The Essential Seal and Constitution of the Christian Life (continued)
In the second place, we find "disciples" mentioned here. "Paul ... found certain disciples." They would no doubt have been people who were bearing the name "Christian": they would have classed themselves as such and would probably have been referred to as Christians. And yet they were people who, while being called disciples, were yet without the fundamental essential of the Christian life. What were they? I think the answer is to be found in Apollos, the Jew from Alexandria, who had recently arrived in Ephesus and had previously come into touch with the ministry of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. We are told here that he had been 'instructed by word of mouth' [katechoe] (Acts 18:25). No, what was John's vocation? John's vocation was to prepare the way of the Lord, to lead on and point on to Jesus. What was John's message? Repentance in view of the imminent coming of the Messiah. "Repent!" said John. But John had definite limitations. Said he: "I ... baptize you in water ... He that cometh after me ... shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:2, 11). That represents a very great difference.
Now Apollos had got all that, and probably some extra teaching about Jesus, apparently at second hand ('by word of mouth'). In the main, Apollos ended where John ended: that is, he was without a personal experience of the work of the Holy Spirit through baptism into Jesus Christ. He had, nevertheless, some particular values on the positive side. We are told that he was 'mighty in the scriptures' (Acts 18:24): which I take to mean that he had an unusually wide and deep knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures about the coming Messiah - what we call the "Messianic Scriptures" - all of which pointed toward the Christ; all of which rang out the note of preparation, and especially of repentance, for the Christ was coming. John baptized with a baptism of repentance in preparation for the Christ and his kingdom: but there he stopped and could do no more. And Apollos seems to have stopped there too. Perhaps he was a mightier man in the Old Testament Scriptures than even John the Baptist, but with all his knowledge of the Scriptures he fell short of the experience of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, according to the law of ministry, he could not lead these disciples further than he himself had gone.
(continued with # 16)