Yesterday’s Teachers

There are three teachers specifically mentioned in the Bible.

Peter (Cephas). Paul. Apollos.

The first two are world renown teachers, and God inspired both of them to write Scripture and encourage the infant church during it’s early years. If you look at the New Testament, Peter and Paul’s writing makes up almost 60% of all the letters. It’s obvious why the modern church holds them in such high regard (as they should).

Although Apollos is also mentioned multiple times throughout Acts and 1 Corinthians, very little is known or even spoken about this man. All that we know for a fact is what is recorded in Acts:

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 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, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”     -Acts 18:24-28 (ESV)

The word translated eloquent, in Greek, is “logios.” It means a man who was learned in the arts, history, and the antiquities. It was someone who was considered wise and skilled in speech. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that Apollos was a skilled orator. Since Acts also states that he powerfully refuted the Jews, calling Apollos just a skilled orator is somewhat of an understatement.

But how do we know that Apollos is not just the name of a dynamic teacher who appears once, then disappears for the rest of history? We know because two different authors mention him within the New Testament — Luke in Acts and Paul in 1 Corinthians. So it appears that Apollos is not just a local hero of the church, but rather he makes a big enough impact for Paul to take notice and interest in. It seems that Apollos begins teaching so much that he starts to gather a following because of his proficiency in his speech. So much so that his and Paul’s followers begin to oppose each other by claiming who they follow is the correct teaching and person. Paul addresses this civil warring in 1 Corinthians:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”     -1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-9 (ESV)

Paul sternly reminds the Corinthians that there is no division in Christ, but that all the disciples labor together for the Gospel. Each believer has his own role in God’s kingdom and plan, and it is not up to us, as mere men, to pick sides because we are all on one side: God’s. Paul goes on to further explain the idea of working together as a body in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul does not condemn or look down on Apollos because of what he is doing, but he understands that together they both work to advance the Gospel. Maybe they do not reach the same people the same ways, but they both are preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

It is interesting that Paul would be in support of this teacher, considering the extensive work that he did throughout the Roman world regarding the Gospel. If you compare the known accomplishments of Paul to that of Apollos, Paul wins hands down. But there is one area that Apollos was more gifted in than Paul: public speaking. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this over and over again throughout 1 Corinthians:

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”     -1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:1-5 (ESV)

Although Paul’s oratory skills would not have won him any speech communication awards, he was still an effect communicator through his letters. Of the almost 60% of the New Testament that Paul and Peter wrote, Paul authored nearly 87% of those letters (44% of the entire New Testament). It appears that Paul was definitely gifted in transcribing the Gospel as opposed to orally speaking it (although Acts does record numerous times Paul preaching to Jews and Gentiles, in Synagogues and markets, and to officials and commoners). Paul’s written words empower, inspire, challenge, and instruct, as opposed to Apollos’s ability to speak articulately. Scholars, Pastors, Bible teachers, and the common person is thankful that Paul wrote so many of his letters down today. They are also thankful that God chose to inspire Paul, rather than Apollos, into communicating Scripture. Paul labored for the Gospel unlike any other believer we have documentation from. He faithfully transcribed what God was teaching him, so that he could teach others, so that the Gospel would be spread all over the world. Letters tend to hold up for a lot longer time than do spoken words in someone’s head.

But all of Paul’s stuff was not so easily explained and straight forward. Peter even commented on Paul’s writings in his letter saying:

“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”     -2 Peter 3:15-16

Although Paul communicated the most efficiently through written words, people still had problems following his progression of logic. But without his painfully blunt, insistently direct, and forcefully repetitive words, there would be a large portion of our faith that would still be unresolved and left to question. But thanks to God’s foreknowledge and omniscience, he chose one of the most prolific writers to give believers some of the most thought-provoking yet direct commands for us to follow.

While Paul seemed to focus on details and particulars, Peter’s entire life contrasted sharply to that ideology. Even from the years he spent with Jesus, Peter subscribed to the “do now, ask questions later” mentality. He was the disciple that jumped out of the boat to walk on water (Matthew 18:22-33), cut the ear off the servant of the High Priest (John 18:10-11), and denied Jesus three times without even thinking (Matthew 26:69-75). Peter appeared to jump before thinking and seemed to put his foot in his mouth more often than the other disciples.

Despite the character flaws Peter may have had, God used him just like He used Paul and Apollos. Although Peter was bold preaching the Gospel and ended up writing two (albeit short) letters that were inspired, his strong suit was grassroots faith. Rather than concerning himself with wondrous, pontificating sermons or volumes of theological work, Peter shared the Gospel in the way that he was suited for: living the life Jesus taught in every day life by connecting with people where they are at.

