- Sermon Notes
Direction Through Discipleship
After Jesus’ resurrection and prior to His ascension to heaven, He gave his disciples a commission. It is a familiar, but powerful text. The words are recorded in Matthew 28:18-20
The “them” He spoke to in Matthew 28:18 is His disciples. At that time, there were 11 (if not more) in front of Him, but we know that the commission given was for those who had given or would give their lives to Christ. His words in Matthew 28 are a commission. To commission a person or a group, is to give an authoritative order, charge, or direction. When a person is commissioned, they are granted the authority for a particular action or function. In Matthew 28:18-20, as Jesus meets His disciples in Galilee, He gives a commission. Jesus said all authority has been given to Him, therefore, “Go, and make disciples of all nations!”
The title of the message this morning is “Direction through Discipleship.” The definition of direction is “the act or instance of directing, instructing, or guiding.” And the definition of a disciple is “a learner or student; it is someone who follows the teaching of, learns from and models their life after someone else.” If you look up “disciple” in the dictionary, one of the lines will read, “a follower of Christ.”
For a Christian (which means little Christ), discipleship is best defined as an intentional journey filled with decisions and practices that lead to maturity in a person’s relationship with Jesus, so that a person becomes more like Him in their attitudes, focus, and behavior.
Disciple making was something important to Jesus, it was so important that he made disciple making a commission to us. And this morning, we are going to study Acts 18:23 to 19:10 where we will see several examples when followers of Christ are moving according to the great commission.
We will see a few people on the go, heading out to all nations, moved to make disciples. We will see people going, and people growing. We will see people corrected and given greater insights, and we will also see how it was all tied into what the Lord wanted to do in their lives. We will see some who have a heard to go, but do not have all the information, and we will see others point them in the right direction.
Illus. Stay close.
While our study will begin in verse 23 this morning, I want to begin by giving some of the backstory, or the setting and situation, as I believe will help us as we study these verses, and also the opportunity we have presently, for direction through discipleship. In verse 18, he, along with a couple named Priscilla and Aquila had left the city of Corinth, where Paul had stayed for 18 months, and made a brief stop in Ephesus. Upon arriving to Ephesus, Paul goes and preaches in the synagogue, and something interesting happens…. They wanted him to stay. It is interesting because normally, Paul would go to a synagogue and preach the gospel message of life in Jesus Christ, and the people would push him out and tell him to stop. In Ephesus, the people want him to keep preaching, and he says, “I’ve got to get going, but will be back, Lord willing.”
Paul then leaves Ephesus, and leaves Pricilla and Aquila, the couple who had been walking with and learning from him for 18 months, there in Ephesus. We are not given the reason for their relocation from Corinth, but they would prove to be a powerful couple for the kingdom, establishing themselves as leaders in Ephesus, even hosting a church in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19).
Verse 22 marks the end the Paul’s second missionary journey, and verse 23 marks the beginning of his third missionary journey. He arrived back at Antioch, which was his “home base,” it was the church that sent him out initially, and in between his first and second missionary journey, and how his second and third, he spends time back at his home church in Antioch.
As Paul heads out on his third missionary journey, he is headed back toward Ephesus. But prior to going to Ephesus, he heads to two regions where several churches he had been a part of starting were located. His purpose of heading back to those churches, is seen clearly in verse 23, it was for the purpose of strengthening the disciples.
Acts 18:23, And after spending some time there, he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
- Seek Opportunities for Strengthening in the Lord
- Opportunities for strengthening in the Lord, are shown to be something very important to Paul. Strengthening disciples is a recurring theme throughout Paul’s ministry.
- We read of Paul strengthening those who had become disciples on his first missionary journey:
Acts 14:21-22, After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made a good number of disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God.”
- Paul sought to strengthen on his second missionary journey:
Acts 15:41, Paul chose Silas, and left after being entrusted by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
- Now on his third missionary journey, Paul goes back to two regions he had already been, to strengthen all the disciples.
