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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VIII. THE CONVERSION OF APOLLOS, HIS CHARACTER, AND THE MINISTRY OF PAUL IN EPHESUS.

The Ancient Church by William Dool Killen

CHAPTER VIII. THE CONVERSION OF APOLLOS, HIS CHARACTER, AND THE MINISTRY OF PAUL IN EPHESUS.

A.D.54 TO A.D.57.

The Apostle |took his leave| [115:1] of the Corinthian brethren in the spring of A.D.54, and embarking at the port of Cenchrea, about eight or nine miles distant, set sail for Ephesus. The navigation among the islands of the Greek Archipelago was somewhat intricate; and the voyage appears to have not unfrequently occupied from ten to fifteen days. [115:2] At Ephesus Paul |entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.| [115:3] His statements produced a favourable impression, and he was solicited to prolong his visit; but as he was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was anxious to be present at the approaching feast of Pentecost, he could only assure them of his intention to return, and then bid them farewell. He left behind him, however, in this great city his two Corinthian converts, Aquila and Priscilla, who carried on with industry and success the work which he had commenced so auspiciously. Among the first fruits of their pious care for the spread of Christianity was the famous Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who now arrived in the metropolis of the Proconsular Asia.

The seed of Abraham in the birthplace of Apollos spoke the Greek language, and were in somewhat peculiar circumstances. They were free from some of the prejudices of the Jews in Palestine; and, though living in the midst of a heathen population, had advantages which were enjoyed by very few of their brethren scattered elsewhere among the Gentiles. At Alexandria their sumptuous synagogues were unequivocal evidences of their wealth; they constituted a large and influential section of the inhabitants; they had much political power; and, whilst their study of the Greek philosophy had modified their habits of thought, they had acquired a taste for the cultivation of eloquence and literature. Apollos, the Jew |born at Alexandria,| [116:1] who now became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, was an educated and accomplished man. It is said that |he 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.| [116:2] The influence of the preaching of the Baptist may be estimated from this incidental notice; for though the forerunner of our Saviour had now finished his career about a quarter of a century, the Alexandrian Jew was only one of many still living witnesses to testify that he had not ministered in vain. In this case John had indeed |prepared the way| of his Master, as, under the tuition of Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos was led without difficulty to embrace the Christian doctrine. It is said of this pious couple that |they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.| [116:3] Priscilla was no less distinguished than her husband [116:4] for intelligence and zeal; and though she was prevented, as much, perhaps, by her native modesty, as by the constitution of the Church, [116:5] from officiating as a public instructor, she was, no doubt, |apt to teach;| and there must have been something most interesting and impressive in her private conversation. It is a remarkable fact that one of the ablest preachers of the apostolic age was largely indebted to a female for his acquaintance with Christian theology.

The accession, at this juncture, of such a convert as Apollos was of great importance to the evangelical cause. The Church of Corinth, in the absence of Paul, much required the services of a minister of superior ability; and the learned Alexandrian was eminently qualified to promote its edification. He was |an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures.| [117:1] After sojourning some time at Ephesus, it seems to have occurred to him that he would have a more extensive sphere of usefulness at Corinth; and |when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him.| [117:2] It soon appeared that his friends in Asia had formed no exaggerated idea of his gifts and acquirements. When he reached the Greek capital, he |helped them much which had believed through grace; for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.| [117:3] His surpassing rhetorical ability soon proved a snare to some of the hypercritical Corinthians, and tempted them to institute invidious comparisons between him and their great apostle. Hence in the first epistle addressed to them, the writer finds it necessary to rebuke them for their folly and fastidiousness. |While one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye,| says he, |not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.| [117:4]

