St Paul's UMC
Sunday, July 10, 2022
  • I'll Fly Away
  • My Jesus I Love Thee
  • Doxology
      • Psalm 105:1–4NIV2011

      • Acts 18:24–28NIV2011

  • We are starting a new sermon series today that will carry us through the rest of the summer called “A Model Disciple.” Each week, I will lift up a specific disciple of Jesus found in the New Testament, some you easily recognize, some you may not, and have us examine the way they lived their lives, hopefully providing us with a model we can emulate in our own lives. The goal is to help us to mature in our faith as we are being developed into the full image of Jesus Christ. Our scriptural basis for this focus is Ephesians 4:11-13
    Ephesians 4:11–13 ESV
    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
    First up: Apollos. This man labored for the Kingdom of God and from Apollos, we can learn a thing or two about evangelism – sharing the Good News. Apollos set out to persuade his fellow countrymen and women that Jesus Christ was the long-awaited Messiah, the One sent by God who would set people free from their bondage to sin and death. He was a man of full of wisdom and understanding, he knew the Hebrew bible inside and out (what we refer to as the Old Testament), and he saw how all the teachings of the prophets pointed to Jesus Christ as Messiah. He was eloquent speech, an expert in the use of rhetoric (the art of speaking persuasively), and a bold debater. He could hold his own ground against the staunchest opponents of his day. Because of his gifts and talent, he would prove to be a great help to the early church, but he would also be the source of controversy.
    What can we take away from the brief descriptions we find of this early laborer of the gospel that will help us mature in our own discipleship?
    As always, our first step is to back up and study the context of the passage. When we do so, we read at the beginning of this chapter that the Apostle Paul arrives in the city of Corinth and there he meets up with a husband and wife, Aquilla and Priscilla, a couple who share the same vocation that Paul labors in – they are all tent makers. They open their house to him and he in turn instructs them in the Way of Jesus. They all work diligently at their trade to support themselves, and every Sabbath Paul attends the local synagogue and teaches his fellow Jews about Jesus. As is usually the case, some believe, others get upset, and eventually Paul is kicked out. He then goes next door to the house of a Gentile and continues sharing the gospel and he does this for about a year and a half.
    Eventually, Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla leave Corinth and head toward Ephesus. Paul leaves behind a growing house church, which he will later address in a series of letters we know as 1st and 2nd Corinthians.
    Once they arrive in Ephesus, Paul again teaches in the synagogue for awhile – but this was not his destination, so he leaves Aquilla and Priscilla in Ephesus to help guide the new church as he continues on toward Jerusalem and eventually Antioch.
    It is with this backdrop that Apollos strolls into Ephesus and begins teaching about Jesus as the Messiah. Aquilla and Priscilla are immediately impressed with his knowledge, fervor and rhetorical skill – but they, having been trained by Paul, recognize that Apollos has only a partial understanding of baptism.
    This chapter help us understand how the early Christian community was instructed and grew before the Bible was even assembled. It would be decades before all the letters of the New Testament would be written, and it would be another two centuries before we would have an official canonized Bible containing all 66 books.
    The early church grew by the witness of the Apostles, the testimony of those who encountered and experienced Jesus, the teachings of those well versed in the Hebrew Bible (OT) – showing that Jesus was the promise whom the ancient writers prophesized, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    From the text today, we can infer that there was a community of Jesus’ followers in Alexandria, Egypt – Apollos’ hometown. And we can make an educated guess that it was founded by disciples of John the Baptist since verse 25 mentions that Apollos only new of John’s baptism of repentance, not the full understanding of baptism that includes not only repentance, but also the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the faithful.
    Apollos was preaching what he knew – but notice how Priscilla & Aquilla corrected him. They did not publically call him out on his incomplete teaching – nor they go around behind his back pointing out his deficiencies to others. They were not threatened by this newcomer, nor did they view him as competition.
    When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”
    Apollos, for his part, received their instruction and continued on laboring for the kingdom. There is no indication that this expert in the scriptures wasn’t open to correction – quite the contrary, he became such a beloved member of that community that when he felt the call to go on toward Corinth, they wrote him reference letters.
    Apollos used his study of the scriptures to show others how God’s Word ultimately points to Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Word.
    And if others could help him strengthen his own understanding – all the better. We never stop learning as we mature in faith.
    Proverbs 27:17 ESV
    Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
    That is what we see happening here – iron sharpening iron. The mutual encouragement and teaching among co-laborers for the Lord for the sole purpose of building the Kingdom. This movement was not about Paul, Apollos, Priscilla or Aquila. This was the work of the Spirit of God and these disciples understood that they were to use their God-given gifts together in this work of growing God’s Kingdom. Pride, haughtiness, envy are not characteristics of God’s children – humility and love for one another is the way of Christ.
    Each of you have gifts that God has uniquely given to you for the building up of His Kingdom. It may not be teaching, preaching, debating as Apollos demonstrated – it may be singing, creating art that glorifies God, empathetic listening to others, specific works of service, a prophetic voice – whatever your gift may be, offer it with excellence to the Lord. Strengthen the Church, the body of Christ, by contributing your gift to the Church for the purpose of glorifying God and encourage others as they use their gifts. And do so with humility. It is pleasing to the Lord when we are willing to learn from one another, we are open to improvement, and when we give thanks for the diversity of gifts among the body.
    The Kingdom grows not by individual efforts, but the collective effort of disciples working together.
    It is never about the individual laborer of the gospel – it is not about you and it is not about me. Earlier I said that Apollos was not only a great help to the early church, but also became a source of controversy.
    Remember, Paul spent a year and half in Corinth – establishing a church before moving on in his missionary journey. And when Apollos left Ephesus with his reference letters – he went to Corinth. Since Apollos was skilled in rhetoric and was an eloquent preacher, there were some in the church who began to identify with the messenger and not the message. Factions began to form – those who claimed to be followers of Paul, others claimed to be followers of Apollos.
    This led to Paul reprimanding the church in 1 Corinthians 3. In this reprimand, Paul told them that they were acting like babies – not maturing in the faith.
    1 Corinthians 3:1–7 ESV
    But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
    My takeaway from that passage is this:
    You are being shaped into the fullness of Christ – so keep your eyes on Him and those who best exemplify his teachings. As a Christian, you need to be in a community in which you are being fed – spiritually nourished. A healthy community working together to nurture, encourage, equip and send out the saints for works of service.
    Study is important – the more knowledge we gain, the more effective we can be in sharing our faith with others. We are gifted in different ways, not everyone is called to be a teacher or preacher, but all of us are called to be students (disciples) and all are called to make disciples. Study God’s Words so that when you are asked about the hope you have received, you can be confident in sharing the gospel.
    Paul and Apollos remind us that the foundation of our faith is Christ alone. Our discipleship begins with Him, is sustained by Him and will be finalized in Him. It is following his teachings both in word and in service that we will mature in our faith.
    Amen.
      • Ephesians 4:11–13NIV2011

      • Proverbs 27:17NIV2011

      • 1 Corinthians 3:1–7NIV2011

  • How Great Is Our God
      • 2 Peter 3:18NIV2011

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