- Paul was very aware of the importance of “going.” In Acts 9:15-16, he was called a chosen instrument by the Lord, that he would bear His name before the Gentiles, kings, and the Jews.
- Paul would have been aware of the words of Jesus, which instructed His disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Paul, no doubt, would have been aware of Jesus’ great commission to go and grow disciples.
- Paul also knew the importance of growing and being strengthened in the Lord.
- The word used for “strengthening” is only used four times in the New Testament, three of the four times are tied to Paul and his ministry, the fourth time, the strengthening comes through those Paul has trained up personally.
- The word for “strengthening” (ep piss tare reedzo), which means to establish besides, to strengthen more, to render more firm, or support further.
- Paul seemed to view everyone as either someone in need of either knowing Christ, or in need of growing in Christ.
Colossians 2:7, Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…
- I love the flow of Colossians 2:7, as you have received Christ, now walk in Him, be rooted in Him, and be built up in Him, established in your faith.
- There are many different things we all desire to be strong in, but we, like Paul should put priority and energy into being strengthened in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:10, Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
- We need God’s armor, to be strong in the strength of His might, because on our own, we aren’t strong enough, we need strengthening in the Lord!
- Be Willing to Go as You Grow
- While Paul is out ministering and strengthening the disciples in cities he had been to previously, we are introduced in verse 24, to a man who was speaking in the synagogue, and he knew a great deal, but needed to grow in what he knew, and once what he did not know was made known, he was willing to grow.
Acts 18:24-26(a), Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was proficient in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was accurately speaking and teaching things about Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began speaking boldly in the synagogue.
- Before we continue, I want to point out a few things about Apollos.
- First, he is described as an Alexandrian by birth. Alexandria, Egypt was the second largest city on the Roman Empire. One-third of the city was Jewish, and excavations from Alexandria have revealed a library that is noted as included nearly 700,000 volumes.
- That said, Apollos comes from a learned city, some of the great thinkers were from there, it was a city rich with intellectual wealth. One of the great Greek thinkers from Alexandria was name Euclid. Perhaps you have heard his name, he is referred to as “Euclid the Mathematician, or the “Father of Geometry.”
- Alexandria was a scholarly city, in fact, the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, from Hebrew to Greek, was translated and produced in Alexandria. Septuagint meaning 70 because there were 70 translators.
- So, here is Apollos from a highly respected and well learned part of the world, in Ephesus, and as Apollos is described, he seems to have a reputation that is consistent with an Alexandrian.
- He is described as an eloquent man, proficient (or mighty) in the Scriptures, he is noted as one who had been instructed in the way of the Lord, while also fervent in spirit.
- Apollos seems like quite the guy, he had a bright mind, he was mighty in the Scriptures, had a brilliant intellect, and on top of that, he was fervent in spirit.
- But there was something missing for Apollos, he was only acquainted with the baptism of John he had a great deal of knowledge, but an incomplete knowledge.
- In what he knew, he was powerful and passionate; but he only knew the baptism of John.
- Apollos had never heard about the death of Christ, or His resurrection from the dead. All he knew at this point was what John the Baptist preached, which was “repent from your sins and turn to God” (Matthew 3:2). John’s baptism was one of preparation for the Messiah’s coming (Luke 1:16-17).
- John had acknowledged Jesus as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” So, Apollos may have known and taught Jesus as the way, but he did not know the fullness of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
- What I love about this description of Apollos, however, is though he did not have the full understanding of Christ, though he did not have the whole story, he is noted as one who accurately spoke of what he did know. He is noted as one who was on the go, but one who still needed to grow.
Acts 18:26(a)-28, When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately to him. And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
- Paul had met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth, when he was doing leather work as a tentmaker. When Paul left Corinth and then stopped in Ephesus enroute to Jerusalem, then Antioch, Paul had left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus, and here they are strengthening disciples while there.
- They listened to Apollos speak, and as they did, they would have realized there were some things he was missing. They would have heard his eloquence, his proficiency in what he knew, his fervency in spirit; but at the same time, they realized that Apollos didn’t have the full story.
