Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.
Like one of those country dances where partners weave in and out, meeting again, then reeling off in different directions, there is a wonderful interweaving, interlocking movement of players used by the Lord in these verses to establish his church in Ephesus and Corinth.
In the last portion we watched as Paul spent at least a year and a half planting the church in Corinth, accompanied by his new-found friends, Aquila and Priscilla, and regrouping along the way with his steady companions, Silas and Timothy. But the time came for him to move on, so he set sail, taking Aquila and Priscilla with him, landing temporarily at Ephesus. This would eventually become a major centre for Paul’s ministry, lingering for over two years, but his stay at this point is brief, visiting at the local synagogue, reasoning with the Jews, and then setting sail once again for Syria. But he’s made a beginning, and leaves behind Priscilla and Aquila to carry on the work.
A new leg of the dance begins. Apollos, a highly educated Jewish man, arrives in Ephesus eager to share the scriptures and John’s baptism and Jesus’ teaching. He himself had been nurtured in Alexandria, an Egyptian city highly influenced by Greek thought, and seems to have been thoroughly versed in Old Testament scriptures, but without a complete understanding of Jesus or the Gospel. Nonetheless, he spoke boldly in the Ephesian synagogue, and it seems likely that a number became disciples – a group of twelve men we’ll meet in the next chapter likely traced their faith to Apollos’ teaching.
The dance shifts again bringing new partners into connection. Priscilla and Aquila hear Apollos in the synagogue and take him home to explain the truths about Jesus more clearly. He seems to come alive in the learning, for almost immediately he heads for Achaia, encouraged by the other believers in Ephesus, ending up as a significant leader in the spiritual growth of the Corinthian church, the very community founded by Paul.
Meanwhile, Paul himself, having reported back to the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch, launches on a further missionary journey, taking an inland route that brings him back again to Ephesus, ready to continue ministry (Acts 19:1). He encounters disciples influenced by Apollos’ earlier teaching and helps them understand more clearly so they, too, embrace the fullness of the Gospel. The dance continues.
This rhythmic crisscrossing of paths would be chaotic coincidence, were it not that the Lord Jesus himself is building his church. The One who “began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1-2) is now continuing his work through this eclectic mix of characters, the steps interweaving, just as he chooses.
The dance continues still. I choose to enter in. I will watch for the other partners he puts beside me. I will be glad for this crisscrossing mix, not focused on any one individual, but carried forward together. And I will embrace the events of this day not as sheer coincidence but as part of the rhythmic pattern orchestrated by my Lord himself. Indeed, Paul will later write that we are God’s workmanship and he has prepared good works in advance “that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10) – step by step by step, just like a dance.
O Lord, I rejoice that you are the Master – you have it all in control. I submit to your direction this day, playing my part alongside those you choose. Gladly.
Recommit your steps to the Lord – this day, this season, as far as you can see, and beyond.