by, Feb 20th 2012 at 03:39 AM (413 Views)
"What's In a Name"
So far, we have outlined the struggle for the first century believers to fully identify who they were. This involved struggles with Jewish authorities to show that Jesus was the long promised Messiah, witnessing to popular culture and prejudices, and confronting the authorities with the Truth. This is reflected in modern history with the Evangelicals attempt to fully define 'who' they are, and what are their distinctive beliefs. Indeed, you can see this struggle in modern Protestant history from Luther on down to the modern conservative stance of Christians today. Like the first century believers, we do not want our message lost, diluted or usurped for uses that make the message secondary to other purposes. The Message is the thing; the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Part of the work of an Apostle was to spread the message, and that is what Paul was commissioned to do, direct from Jesus Christ. So, we have seen Paul struggle against Jewish magicians, Jewish teachers, local pagan priests, the indifference of Roman authorities, and a movement from within the Way to turn the people back to the Law of Moses; all of which failed to stem the tide of conversions.
We had left our intrepid preacher, Paul, in Corinth doing his usual bang up job of bringing 'piece' to all parties, but only true peace to one. Corinth was an especially hard church to bring to maturity. We know that Paul wrote two letters to Corinth, both trying to heal some wrongs in the body there, and there is a possibility he wrote as much as four letters, depending on how you read certain parts of the book of II Corinthians. Corinth was as a seaport town (actually, the seaport was Cenchrea). Two trading routes, one going north and south from the Greek and Macedonian mainlands to the Peloponnese, and one going east west across the Isthmus (the Diolkos or slip canal for hauling the light ships across the Isthmus) made Corinth a thriving, populous city that saw many, many religious orders come through.
It was in that stew pot of people that Paul, for more than two years, sought to preach the Gospel, and then one day he had his head shaved at Cenchrea (for a vow) and left for Syria and the church in Antioch. He made a quick trip to Ephesus and preached to the Jews there, then he left for 'home' in Antioch. It was while he was absent from Ephesus that the first curious event happened, and it mainly involved his friends from Corinth, Priscilla and Aquilla. An Alexandrian appeared at Ephesus who began to preach an teach with accuracy and fervor that none could dispute.
However, Luke mentions one little factor, and he will mention that also in our next event in chapter nineteen of Acts; Apollos 'knew only the Baptism of John'. It seems a curious way to put things. In his first volume, Luke says this about John the Baptist, '15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.' So it was that One greater than John was to come, and Apollos new about this one, but he did not know about Jesus baptizing with the Holy, and so they invited him home and completed his training.
Ephesus was a major center of trade and religious festivals and worship for Asia. It had a large Jewish community, and was home of the magnificient temple of Diana, which was involved in a minor riot later on in Acts. It was here that Prisciall and Aquilla had to make sure that Apollos was fully instructed in the Way. The power of the Spirit was important to the Way, and as Paul will tell the same Ephesian church, it is the Spirit that is the seal, and guarantor of our salvation. For John, it was the sign of the power of the One who was to come after him, Jesus the Messiah. It was this mighty power that the ministry of Paul would demonstrate in his coming two or three year ministry in Ephesus. If you read Paul's letters to Rome, Galatia, and Ephesus, he teaches it is the Spirit that gives life, and as he tells the Corinthians, wherever you have the Spirit, you have the Lord Himself. The teaching is made alive and powerful with His presence.
The second event in Ephesus just highlights the point even more. Paul, after awhile, left Antioch and went back through Cilicia, Galatia, Phrygia, and Asia teaching and strengthening the churches along the way. This is now the second tour overland from Antioch through Asia that Paul has made. When he arrives in Ephesus, he finds twelve disciples, so Luke tells the tale in Acts nineteen. He does not say whether they are Jewish or not, this is in contrast to Apollos, whom he calls a Jew. They are called 'disciples', and usually when Luke uses the term 'disciples' with no modifier, he means Christians. (There are some who debate this). This is see also in the question Paul asked them, '“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Paul is asking them closely about their belief in Christ. I am guessing there was something in their speech that led Paul to believe they might not have heard the full story of the Powe of the Lord.
What is important is that they had not been properly trained. They had only received John's baptism. There understanding was incomplete, so Paul opened up to them 'the rest of the story' and they received the Holy Spirit in power and Joy. This marks the beginning of one of the most powerful ministries that Luke talks about. Paul showed such Power from the Lord, that many magicians turned from the evil to follow Christ. This is the second time Paul has overcome forces that were commonly supposed to have power but did not.
Thus far, Paul, Priscilla, and Aquilla have been instrumental in setting the record straight on some errant, or incomplete instructions. John had been a powerful figure, and many who came to the festivals were influenced by what they heard of him, and from him. In the case of Apollos and the twelve disciples, they ahd been taught from John, and knew quite a bit, but there were some key elements that had to be introduced to them. Even today, we have many acquaintances who know bits and pieces of the Gospel, but they have to be taught fully the way of the Lord. Very often, it is this little piece thay know that causes them to think they understand, and some have rejected the Gospel based on this kind of knowledge.
So you can see, that from the very beginning there has been a struggle to define what the Gospel is. Many wanted to change it, alter it, many were taught accurately but incompletely and so on all accounts the teachers had to set the record straight. As we look at today's modern religious setting, especially amongst those who are called 'Christian' there is a struggle by many to understand the common ground of the Gospel teaching; to find ways to make the names more definitive and inclusive. I imagine the struggle will always be there, but we should always strive and pray for the knowledge to understand. Our understanding must be biblical, and it must be in the power of the Spirit; the life blood of the Body of Christ. I will leave you with the words Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a church that was struggling to truly understand and act as God would have them, even if they were prone to mistakes, divisions, and misuse of what God had given them.
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:1-11)