Apollos: Integrity Tested in a Godly Man
Author Richard Exely said: “Adversity tests Character, but Success tests Integrity”.
I studied for several years under Mrs. Mary Eason, and in her lectures she would often break in with an “Oh, by the way!” and those little anecdotes taught me more sometimes than the whole lecture. Every now and then there appears in the Bible an: “Oh, by the way!” and the introduction of this man in the book of Acts 18:24-28 is one of those special incidents.
‘And a certain Jew named Apollos …’ who by some is thought to be the same with Apelles, (Rom 16:10) His name is Greek, though he was a Jew, not only by religion, but by birth. It seems strange at first glance that we should find a Jew, not only with a Roman name, as Aquila, an eagle; but with the name of one of the false gods, as Apollos or Apollo in the text. In checking Dake’s annotated bible, I find that he points out that Apollos is the shortened form of Apollonius. There was an Apollonius of Rhodes Greek poet, born in Alexandria, Egypt some 200 years before the time of the book of Acts. Apollonius cultivated epic poetry in the grand style of Homer. Apollonius’s most important and only extant work is the epic poem Argonautica. Apollonius was an important literary influence on Virgil. In Alexandria, Apollonius was a famous, heroic and admired man still in the time of Paul. Reference to him is still found in Websters Collegiate Dictionary today. I would hazard a guess that his parents named him Apollos after the man born in this same town, but called Apollonius of Rhodes.
Born at Alexandria
This was a celebrated city of Egypt, built by Alexander the Great, from whom it took its name. It was seated on the Mediterranean Sea, about twelve miles west of the Canopic branch of the Nile. Here too was the Lighthouse of Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
It was in this city that Ptolemy Soter founded the famous academy called the Museum, in which a society of learned men devoted themselves to philosophical studies. Some of the most celebrated schools of antiquity flourished here; great numbers of Jews were in this place; here too lived Philo the famous Jewish philosopher. Nowhere was there such a fusion of Greek, Jewish, and Oriental peculiarities; and an intelligent Jew educated in that city could hardly fail to manifest all these elements the Scripture mentions of his mental character.
Turning his Alexandrian culture to high account, and mighty in the scriptures — his eloquence enabling him to express clearly and enforce skillfully what, as a Jew, he had gathered from a diligent study of the Old Testament Scriptures. “Vincent’s Word Studies” suggest that he “came to Ephesus after the departure of the Apostle Paul, and while Aquila and Priscilla were there; the reason of his coming was to preach the Word, as he did”.
He spoke “boldly” in the synagogue (Acts 18:26), although he did not know as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Aquila and Priscilla instructed him more perfectly in “the way of God”, i.e., in the knowledge of Christ.
He then proceeded to Corinth, where he met Paul (Acts 18:27; 19:1). He was there very useful in watering the good seed Paul had sown (1 Cor 1:12), and in gaining many to Christ. His disciples were much attached to him (1 Cor 3:4-7, 22) and were attracted by his rhetorical style acquired in Alexandria, as contrasted with the absence of “excellency of speech and enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Cor 2:1-4), and even in their estimation Paul’s “contemptible speech” (2 Cor 10:10).
Some at Corinth abused his name into a party watchword, saying, “I am of Apollos,” so popular was he. But Paul, while condemning their party spirit, commends Apollos, and writes that he had “greatly desired our brother Apollos to come unto you” Corinthians. (1 Cor 16:12). Apollos was disinclined to come at that time; probably to give no handle for party zeal, until the danger of it should have passed away.
Jerome states that Apollos remained at Crete until he heard that the divisions at Corinth had been healed by Paul’s epistle; then he went and became bishop there.
Apollos’s main excellence was as builder up, rather than a founder, of churches. His humility in submitting, with all his learning, to the teaching of Aquila and even of Priscilla (a woman), his fervency and his power in Scripture, and his determination to stay away from where his well deserved popularity might be made a handle for party zeal, are all fine traits in his Christian character.
Here I believe is the ultimate bond of Christians; love that avoids division, and is ready to learn from one another. I hope you will be challenged, as I was in studying this man’s example, to work for unity among believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The last Bible notice of Apollos is in Titus 3:13, where Paul charges Titus, then in Crete, to “bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way diligently, that nothing may be wanting to them.” What a testimony to a man of peace.