A Shining Star For Christ
May 22nd, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
A SHINING STAR FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-22-83 8:15 a.m.
And it is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to invite and to praise for all of you who do thus listen on radio to this hour’s message. It is entitled A Shining Star for Christ, and it is a message concerning Apollos, the brilliant Alexandrian. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 1, Acts chapter 18:
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And there he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, a Roman province facing the Black Sea in Asia Minor, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that the Roman Caesar Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and Paul came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: (for by their occupation they were tentmakers.)"
Now verse 18:
And when Paul left Corinth, he took with him Priscilla and Aquila,
And came to Ephesus, and left them there."
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.
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.
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.
And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia,
– in the first verse of chapter 19, Corinth, the capital of Achaia, the Roman province of Achaia –
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:
For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
To sum it up in a sentence, Paul closed his second missionary journey with this visit to Ephesus, promised them that he’d return, and he came back to Ephesus on his third missionary journey; most of his ministry in the third missionary journey was employed, and consumed by that marvelous ministry in Ephesus. Now, between the second missionary journey of Paul and the third missionary journey of Paul, there came to Ephesus this Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria. And it was in Ephesus that Aquila and Priscilla heard and met this incomparable man.
Out of all of the prophets and apostles in Scripture, there are two that I would love to have heard above all the others: one is Isaiah, the court preacher in Jerusalem with his high-flown poetic imagery. Isaiah spoke in poetry, poetry far beyond any Homer or Shakespeare or Milton. I would love to have heard Isaiah. Second, I would love to have heard this Apollos. I think he wrote the Book of Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews is a homiletical sermon; it is beautiful. It was delivered by an Alexandrian; and an Alexandrian exactly like Apollos. If Apollos didn’t write Hebrews, whoever wrote it was somebody exactly like Apollos. The Septuagint text, the Greek text used in Hebrews is Alexandrian, and the thought and all of the language is Alexandrian. And it is eloquent beyond anything in the New Testament.
This man Apollos, born in Alexandria, grew up in Alexandria, taught in Alexandria. When Alexander the Great founded that city at the mouth of the Nile River, on the north side of Egypt, he never dreamed the glory that would accompany the great, vast city. It was the second one in the Roman Empire, after Rome, [Alexandria] was first. The three great cities of the Roman Empire were Rome first, Alexandria second, and Antioch third. And in that city of Alexandria, there grew the most famous of all of the cultural, intellectual centers of that ancient world. When Athens decayed, Alexandria became the center of scholarly academic education and activity. The greatest library of all time was in Alexandria. I don’t know of a tragedy that has overtaken the human race greater than when the caliph Omar burned that Alexandrian library in the seventh century AD. The greatest version of the Bible that was ever made was in Alexandria. It was the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew into the Greek; and it was the Greek Septuagint that was the Bible used by the first Christian preachers. The greatest geometrician of all time was a scholar in Alexandria. His name was Euclid, and after two thousand years we still use the textbook of Euclid in geometry. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, typical of that city, was located in Alexandria: Pharos, the mighty lighthouse that stood at the harbor entrance of Alexandria. The greatest Greek fathers, the greatest fathers of the New Testament era, the church fathers, were in Alexandria: Origen and Athanasius. The great philosophers of the Neo-platonic system, Plotinus and Porphyry, were in Alexandria. And the greatest philosopher the Jewish people have ever produced, Philo, a contemporary of Christ, was an Alexandrian. And it was in that intellectual, academic, cultural center that this man Apollos grew up.
The education of Paul and Apollos were diametrically opposite. Paul, Saul of Tarsus, was taught at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. He was a strident Pharisee. He was learned in all of the casuistry of the schools of Hillel and Shammai, and he studied in Hebrew and spoke in Aramaic. Apollos was on the other side of the cultural spectrum. He grew up in Alexandria. He was taught in the Greek language, and he learned all the Greek classics, and doubtless he studied in the school of Philo and knew all of those spiritualizations that characterized the philosophy of that great Jewish leader. He was a mighty man in presence and in eloquence. When he walked into the room, every eye followed him, and when he spoke, it was in stentorian tones and in vast hyperbolic perorations. The whole world who heard Apollos was astonished at his learning and at his eloquence.
