Filling Our Gaps - Acts 18:24-19:10 (Sermon)
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Good morning. I am pastor Rob. It is great to be with you. I came back last night from Turkey Run, and it is nice to sleep in my own bed. I imagine maybe that is why you are here as well. I got a text from Mike Bettig, and we have 60 people worshipping in Indiana at the same time we are worshipping.
GAPS IN INFORMATION
Here are a few questions for us this morning. Does anyone think they could win on the game show Jeopardy? That is probably the hardest game show I know on television. Maybe you would do great on Jeopardy. Does anyone think they know everything here? Do we have any know it alls? We don’t know everything. We know some things. Some of you are experts in medicine; others know more about building houses than a house full of us. Some of you can change brakes and rotors with your eyes closed, others of you can make a mean cheesecake or bake bread from scratch. Some of you can program a computer, or sail a boat on Lake Michigan. Some of you can find, catch, and clean a fish. Some here can play the violin or piano. Some speak a second language fluently; others understand derivatives and logarithms and statistics. A few of you can read and comprehend legalese. There is so much to understand in life. We all have some knowledge and some gaps. Some gaps are more prominent and significant than others. We will read about the birth of the Ephesian, around 51 AD; we encounter Pricilla, Aquila, and Paul, identifying critical gaps of understanding needing correction. The text invites us to consider our own knowledge of God and our gaps. Let me show you what I mean.
Let’s read the text for ourselves. Typically, I ask around for a person or persons to read the Bible out loud before we preach. I had another idea. As a parent, I am often looking for ways to connect my faith to my children. One way to do that is to have them listen to the Bible during meals. I want to share a different translation with you and an app that makes hearing God’s Word spark. The app is called Street Lights. Here is a picture of the app.
It is free and uses the New Living Translation of the Bible (NLT). The readers and inventors of this app are from Chicago. I love the creativity of their dramatic reading. I find that using a variety of translations helps gain a broader understanding of God’s Word. Join me now as we listen to Acts chapter 18, verse 24, and following. (At Sawyer, we have a tradition of standing in honor of God’s word. Would you stand now, if you are able?)
TEXT 18: (01:08-END) and (19 - 00:1-56)
24 Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. 25 He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. 26 When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.
19 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues[b] and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.
Let’s pray. Dear God, we need your help. I am dependant on you. So are my brothers and sisters here. You put this passage right here for us today. We need you. We need you desperately. Open our eyes to see the wonderful things you have done. Amen. (You may be seated)
As I said, we are continuing our series in Acts. Last week we heard about the planting of the church in Corinth, met a husband and wife ministry team, and saw more of Paul’s ministry. The passage in Acts taught us that God is with us and saves us. Today, we are talking about the birth of the Ephesians church, Apollos, and twelve other disciples. All of them have gaps in their understanding. Pricilla, Aquila, and Paul come to their aide. We will go verse by verse looking first at Apollos and then the twelve. I will go back to the English Standard Version of the Bible.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus.
Where is Alexandria? It is in North Africa. The Gospel is going to the ends of the earth, including Africa. If you remember, the key verse in Acts is 1:8. That is where Jesus says to his disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Africa heard the Gospel. The Gospel is going to the end of the earth. In chapter 8 God brings Philip to an Ethiopian and he comes to faith and is baptized. Now 10 chapters later, another African comes to faith and began witnessing about Jesus in Ephesus.
APOLLOS IN EPHESUS
Ephesus was a port city in modern-day Turkey. It was one of the most, if not the most important city in the region. It was home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis, also known as Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Ephesus was critical for trade in Rome and the rest of the world. If the Gospel was present in Ephesus, it would impact all of Asia Minor. I think that is why in 19:10 we hear that Paul in Ephesus reaches all of Asia, all of Asia is coming to Ephesus and so are we. Last week, was the first time we heard about this metropolis. Paul was just there witnessing in the synagogue about Jesus, then left. Pricilla and Aquila stayed back. We hear this next at Ephesus.
...was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,
Apollos was quite a guy. He taught the way. What is the Way? The Way is another word for Christianity. He taught about the Lord. He taught about Jesus.
