Billy Graham once was asked, “Billy, how do you grow in the Christian life?” Billy responded, “That’s simple. If you want to grow in the Christian life, wallow in God’s Word like a pig wallows in the mud.”
Sometimes the most basic of endeavors are also the most fundamental, profound and powerful!
In games like tennis, golf, and baseball, watching the ball is at the same time elementary and essential – for you can’t hit what you don’t see.
In the Christian life, knowing and applying the Scriptures, is like watching the ball. You see, understanding and application of God’s Word is not only essential to living out the Christian life, it’s also profound and powerful:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
As we continue our series of lessons from the book of Acts, we are introduced to Apollos, a man ‘mighty in the Scriptures.’ For his knowledge and use of God’s word in his witness for Jesus is an excellent example for us:
“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 4:24-25)
Apollos came from Alexandria, Egypt – one of the best learning centers in the ancient world. ‘The Scriptures’ would have been the Old Testament. Although he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, his understanding was limited to a view of Jesus through the prism of John the Baptist. And what was John’s understanding?
In Luke 3:3 we are told: “He (John the Baptist) went into all the country around the Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. In John 1:29, he said of Jesus: ”Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (see also Isaiah 53:4-7), and then added: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34).
In short, Apollos, in the tradition of John the Baptist, was teaching:
– repent of sin and be baptized, this is the way of forgiveness;
– and follow Jesus, He is the Messiah.
Application #1 – Becoming Mighty in the Scriptures includes Growing in God’s Word
To strive to become mighty in the Scriptures is no doubt a godly aspiration. Yet, as with any discipline, it takes time and commitment. Apollos could effectively use the Scriptures because he had spent much time in the Scriptures. For us, time and commitment invested in growing in God’s Word is going to be opposed by the enemy of our souls – the devil and his minions (Ephesians 6:10-18, 1 Peter 5:8) and our old man, the flesh (Romans 7:13-25, Galatians 5:16-25).
May I point out a powerful manifestation of the above-mentioned opposition that hampers this effort – distraction. Our 21st Century life is dominated by the pitfall of distraction – from our devices to our entertainment to our busyness…and on and on.
Take time and make time to invest in eternity through the discipline of bible study. And as you do, you’ll grow closer to the Lord and your witness will also grow – for God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:15)!
Now Apollos was teaching accurately the way of Jesus as best he knew, yet his teaching was incomplete. And here we see another exemplary quality in the man:
“So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 8:26)
Paul had met Aquila and Priscilla earlier in Acts 18:2-3. They probably were believers when they met Paul, but if not, they became believers while spending time with him. Consequently, they understood the grace of God found in the gospel message – believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If Apollos preached in the tradition of John the Baptist he would place insufficient emphasis upon the grace of God. Hence, Aquila and Priscilla would have explained to Apollos a fuller understanding of the grace of God found in Messiah Jesus – that:
- Forgiveness of sins was through faith in the sacrifice Jesus made at Calvary.
- Repentance must be accompanied by a willingness to submit to Jesus – trusting fully in his saving work on the cross.
Application #2 – Becoming Mighty in the Scriptures requires Humility
No matter how learned we are in God’s Word, nobody ever arrives. We are always in process. The Psalmist wrote, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (Psalm 25:4). Growing requires humility, for humility and teachability go hand in hand. Apollos learned ‘the way of God more accurately,” demonstrating humility. And when we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, “he will lift us up” (James 4:10).
After receiving instruction from Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos goes on to disciple believers and be a witness to unbelievers with a fuller understanding of God’s grace found in Jesus and the gospel message:
“And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 18:27-28)
Application #3 – Becoming Mighty in the Scriptures includes Utilizing Your Spiritual Gifts
Apollos was fulfilling his role in the Great Commission, utilizing his gift of teaching to strengthen the church and witness to the lost. And what about you? Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) are and how He wants you to utilize them for His glory?
We are called to be not only hearers of the Word, but also doers of the Word (James 1:22-25). So becoming mighty in the Scriptures includes both understanding and application of God’s Word.
As we begin 2016, may we strive to become ‘mighty in the Scriptures’ – by investing in God’s word, by demonstrating humility, and by utilizing our spiritual gifts – for God’s glory and for the building of His Kingdom!