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No doubt, they would need much strengthening, both against inward and outward foes. They might communicate to him the trials which they endured when friends reproached them, and neighbours separated themselves from them. He would show, that no strange thing had happened to them; "no temptation taken them, but such as is common to man:" for that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution." So it had been foreseen and foreshown.
They might complain of the power of Satan, still harassing them: of the remainder of sin disturbing that comfort which they had expected. This, too, the apostle would explain; showing, that our rest is not here; and that the promise is not, that Satan shall be disarmed, or shall be idle, but that, being resisted, he shall be overcome. Such difficulties, he would add, are rather signs for good than for evil. They are signs that God has given you light to see the way of righteousness, and grace to oppose the obstacles which hinder your progress in it. If you were content to go the downward road, all would be smooth with you. Those who ascend, must strive and labour.
Whilst Paul was thus engaged, another and a valuable labourer was added to the field.
24. And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
26. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
A little while ago we were introduced to Aquila and Priscilla, as giving hospitality to Paul when he arrived at Corinth. We now find them engaged in spiritual labours, and imparting the knowledge which they had received. There were many of this class in the early church. The apostles preached the gospel, declaring how God, in love towards the world, had sent Jesus Christ "that all that believe in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." When these words were carried to the heart of any heathen, a new world was opened to him. He would be, from that moment, in a new condition towards God, whom before he had not known, of whose mercy he now had this assurance. But how vast a scheme would remain to be unfolded to him! The creation—the sin of Adam—the patriarchs—the call of Abraham—the history of his posterity—the law of Moses—and the whole long series of Jewish annals. The man finds himself in a strange country, and he has its language to learn.
At the same time there was provision that he might learn it. Those who had themselves become acquainted with divine truth would have the same desire to teach, as the others to inquire. Their object would be to serve the cause, to show their interest in its blessings, by promoting it: to express, as best they could, their thankfulness to him who had so loved them.
When there is this will, it may always find room for exercise. Here the way was clear. The elder converts, who had been longer under instruction, and others who had abundant talent, or a larger share of divine grace, would impart of their knowledge to the disciples who were younger in age or intelligence; and so prepare them for the more full and perfect teaching of the apostles, or the regularly appointed pastors of the congregation.
Paul set a high value on these labours and these labourers. He frequently alludes to them in his epistles. "Salute," he writes, "Urbane, our helper in Christ. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, who laboured much in the Lord."3 In the same passage, he mentions these very persons, Aquila and Priscilla, as his "helpers in Christ Jesus." We know, because we have just seen, in what way they had been his helpers. There was Apollos, a man by his natural powers, and by his acquirements, greatly fitted to be a preacher of the truth. For he was an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures. But he was very imperfectly instructed; knowing only the baptism of John.
Aquila and Priscilla, hearing him in the synagogue, perceived what he had learnt, and what he had yet to learn: so they took him unto them, and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly. 3 Rom. xvi. 9—12.
It realised the saying of our Lord, that great as John was, so that no greater prophet had appeared among men, " he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."* Apollos, we may conclude, like John himself, had warned men to depart from evil, to flee from the wrath to come. It could not be said, that he was instructed in the way of the Lord, that he taught the things of the Lord, if he had not believed in Jesus as the Messiah, in whom the prophecies were fulfilled.5 Still, knowing only the baptism of John, he could lead men but to the threshold of the gospel. He could have had no just views of the christian covenant. He might say, with the better instructed Peter, (ii. 38,) to as many as consulted him, " Repent." But he had not that clear understanding which would enable him to proceed on with Peter, "Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
All this, however, and more also, had these two disciples learnt: and having experienced in their own hearts the power of the gospel, they were able to communicate the things which they had felt and known. Though not apostles, they could teach one who was to act as an apostle. Though not themselves ordained teachers, they could prepare a teacher for his work.
Apollos was not idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus which he thus acquired.
4 Matt. xi. 11.
He had learnt the way of God more perfectly, only that he might expound it more perfectly.
27. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.
28. For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
PAUL AT EPHESUS—A.d. 56.
Acts xix. 1—7.
1 And it came to pass, that, ivhile A polios was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2 He said vnto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
This small company which Paul met at Ephesus, was of the Jewish nation, being " a people prepared for the Lord," who had not yet come fully under Christian instruction. They were disciples: they believed that Jesus, whom their countrymen had crucified, was Lord and Christ. Called