Just one thing wrong with the gospel that he preached: he knew, the Bible says here, Jesus only as a disciple of John. That is, the gospel that Apollos preached was ethical. He preached Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. He preached Jesus and His call to repentance and righteousness. But he didn’t know Jesus crucified for our sins, raised for our justification, ascended into heaven there to plead and intercede for us, and someday coming again. Nor had he ever been introduced to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He knew Jesus only as he was a disciple of John the Baptist. We’d call that today the preaching of liberalism; an ethical gospel, a wonderful philosophy. When Aquila and Priscilla listened to this Apollos, they coveted him for the full gospel message of Christ, which is – and I define it for you according to the Bible – Paul defined the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, with these words: "Brethren, I declare unto you, I present unto you, I make known unto you the gospel." What is it? "Namely, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures." To preach an ethical Christ is not to preach the gospel. To preach the gospel is to preach that we are lost sinners, and that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised the third day for our justification, to declare us righteous.
We’d call that today, in the days of my youth, "modernism," and in the present day, we refer to it as "liberalism": preaching an ethical Christ. When I began my own ministry, I was the pastor of a county seat town on this side, and E. F. Hallock, Preacher Hallock was pastor of the county seat town on that side, on the eastern side, the Chickasaw Association. As you know, he was pastor for forty-eight years, the First Baptist Church of Norman, Oklahoma, where the University of Oklahoma is located. He was a modernist; he was liberal. And he preached this ethical Christ. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church, an American Baptist Church, in Pittsburg, Kansas. And to the astonishment of his people and of everybody who knew of that church, upon a Sunday, this man, Preacher Hallock, came out of the pulpit, turned around, came down the aisle, and confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, accepted Him as a Savior who had died for his sins and was raised for his justification [Romans 4:25], and was baptized on that confession of faith, the pastor of the church; then called as the wonderful preacher of that great, marvelous, university church in Norman, Oklahoma. That’s exactly what happened to Apollos. He was a marvelous preacher, only he preached an ethical Christ, not knowing of the crucifixion, and the resurrection, and the ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
So the Bible says when Aquila and Priscilla listened to Apollos, an eloquent Alexandrian, an academician of the highest intellectual order, they took him – and this is a marvelous tribute to the personal spirit of Apollos. Aquila was a humble tentmaker; he was a Jew that had been exorcised out of and sent out of Rome. He was a foreigner and a sojourner, he was a humble tentmaker, and I suppose in the eyes of Apollos, most unlearned and uneducated. But when Apollos the brilliant Alexandrian was invited by Aquila and Priscilla to come to their home, he accepted, and he listened in humble devotion to the testimony of that tentmaker Aquila, and thus became an preacher of the full-orbed gospel of Christ [Acts 18:26-28].
Let me make a comment here, an aside. There is no such thing as a man being great who despises or runs over humble people. He’s just not great. The greater the man, the more inclined he is to love humble people. And when we persuade ourselves that intellectual priorities are found in the great and the mighty, we haven’t been introduced to the real substantive experiences of life. Humble people – the plowman, the shoemaker, the clerk at the store – may be the most gifted and the most blessed and the wisest among us. This is Apollos: a great, eloquent, educated Alexandrian, listening to the quiet testimony of a humble tentmaker named Aquila, with his wife Priscilla.
Now, this man Apollos, after he was introduced to the gospel of the regenerating power of the Spirit and of the blood atonement of Christ, then he preached that gospel in all of its glory. That’s why I say I wish I could have heard him. Or, read the Book of Hebrews, and listen to him as he speaks. Now this man Apollos, having been in Ephesus, desired to go to Corinth, the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. The Romans divided the ancient Greek world, Greece itself, into two provinces: Macedonia and Achaia. The ancient capital of Achaia was Athens, but the Romans changed it to Corinth. And the capital of that southern part of the Greece peninsula was Corinth. So this Apollos came to Corinth. Now, didn’t I say that he preached the gospel as they’ve never heard it before? That’s what he did in Corinth. When he came to Corinth and was presented there to the brethren, to the church, they listened to him, and they said one to the other, "We never heard a man like that! We never heard a man preach the gospel like that!" Eloquent, mighty, moving, that’s what it says in the Bible; mighty, eloquent.