After preaching the most concise, accurate sermon clarifying the Gospel at Pentecost 3,000 were saved. But it was not due to Peter’s sermon the majority believed, but it is what followed was what started the movement. In Acts 2, we see that after the 3,000 the disciples devoted themselves to four things: the apostles’ teachings, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. These are not individual acts, but rather acts that are to be done as a community. They are physical events that people participate in together and work their faith out as a community, not as isolated believers. This all happened as a result of the sermon Peter preached (under the power of the Holy Spirit). As church history would tell us in later times, Peter would go on to be one of the key figures of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.

Peter did not reinvent the wheel when he began to teach the teachings of Jesus. Peter learned by living. By living three years with the Messiah. The only way he could accurately teach what he learned was by living what he was taught. It was the easiest way for him to be a testimony and the easiest way for him to share the Gospel of Jesus. While words and doctrine were important, Peter seemed like the guy who would carry on the legacy and teachings of Jesus through the lifestyle He led, rather than trying to tie it all up in a neat little package. It seems like a fisherman would be the best example of how someone would take the teachings of Jesus, apply them to their own life in hopes that their life would be a bold proclamation of the life Jesus brought.

None of these first-century believers were the same. None of them taught the same way. None of the used the same style of “mass evangelism.” They each used the gifts that God had given them and applied the Gospel to that. The message did not change, only the messenger. The messenger adapted to the people they were reaching. Molding into the most effective communicator in hopes that the Holy Spirit would work through their words (whether written, spoken, or acted out) to accomplish God’s larger plan.

So in a world consumed with so many forms of media, I want to encourage those leaders who follow in the footsteps of the teachers of Yesterday. I want to encourage each and every group to push forward in the areas that God has blessed you, regardless of the obstacles.

To the Apollos’: Seek after God’s face. Guard your heart and mind. For the Enemy will try to lure you away from the Path with tantalizing whispers of fame and glory. But stay the course and keep your eyes focused on the prize: Jesus. Never back down from an opportunity to shamelessly, fearlessly proclaim the glory of God and the richness of his love and grace. May God give you his words to speak in the darkest of times, that your words would bring hope to the hopeless, grace to the broken, and light to the darkest places. Also, may your words inspire a revolution. That your bold words would speak against injustice and break the chains of bondage. Although you will be hated and despised, you will not keep silent in a world that screams for tolerance. Pray for humility coupled with boldness, brokenness saddled with strength, and love paired with reproach. May the God of strength guide your tongue as the Holy Spirit speaks through your heart to a world longing for something to believe in.

To the Pauls: Seek after God’s heart. Guard your heart and mind. For the Enemy will do his best to ensnare you with false doctrine and negativity. In a world bent on criticism, be the ever-shining ray of affirmation that looks for the handiwork of God in every aspect of life. In a world that is obsessed with the pursuit of Truth, rather than the creator of Truth, be forewarned that you will be disliked and shunned in many arenas. But do not be discouraged. While your words may only seem to make it as far as the computer screen you write on, remember that there are believers out there who need God’s encouragement just to get through the day. So write words that encourage. Write words that are meaningful. Bear your soul and showcase where God has healed you and expose the places where you still are on a journey. Write not what others want to hear, but write what your heavenly Father wants to hear. Write with emotion. Write with passion. Write with intellect. Write with honor. Share and explain in hopes that others may see your words and ask more about the God you write about. Never forget that words are powerful, but the most powerful are just two: Me Too.

To the Peters: Seek the people for God. Guard your heart and mind. The Enemy is like a roaring lion, always on the prowl looking for the weak in heart. Seek out those who walk alone, and show them a life that runs wildly after the Creator that gave it to them. The world will always look at you sideways. Always questioning your motives and your heart. But do not be discouraged or dismayed. But stand firm in knowing that your calling is in the trenches. That your proclamation of the Gospel is your life. That life is meant to be lived down and dirty with people. The world is dead and dying, and filth is covering more and more of the people in every city. Your life is to be a light in the dark places by your actions. Pull those bootstraps up and get to work. Live a life that is worthy of your calling. For, unlike many, your calling is a 24-hour job. You are not allowed days off or lunch breaks. For your actions speak louder than words will ever speak. So let your actions sing loud the praises and the glory of Jesus the Messiah. May His love and mercy shower over you and radiate to every life you touch.

So who are you? Apollos? Paul? Peter?

Regardless of who you are, you have a calling. A mission. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish what God has set in your heart. D0 not be jealous of other people’s call. Because remember that each and every one of us have a different calling and means of achieving what God has planned out for us. So count no one out, but encourage each other to live up to what God created us to be. So walk in the gifts, personality, and heart God has given you. And never stop teaching what God has shown you.

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