What do you do with someone like Apollos? Here was a man of eloquence and ability, apparently even being greatly used by God since, as we are told, he went to the synagogues and argued effectively with the Jews and other people. Should he have been rebuked? Opposed? Refuted? What actually happened was quite different and very important.
Let me introduce what happened by a parallel story from church history. At the time of the Reformation in England there was a man just like Apollos whose name was Hugh Latimer (1490-1555). He was a very learned man. He had a thorough knowledge of the Bible and could speak with eloquence. He even had considerable influence in the church because he was a bishop.
But Latimer was not yet a Christian, though he was in the church and, as I say, knew the Scriptures well. He knew Jesus Christ; that is, he knew who Jesus was and much about Him. But he did not know what it was to be born again. He did not know the Gospel. Like many in his day, he thought that the way to get to heaven was by good works.
There was a young monk who knew Latimer and looked up to him a great deal. He was known as “little Binney” because he was short. He did not have much education. No one thought very much of him. But Binney was converted, and he wondered how it might be possible for him to bring the Gospel to Hugh Latimer. Binney thought that Latimer would be a tremendous force for the Reformation in England if he could just hear the Gospel. So Binney prayed about this and finally hit upon an idea.
Priests were required to hear the confessions of those who wanted to confess their sins. So one day, when Latimer was serving in the church, Binney went up to him, tugged at his sleeve and asked Latimer to hear his confession. Latimer said he would, of course. So they went into the confessional, and Binney confessed the Gospel to him. He told how he was a sinner, how he was unable to save himself by his own good works, how Jesus had died for Him, and how now, by faith, the righteousness of Jesus had been imputed to him apart from good works. That is what he confessed to Hugh Latimer, and in that way Latimer heard the Gospel for the very first time and was converted. It was an important moment in the English Reformation.
Something like that happened in the case of Apollos. I can imagine that when Apollos came to Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila, who were there at the time, must have said to each other, “This is a very able man. Let’s go hear him.” Apollos was teaching in the synagogue. So they went to the synagogue and had the same kind of reaction many Christians have when they visit some so-called Christian churches. They hear a minister who is learned and eloquent but does not know the Gospel. They must have said to themselves, “This man certainly knows the Bible. He can quote the Old Testament effectively. But he does not know that Jesus has already died for our sin, was raised from the dead, and is now ascended into heaven.”
After the service, when they were standing in the vestibule, they must have said to each other, “What do you suppose we can do?”
Priscilla said, “Let’s invite him to dinner.” So they did. Apollos came to dinner, and after he had enjoyed their hospitality they began to tell him about Jesus. They must have said, “We were very moved by your teaching from the Old Testament last Saturday. You know it well, and it was a great blessing to our hearts. But we wondered whether you have heard that the One you were speaking about has come.”
I must say at this point that Apollos was more receptive to teaching than many members of the clergy I have known, for he received the Word of God humbly, believed it and assimilated it with the knowledge he already had. It completely transformed his ministry. We know that because later he went on to Corinth, where he was greatly used of God. The very last verses of the chapter say, “When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (vv. 27-28).