And the inevitable happened. I read it to you. The inevitable happened; it’ll always happen like that. When an eloquent man like Apollos, who could preach like an angel from heaven, when he came, immediately the people began to divide up in the church. Now I read it to you out of 1 Corinthians: "It has been declared unto me," writes Paul, "of my brethren, and by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and another, and I of Apollos" [1 Corinthians 1:11-12]. I turn the page again: "Are ye not carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal? For one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; it is God that gave the increase" [1 Corinthians 3:3-6]. What do you think of that? Isn’t that the most human thing you ever heard of in your life? "Man, man, man, did you ever hear anybody preach like Apollos? I’m a fervent devotee of Apollos." And these, "But remember the apostle Paul. He founded our church; he’s the father of our souls!" And they begin in envy and strife to be divisive in the church over Paul the apostle of Christ and Apollos the brilliant, eloquent Alexandrian.
Now, how did that affect Apollos, and how did that affect Paul? I turn to the first Corinthian letter, the last chapter. He says here, in verse 12, "As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time" [1 Corinthians 16:12]. Now I want to look at that really and closely. Paul has come to Ephesus, as I say, on his third missionary journey, and Apollos has come back to Ephesus, and they’re there together. Now over there in Corinth, because of the eloquence and the preaching of Apollos, they have a division between the apostle Paul and this wonderful preacher Apollos. Now I want you to look at these two men: "As touching our brother Apollos," Paul says, "My brother Apollos, I greatly desired him, polla, much, much, parakaleo, I exhorted him, I persuaded him the best I knew how, I entreated him." But Apollos said, "I am an occasion of divisiveness over there. I have been made party to a division over there, and if I go back, it would just add fuel to the flame, and pantos, wholly, entirely, in every way, completely, I’m not at all going to return." His will was translated here, "not at all," pantos; "absolutely not."
These two men, isn’t it wonderful to see it? These two men, Apollos and Paul, loved each other, respected each other, honored each other; there was no root of envy or jealousy in either one of them. Apollos says, "I’m not going." Paul says, "Don’t think about me; go to Corinth."
"No," says Apollos, "I’m not going to be a part of the divisiveness of these who choose between me and you. For I am your brother, and you are mine." That’s wonderful. That’s great. That’s godly. That’s marvelous. To glory in another’s advancement, to thank God for the gifts that God has given to somebody else, in preference honoring one another, and in honor preferring one another; let them receive the accolades and to rejoice in what God has done with them. That’s great. I have to close, the time is gone.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly the time goes when I’m a’preaching? I tell you, about the time I think I’m getting started, then that clock says almost nine o’clock. I close.
As you know, I am an inordinate admirer of our great London Baptist preacher of the last century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Charles Spurgeon, as he became sensitive to the inroads of – at that time you called it "higher criticism," at the inroads of higher criticism; we call it "liberalism" – he was hurt at the inroads of liberalism into the Baptist Union of Great Britain. And he stood up in great fervor and strength to oppose the liberalism that was flooding the pulpits and the churches of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It is called in history "the Downgrade Controversy." And these men who were denying the infallibility of the Word of God – and they were denying the blood atonement of Christ, and they were denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and they were denying His coming again – Spurgeon fervently spoke against such apostasy. And on a memorable day, the twenty-third of April, in 1888, at an assembly of the Baptist Union in London, they voted to censor Spurgeon. And there was an eyewitness who wrote about it named Henry Oakley. And this is what he wrote:
I was present at City Temple when the motions to censor Spurgeon was moved, seconded, and carried. The City Temple was as full as it could be. I was there very early, but found only a standing seat in the aisle of the back gallery. I listened to the speeches. The only one of which I have any distinct remembrance was that of Mr. Charles Williams. He quoted Tennyson in favor of a liberal theology and justification of doubt. The moment of voting came. Only those in the area of London were qualified to vote as members of the assembly. When the motion of censor was put, a forest of hands went up. "Against," called the chairman Dr. John Clifford, who was first president of the Baptist World Alliance. "Against," called the chairman Dr. John Clifford. I did not see any hands. But history records that there were seven. There were over two thousand that raised their hands to censure Spurgeon.
There were only seven, history says, that stood up for him.
