The Humility Required of Teaching and of Being Teachable
In this passage we have some excellent lessons about having a teachable spirit and how to humbly approach and correct a brother or sister in Christ. It reminds us again that humility is chief among the virtues and the beginning of a true disciple (learner).
So here we meet up here with a Jew named Apollos. He is described as “fervent in spirit,” though I read that the Greek could also be translated such that Apollos was filled or glowing with the Holy Spirit. He came to Ephesus where Paul had left Priscilla and Aquila on his way to Jerusalem, and spoke boldly and eloquently in the synagogue that Jesus was the Christ. The passage tells us that “he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” Some take this to mean that Apollos had only a historical knowledge of Jesus’ life and teachings but knew nothing about his death and resurrection or the Holy Spirit. I disagree, for if that were the case, then Apollos needed saving, and we don’t read that that happened. The passage tells us that Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately,” indicating they corrected him concerning some important details, specifically about baptism in the name of Jesus as a sign of one’s death, burial, and resurrection with him through saving faith. He already possessed the Spirit, and, like the apostles themselves, was not baptized again, John’s baptism having sufficed. But an important lesson here is that someone may be wrong on some detail about our Lord or about Scripture and still be saved. A believer can be ignorant about a certain teaching of Scripture. He hasn’t rejected it; he just doesn’t know about it. And such a believer must be treated with care.
And this is what is happening here. Though Apollos was more gifted, they were more knowledgeable. He humbly listened to Priscilla and Aquila who took him aside privately, and instructed him concerning matters about which he was ignorant; they did not call him out publicly. And so both parties humbled themselves before the other: Priscilla and Aquila in their approach, Apollos in his being teachable before a tentmaker and a woman.
We should note that in most cases in Scripture, Priscilla’s name comes before that of her husband. This is odd but it may indicate that of the two, Priscilla was perhaps the more knowledgeable or gifted, or maybe just of noble birth. Scripture affirms women instructing men in private, which happens all the time. We praise God for the “Priscillas” in the Church.