Don’t be “bullheaded”… my grandmother used to always say.
A bull is a stubborn beast who gets its way in the world, has to be caged, and is feared to destroy the China shops of souls. When it comes to disagreement, especially around theological things, we must always be much less than bullish.
We must grow… together.
In the heart of the New Testament, nestled within the Acts of the Apostles, lies a compelling narrative of guidance, learning, and spiritual growth.
Acts 18:24-28 recounts the story of Apollos, a learned man from Alexandria, who, despite his eloquence and profound knowledge of the Scriptures, encounters a pivotal moment of correction at the hands of Aquila and Priscilla. This passage not only illuminates the character and journey of Apollos but also serves as a timeless example of how to approach the delicate task of correcting others in matters of faith and understanding. This essay aims to delve into this passage, drawing out the nuanced lessons it offers for correcting errors, with grace and truth, in our contemporary context.
Before delving into the finer details of the passage, it is crucial to understand the backdrop against which these events unfold. Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, emerges in the narrative as a figure of significant intellectual and spiritual prowess. Alexandria, renowned for its great library and as a hub of learning in the ancient world, likely contributed to Apollos’ rich educational background. His knowledge of the Scriptures and his eloquence positioned him as a formidable figure in early Christian discourse.
Aquila and Priscilla, a Jewish couple who had earlier met and collaborated with Paul, play a pivotal role in this story. Their encounter with Apollos occurs in Ephesus, a key city in early Christian evangelism. This couple is noted for their dedication to the Christian faith and their role in nurturing the early church.
The intersection of these three characters sets the stage for a remarkable incident of mentorship, correction, and growth within the early Christian community.
Acts 18:24-28 presents a layered narrative that merits a detailed examination. Apollos, described as “eloquent” and “mighty in the Scriptures,” arrives in Ephesus. His fervor and depth of scriptural knowledge enable him to teach about Jesus accurately, yet his understanding is incomplete, being acquainted only with John’s baptism.
This gap in his knowledge is crucial. John’s baptism, a baptism of repentance, was a precursor to the baptism in the name of Jesus, which symbolizes identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Apollos’ grasp of the Christian message, while substantial, misses this vital component.
When Aquila and Priscilla hear him, they recognize both his strengths and his limitations. Instead of publicly challenging or embarrassing him, they take a more personal and respectful approach. They invite him into their home, offering him a more accurate understanding of “the way of God.” This private, gentle correction speaks volumes about their respect for him as a teacher and their dedication to the integrity of the Gospel message.
The passage culminates with Apollos’ journey to Achaia, where he becomes a vigorous advocate for the Christian faith, using his profound understanding of the Scriptures to show that Jesus is the Christ. His transition from an incomplete understanding to a more holistic grasp of the Christian message underscores the effectiveness of Aquila and Priscilla’s approach.
The Role of Aquila and Priscilla in Correction
The method Aquila and Priscilla use to guide Apollos is a model of effective and empathetic correction. Their approach can be distilled into several key elements:
- Private Engagement: They chose to speak with Apollos privately, away from the public eye. This reflects a respect for his dignity and a desire to avoid embarrassing him, a practice deeply resonant with the biblical exhortation to “restore” one another in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
- Respectful Dialogue: The couple’s conversation with Apollos was not a monologue but a dialogue. They listened to him, respected his existing knowledge, and then shared their insights, reflecting a collaborative and respectful approach.
- Sound Teaching: The content of their instruction was not mere opinion but grounded in sound Christian doctrine. Their aim was not to win an argument but to guide Apollos towards a more complete understanding of the faith.
- Encouragement and Support: Post-correction, they supported Apollos in his ministry, encouraging the disciples to welcome him. This act signifies their genuine desire for his growth and success in his ministry.
Aquila and Priscilla’s approach highlights the importance of humility, respect, and doctrinal soundness in the process of correction. Their method is not just a lesson for religious instruction but offers valuable insights for any situation where one might need to correct or guide others.
Principles of Correcting Errors
From the interaction between Apollos, Aquila, and Priscilla, several key principles emerge that can guide the process of correcting errors, especially in a faith-based context:
- Correction in Love: The foremost principle is that correction must be rooted in love and concern for the other person’s growth, not in a desire to prove oneself right or superior.
Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
- Humility and Respect: Those who correct must do so with humility and respect, recognizing their own fallibility. Aquila and Priscilla did not demean Apollos but respected his existing knowledge and eloquence.
- Private and Personal Approach: Corrections, especially on matters of personal belief or understanding, should ideally be made in a private setting. This approach respects the individual’s dignity and helps prevent defensiveness.
Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
- Sound Basis for Correction: Any correction should be based on sound knowledge and understanding. In religious contexts, this means a thorough grounding in scripture and doctrine.
- Encouragement and Support: After correction, it’s important to offer support and encouragement. This helps the corrected individual to grow and integrate the new understanding more effectively.
These principles, derived from a biblical narrative, are not just limited to religious instruction. They can be universally applied in various contexts, whether in academic, professional, or personal scenarios, where one might need to correct misunderstandings or guide someone towards a more accurate comprehension.
Ephesians 4:15: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Translating these biblical principles into contemporary settings, we can see their wide applicability:
- In Church Settings: Pastors, teachers, and church leaders can adopt Aquila and Priscilla’s approach when addressing doctrinal errors or guiding newer believers. The emphasis should be on gentle, respectful dialogue that upholds the dignity of the individual while steadfastly adhering to sound biblical teachings.
In contemporary church settings, consider a scenario where a church leader encounters a member advocating a theological view that deviates from orthodox teachings. Instead of public reprimand, a private meeting, characterized by respectful dialogue and scriptural references, could lead to a more effective resolution. This approach, mirroring that of Aquila and Priscilla, not only preserves the dignity of the individual but also fosters a deeper understanding and unity within the community.
- In Personal Relationships: Whether in family dynamics, friendships, or mentorship roles, these principles advocate for a respectful and loving approach to correction. When a loved one holds a misconception or is in error, addressing it privately and with empathy can foster understanding and growth in the relationship.
Imagine a family situation where a teenager, influenced by various online sources, starts to develop ideas that are at odds with the family’s values. A parent, following the model of Aquila and Priscilla, might choose to engage in a series of calm, private conversations, where they listen to the teenager’s perspective, share their own views, and guide the teenager toward a more nuanced understanding, rather than resorting to outright dismissal or public admonishment.
- In Broader Social Contexts: Even in public discourse, especially on matters of faith, ethics, or morality, these principles can guide interactions. Engaging in respectful debate, valuing the other’s viewpoint, and grounding arguments in well-understood and accepted frameworks can lead to more constructive and less polarizing discussions.
- In Counseling and Coaching: As a counselor or life coach, these principles can be particularly effective. They respect the client’s perspective, gently guide them towards more constructive viewpoints, and offer support and encouragement in their journey of personal growth.
The challenges in adhering to these principles can be significant, especially in a world where public discourse often becomes adversarial. However, the benefits of such an approach – promoting understanding, respect, and constructive growth – are invaluable.
Apollos’ Response and Growth
Apollos’ reaction to the correction he receives is as instructive as the manner in which Aquila and Priscilla offer it. His response exemplifies several key virtues:
- Humility: Despite his eloquence and extensive knowledge, Apollos shows a willingness to listen and learn. His humility in accepting guidance is a model for anyone in a position of learning or correction.
Proverbs 9:9: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
- Openness to Growth: Apollos does not resist or reject the correction; instead, he embraces the opportunity to expand his understanding. This openness is a crucial attribute for continuous personal and spiritual development.
- Effective Application: Post-correction, Apollos becomes even more effective in his ministry. He uses his enhanced understanding to vigorously advocate for the Christian faith, demonstrating that correction, when rightly received, leads to growth and greater effectiveness.
The transformation in Apollos can be paralleled with a modern-day example of a professional who receives constructive feedback. Rather than taking offense, they embrace this opportunity to learn and grow, subsequently enhancing their performance and contribution to their field. This mirrors Apollos’ journey, where correction led not to discouragement but to a more profound and impactful ministry.
Apollos’ journey from an incomplete understanding to a more rounded grasp of Christian teachings highlights the value of lifelong learning. His story is a testament to the idea that spiritual maturity and wisdom often come through a process of learning, correction, and growth.
The narrative of Apollos, Aquila, and Priscilla in Acts 18:24-28 offers more than a historical account; it presents a timeless model for correction and growth within a community of faith. The principles extracted from this story—correction in love, humility, private engagement, doctrinal soundness, and the importance of support and encouragement—transcend their immediate context. They provide guidance for constructive and respectful interactions in various aspects of life, from church settings to personal relationships, and even in broader societal discussions.
This account also underscores the importance of receiving correction with humility and an openness to growth. Apollos’ response to Aquila and Priscilla’s guidance transformed his ministry and enhanced his effectiveness as a teacher and defender of the faith. His example serves as a powerful reminder of the value of lifelong learning and the potential for spiritual and personal development that lies in embracing guidance and correction.
In a world where interactions are often marked by polarization and a lack of understanding, the story of Apollos, Aquila, and Priscilla invites us to adopt a more gracious, respectful, and constructive approach to correcting errors and guiding others toward truth and understanding.