This is a fascinating glimpse into the life and history of the early church, and it is rich with practical spiritual lessons. Here are three of them.
1. Learning and fervor, though valuable gifts, are not in themselves enough for Christian workers. We must know Jesus Christ. Even knowledge of the Scriptures and skill in presenting them are not enough. I emphasize that because there are always people in churches who are not saved but who know a great deal. They know not only the Old Testament but the New Testament as well. If you ask them to tell the Bible stories, they are able to tell them. They can even teach them to others. But they do not know Jesus. They do not know that He died for them and that He rose again for their justification. They know His name, but they do not know Him personally as their Savior and Lord. They are not His disciples.
It may be true of you. Although you may have gone to church for many years and may know a great deal about the Scriptures, the mere learning and even fervent teaching of these things is not enough. You must know Jesus Christ. To know the other is good, but you can know all that and still be lost. You must believe on Jesus and belong to Him.
2. Different kinds of people are needed in Christ’s work. Aquila and Priscilla were different from Apollos, and Apollos was different from Paul. Paul was a feisty Jewish rabbi. Apollos was a man of polish, erudition and learning. Later on and quite apart from anything Apollos or Paul did, these differences produced divisions at Corinth where some people were attracted to Apollos and his gifts, saying, “We are of Apollos,” while others were more attracted to Paul and said, “We are of Paul” (see 1 Cor. 3).
Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos and Paul were all needed in the church. How do we know? We know because God called them: Paul, with his energetic missionary fervor; Apollos, who watered the seed that Paul had sown; Priscilla and Aquila, who settled down, opened their home, and were hosts to the developing church. Each one was necessary.
So are you, if you are Christ’s disciple. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit imparts gifts to Christians, as it pleases Him. God has given you a distinct spiritual gift. That gift is needed where you are. If you choose not to use your gift, if you think, “I am not needed, because someone else is more eloquent,” or “Someone else is more hospitable,” or “Someone else has more energy or is a better evangelist than I am,” you are making a great mistake. If you neglect to use your gift, the church will be impoverished.
If you do not know what your gift is or how to use it, you need to pray about it. Say, “Lord Jesus Christ, show me what I can do. Show me why I am here, why you have brought me to faith, why you have made me the way I am. Teach me to use what I am where I am in order to advance Christ’s Gospel.”
3. If you lack workers for Christ where you are and feel the need, you should pray about it, asking God for help. I am sure this is what Paul did. He must have been acutely aware of the need, having left so many of his co-workers to care for the other newly founded churches. Paul must have been praying strongly for these churches, and knowing that he was unable to do all that needed to be done himself, he must have been asking God to send new workers into the missionary field. And God did. First, he sent Aquila and Priscilla. Then, he sent Apollos.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:37-38).
Those words are as true for us as they were in Paul’s day or in the day of our Lord. The harvest is plenteous. Just outside our doors are many people who need to hear the Gospel. They are resistant. I know that. I know that no one left to himself is going to come to God. But if God told the apostle, “I have many people in this city,” the city of Corinth, then certainly in our cities God has many people as well. We need to reach out to them. And we need workers. That is why you must pray for God to send more workers into his vineyard. It is by many that God works to save some.