When Aquila and Priscilla were at Ephesus expounding |the way of God more perfectly| to the Jew of Alexandria, Paul was travelling to Jerusalem. Three years before, he had been there to confer with the apostles and elders concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles; and he had not since visited the holy city. His present stay seems to have been short -- apparently not extending beyond a few days at the time of the feast of Pentecost, -- and giving him a very brief opportunity of intercourse with his brethren of the Jewish capital. He then |went down to Antioch| [118:1] -- a place with which from the commencement of his missionary career he had been more intimately associated. |After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.| [118:2] On a former occasion, after he had passed through the same districts, he had been |forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in (the Proconsular) Asia;| [118:3] but, at this time, the restriction was removed, and in accordance with the promise made to the Jews at Ephesus in the preceding spring, he now resumed his evangelical labours in that far-famed metropolis. There must have been a strong disposition on the part of many of the seed of Abraham in the place to attend to his instructions, as he was permitted |for the space of three months| to occupy the synagogue, |disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.| [118:4] At length, however, he began to meet with so much opposition that he found it expedient to discontinue his addresses in the Jewish meeting-house. |When divers were hardened and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.| [118:5] This Tyrannus was, in all probability, a Gentile convert, and a teacher of rhetoric -- a department of education very much cultivated at that period by all youths anxious to attain social distinction. What is here called his |school,| appears to have been a spacious lecture-room sufficient to accommodate a numerous auditory.

About this time the Epistle to the Galatians was, in all likelihood, written. The Galatians, as their name indicated, were the descendants of a colony of Gaols settled in Asia Minor several centuries before; and, like the French of the present day, seem to have been distinguished by their lively and mercurial temperament. Paul had recently visited their country for the second time, [119:1] and had been received by them with the warmest demonstrations of regard; but meanwhile Humanizing zealots had appeared among them, and had been only too successful in their efforts to induce them to observe the Mosaic ceremonies. The apostle, at Antioch, and at the synod of Jerusalem, had already protested against these attempts; and subsequent reflection had only more thoroughly convinced him of their danger. Hence he here addresses the Galatians in terms of unusual severity. |I marvel,| he exclaims, |that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel| -- |O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you!| [119:2] At the same time he proves that the sinner is saved by faith alone; that the Mosaic institutions were designed merely for the childhood of the Church; and that the disciples of Jesus should refuse to be |entangled| with any such |yoke of bondage.| [120:1] His epistle throughout is a most emphatic testimony to the doctrine of a free justification.

Some time after Paul reached Ephesus, on his return from Jerusalem, he appears to have made a short visit to Corinth. [120:2] There is no doubt that he encountered a variety of dangers of which no record is to be found in the Acts of the Apostles; [120:3] and it is most probable that many of these disasters were experienced about this period. Thus, not long after this date, he says -- |Thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.| [120:4] There are good grounds for believing that he now visited Crete, as well as Corinth; and it would seem that these voyages exposed him to the |perils in the sea| which he enumerates among his trials. [120:5] On his departure from Crete he left Titus behind him to |set in order the things that were wanting, and to ordain elders in every city;| [120:6] and in the spring of A.D.57 he wrote to the evangelist that brief epistle in which he points out, with so much fidelity and wisdom, the duties of the pastoral office. [120:7] The silence of Luke respecting this visit to Crete is the less remarkable, as the name of Titus does not once occur in the book of the Acts, though there is distinct evidence that he was deeply interested in some of the most important transactions which are there narrated. [120:8]

