Personalities in the Pastoral Epistles (7) - Those who were a delight to Paul (continued)
Howard A. Barnes, Bromborough, Merseyside
When Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria in Egypt, turned up at the synagogue at Ephesus, he made quite an impression with his speaking. As far as it went, his teaching was very good, being marked by eloquence, great scripture knowledge, fervency and exactness, Acts 18. 24-25. Coming from Alexandria, he would have had a very good educational background and his ability in speaking well was not surprising. However, what was surprising was that his teaching followed that of John the Baptist. It seems that the message of John was well known throughout the Jewish world, for not only did Apollos from Alexandria know about it, but so did a dozen Jews in Ephesus whom Paul met later, Acts 19. 1-7. They are described as ‘disciples’, but like many who heard John at an early stage, believed in One who was still coming, as he said, ‘There cometh one mightier than I after me’, Mark 1. 7. It is not difficult to imagine that whoever had influenced Apollos heard the teaching of John anticipating the coming of the Lord Jesus; had been baptised; whose life had been changed and who had then left the country and heard no more about the Lord Jesus. It is amazing that such was the strong impression that John had, that all these years later and all these miles away, his message lived on.
Among those who heard Apollos were Aquila and Priscilla, believers who had stayed behind in Ephesus when the apostle Paul moved on, Acts 18. 19. They took a special interest in Apollos and they did for him what Paul would do for the dozen described later in Acts 19, in that they brought them up to date with the full gospel message of Christ, His ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. Private tuition in their home allowed Priscilla the freedom to pass on what she knew, albeit in conjunction with her husband. Of course, in the assembly meetings she would have remained silent, 1 Cor. 14. 34. As one has said, you do not have to be an evangelist to evangelize! Aquila and Priscilla would have had to be patient with Apollos, realizing his limitations, but seeing his potential. William Kelly said, ‘How lamentable to despise those today who are where we were yesterday’. Apollos’ original preaching was diligent, i.e., accurate, but after Aquila and Priscilla taught him he spoke with more accuracy, Acts 18. 26.
Apollos moved on to Achaia (Corinth and district), armed with a letter of commendation from the believers at Ephesus. In Achaia he put to good use the teaching of Aquila and Priscilla and first ‘helped them much which had believed through grace’, v. 27, then ‘he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ’, v. 28. This work of Apollos was fully acknowledged by the apostle Paul, who, writing to the Corinthians later, said, first concerning the gospel, that he and Apollos were ‘ministers by whom ye believed’, 1 Cor. 3. 5, then, second, that he had planted the assembly, Apollos had later watered it, as it was pictured as God’s cultivated field, 1 Cor. 3. 6-9.
Some time afterwards, Apollos must have returned to Ephesus. We can surmise this from the fact that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians Apollos was either with him or nearby, since he had been consulted by Paul about the possibility of him going to Corinth. Apollos was probably as horrified as Paul to have heard of factions in the assembly at Corinth associating themselves with their particular names, 1 Cor. 3. 4-5. To hear that believers said ‘I am of Apollos’ was no object of pride and joy, rather the opposite. Paul wanted him to go to Corinth to help correct this matter, having already sent Timothy to Macedonia, with the possibility that he might then go down to Corinth.1 Also, he wrote a letter to Corinth and sent it directly by Titus and another brother, 2 Cor. 12. 18, and he very much wanted Apollos to go with them. In fact, he had ‘begged him much that he would go to you with the brethren, but it was not at all his will to go now’, but when he felt it was the right time, he promised that he would go to Corinth, 1 Cor. 16. 12 JND. This demonstrates a number of principles. First, that even though he was an apostle, Paul would not overrule Apollos’ personal responsibility to the Lord and exercise in the matter of service.2 Second, we see that Apollos had the same long-term strategic aim as Paul, but his view of the correct short-term tactics was different. Brethren today should consider one another in this respect, for there can be diversity with unity. Third, Paul was man enough to admit publically that Apollos did not agree with him!
Paul urged the Corinthians to realize that he and Apollos were not to be put on pedestals, but to be seen as servants, who belonged to them and not the other way around, so they were saying ‘I am of Apollos’, but rather that he belonged to them, see 1 Cor. 3. 22. They had to learn ‘not to think of men above that which is written’, v. 6. Reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians gives us the strong impression that this teaching was generally accepted.
