Lessons from the Conversion of Apollos

There are several accounts of people being converted to Christ in the book of Acts. One such example was the conversion of Apollos in Ephesus.

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out 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. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:24-28).


It is important to note that this is an example of conversion and not of correcting an erring brother. We know this because of the matter about which Apollos had to be corrected. Though he was “mighty in the Scriptures” and could accurately represent these Old Testament Scriptures as they revealed “things concerning Jesus,” he was “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24-25). Even though it is not stated directly, we can infer that he was baptized into Christ after learning “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26), just as the twelve men that Paul taught in Ephesus (Acts 19:3-5). Since baptism is what puts one into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), we know Apollos could not have been a Christian yet since he was “acquainted only with the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25) and not the baptism of Christ (cf. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16). So Priscilla and Aquila were not correcting an erring brother in Christ. This account of Apollos in Ephesus is certainly a matter of conversion.

Now that we have established the fact that this is an example of conversion, let us consider a few lessons to be learned from the conversion of Apollos.

One May Know the Bible and Still Be Lost

Notice Luke’s description of Apollos: “He was mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). The Scriptures, at this time, would have included only the Old Testament Scriptures. He was familiar with the prophecies “concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25), as the “Law [is a] tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). He was “acquainted…with the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24) – a baptism “for repentance” that was taught as John paved the way for the One who would come after him (Matthew 3:11; cf. Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1). Apollos knew much of what God’s word said “concerning Jesus,” but He did not yet know the gospel of Christ. Without the gospel of Christ, salvation is not possible (Romans 1:16; cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Apollos’ knowledge was an important asset; but until he obeyed the gospel, he was lost (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Private Bible Studies Are Important

There are many ways in which one can learn what the word of God teaches, including personal Bible study (2 Timothy 2:15), public teaching (Acts 17:2-4, 10-12), and even public debate (Acts 18:27-28; 15:1-2). Yet private Bible studies – similar to what occurred when Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos – are also important in leading people to the truth. Though not everyone can publicly proclaim the gospel (James 3:1), we all have the obligation to learn how to teach people the truth (Hebrews 5:12). We each have unique opportunities to reach others. Therefore, we should equip ourselves to be able to lead others to Christ, just as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos.

We Must Be Open to the Truth

Apollos was knowledgable, but wrong. Paul mentioned a potential danger that comes with increasing knowledge: “Knowledge makes arrogant” (1 Corinthians 8:1). To protect against such arrogance, James wrote, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21) The word of God is always right (Romans 3:4). Therefore, we must humbly accept it in all things – even if that means changing our practices/beliefs in order to conform to God’s will. Apollos could have become arrogant and rejected the efforts of Priscilla and Aquila to teach him the truth; but he did not. Instead, he listened to them, believed what they were telling Him, and obeyed the gospel.

We Ought to Accept and Encourage New Converts

Once Apollos was converted, the brethren in Ephesus “encouraged him” to do the work of spreading the gospel (Acts 18:27). Of course, as a general rule, it is not a good idea to encourage new converts to go out and start preaching right away (James 3:1). It takes time to develop the ability to teach (Hebrews 5:12). Apollos was a unique case since he already had a strong foundation upon which to build. However, all Christians – including new converts – must be encouraged to use their talents in service to God (cf. Matthew 25:14-30). When one puts on Christ in baptism, he begins a new life in service to God (Romans 6:3-4). We must encourage such service, just as the apostles were to “make disciples…baptizing them… [and then] teaching them to observe all that [the Lord] commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Conclusion

Apollos would go on to do great work in the Lord’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:5-6; Titus 3:13). His example still teaches us today.


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  1. […] why this is an example of conversion, and not correcting an erring brother, refer to the article: Lessons from the Conversion of Apollos.] There are some important lessons for us to learn from this […]