Paul, about two years before, had been prevented, as has been stated, by a divine intimation, from preaching in the district called Asia; but when he now commenced his ministrations in Ephesus, its capital, he continued in that city and its neighbourhood longer than in any other place he had yet visited. After withdrawing from the synagogue and resuming his labours in the school of Tyrannus, he remained there |by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.| [121:1] Meanwhile the churches of Laodicea, Colosse, and Hierapolis appear to have been founded. [121:2] The importance of Ephesus gave it a special claim to the attention which it now received. It was the metropolis of the district, and the greatest commercial city in the whole of Asia Minor. Whilst it was connected by convenient roads with all parts of the interior, it was visited by trading vessels from the various harbours of the Mediterranean. But, in another point of view, it was a peculiarly interesting field of missionary labour; for it was, perhaps, the most celebrated of all the high places of Eastern superstition. Its temple of Artemis, or Diana, was one of the wonders of the world. This gorgeous structure, covering an area of upwards of two acres, [121:3] was ornamented with columns one hundred and twenty-seven in number, each sixty feet high, and each the gift of a king. [121:4] It was nearly all open to the sky, but that part of it which was covered, was roofed with cedar. The image of the goddess occupied a comparatively small apartment within the magnificent enclosure. This image, which was said to have fallen down from Jupiter, [121:5] was not like one of those pieces of beautiful sculpture which adorned the Acropolis of Athens, but rather resembled an Indian idol, being an unsightly female form with many breasts, made of wood, and terminating below in a shapeless block. [122:1] On several parts of it were engraved mysterious symbols, called |Ephesian letters.| [122:2] These letters, when pronounced, were believed to operate as charms, and, when written, were carried about as amulets. To those who sought an acquaintance with the Ephesian magic, they constituted an elaborate study, and many books were composed to expound their significance, and point out their application.

About this time the famous Apollonius of Tyana [122:3] was attracting uncommon attention by his tricks as a conjuror; and it has been thought not improbable that he now met Paul in Ephesus. If so, we can assign at least one reason why the apostle was prevented from making his appearance at an earlier date in the Asiatic metropolis. Men had thus an opportunity of comparing the wonders of the greatest of magicians with the miracles of the gospel; and of marking the contrast between the vainglory of an impostor, and the humility of a servant of Jesus. The attentive reader of Scripture may observe that some of the most extraordinary of the mighty works recorded in the New Testament were performed at this period; and it is not unreasonable to conclude that, in a city so much given to jugglery and superstition, these genuine displays of the power of Omnipotence were exhibited for the express purpose of demonstrating the incomparable superiority of the Author of Christianity. It is said that |God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.| [123:1] The disastrous consequences of an attempt, on the part of the sons of a Jewish priest, to heal the afflicted by using the name of the Lord Jesus as a charm, alarmed the entire tribe of exorcists and magicians. |The man, in whom the evil spirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus, and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.| [123:2] The visit of Paul told upon the whole population, and tended greatly to discourage the study of the |Ephesian letters|. |Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. [123:3] So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.| [123:4]

Some time before the departure of Paul from Ephesus, he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The letter contains internal evidence that it was dictated in the spring of A.D.57. [123:5] The circumstances of the Corinthian disciples at this juncture imperatively required the interference of the apostle. Divisions had sprung up in their community; [123:6] the flagrant conduct of one member had brought dishonour on the whole Christian name; [123:7] and various forms of error had been making their appearance. [123:8] Paul therefore felt it right to address to them a lengthened and energetic remonstrance. This letter is more diversified in its contents than any of his other epistles; and presents us with a most interesting view of the daily life of the primitive Christians in a great commercial city. It furnishes conclusive evidence that the Apostolic Church of Corinth was not the paragon of excellence which the ardent and unreflecting have often pictured in their imaginations, but a community compassed with infirmities, and certainly not elevated, in point of spiritual worth, above some of the more healthy Christian congregations of the nineteenth century.

