Understanding the way more perfectly

I am departing from our usual format to publish some more lengthy teaching on a passage that has been a great encouragement to me. I was able to present this lesson at Calvary Baptist Church on April 13, 2014 in our Family Foundations class.

We have been discussing the topic of discipleship for many weeks. On this day we departed slightly from the regular format to observe the Jewish teacher Apollos and his encounter with Aquila and Priscilla. We talked about what it could teach us about being discipled and a discipler.

I apologize, I do not have a transcript for this message, but have attached its outline below.

Acts 18:24-28 “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”

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When it comes to discipleship, we often focus on two kinds of Christians: the new believer, and the believer with “problems.” The passage selected for today’s class gives us another side of the story.

It instructs us that discipleship is not always just a formal relationship with another Christian specifically to teach them. There are often moments of discipleship, instances in which we see a need for teaching and seize the opportunity to do the work.

This passage shows:

  1. We all have something to teach. (The Bible commands all of us to teach.)
  2. We all have something to learn. (We are being sanctified by God.)
  3. God is perfecting the saints using other saints. (Every member is important.)
  4. The kind of people that are good at discipleship, also need discipleship.

First, we need to learn about the man that received the discipleship.

Apollos was:

  1. Gifted for ministry. “An eloquent man” means either “a man of words” or “a man of ideas.” Either way, it is clear that God had given him specific gifts for ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  2. Prepared for ministry. “Mighty in the scriptures” refers to his powerful use of the scriptures to debate and instruct.
  3. Educated for ministry. “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord;” (II Timothy 2:15, II Peter 1:5-11)
  4. Tempered for ministry. Apollos was “fervent in spirit” and “bold” – exactly the kind of person needed in this era (any era) for service to Christ. (II Corinthians 6:1-10, I Timothy 3:1-7)
  5. Activated for ministry. Apollos “began to speak” – he was doing the word Christ had commanded. (John 6:27-29)

Apollos was also:

  1. Open to ministry. This is a mighty and bold and fervent person, who is also totally teachable. (I Peter 5:5-7)

We should be:

  1. Humble enough to do as he did.
  2. Discerning enough to know others are as he was.
  3. Intelligent enough to realize others know more.
  4. Spiritual enough to disciple those who know less.

Joshua, you are old

Joshua 13:1 “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”

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It’s fascinating that the Lord has to inform Joshua about his own situation. The passage captured my attention, because I sometimes notice how unaware we can be about our age and health.

Joshua was old; I wonder how much he understood or realized it?

Whatever the situation, God chose to inform him of the facts.

The first possibility is that Joshua was all too well aware of his infirmities, wondering just how he could accomplish the last portion of the task God had given him.

The other possibility is that Joshua was fooling himself about his age, believing he had just enough left in him to go “one more round”.

Either way, God injects a dose of reality into the situation that serves as a comfort.

Sometimes hearing the truth actually helps, rather than hurts. What’s more is that it’s better hearing it from God than anyone else.

Our job is to listen, then take action on what we hear.

Joshua 13:1 “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”

The God of final victory

Joshua 11:18-19 “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle.”

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Even God-given victory takes time and sometimes excruciating effort. What’s more, it often faces great opposition.

While enemies surround us, our success is never in doubt. Our job is to trust the Lord through each individual moment of trial. The challenge is to focus on the promise, and have confidence in the character of the One who made it.

Israel was constantly confronted, but never in danger of loss.

Believers in Christ may face persecution. We have the hope of heaven in our hearts and the promise of God, as He will bring it to pass.

We can also be certain that He will work all things together for good.

These assurances should keep us in consistent obedience to Him. He is just as trustworthy, loving, and kind in the midst of war.

When Joshua had a moment to look back on this season of constant battle, I am certain he treasured his relationship with God through every moment.

He, like us, should not have taken consolation in final victory, but in the God of final victory.

Joshua 11:18-19 “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle.”

Mighty, miraculous, and unusual acts

Joshua 10:11 “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

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I really appreciate the way God becomes directly, physically involved with this conflict. It is the kind of action God often takes in a long season of obstacles.

He seems to provide us with specific and visible signs of His guidance both to bless and reassure.

We should choose to trust the Lord without such outward signs, still, He displays His affection and grace by granting them.

It must have been amazing to see these mighty hailstones. They were an unmistakable sign of divine intervention on behalf of Israel.

Not only did they encourage the Hebrews, they also made an indelible impression on the enemy of the day – and any potential future foes.

These are the type of stories the critics dismiss as fiction or coincidence: don’t believe them. God is in the business of blessing His people with mighty, miraculous, and unusual acts.

Not many are as dramatic as this one, but all affirm His unwavering faithfulness to His servants.

Joshua 10:11 “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

The sin that derailed an entire nation

Joshua 7:25 “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”

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Trouble of this kind often comes after a major victory.

Achan made the same calculation we often make regarding our sin – counting on its not being discovered.

The problem is that sin never affects only one person. The secret evil of this one man derailed an entire nation. It seems to have been harshly dealt with here, though the punishment did come at God’s command.

Our own unrighteous actions should be just as decisively eliminated. If the plan of God is in jeopardy due to besetting sin, we should eliminate that sin completely.

Repentance is all about turning to the Savior, with the total and complete abandonment of the sin that kept us from Him.

Achan was not totally unlike us, but we are not likely to meet his end for our unrighteousness.

Our challenge is to learn a lesson from his death, and Israel’s failure, eliminating sin with both timeliness and precision.

Joshua 7:25 “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”