Exegetical Notes: Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-7

18:24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.

“Apollos” – As an aside: Many hypothesize Apollos to be the writer of the NT book, Hebrews (over the traditional Pauline authorship) because the writer of Hebrews demonstrates a great knowledge of Christ’s fulfillment of the OT scriptures (Jew, v28) and the linguistic style of Hebrews demonstrates itself to be much more “eloquent” than Paul’s other writings.

“Alexandria” – great cultural center, and grain port on the coast of North Africa where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. During the first century it was the second largest city in the Roman Empire and home to a great university modeled after Athens itself. Alexandria shipped 150,000 tons of grain annually to Rome.
It was also a city of no minor religious and philosophical significance. The birthplace of the Septuagint, it housed Clement, Origin, and Athanasius. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332 b.c., its merchant ships, the largest and finest of the day, sailed all across the Mediterranean. Its university was especially noted for the study of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and poetry. The Alexandrian library became the largest and best known in the world, reportedly housing from 400,000 to 900,000 books and scrolls.
The population consisted of Jews, Greeks, and Egyptians. Unlike other places in the empire, Jews enjoyed equal privileges with the Greeks. Though the philosophical thought of Alexandria seems inconsequential for the first-century church, it certainly impacted subsequent generations.
 Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 311.

“came to Ephesus” – We are not privy to how Apollos encountered the gospel or why he finds himself in Ephesus. Luke emphasizes throughout Acts God’s sovereignty over such matters and he probably assumes it to be the case in this verse as well.

“competent in the Scriptures” – Eloquence < Competence in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit.

25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.

“fervent in spirit” -Two theories: 
1) Apollos demonstrated zeal to minister.
 2) a reference to the Holy Spirit.
 Either interpretation is justifiable, but the second is preferred.

“though he knew only the baptism of John” – This notation informs us that Apollos may have been ignorant of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, having learned of the gospel from the disciples of John.

26 He began to speak 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.

“Priscilla and Aquila” – Christian couple who were friends and possibly converts of the apostle Paul during his ministry at Corinth (Acts 18:1–3). They are always mentioned together in the NT. Priscilla’s personal character or her role in the church may account for her name coming before her husband’s in four out of six references (Acts 18:18, 26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19).
Aquila was a Jew and a native of Pontus in Asia Minor. He had been expelled from Rome by the ad 49 edict of Claudius (Acts 18:2). Suetonius records that the emperor “banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.” From Rome, Aquila and Priscilla went to Corinth, where Paul (on his second missionary journey) met them. There they lived together and worked at the same trade of making tents. After such close association with Paul, they were able to instruct even the learned Apollos, a Jewish teacher who then became a Christian (Acts 18:24–28). Both were Paul’s loyal friends and trusted co-workers (Rom 16:3, 4). When he left Corinth they accompanied him and remained at Ephesus when he returned to Syria (Acts 18:18, 19). When Paul wrote the first letter to Corinth they were still at Ephesus, where their home was used as a place for Christians to gather (1 Cor 16:19). Since the decree of Claudius was temporary, Priscilla and Aquila were again in Rome when Paul wrote to the Roman Christians (Rom 16:3). When the second letter to Timothy was written, they were again in Ephesus (2 Tm 4:19).
 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Priscilla and Aquila,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1765.

“explained to him the way of God more accurately” – We are not told specifically the deficiencies of Apollos’ theology. some presume a misunderstanding of baptism, or the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

 A mark of a humble disciple. Apollos was open to sharpening his understanding of Christ through the teaching of others.

27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,

“Achaia” – meaning the city of Corinth. We see the impact of Apollos in this city by his being mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:12. (although the church was splintered over ministry circles within the city).

28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

“showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” – APP: Don’t ignore the ability of God’s Word to change lives.

19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.

“some disciples” – For him (Paul) a true disciple of John, a completed disciple of John, was a Christian. That is the whole point of the present narrative. 
John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 399.

2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

“Into John’s baptism” – What they would not be aware of, if they had not heard of Jesus’ death and resurrection and of the event at Pentecost, was that this proclamation of John had been fulfilled in Christ. Evidently that was the case with this group. They had not heard that the Spirit had been poured out. They were unaware of Pentecost.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 399.

3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”

“that is, Jesus” – The real deficiency of these twelve or so was not their baptism. It was much more serious. They failed to recognize Jesus as the one whom John had proclaimed, as the promised Messiah.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 399.

4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”

5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

“and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” -the indwelling Holy Spirit is always vital to one’s commitment to Christ and marks every believer. The act of speaking in tongues and prophesying seems to accompany the gospel acceptance of various people groups within Acts, i.e. the disciples, Jews, Samaritans, disciples of John (here), Gentiles, etc.

7 There were about twelve men in all.

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