- In Acts 9:2, in Damascus, Paul, before he was a Christian, was against them describing them as people of the Way.
- As we read this text and rest of Acts we will regularly hear Christians described as followers of the Way.
What was this way? Let’s listen to the opposition’s understanding.
- In Acts 16, in Philippi, there was a demon-possessed girl who was following Paul for days crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” The way is about salvation.
- The Pharisees said that Jesus taught the way of God in Matthew 16:17. The way relates to God.
Let’s listen to Jesus and hear him talk about salvation and God.
- He said, in John 14:6, he is the only way, truth, and life to God the Father.
Apollos knew this. He taught this. He taught with passion. He taught accurately. I want to do that. I am sure you want your teachers and preachers and defenders of the faith to do that. But Apollos had a deficiency. He had a gap that I think demonstrates he didn’t have a prolonged seat under Paul’s teaching in Ephesus or elsewhere. I think Paul would have done some remedial education if he saw this gap. What was his gap? Let’s read on.
he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,
though he knew only the baptism of John.
That is it. I believe Apollos was converted, a believer, with a gap. He had some training to do. What was that? It was related to John the Baptist.
JOHN THE BAPTIST DEFICIENCY
John the Baptist, you may recall, was an odd fellow dressing like someone from a reenactment party, wearing camel's hair, living away from people in the desert, and eating bugs. I am serious. Look it up. Yet, God called him to bring a message to His people. What was that message? The Apostle John tells us,
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:6-8).
Paul tells us what John the Baptist’s message was in chapter 19 verse 4 this way,
“John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
What was wrong with Apollos? The issue was not who baptized him, but the message he was communicating. His problem was his thinking. He had a knowledge gap. What was that? We don’t know for sure. Was Apollos talking about Jesus, who came and taught but missing the fact that he conquered the grave and rose victoriously? We don’t know. Possibly. We don’t know precisely the gap, but one thing we do know is that Apollos was correct in his understanding of Jesus. He was accurate, but that was not sufficient. He had passion but lacked information. So what happens?
Look at verse 26.
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
(I love how they brought that correction. If you are going to correct someone, often the best approach is to do it privately.) Maybe you have heard the saying, “Praise in public, correct in private.” In general, we bring shame to people correcting in public. There is value in pulling people aside. The dynamic duo, Priscilla and Aquila, take him aside and explain the Way more accurately. This correction was not nitpicking but grace-giving. Apollos was not teaching heresy, mind you. He was accurate. He could be more specific.
How did Apollos take it? Was he put off, offended, or hurt? Did he ignore what they say? How would we respond? I think we can get defensive because we put too much value on what people think of us. We take corrections personally. So, how does Apollos respond? We don’t get a close look at his reaction, but we do know their response to his reaction. Keep reading.
27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Apollos, like Paul, Peter, Barnabas, and Stephen had a public witness with a profound impact, so much so that people even aligned with him over Paul and Peter. I think Apollos was able to be sent off with a letter of recommendation because he listened to the correction and made adjustments. He received correction and got a recommendation and moved forward on the mission. What an example for us all.
That brings us to chapter 19, and we read about twelve disciples who also had gaps. Read with me.
19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.”
Note that the disciples were in worse shape than Apollos. While Apollos was fervent in spirit, the text says nothing about the spirit of the disciples. While Apollos taught boldly and accurately, it says nothing about the ministry of the disciples. They had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.
TWELVE DISCIPLES: CORRECTION
How does Paul react to these gaps? Like Pricilla and Aquila, he corrects them.
4 ...Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
That statement probably was part of a larger conversation. How do the twelve respond? Were they defensive, belligerent, put off, or sullen? Look at verse 5.
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
BAM! They responded with action. We act out of our beliefs. The believers were baptized.
We are all at different places in our understanding of God. Some Ephesians needed to be baptized. Honestly, some of you need to be baptized, too. The Bible commands it.