The last mention we have of Apollos is some years later in connection with Titus on the island of Crete. When Titus was to leave Crete and join Paul at Nicopolis, he was instructed to ‘bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them’, Tit. 3. 13. Paul’s request shows that Paul acknowledged the special usefulness of Apollos to him and Titus was to relieve him of any concern with regard to travelling. No doubt Apollos had been helpful in Crete and would be missed there, since there were many problems with Jews, Tit. 1. 14; 3. 9.
Apollos was Martin Luther’s – and others’ – candidate for the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. Of course, we cannot prove conclusively if it were he, Paul or anyone else for that matter. However, there can be little argument that he could have been, given his gift and ability.
In summary, we can say that Apollos was very useful in the service of the Lord, making the best of his background and capabilities. Most of all, perhaps, was his use of the Old Testament. Today we need more teachers with an accurate knowledge of these parts of the scriptures. Although we might not all have the eloquence of Apollos, we can all spend enough time to become mighty in the scriptures.
This brother was a lawyer by profession, whom (along with Apollos) Paul knew to be with Titus in Crete, Tit. 3. 13. Paul tells Titus to bring them (literally: send them forward) presumably to Nicopolis for the winter and to see to all their travel requirements. We do not know if he was a lawyer qualified in Jewish or Roman law, either might have been of use in preparing his legal case. However, we do not know if he was expecting a trial at that point.
(John, John surnamed Mark, Marcus)
Mark’s full name was John Mark; a common Jewish name (John) linked to a common Roman name (Marcus). He is first introduced to us in Acts chapter 12, where we find he lived with his well-to-do family in Jerusalem, see v. 12. His mother, Mary, owned a large house in Jerusalem where the believers gathered and she had a servant girl named Rhoda. It appears that he may have come to know and believe the gospel through Peter, for Peter later called him ‘my son’, 1 Pet. 5. 13. Barnabas, an uncle of Mark’s, Col. 4. 10, and Paul took him with them from Jerusalem to Antioch in Syria, Acts 11. 25. He then accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey, Acts 13. 4-5; Shortly afterwards, however, he left them in Pamphylia to return to Jerusalem, v. 13. We do not know the reason for his defection. When Paul and Barnabas later prepared to make their second missionary journey, Barnabas was keen to take Mark along, but Paul strongly disagreed. They then parted company and Barnabas took Mark and sailed to his home in Cyprus. Paul took Silas (Silvanus) and travelled over-land through Syria and Cilicia en route to Galatia, Acts 15. 36 - 16. 11, where Timothy joined them.
However, John Mark continued in the Lord’s work. It appears that he was active in provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. This would seem to be the case because, when Peter wrote his first letter to the [Jewish] Christians in these areas, he included a greeting to them from his ‘son’ Mark, 1 Pet. 5. 13. This would suggest the Christians in these areas knew Mark personally. His work in these regions is further suggested by Paul’s including a greeting from Mark (Marcus) to the Christians in Colosse, with the added note that they had received instructions regarding Mark and that they should welcome him if he came to them, Col. 4. 10. Paul also included a personal greeting from Mark to Philemon, who was a member of the assembly at Colosse, see Philem. 24. These latter references show that Mark was in Rome and on good terms with him.
During Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, and not long before his martyrdom, Paul requested that Timothy, who was in or near Ephesus in Asia, should bring Mark with him to Rome. Paul wanted Mark with him there, because Mark was of ‘useful’ service to him, 2 Tim. 4. 11.
The greetings from Mark in Paul’s letters and Paul’s request for Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome clarify for us that whatever grievance Paul had had with Mark was cleared up and forgiven. He also spoke warmly of Barnabas, 1 Cor. 9. 6, quite some time after their disagreement.
Mark was the faltering servant who was used, in the Gospel that bears his name, to describe the faithful servant, the Lord Jesus Christ. This shows us that early failure can be overcome and eventually usefulness can be known. Paul’s final hours would have been made more bearable by the presence of both Mark and Timothy.
- Actually, he does not appear to have turned up, Acts 19. 22; 1 Cor. 4. 17; 16. 10, cp. 2 Cor. 1. 1.
- As J. N. Darby said, ‘Free in his movements, he would act according to the judgment which the Lord would enable him to form’, ‘Synopsis’ on 1 Corinthians 16.