Shortly after this letter was transmitted to its destination, Ephesus was thrown into a ferment by the riotous proceedings of certain parties who had an interest in the maintenance of the pagan superstition. Among those who derived a subsistence from the idolatry of its celebrated temple were a class of workmen who |made silver shrines for Diana,| [124:1] that is, who manufactured little models of the sanctuary and of the image which it contained. These models were carried about by the devotees of the goddess in processions, and set up, in private dwellings, as household deities. [124:2] The impression produced by the Christian missionaries in the Asiatic metropolis had affected the traffic in such articles, and those who were engaged in it began to apprehend that their trade would be ultimately ruined. An individual, named Demetrius, who appears to have been a master-manufacturer, did not find it difficult, under these circumstances, to collect a mob, and to disturb the peace of the city. Calling together the operatives of his own establishment, |with the workmen of like occupation,| [124:3] he said to them -- |Sirs, ye know, that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover, ye see and know, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods which are made with hands -- so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipped.| [125:1] This address did not fail to produce the effect contemplated. A strong current of indignation was turned against the missionaries; and the craftsmen were convinced that they were bound to support the credit of their tutelary guardian. They were |full of wrath, and cried out saying -- Great is Diana of the Ephesians.| [125:2] This proceeding seems to have taken place in the month of May, and at a time when public games were celebrated in honour of the Ephesian goddess, [125:3] so that a large concourse of strangers now thronged the metropolis. An immense crowd rapidly collected; the whole city was filled with confusion; and it soon appeared that the lives of the Christian preachers were in danger; for the mob caught |Gaius and Aristech's, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel,| and |rushed with one accord into the theatre.| [125:4] This edifice, the largest of the kind in Asia Minor, is said to have been capable of containing thirty thousand persons. [125:5] As it was sufficiently capacious to accommodate the multitudinous assemblage, and as it was also the building in which public meetings of the citizens were usually convened, it was now quickly occupied. Paul was at first prompted to enter it, and to plead his cause before the excited throng; but some of the magistrates, or, as they are called by the evangelist, |certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself| into so perilous a position. [125:6] These Asiarchs were persons of exalted rank who presided at the celebration of the public spectacles. The apostle was now in very humble circumstances, for even in Ephesus he continued to work at the occupation of a tent-maker; [126:1] and it is no mean testimony to his worth that he had secured the esteem of such high functionaries. It was quickly manifest that any attempt to appease the crowd would have been utterly in vain. A Jew, named Alexander, who seems to have been one of the craftsmen, and who was, perhaps, the same who is elsewhere distinguished as |the coppersmith,| [126:2] made an effort to address them, probably with the view of shewing that his co-religionists were not identified with Paul; but when the mob perceived that he was one of the seed of Abraham, they took it for granted that he was no friend to the manufacture of their silver shrines; and his appearance was the signal for increased uproar. |When they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice, about the space of two hours, cried out -- Great is Diana of the Ephesians.| [126:3] At length the town-clerk, or recorder, of Ephesus, contrived to obtain a hearing; and, by his prudence and address, succeeded in putting an end to this scene of confusion. He told his fellow-townsmen that, if Paul and his companions had transgressed the law, they could be made amenable to punishment; but that, as their own attachment to the worship of Diana could not be disputed, their present tumultuary proceedings could only injure their reputation as orderly and loyal citizens. |We are in danger,| said he, |to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.| [127:1] The authority of the speaker imparted additional weight to his suggestions, the multitude quietly dispersed, and the missionaries escaped unscathed.

Even this tumult supplies evidence that the Christian preachers had already produced an immense impression in this great metropolis. No more decisive test of their success could be adduced than that here furnished by Demetrius and his craftsmen; for a lucrative trade connected with the established superstition was beginning to languish. The silversmiths, and the other operatives whose interests were concerned, were obviously the instigators of all the uproar; and it does not appear that they could reckon upon the undivided sympathy even of the crowd they had congregated. |Some cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was confused, and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.| [127:2] A number of the Asiarchs were decidedly favourable to the apostle and his brethren; and when the town-clerk referred to their proceedings his tone was apologetic and exculpatory. |Ye have,| said he, |brought hither these men who are neither profaners of temples, [127:3] nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.| [127:4] But here we see the real cause of much of that bitter persecution which the Christians endured for the greater part of three centuries. The craft of the imagemakers was in danger; the income of the pagan priests was at stake; the secular interests of many other parties were more or less affected; and hence the new religion encountered such a cruel and obstinate opposition.

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