MOTIVATION FOR BAPTISM
Why? Why does a person need to be baptized? Great question. It doesn’t forgive sins. What it does is that it identifies ourselves with faith in Jesus publically. It puts a flag in the ground, metaphorically. The Bible says that when we go under the water in a sense, we are demonstrating that we have died to our old sinful selves. And when we come up, we are showing a real-time faith in the resurrection of Christ and our hope of future resurrection and life to come. Some of you need to be baptized. We typically do it one time a year. It is amazing. We can do it at other times. I am not thinking we cut a hole in the ice. We have done baptisms in different ways too. This text points to disciples who need to be baptized.
Let me address a couple of objections about baptism that I have heard.
- Some don’t like to wear a swimsuit. Don’t worry. We have people wear clothes.
- Some people feel like they are not worthy enough. Well, look around. You are in good company. Jesus died because we are not worthy. He paid for our sins. Every one of them is forgiven past, present, and future for those who believe Jesus died in their place. If you think that your sin is too heinous and horrible, then you are thinking your sin bigger than God’s ability? Let me ask you this: are you more powerful than God? That is what such a belief says. It is another sin called pride. If that is you, friend, add that to your list of wrongs and fly to cross today for forgiveness and mercy.
- Some are afraid to speak publicly about their faith. We are friends. The pastors will help you. Consider it a dry run for sharing your faith with your neighbor. Do not be scared. God is with you. What can man do to you? He is worthy of being aligned to. Some in Ephesus needed to be baptized. Twelve did. This was their gap.
All of us have gaps. We don’t know everything. Some of us more urgently than others need an adjustment.
My family loves chiropractic care. I have never been to one. However, I did watch them in action. Five minutes, maybe ten, and they are like, "This is fantastic!" Do you need an adjustment? Perhaps you need an adjustment in your understanding of God in a specific way today?
DO WE NEED A SERMON
How does God speak? I think He does that through His Word. In our day, people are moving away from the Bible. Indeed, there are various ways to minister on Sunday mornings with the Word of God. You could hear the same text preached in many different ways accurately and passionately. The Apostles and disciples spent time devoting themselves to the Word of God, and prayer (Acts 6:4). Jesus called us to teach. That is why I feel good about spending 40 minutes a week on a verse by verse study. That is why we have our Life Groups focus on the Bible and Sunday School to explore the truths of the Bible. That is why our men’s, women’s, and youth ministry focuses on the Bible.
NATURE OF THE SCRIPTURE
The Bible is sharper than any two-edged sword. It can cut to the heart. It is timeless. It relates to marriage, family, work, and school. It is the very Word of God. We all have gaps, and we all can grow. We all need some adjustments.
RESULTS OF SUCH GROWTH AND FAITH
What was the result of the twelve’s adjustment from Paul? Verse 6 tells us.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
The Holy Spirit came.
SIDE NOTE: HAND
Note: there was nothing magical about Paul’s hands or a hand on them. It was God who was moving on these twelve. God moved in power. Paul was just the vehicle, not the driver.
SIDE NOTE: TONGUES AND PROPHECY
Note: some teach you to have the gift of tongues to be a believer or to be mature. That is not what the text teaches us. God ordained a miraculous demonstration of His presence through tongues and prophecy. I believe that God did that and can do that again. God will demonstrate Himself; however, He wants. He did in their lives, but God can work in various ways.
FOCUS THE HOLY SPIRIT
The focus of these verses friends is on the fact that God moved, not the way He moved. The Bible points to various ways God moves.
- The Bible says that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. Is He actively convicting you of sin? That is God.
- The Bible says he helps us understand the Bible? Jesus the Spirit will guide us and teach us. Are you growing in your understanding of truth? That is God.
- The Bible says the Holy Spirit comforts us with God’s love. Do you sense God’s love? The Bible says that is God.
- The Bible says the Spirit has at least nine fruits. Do you see the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? That is God.
