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In the last 5 verses of Acts 18, we get introduced to a very special preacher. We see the beginning of the ministry of Apollos in Ephesus. His activities are sandwiched between Paul’s two visits to this important city – a short stay and then a more extended stay which we will study later in Acts 19.

Apollos is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:

– He bridges the transition from those who were just familiar with the ministry of John the Baptist (more of an OT saint) to those who are fully indoctrinated in the gospel message of Christianity and what it means to be a disciple of Christ; we always have to keep in mind the transitional nature of the events in Acts

– He also demonstrates for us many of the characteristics of an ideal preacher; in fact he becomes so popular that when we study the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians we are dismayed to see that some immature believers had directed their loyalties to his personality and ministry rather than fully appreciating the balanced ministry of the body of Christ; they had to be reminded to focus on


Not saying don’t preach unless you are a Ten in all of these categories … these are ideal characteristics – even Paul did not have all of these (8.5 out of 9 isn’t bad)

Why should you be interested in these characteristics if your spiritual gift is not preaching?

Much of what we will learn applies to all areas of ministry; plus you want to make sure you are not settling for incompetence in the pulpit [but please take me aside privately!]


“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus;”

“eloquent” – combines idea of educated and well-spoken

A. Highly educated –

Comes from the city of Alexandria – one of the famous education centers of that day; the Roman seat in Egypt; boasted a university with a library of almost 700,000 volumes; huge Jewish population of over 1 million so he was raised in the Jewish traditions

Stott: Alexandria had a huge Jewish population at that time. It was here that the LXX had been produced some 200 years before Christ, and here that the great scholar Philo, Jesus’ contemporary, lived and worked, struggling by allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament to reconcile Hebrew religion with Greek philosophy.

B. Eloquent and well-spoken —

Probably had that personality charisma that drew people like a magnet and held their attention

Necessary?? No! Helpful?? Maybe!

Can be an advantage or a stumbling block – don’t make your boast in your abilities; remember that the Lord loves to use our weakness to demonstrate His power and strength

Exodus 4:10 “Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” Yet that was the man the Lord had chosen to lead His people out of Egypt; it was wrong of Moses to plead inadequacy in this area – remember we are all jars of clay, earthen vessels – so that God can demonstrate the excellency of His power through us

1 Corinthians 2:1 “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.”

Satan does a great job at coming across as a polished speaker – 2 Cor. 11:14 “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Christ: Matthew 7:29 “for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

More important than eloquence is power and authority

Jesus chose uneducated fishermen to be His disciples

But it sure doesn’t hurt to be gifted with polished speaking ability

More importantly:


“and he was mighty in the Scriptures.”

Same word from which we get dynamite – he could blow it up as a speaker – light you on fire

Not just talking about head knowledge, but the ability to apply God’s word in a powerful way to the people and situations at hand

Requires study, memorization, meditation, not taking things out of context; having great faith in the power of the Word of God; using it as the powerful weapon it is = the Sword of the Spirit; it is a fire; a hammer

Not tempted to doubt the sufficiency of the Scriptures and turn to human wisdom or philosophy or psychology to change people’s behavior

Not delivering sermonettes for Christianettes; not watering down doctrine to some type of Christian lite message; proclaiming the entire counsel of God

Power of expositional preaching rather than some type of weak, subjective approach – the text is what is prominent and you are exegeting it – bringing out its intended meaning and application

Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

Acts 7:22 “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.”

Ezra 7:6 “This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him. . . . For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Look how Satan twists God’s Word: Gen. 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?. . . You surely will not die . . .”


Matthew 4:4 “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Luke 24:19 “And He said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to Him, ‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,’”

MacArthur – Illustration: I always think about the young man who came to a Bible teacher after he taught and he was so overawed by the teaching and the strength of the man and his teaching and the ability and the power and knowledge, and he said to him, he said, “I just was so thrilled by your teaching,” he said, “I’d give the world to be able to teach the Bible like that.” And the man said, “Good, because that’s exactly what it will cost you.” And he was right. It takes a kind of commitment, it takes a measure of dedication to be mighty in the Scriptures,


“This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord;”

word in the Greek is the one from which we get catechism – systematic, organized instruction; involves repetition of question and answer; Paul as an apostle and prophet received his doctrine by way of revelation – directly from God; Apollos had been catechized – taught by oral repetition

not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer; requires humility and submission to be a good learner; but you must be instructed by the right teachers; Apollos taught by disciples of John the Baptist; there are a lot of false teachers out there like the Pharisees = the blind leading the blind; you will become like the ones instructing you

ultimately the Holy Spirit must be our teacher – we all as believers have received the anointing who teaches us all truth

takes time to be properly instructed and then tested before being entrusted with ministry leadership; that is why you don’t recognize a new believer as an elder; would lead to pride and poor judgment

the way of the Lord is completely at odds with the way of the world:

– it is the narrow way vs the broad way;

– it is the way of the cross vs the way of self exaltation and pride;

– it is the way of love and compassion vs selfishness and self-centeredness;

– it is the way of walking by faith instead of by sight;

– it is the way of purity and holiness instead of the lusts of the flesh;

– it is the way of persecution vs popularity – you cannot be a man-pleaser; friendship with the world is enmity to God

MacArthur: I believe that Apollos was not a Christian but that he was a student of John the Baptist. And if that’s difficult for you to handle just from that phrase, look at the end of verse 25. Act 18:25. It says that he was “knowing only the baptism of John.” Now, Apollos then was the truest Old Testament saint. He accepted the whole Old Testament all the way down to the fulfillment of it and John the Baptist. He accepted the message of John the Baptist that the Messiah was coming. He even accepted the fact that the Messiah was Jesus

Proverbs 21:11 “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.”

