Sunday, April 6, 2008

Apollos’ Journey on the Way

In the Acts of the Apostles, the Christian life is often referred to simply as “the Way.”  Roads were sometimes called “ways” such as the Appian Way.  Calling the Christian walk a highway indicates a destination and journey all in one.  It limits the journey to a prescribed path very much like the way Christian follows in Pilgrim’s Progress.  To encounter this “Way” – to embark upon this “Way” one must first have arrived at faith.

Examining faith and belief in the terms of salvation causes the following questions to arise.  I confess they're not in the best order, and I will endeavor to reorder them into a more logical progression as time allows.

  1. Do I believe that I deserve eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture?
  2. Does everyone deserve eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture?
  3. Do the best representatives of mankind (Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Theresa) deserve eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture?
  4. Why do they deserve it – or why don’t they deserve it?
  5. Did you deserve to hear the Gospel message – the good news that Jesus Christ had died for your sins?
  6. Does anyone deserve to hear the Gospel message?
  7. Is it consistent to conclude (as some do) that one deserves eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture, yet they also deserve to hear the gospel in their own language?
  8. What happens to those who never hear the Gospel message – that is that Jesus Christ is God, that He died for your sins that He rose again, that He is Lord of creation?
  9. Will anyone ever be in Hell because no one witnessed to them?  Will anyone be able to accuse God of being unfair or unjust?
  10. What are we saved from?
  11. How are we saved?
  12. Is repentance enough?
  13. Is saying a prayer to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts sufficient?

Apollos knew the name Jesus.  He knew the baptism of John, that is to say, that he had made a conscious decision to repent of his sins.  Would he have believed that he deserved eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture?  I’m not certain that the text of Acts 18 reveals the answer to that question.  But I do believe there are hints that he did in fact believe such.  The answer lies in his response to being pulled aside by a tent maker and his wife.

Apollos was an eloquent teacher in the synagogue from the Ivy League of his dad – Alexandria.  He was a formidable rhetorician in the most scrutinizing of forums – the Jewish synagogue.  But his humility required he listen carefully to an unknown tent-maker from Rome and his wife.  That he submitted to listening and being taught by a women and her husband tent-maker reveals something of his posture before God.  I don’t think he would have been so open to truth from that source had he believed in his heart that he did not deserve eternal everlasting conscious bodily torture.  Apollos was desperate for truth.  The kind of desperation that looks in all places, however unlikely it would be to find the source of comfort.

He was an accurate teacher of Jesus, yet was he born again?  Again, there is some amount of disagreement on this topic.  Imminent Christians who are much more worthy than I (such as John Calvin) have concluded that Apollos was a Christian, indeed that he had to be in order to teach accurately the things of the Lord.  However, I don't think that conclusion is necessary or even warranted from the context of the text.  Nowhere does Luke say Apollos was a believer prior to meeting with the tent-makers.  Indeed, if the matter which Aquila and his wife found so important to require a private meeting with Apollos was merely doctrinal or peripheral to the gospel, why does Luke even mention it?

I conclude the Apollos was lacking in material ways in his knowledge of the Way.  Yes, he knew Christ – but I believe much the same way Simon Peter did prior to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  He knew him as Lord and Christ – but not of sin in the eternal everlasting atoning manner revealed in the passion and resurrection.  Peter didn’t expect the crucifixion and resurrection, and I doubt it was an obvious conclusion for Apollos as well.  He knew the baptism of John, but it doesn't mention that he knew the baptism of Jesus which is contrasted by Paul in the very next few verses.

If Apollos was not born again, then the question arises – what knowledge is required for saving faith to exist?  Ah, therein lies the crux of the matter.  For where does the origin of saving faith lie?  Some would say that Christ is the author and perfector of our faith – that Christ will finish that good work that He began, that we are saved by a faith that is a gift of God lest anyone should boast.  Then there are those that suggest everyone has enough within them to exercise saving faith and that only those that choose to do so will be saved – that everyone has within themselves sufficient goodness to choose to believe on God, that no one is completely and utterly depraved so that they don’t seek God.  Admittedly, I am of the former and believe the latter to be one of the most wicked of deceptions.  Hence, I believe that our faith originates from God – in particular from Christ.  That being the case, what is sufficient for Christ to give that grace (faith) is dependent on Christ alone.  In the case of Paul, he does not immediately reveal all the facts of crucifixion and resurrection (perhaps Paul already knew?).  In the case of Apollos, something was apparently missing.  But Christ fills the gaps.  Because our faith is from Him, we can be assured that sufficient knowledge will be given in time.  For the criminal on the cross it was enough for him to recognize the innocent and deity of Christ and submit his will pleading for salvation.

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