A Speechless Orator: Six Lessons We Can Learn from Apollos

Acts 18:24-28 introduces us to one of the most enigmatic figures in Scripture. “A certain Jew” named Apollos.  This man crosses the pages of Scripture on several occasions.  He is described as an great orator, yet we have not one recorded word from him.

What can this “speechless” orator possibly say to us?  What can we learn from his silent eloquence?

What do we know about him?

We know that he is Jewish yet has a Greek name. This was not uncommon in his home city of Alexandria where Greek and Jewish cultures met and sometimes mixed. Like many of his city he was well-educated and had great knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. He is an eloquent speaker, a man of faith, and a convert of the ministry of John the Baptist.

Apollos’ message was not incorrect, just insufficient.  Like many during this transition period, he had heard that Jesus was coming, but not that He had come or that the Holy Spirit had been given.

The husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquilla graciously took him aside and shared with him the fullness of the Gospel message.  Armed with this message, Apollos continued his evangelistic work with great effectiveness and grace.

What can we learn from Apollos?

Despite his Scriptural silence, Apollos has several lessons to teach us about learning by his willingness to learn.

1. Never underestimate what you have already learned.

Apollos’ message wasn’t wrong, it was simply incomplete. Though there is much more we all need to learn, the new will supplement and complement the skills and knowledge we already have.

2. Never underestimate the need to learn.

Apollos was well-versed  in truth God had revealed in the Old Testament, but he was humble enough to recognize his need to grow and act on it. Spiritual maturity is a continual process.  Some of the most inspiring Christians I’ve known are “senior saints” who continue to learn and know God.

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning.” Proverbs 1:5

3. Never underestimate your ability to learn or to help others learn.

Don’t let your self-perception keep you from learning.  You may feel you aren’t “smart” enough. No matter who you are God an use you to learn and to help others learn. Spiritual knowledge is not determined by intellectual or educational achievement.

4. Never underestimate who you can learn from.

Aquila and Priscilla may have lacked the formal education and giftedness of Apollos, but God used them to teach him.Pride tells us we know more than others, but it also protects itself from actually saying so. Humility acknowledges that something can be learned from anyone.

5. Never underestimate the benefit of learning.

We can improve and amplify our service for God.  Not by merely knowing facts but by knowing God’s truth.  Knowing truth is to know God, and truth transforms both our service and worship.

6. Never underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit.

Apollos learned and served without the Spirit because he had not been taught or experienced the Spirit in his life.   We have been taught and received the Spirit so without Him we cannot serve, worship, or learn effectively.

Some years ago a friend told me of a learning experience he had with his dad.  He was a strong, football-playing high schooler who was proud of how strong he was.  No physical challenge was too much for him.

One day he went out with his aging father to chop firewood.  Expecting to put his dad to shame with how much he could chop, he was surprised to see his dad ahead of him.  He increased his effort only to find that his dad had chopped nearly twice the wood he had.

Seeing the puzzled look on his son’s face, his father simply said, “Son, sharpen your axe.”  All the effort in the world is ineffective if we are chopping with a dull axe.

How will you sharpen your axe this year?

  • Read the Bible daily and seek to complete it this year.
  • Pray throughout each day and make it a practice to have a particular time of prayer.
  • Have a conversation with someone about the things of God.  Don’t just talk in generalities, engage in profitable discussion and questions about God and His truth.
  • Listen/watch/read a sermon apart from regular service.
  • Attend a time of discipleship you don’t usually attend.  This might be a Sunday PM service, a Wednesday prayer service, Sunday School or small-group Bible study at your church or in your neighborhood.

Above all, model the humility of Apollos who wasn’t just interested in what he had to say to others.  He listened to what others said to him. And he learned.

This is what he says to us!

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