Colossians 2:7 “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

Proverbs 10:29 “The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity.”


Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”

Illustration: Someone writes to me: please tell me how I can produce type of exegetical outlines that you produce. Took a whole lifetime of pursuing various disciplines …


“and being fervent in spirit,”


you cannot be lukewarm and be effective as a preacher; if you communicate that you don’t intensely care about the message you are proclaiming, why should anyone listen??

You must be enthusiastic, on fire

you will never be dull and boring because your passion will inflame your preaching

you grasp the significance and urgency of dealing with issues of eternity

Martin Lloyd-Jones – preacher must have both light and heat

significance of the definite article – in the Spirit – is there a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit here?? Or just to the emotional passion of an unregenerate man?? Seems to be a reference to his human spirit – he was on fire in his emotions and passion and zeal and enthusiasm

one can be zealous about the wrong things – the Pharisees were overly concerned about their ceremonial cleansing rituals .. but they neglected to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God – the weightier matters of worship and obedience

zealous for people to be saved – that is why we preach the gospel

2 Sam. 6:16 – remember when David was dancing before the Lord and demonstrating great emotion and passion – to such an extent that Michal was embarrassed — “King David leaping and dancing before the Lord”

Romans 12:11 “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”

Remember the types of prayers that James 5 tells us to emulate – “Elijah prayed earnestly” – with zeal and passion and fire


Psalm 119:139 “My zeal has consumed me”

John 2:13-17 incident of Christ cleansing the Temple


“he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John;”

cannot twist or adulterate the Word of Truth; must teach with precision, with accuracy, with exactness

2 Tim. 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

2 Tim. 3:15-17 “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

but like anyone – had certain limitations and blind spots

only preach what you know – if you don’t understand some text, you can’t make it plain to others; required of a steward to be found faithful

fine to have zeal, but it must be according to knowledge – Rom. 10:2

Deuteronomy 19:18 “And the judges shall investigate thoroughly; and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely,”

Acts 17:11 Bereans were commended because they checked things out; they were not gullible; they wanted truth to be taught with precision and accuracy

Stedman: What did it mean for him to only be informed about the baptism of John?

It consisted primarily of three great truths which John declared:

1. First that, before God, forgiveness of sins is possible only on the basis of repentance. Thus there was no longer any need to bring a sacrifice or offering. That was a startling message to these Jews. They had been told that the only way they could have their sins forgiven was by means of an animal substitute whose blood was shed on their behalf. Thereby God passed over their sins — accepted, temporarily at least, the blood of the animal on their behalf, and forgave their sins. But John came with the startling word that all God really wanted was a repentant heart.

2. John had the people express their repentance in baptism, which was a symbolic act of cleansing. This also was something new. In the Old Testament you can read in the Law about certain cleansings in which, after fulfilling a sacrifice, the bringers of the sacrifice would wash themselves. This was similar to baptism, but not quite the same. John came announcing that as people repented, changed their mind about their evil, called it what God called it, and forsook it, God forgave their sins. The symbol of that forgiveness was the washing of baptism. And John insisted that their repentance had to be real, insisted that they actually produce fruit that befitted repentance. That is, their actions had to demonstrate that they really meant what they said and would indeed turn from their evil. He met several different groups of people and told them specific things that they could do in order to indicate that they really had judged themselves before God.

3. Third was his announcement that there was coming One who would complete the work he had begun. Repentance is just a beginning with God. It is as far as we human beings can go by ourselves, but it does not give us life. Repentance would achieve forgiveness of sins, but it would not give us any positive ground of action, any power by which to live. That is what John announced would be available when Jesus came. “There is coming one after me,” he said, “who is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. I have baptized you with water, as a symbol of the forgiveness God gives. But he will go further; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He will put life into you. He will give you power. He will pour into you that which it takes to live as God asks. That I can’t do,” {cf, Matt 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16}.


“and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue.”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

1 Tim. 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”


“But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

Lot of ministers fail the test at this point – severely limits their ministry

Proverbs: A scorner hates rebuke but a wise man loves counsel


“And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him;”

A. Personal Initiative

B. Gifting and Calling Recognized and Encouraged

C. Supported in Ministry

Christ: Luke 2:52 “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”


“and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”

A. Strategically Deployed

B. Helpful and Encouraging a life of Faith through Grace

C. Powerful Debater – Overwhelm someone in argument; crushed them with his arguments

D. Bible-based

E. Christ-centered


1 Cor. 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”