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Paul built on Apollos. Acts 19.1-7

Ephesus: Acts 19 (1)

Pray Psalm 132.8-10.
Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength.
Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness,
And let Your saints shout for joy.
For Your servant David’s sake,
Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

Sing Psalm 132.8-10.
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
Arise, O Lord, come to Your resting place; Your holy Presence meet with us in might.
Clothe us with righteousness in Jesus’ grace, and we will shout to Your divine delight!
For David’s sake, turn not away Your face, but look upon us in Your holy light.

Read and meditate on Acts 19.1-7.

1. Whom did Paul meet in Ephesus?

2. What did he do for them?

Paul may have had Ephesus in his sights from the beginning of his third missionary journey, for we don’t hear much about any stops along the way. When he arrived, he found a dozen or so men, true believers, but not well trained (vv. 1, 7). They seem to be stuck about where Apollos was, trusting in John the Baptist’s word about repentance (v. 3). 

We note that Paul took the time to discern the state of their faith (v. 2). Apollos had launched them into faith, now Paul would establish them in it. He gave them credit for true faith and then took them further into the work of Christ and the Spirit (vv. 4-6). This is what good teachers do, examine the condition of seedlings and cultivate from there.

These twelve men became the nucleus of a revival in southeast Asia Minor, as we shall see. Twelve men! From Ephesus the Gospel was dispersed throughout the region, as the Spirit convicted, converted, filled, equipped, and sent people into all the surrounding area.

God was orchestrating the progress of His Kingdom, using faithful servants and witnesses from all walks of life. Launch, establish, disperse, replicate – this is the pattern of the ongoing work of Christ. This is the way the Spirit flows God’s grace through churches into the world.

Only the Spirit of God can superintend and give continuity and strength to such an effort. We need to make sure we’re filled with, walking in, and empowered by Him in all we do.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Apollos had launched them into faith, now Paul would establish them.”

How many churches today are headed by pastors who are teaching half the truth? Perhaps they are doing it with a good heart, like Apollos. But even Apollos, before Priscilla and Aquilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18.26), was teaching only half the Gospel.

We see in Ephesus that Paul found twelve sincere men who only had a partial understanding of what their glorious faith entailed. Before Paul’s arrival, though, these men could have benefited from a little Berean study ethic. As we recall, the Bereans received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether the things they had been told were correct. (Acts 17.11)

If the men in Ephesus had searched the Scriptures, they would have read that John the Baptist was, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Is. 40.3). And that he himself had said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3.16).

Perhaps those words should have made them a little curious?

Today, preachers preach a gospel that is more about what Jesus will do for you, instead of what you are called to do in the Kingdom – which calling will cost you your life.

Jesus says to us all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9.23).

And Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4.7). Sounds a little more strenuous that the promised Kumbaya around a campfire.

And the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12.1-3). Yes, we must consider what it cost Jesus.

Since we are blessed with having the Scriptures, and can employ the Berean study ethic for ourselves, it is incumbent upon us to live the whole Gospel. It is shameful that some pastors are not preaching the full Gospel; but just because they are not, is no excuse for us. We have the truth. We would do well to live it! Like Paul and the enlightened twelve in Ephesus.

For reflection

1. How can you know if what you’re hearing at any time is merely a partial gospel, rather than the Gospel of the Kingdom?

2. Why is it important that you search the Scriptures daily for yourself?

3. Do you have a study partner or prayer partner to help encourage you in daily reading and study of the Bible? How can study and prayer partners help one another continue growing in the Lord?

Therefore the baptism of John was an exhortation to repentance only, but it did not provide a purification from sins. This, then, is the difference between the baptism of John and that of the faithful: the baptism of the faithful gives the gift of the remission of sins.
Ammonius (late 5th-early 6th century), Catena on the Acts of the Apostles 19.5

Pray Psalm 132.11-18.
Pray for the progress of God’s Kingdom, that righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit might increase on earth as in heaven.

Sing Psalm 132.11-18.
(Finlandia: Be Still, My Soul)
Remember, Lord, the oath You swore to David; do not turn back, do not deny Your Word:
“One of your sons, with your throne I will favor, and He shall keep My cov’nant evermore,
and walk within My testimonies ever, thus He shall ever rule as Israel’s Lord.”

God dwells among us, and He will forever, to meet our needs and clothe us with His grace.
He has to us sent Jesus Christ, our Savior, and made us His eternal resting-place.
His foes are banished from His Presence ever, but we shall reign with Him before His face.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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