Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, mighty in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John, Acts 18:24,25.
So let’s get the obvious out of the way. Apollos was a great speaker. This was in a day when rhetoric was an esteemed art studied in detail. People came great distances to listen to gifted speakers, regardless the subject. It was a high form of entertainment, like going to the opera or the symphony. Great speakers were stars, the celebrities of the day.
Luke also tells us he was from Alexandria, the seat of ancient learning. Alexandria boasted both a university and a great library. The Septuagint was translated in Alexandria by seventy great Jewish scholars. There can be no question that Apollos was a highly educated man. Yet this talented, educated man, who was probably well known, had an amazing humility.
Just imagine approaching one of today’s celebrities. You are, in his mind, a no one. Why should he care what you think, especially if you told him you could teach him something about his craft?
Aquila and Priscilla, a couple of blue collar workers of average education, dared to approach a highly educated man with great skill in a prestigious art, a virtuoso of sorts and celebrity of the day, and tell him he was not completely informed on the subject he spoke about. What did Apollos do? Did he shrug them off? Did he puff out his chest in injured pride and say, “How dare you little peons think you can teach me anything?” No, he listened. Then he considered what they said. And ultimately, he accepted it and changed his teaching. Think of the humility it took for a man of his stature to act this way.
Now add this to the mix: In the Bible people are usually mentioned in order of importance. That’s why you read “Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” even when one can prove that Shem was not Noah’s eldest son. He was the most important one, though, the one through whom Christ came. Notice the shift in the names in the following verses.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Acts 13:2.
He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 13:7.
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 13:13.
And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas…, 13:43.
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. 13:46.
As Paul became more and more important, he took Barnabas’s place at the head of the line. We are told Paul [they called] Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 14:12.
In Acts 18, we see: but when Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately, Acts 18:26. Priscilla, in private and in the company of her husband, evidently took a far more active part in this teaching than simply sitting next to her husband nodding her head in agreement. Her name is first. Yet still, Apollos, a Jewish scholar, listened. How could this man be so amenable to being told he was wrong, and by such unpretentious people, one of whom was a woman?
Luke also tells us Apollos was “fervent in spirit” and “mighty in the scriptures.” Perhaps that is the key to humility. Here was a man who understood due to his great knowledge of God’s word and his strong feelings about it that in God’s eyes he was no different than a lower class, less educated couple, and that saving his soul was far more important than saving face.
Maybe if we have trouble facing correction, our humility is lacking because of a weak spirit and poor scriptural knowledge. Becoming angry with someone who approaches us, who dares to say we might be wrong about something or need further study on a topic, or simply refusing to listen because “there is no way that person can know more than I do,” might just tell tales about our spiritual situation. Rather than putting the correctors “in their place,” it shows exactly how low our place is in God’s eyes. He will only exalt the humble.
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray, Prov 10:17.