Acts 18:24-19:7 - God Nurtures His Church

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Welcome to our Bible Study!  We are studying spiritual applications from the Book of Acts. Today my text is Acts 18:24-19:7.  In this passage Luke tells us about Acquila and Priscilla teaching Apollos and about Paul interacting with "some" disciples at Ephesus. The main point of this text is that God nurtures and matures His church.  So my title is God Nurtures His Church.  We will present an overview today and more detail in later messages.  Several points stand out.

One, the immature church was blessed by God.

As the church was planted, the church had to grow in knowledge and experience.  The teachers and the people were in all stages of gospel knowledge and their experience in the Spirit. Sometimes we think that God only does His work among people who are in a perfected state of knowledge and experience, but the fact is that the people of God are still growing up into full stature.  They are ever becoming more like Christ.  As soon as people believe in Christ, God accepts them and helps them mature in the image of His Son. 

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ came in God's time, and that time was exactly right.  Jesus did not come into a perfect world.  Far from this, He came to seek and to save those who were lost.  The lost people were a part of this imperfect world. When they were redeemed, they had to mature in Christ.  It is true that the direction of one's life totally changes when he or she believes in Christ, but the process of maturation takes time, the transforming power of the Spirit, and total commitment on the part of the believers.

Two, sometimes teachers must be more fully taught. 

Luke tells us about a teacher named Apollos.  Apollos was an evangelist who was powerfully preaching at Ephesus. He was fervent in spirit (or Spirit). His knowledge, however, about the way of God was incomplete. Luke explains that he was acquainted only with the baptism of John, not the baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus.   Priscilla and Acquila understood the gospel better and explained the way of God more accurately to Apollos. 

When Apollos left Ephesus, he went to Achaia (Greece) and ministered in Corinth.  The church warmly welcomed him.  His ministry was a great blessing to all who believed through grace.  While there, Apollos powerfully refuted the Jews in public and showed them that Jesus was the Christ.   Apollos had humbly accepted the instruction from Acquila and Priscilla.  His ministry, which was strong before, became even stronger.  We can learn much from this story.  We must always remain open to greater and more accurate understandings of the gospel.

Three, the disciples were lacking in experience and needed instruction.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went to Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41). According to Acts 20:31, Paul was in Ephesus for three years (compare Acts 19:8-10).    The disciples that Paul found at Ephesus were lacking in knowledge and experience. They had been baptized into John's baptism, but not in the name of the Lord Jesus.  In this case Paul baptized the disciple in the name of Jesus, prayed for them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
These disciples were true disciples of the Lord.  In Acts 18:25, Luke tells us that Apollos "had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus."  So, even though Apollos knew only about the baptism of John, he had accurately taught about Jesus.  This should leave us with no question about the fact that they were true believers in Christ.  When we believe in Christ, we do not automatically have complete knowledge and fullness of experience.

Four, Paul helps the disciples advance in knowledge and experience.

The apostle Paul saw that the disciples were lacking in experience and knowledge.  So he asked them about their experience.  Did you receive the Holy Spirit when or after you believed?  They had not heard about the outpouring of the Spirit.  So Paul asked them about their baptism.  They had been baptized into John's baptism. 

At this point, Paul baptized the disciples in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Luke tells us that "when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying."  Without doubt, these utterances include heartfelt praise to God.  On this day, the disciples grew in knowledge and experience.  They took a great step forward in spiritual maturity and in being empowered by Spirit.  It was an important spiritual milestone for them. 

Conclusion

The main message of this great passage, our text, is that God nurtures and matures His church.  Collectively, we are becoming more like Christ. The stories about Acquila and Priscilla teaching Apollos and Paul helping the disciples at Ephesus are very inspiring for all of us.  We all know that we still have to grow in Christ.  Our goal is to reach "full stature" in Him, but we have not completed the journey.  In spite of this, our gracious God uses us fully to accomplish His purposes.  The Spirit empowers us for witness as well as helping us be like Christ.   

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