Maybe you need more of the Holy Spirit in your life. That may be your gap. Perhaps you need the Holy Spirit because you don’t have him. If that is you, turn from your old ways and live for God. Today could be the day of your salvation. God offers forgiveness and hope in Jesus’s death on your behalf. He dwells with the believer, empowers the believer, and helps the believer. (After the service, we will have people who would love to pray with you. Would you consider being prayed for today? D., who will close the service, has been an elder, and his wife has helped offer counseling at church. They would love to pray with you. D.D, who is an elder, and P.D., his wife, is super kind would love to pray with you.) Maybe you go to someone you know and trust and ask them to pray for you. Are you open to God moving in your life, filling that gap? What would it look like? What might happen to us if God did that in us?
THE TWELVE AND THE RESULTS
What happened to the church in Ephesus? As the Spirit moved on these disciples, Paul stuck around and picked up where Apollos left off. He was sharing his faith and teaching. You would think things would go even greater. The Holy Spirit moved in power. The truth was taught. People were baptized, and lives were changed. What happened? Verse 8.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
What happened? Persecution. Slander. Paul leaves the synagogue. Where does he go? What does he do? He takes the believers and teaches them in Tyrannus’ hall. For how long? Two more years.
Why? Why would he do that? Weren’t the gaps covered? Isn’t Christianity basic; God loves you. Jesus died for you. Stop sinning? Love your neighbor. Yeah, Christianity, the Way, is pretty basic. It is basic enough for your kids to benefit. However, it is also complicated enough, and our sin is so prevalent enough that we need God more and more and more and more and more. That means none of us can say we have arrived. None of us have it all figured out. This church Paul spends two years planting will get a pastor discipled by Paul, Timothy, because they have gaps. Then Paul will write two letters to him as he pastors and a letter directly to them, that we have 2,000 years later because they continued to have gaps. Then decades later, the Apostle John wrote with a corrective word directly from God because they had gaps. If Ephesus needs that much help, shouldn’t we? We all have gaps.
That brings me back to the application. Where are your gaps? Do you need to get baptized? Do you need to be more open to the Holy Spirit? Do you need a greater understanding of who Jesus was and what he taught? Maybe you need practical biblical instruction on marriage, parenting, work, and friendship? God’s Word is expansive and helpful. We can read, talk to each other, attend classes, and apply what we are learning.
HELP TO ID GAPS
Sometimes it is hard to see our gaps? We have blind spots. Yesterday, I was at Turkey Run State Park. I had Danny, my three-year-old, on my shoulders. The park is beautiful. I am going down the gorge, and I think to myself, this is not safe. I can’t do that with him on my shoulders. So I put him down. I go down a drop. I grab him. This is crazy. Then I hear some people behind me say, Pastor Rob, the path is over here! I missed the path. Sometimes we need people to help us like Pricilla and Aquila and Paul to help us out. We don’t always see our gaps. Maybe you think I am doing pretty good. I worked for FedEx and UPS before I was a pastor full-time. We were ISO 9001 certified. To meet compliance, we would do audits. Maybe in your business, you do an audit every quarter or year. Consider this a spiritual audit. Perhaps you ask someone this week, who is spiritually mature, “How do you think I can grow in my faith?” That can be scary. However, I think it is worth it. What do you lose if you make that ask? Nothing. What do you gain? You could gain everything. None of us are perfect, none of us have arrived, and none of us know everything. We all have gaps.
Let me conclude with some bad news. (Just kidding, but not really). I just looked up this week on WebMD, so it must be true. - At some point in your 30s, you start to lose muscle mass and function…. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. That is not the weight loss program we want. I talked to a physical therapist yesterday, and it is worse than that. We lose Aerobic capacity as well at about the same rate. WebMD goes on. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss. That is depressing. Why do I bring this up? We cannot live on past victories and talent and glories of High School, we must be active and exercise, or we atrophy. The same is true about our faith. Our faith must be exercised. Why is this passage here beyond introducing us to people and places? I think it reminds us of getting God right, and the value of filling in gaps.
If we aren’t actively reading, listening, seeking, and applying God’s truth, we will atrophy spiritually, the Spirit will be hindered, and the church will suffer. Brothers and sisters, imagine if we all press into God to fill those gaps. Imagine if we seek the Lord this week for help. Imagine if we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us where we are lacking. I am not talking about cramming information, but transformation. Let’s press in.
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