In baseball, one of the most coveted types of players is called a “five-tool player.” A five-tool player is an athlete who is strong in each of the five areas of playing the game: speed, throwing, fielding, hitting, and power.
The reason why these athletes are prized is because they are rare. A player might be great at hitting and power and be fast, but his throwing and fielding are so-so. Or he might be a great fielder with a great arm and have power, but be as slow as molasses and cannot field at all. There have been really good players who couldn’t reach greatness because one of these tools held him back.
Most players understand their need to be well-rounded, so they work in all areas of the game—improving their strengths and trying to turn their weaknesses at least into average abilities. But some players take a different approach and give up all together on the tools they are weaker in. They resign themselves to settling for being a good player at best.
This week, as we turn our attention to Paul’s third mission journey, notice a really helpful passage. Whether you cover it with your kids or not, it provides a good reminder to us to strive for the Holy Spirit to grow us into “five-tool players.”
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. 27 When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers and sisters wrote to the disciples to welcome him. After he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. — Acts 18:24-28 (CSB)
What Apollos Had Going for Him
Had Apollos been a baseball player, he would have been a very good one. Look at the tools he had.
He was eloquent (v. 24). Apollos had a way with words which goes a long way for teachers of the Bible. All of God’s truth is good, but when a teacher can share it in a winsome, engaging way, that makes it all the better.
He was competent in the Scriptures and instructed in the way of the Lord (v. 24-25). Apollos was a faithful teacher who was well versed in the Scriptures. He likely went beneath the surface and gave his listeners meat to chew on, rather than sugary snacks.
He was fervent in spirit (v. 25). Some take this to mean that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, but it is more likely that this means he was passionate. Again, think of the times you have heard teachers sharing great content, but they were sharing it in a way that made you wonder if it made a difference to them. Not Apollos. It seems that people could tell that the Scriptures mattered to him.
He taught accurately (v. 25). This is coupled with his competence, but it deserves special attention. Teachers who are accurate not only teach faithfully what is in Scripture without misrepresentation, but they also don’t hold things back. We can be inaccurate at times by what we don’t say, just as much as mistakes we make in what we do say.
He was bold (v. 26). All of the above is great, but if you keep it to yourself, or if you are too timid to teach, does it really matter? Apollos’ boldness positioned him to put all of these other gifts to good use.
Sounds like an all-star, doesn’t it? A Hall of Fame player even perhaps. But there was an important tool that Apollos lacked.
What Apollos Lacked
We cannot miss the important note at the end of verse 25. Apollos only knew of John’s baptism, which means he likely did not understand believers baptism or he had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit as had happened to others previously in the Book of Acts, or perhaps both. (While some see baptism in the Holy Spirit as still separate from trusting in Christ today, others see them as occurring simultaneous now, but they were separated originally to affirm that salvation had indeed come to Samaritans and Gentiles.)
If Apollos did not know about believer’s baptism, that would have been a significant hole in his ecclesiology. Baptism is the way that new believers confess their faith in Christ and identify with Him and the church. While not being baptized would not affect a person’s salvation, this first act of obedience matters.
If Apollos had not been filled with the Holy Spirit, then all that he was doing—as good as it was—was in his own power. And we are not to serve in our power, but in God’s.
Based on what Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos, that his weakness was the former issue, not the latter. And that takes us to the important take-away.
What Priscilla and Aquila Did For Him
Notice that Priscilla and Aquila did three key things for Apollos.
First, they didn’t settle with his impressive abilities. Many of us would likely have looked at Apollos and been fine with him as he was. We may not have even notices his deficiency. Others may have noticed it but reasoned that one weakness isn’t that bad and let it go. Still others may have noticed the weakness, been concerned about it, but have been too intimidated by Apollos to address it. Not Priscilla and Aquila though. For the good of the gospel and the good of Apollos, they didn’t settle or let Apollos settle.
Second, they took him aside. This is critical. They didn’t confront Apollos in public, potentially embarrassing him. They respected him enough to pull him aside where they could talk in private and as long as they needed.
Third, they explained what he lacked. This seems obvious, but it is not in how these situations often go. The tendency is to point out someone’s error and stop there. But our calling is not to show the deficiencies of others, but rather to help them grow. This is what Pricilla and Aquila did.
We see the result of this encounter in the final verse or two. Apollos continued on with an impressive ministry that served the Kingdom well. Sure, his ministry may have been solid had it not been for Pricilla and Aquila, but we know it was better because of them.
As we consider how to apply this passage, let us look in two directions. First, where are the Apolloses around us who we can encourage and strengthen? Second, how will we respond if a Pricilla and Aquila pulls us aside to pour into us?
If we want to know how we can see cities changed and wonder how the affections of idolaters can be changed, we need to preach the Word of Christ. Doing so is key … Just keep explaining and applying it—in small groups, in large groups, one-on-one, in lecture halls, in homes, under a tree in Ethiopia, or anywhere else. For hearing it really does ‘renew one’s life’ (Ps. 19:7).” — Tony MeridaTony Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in Acts (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2017) [Logos].
Tips for Teaching this Week’s Session
Every week, members of The Gospel Project for Kids team offer guidance to help you as you prepare to teach every session to preschoolers and kids. Listen in as we discuss:
- The big idea of the session
- Any areas of caution or requiring additional prep time
- What we hope God will do through this session
This training is available on Ministry Grid, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast platforms.