse, use them to support the domain of darkness. Thanks be to God, Apollos used his talents for spreading the gospel of Jesus!
That Apollos was educated and eloquent doesn’t mean he was snooty. In the first place, he had the humility to confess his need for a Savior, and submit himself to a crucified Christ. But moreover, in Ephesus, he had the humility to learn from the meek and lowly. Priscilla and Aquila hailed from frontier lands near the Black Sea (Acts 18:2), and surely did not have the opportunities for education Apollos had. But they understood the truth better than he did on the subject of baptism. When they “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately,” he listened and changed his doctrine. Big shot preachers holding a fancy college degree and wearing a suit ought never dismiss the wisdom and Biblical insight of plain country folk holding a shovel and wearing suspenders.
Apollos, with his new knowledge, continued his preaching work in Ephesus, to “powerfully refute in public” the Jews who refused to see Christ in the Scripture. Soon, Apollos crossed the Aegean Sea to preach in Corinth (Acts 19:1), where he watered the seed that Paul had earlier planted. In fact, some liked his preaching so much they started factions, which horrified Paul and Apollos:
Each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? …What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth… (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4-6).
God continued to use Apollos for many years in other cities (1 Cor. 16:12, Titus 3:13). Undoubtedly, he used his learning, boldness, and eloquence not to attract followers to himself, but to save souls for Jesus.
It takes all kinds. Some minister to college kids, some to drug addicts. Some preach to big wealthy congregations, some to small poor congregations. Some teach Greek grammar, some leave the lexicons on the shelf, and focus on sharing the simple truth with the meek and lowly. Some preach Evidences, others preach John 3:16. The brotherhood needs the expertise of Apollos, but it needs the diligence of all. Find your place in the kingdom of God, and contribute your own special talents to the best of your ability! –John Guzzetta