Alexandria was the intellectual center of ancient Greece, home to an ancient university and library that was packed full of some 700,000 resources. That being said, it shouldn’t come as a shock that it’s in this city that we meet a popular and wise teacher in the early church named Apollos. While the Bible says very little about this man, we know that he was eloquent in his teaching and competent in his understanding of the Scriptures, capable of thriving in debate and refuting his opposers.
You don’t always know what kind of characters you’re going to find on the other side of theological education. Sometimes they use the huge words they’ve learned in their studies for the sake of looking smart and making others feel inferior. Sometimes they’re open only to the scholarly side of the Scriptures, but not to the Spirit of the Scriptures. Sometimes they’re completely unwilling to be open to discussion, convinced that they’re right about everything. And sometimes they actually are right about something, but they’re such a jerk about it that no one wants to listen.
Fortunately, Apollos didn’t appear to carry any of these scholarly characteristics. He wasn’t just a wise teacher, but a spiritually-minded scholar able to see to see Jesus in the prophecies of the Scripture. He was also open to critique on his beliefs, as proven when a married Christian couple named Priscilla and Aquila explained to him how he didn’t quite have Jesus fully figured out yet. Apollos’ openness to critique is perhaps even more shown by the fact that he listened to Priscilla in a culture were women were often demeaned and not offered education—not to mention the fact that these two were tent-makers, not scholars. But instead of going with the cultural flow of things, he recognized their wisdom and listened.
We often think of pastors as our primary spiritual teachers. While these spiritual callings and giftings can surely overlap, teachers are actually different from pastors. Teachers are equipped to understand and explain the deep aspects of the Bible more clearly, whereas pastors are equipped to watch over Christians and take care of them in many different spiritual facets. In our culture, we require pastors to be good at both callings, which is a bit difficult for those who aren’t spiritually equipped for such things. I think the Western Church has felt the effects of this cultural paradigm as much of our Sunday teachings don’t quite go deep enough to scratch our Scriptural itch. And unfortunately, when we look to scholars for understanding, we often don’t understand half of what they’re saying because they don’t talk in ways we can understand.
The church is hungry. We need more Apollos-and-Paul-like scholars who are capable of teaching and leading us into deeper Scriptural revelation. And we need them to speak to us with character in ways we can understand. This is starting to become more common via new podcasts and resources built by scholars who are recognizing this gap. Hopefully these means will continue to offer the church what it needs.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 18:18-28 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.