Name It, Claim It (Acts 18:18-19:20)
Name It, Claim It (Acts 18:18-19:20)
Intro (verses 18-23)
With Persecution on the rise in Corinth, the Apostle Paul is on the move, traveling from Corinth through Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, and then back to Ephesus. In the meantime, Paul cut his hair in keeping with a vow to the Lord. It was entirely voluntary for Paul to do this, and was probably carried out as thanksgiving for the providential protection and deliverance in Corinth. When God accomplishes extraordinary deliverances and blessings for us, we should be intentional to respond in thanksgiving for His kindness. As Paul moves on to Jerusalem and Antioch, he offers the believers a full report of his second missionary journey. With the heart of a true church planter and shepherd, Paul is intentional about taking advantage of the opportunity to strengthen all the disciples (v23).
Apollos: Humility, Hospitality, and Constructive Criticism (verses 24-28)
Apollos was a man with a lot of strengths: educated, eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in Spirit, speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Christ. But there is also deficiency: his knowledge was incomplete. What he was saying wasn’t inaccurate, but there was something lacking, a gap in his understanding. Priscilla and Aquila were willing to pull him aside to explain things to him more precisely. Rather than publicly denouncing and correcting him, which would have likely ruined his future ministry, they were sensitive and taught him privately. Their assistance to Apollos reminds us that solid gospel work is done by lay people in the church, not just people like the Apostle Paul and Apollos. Mutual cooperation and encouragement in pursuit of a theologically faithful ministry enables the church to carry out its mission.
Disciples of John: Doctrinally Defective Disciples (verses 1-10)
When we compare and contrast these disciples to Apollos, we find that John’s baptism was not deficient, but rather the deficiency was found in these disciples themselves. Apollos had heard John the baptist and believed, was baptized, and was able to teach accurately the things concerning Jesus. On the other hand, whatever these disciples believed at their baptism, it was not the Christ of the Scriptures. They claimed to be Christians, but they lacked the Holy Spirit and knew very little of what Christ Himself commanded. The deficiency was not in the baptism, since they had received the same baptism as Apollos, but in their own faith and doctrine. According to the Apostle Paul, they still needed baptism since it is meant for those who possess the Holy Spirit.
Following their conversion, we find the final mention of tongues in Acts. It serves to legitimize the ministry of Paul and to confirm these disciples in their new faith in Christ. This passage isn’t teaching a two-stage experience of the Holy Spirit, since these men lacked stage one to begin with (i.e. they weren’t converted).
Sceva’s Sons: Miraculous vs. Magical (verses 11-20)
God’s power was being displayed through the instrumentality of Paul. Wanting to mimic Paul and the power God had given him, the Jewish exorcists attempted to do the same by naming the name of Christ. Those who do not believe Paul’s gospel but attempt to tap into Paul’s power accomplish nothing. Ephesus as a culture was gripped by superstition, and the displays of power were more interesting and exciting to some than the message preached. In a similar way, the desire for instant spiritual experience can make us impatient with Bible study and biblical preaching leads to the temptation to downplay the importance of Scripture for more “exciting” programs and procedures. But for Christianity to spread among us, the power of Christ must be demonstrated as the superior power through transformed lives. We should pursue the power of Christ in our lives in truth, not in programatic methods or procedures.
- Like Apollos, we can all seek to grow in our understanding of the gospel and its implications on our lives. Why do we need other believers to help us to do this? In what ways are you opening yourself up to the encouragement and instruction of others? Like Apollos, are you able to respond humbly to criticism?
- Like Priscilla and Aquila, in whatever situations we find ourselves we are called to seek to come alongside other believers, showing kind hospitality and offering encouragement and help. How are you seeking to fulfill that calling?
- In what ways might you be tempted to look for more “exciting” things than the simple message of the gospel and Christ’s power to transform lives?