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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 12: Apollos at Corinth.

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After leaving Corinth, Paul's next scene of labor was at Ephesus. He was on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate the approaching festival; and his stay at Ephesus was necessarily brief. He reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue, and produced so favorable an impression that he was entreated [p. 119] to continue his labors among them. His plan to visit Jerusalem prevented him from tarrying; but he promised to labor with them on his return. He had been accompanied to Ephesus by Aquila and Priscilla, and he now left them to carry forward the good work which he had begun.

It was at this time that Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, visited Ephesus. He had received the highest Grecian culture, and was a scholar and an orator. He had heard the teachings of John the Baptist, had received the baptism of repentance, and was a living witness that the work of the prophet was not in vain. Apollos was a thorough student of the prophecies, and an able expounder of the Scriptures, publicly proclaiming his faith in Christ, as far as he himself had received the light.

Aquila and Priscilla listened to him, and saw that his teachings were defective. He had not a thorough knowledge of the mission of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and of the work of his Spirit, the Comforter which he sent down to remain with his people during his absence. They accordingly sent for Apollos, and the educated orator received instruction from them with grateful surprise and joy. Through their teachings he obtained a clearer understanding of the Scriptures, and became one of the ablest defenders of the Christian church. Thus a thorough scholar and brilliant orator learned the way of the Lord more perfectly from the teachings of a Christian man and woman whose humble employment was that of tent-making.

Apollos, having become better acquainted with the doctrine of Christ, now felt anxious to visit Corinth, and the Ephesian brethren wrote to the Corinthians to receive him as a teacher in full harmony with the church of Christ. He accordingly went to [p. 120] Corinth, and labored with the very Jews who had rejected the truth as preached to them by Paul. He reasoned with them from house to house, both publicly and privately, showing them Christ in prophecy; that he was Jesus whom Paul had preached, and that their expectations of another Messiah to come were in vain. Thus Paul planted the seed of truth, and Apollos watered it; and the fact that Apollos supported the mission of Paul gave character to the past labors of the great apostle among them.

His success in preaching the gospel led some of the church to exalt his labors above those of Paul, while he himself was working in harmony with Paul for the advancement of the cause. This rival spirit threatened to greatly hinder the progress of truth. Paul had purposely presented the gospel to the Corinthians in its veriest simplicity. Disappointed with the result of his labors at Athens, where he had brought his learning and eloquence to bear upon his hearers, he determined to pursue an entirely different course at Corinth. He presented there the plain, simple truth, unadorned with worldly wisdom, and studiously dwelt upon Christ, and his mission to the world. The eloquent discourses of Apollos, and his manifest learning, were contrasted by his hearers with the purposely simple and unadorned preaching of Paul.

Many declared themselves to be under the leadership of Apollos, while others preferred the labors of Paul. Satan came in to take advantage of these imaginary differences in the Corinthian church, tempting them to hold these Christian ministers in contrast. Some claimed Apollos as their leader, some Paul, and some Peter. Thus Paul, in his efforts to establish Christianity, met with conflicts and trials in the church as well as outside of it. [p. 121]

Factions also were beginning to rise through the influence of Judaizing teachers, who urged that the converts to Christianity should observe the ceremonial law in the matter of circumcision. They still maintained that the original Israel were the exalted and privileged children of Abraham, and were entitled to all the promises made to him. They sincerely thought that in taking this medium ground between Jew and Christian, they would succeed in removing the odium which attached to Christianity, and would gather in large numbers of the Jews.

They vindicated their position, which was in opposition to that of Paul, by showing that the course of the apostle, in receiving the Gentiles into the church without circumcision, prevented more Jews from accepting the faith than there were accessions from the Gentiles. Thus they excused their opposition to the results of the calm deliberations of God's acknowledged servants.

They refused to admit that the work of Christ embraced the whole world. They claimed that he was the Saviour of the Hebrews alone; therefore they maintained that the Gentiles should receive circumcision before being admitted to the privileges of the church of Christ.

After the decision of the council at Jerusalem concerning this question, many were still of this opinion, but did not then push their opposition any farther. The council had, on that occasion, decided that the converts from the Jewish church might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while those ordinances should not be made obligatory upon converts from the Gentiles. The opposing class now took advantage of this, to urge a distinction between the observers of the ceremonial law and those who did not [p. 122] observe it, holding that the latter were farther from God than the former.

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