Without any announcement of numbers, the vast assembly broke into cheering, and cheering, and cheering! From some of the older men, their pent up hostility found vent.
Spurgeon said one time, "There is not a preacher in London who rejoices in the favor of God upon my church"; all of them envious of him.
From some of the older men, their pent up hostility found vent. From many of the younger men, wild resistance of an obscurantist trammel, as they said, broke loose. It was a strange scene. I viewed it with tears. I stood near a Spurgeon man whom I knew well; Mr. Spurgeon had welcomed him from a very lowly position. He went wild with delight at this censor of his great and generous master. I say it was a strange scene, that that vast assembly should be so outrageously delighted at the condemnation of the greatest, noblest, and grandest leader of their faith.
Can you believe that? Jealous of him. The great throngs that crowded, you couldn’t find a building, no matter how big it was, that would hold the throngs that came to hear Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Contrariwise, when F. B. Meyer, one of the greatest Baptist preachers of all time also, when he came to be pastor of Regents Park Baptist Church in London, F. B. Meyer said, "I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t confess that I was envious and jealous at the great throngs that crowded to hear Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and it got in my heart, and it hurt my soul." And F. B. Meyer said, "I got down on my knees before God, and I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, take out of me this envy and this jealousy, and put in my heart a rejoicing over the marvelous effectiveness of this great, brilliant preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.’" And F. B. Meyer said, "I began to pray for Spurgeon. And it came to pass," said F. B. Meyer, "came to pass, that every victory that Spurgeon won, I felt as though I had won it myself."
If the whole wide world stood row on row,
And stones at you began to throw,
I’d boldly out with them to fight,
Saying they were wrong, and you were right.
If every bird on every tree,
With note as loud as loud could be,
Sang endlessly of your dispraise,
One graceless thought it would not raise.
If all the great, and wise and good,
Upon your sins in judgment stood –
They’d simply waste their valued breath,
For I’m your friend through Life and Death.
If I were wrong, and they were right,
I’d not believe (for all their might),
Not even if all they said were true,
For you love and honor me, and I love and honor you.
["The Hills of Hell," D. Mountjoy]
That’s God! That’s the Spirit of Christ! And let’s be that way. Rejoicing in any favor or goodness or gladness that comes to somebody else, in honor preferring one another; humble, teachable, tractable, let’s be that way. Jesus was that way; the humblest of us all. Paul and Apollos were that way. Let’s be that way. May the spirit of love and compassionate concern overflow our souls and make our church a colony of heaven.
May we stand together?
Our Lord, so many times when we read the Bible, we are rebuked in our own spirit. Lord, make us sweet, precious, humble followers of our wonderful Savior. And in humility, may we learn from each other, honor each other, love each other, and may the Spirit of Christ in beauty move in our precious church.
And while our people pray, and in a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, may it be that God will give us you this hour. A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, in the balcony there’s time and to spare, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for us, and we’re on the way." May angels attend you as you come. And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest You give us this beautiful morning hour, in Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, welcome, as you come, welcome. Welcome, welcome.
STAR FOR CHRIST
Paul’s second and third missionary journey, Apollos came to Ephesus(Acts 18:19, 21, 24-25)
men in all history I would love to hear preach – Isaiah and Apollos
He was an Alexandrian
Alexandria center of intellectual andcultural life of the civilized world
II. The education of the two men
Paul educated in Greek schools, and at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem
educated in world of rhetoric, oratory and perorations, under Philo
III. The Christ Apollos preached(Acts 18:25)
only baptism of John – post-crucifixion life of Jesus unknown to him
taught an ethical Christ, nothing of what Paul calls the gospel(1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
a. Today we refer to
this as liberalism
b. E. F. Halleck
and Priscilla taught him full message of atoning grace of Jesus
IV. The noble character of Apollos
A. Humble and teachable
B. His preaching
overwhelmed the church at Corinth(Acts 18:27-28)
Apollos party formed(1 Corinthians 1:11-12,
3:3-6, 22, 4:6, 10:10)
refused to be a part of the division(1
C. These two men,
coworkers in love
1. F. B. Meyer
and Charles Haddon Spurgeon
D. Spirit of love,
gratitude and humility in honor, preferring one another