- Upon their realization, they took him aside and “explained the way more accurately to him.”
- They explained to Apollos the fullness of the truth concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection….and Apollos was willing to learn.
- Apollos, a mighty preacher and scholar, was willing to be taught by Pricilla and Aquila.
- This couple, who had been trained by Paul, both played the important role of explaining the way of God more accurately to Apollos.
- This is discipleship on display… Priscilla and Aquila in their willingness to more accurately show Apollos the way. And Apollos was willing to humbly receive what they had to say.
- Priscilla and Aquila had hearts to help, to strengthen, to help, to come alongside, and disciple Apollos, who was a mighty man, but would become more mighty and specifically, mighty for Christ!
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- Apollos received what Priscilla and Aquila had to say, and was directed in a more accurate way, through discipleship.
Illus. You don’t know me!
- We all need to continue to grow, let us be willing to receive from others who are truly helping.
Philippians 1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.
- Apollos received the instruction given to him, and he would leave from there and continue to speak.
- The message the Christ was sent and received. Priscilla and Aquila had grown through their 18 months with Paul, and now they were willing to go and help Apollos. Apollos had now grown through the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila and now he was willing to go.
- After receiving instruction from Priscilla and Aquila Apollos headed to Achaia. The capital of Achaia was Corinth, and from chapter 19 verse 1, we know that while Apollos went to Corinth, Paul headed to Ephesus.
- The two of them are crossing paths. Paul had been in Corinth and Apollos in Ephesus, and they are going to switch locations.
- Apollos is noted at one who greatly helped the believers and refuted the Jews in public, and now after the dots being connected for him, he was demonstrating to them that Jesus was the Christ!
1 Corinthians 3:6, I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
III. Make Sure God is Guiding What You’re Becoming
- Upon Paul’s arrival in Ephesus, two groups are described, the first group is seen in verses 1 to 7, they are described as “disciples,” who are seen as being “deepened” by his instruction.
- The second group is described in verse 8 to 10, and they are described as “becoming hardened” by Paul’s instruction.
Acts 19:1-10, Now it happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “On the contrary, we have not even heard if there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
- To this first group, Paul asks a question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
- Surely this was an important question.
Romans 8:9, If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
1 Corinthians 12:13, By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13, In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise.
- The men in Ephesus responded that they had not heard that there was a Holy Spirit, they had only been baptized into John’s baptism.
- This makes a lot of sense in light of the end of Acts 18, because we know who was in Ephesus doing the teaching, it was Apollos.
- They, like Apollos, had only known of the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentance that looked forward to Jesus. But Christian baptism looks back to the fact that Jesus already came, died on the cross, was placed in a tomb, and rose on the third day.
- Christian baptism identifies the believer with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
- Paul meets these disciples, and perhaps he saw something was missing, or perhaps he knew they had been taught by Apollos prior to Apollos receiving the knowledge of Christ more completely, either way, when they understood that there was something missing in their understanding, they were willing to be deepened through Paul’s instruction.
- The first group understood they were lacking, and they display openness to deepening.
- The second group learns the are lacking and rather than experiencing a “deepening,” they experience a “hardening.”
Acts 19:8-10, And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, having discussions and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took the disciples away with him, and had discussions daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
- After Paul spoke for three months, some were becoming hardened and disobedient, they began to speak evil of the Way, which was a common name for the early church.
- Again, the first group hears Paul’s words applied to their situation, and they are open, with a desire to be deepened, and are filled with the Holy Spirit.
- The second group, hears Paul’s words applied to their situation and direction and they are hardened, filled with disobedience, speaking evil of the church.
- When verse 9 says that the second group was becoming hardened, it speaks to their spiritual “hardness of heart.”
- When the word is used in the New Testament is refers to a heart that is hardened against God.
- The verb here is written in an imperfect tense, which indicates that the hardening was a process. It took place over the course of Paul’s three months of teaching to the people.
Psalm 95:6-8, Come, let’s worship and bow down, let’s kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.
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