Vol. IX — No. 30 July 28, 1968
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 publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Beloved in Christ, whose tears of compassion have proved His earnest desire that all men be saved from sin unto an eternal life:
Beware of the laughter of God! Does God ever laugh, you ask. Indeed He does| but His laughter is reserved for the complete defeat of His enemies. When the heathen rage, the and people imagine a vain thing; when the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed, refusing to be ruled and constrained by the righteousness of His will—“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath; and vex them in his sore displeasure,” Psalm 2:4f, And that, dear friends, is the laughter of the Lord, Beware of it! It is reserved for His enemies.
But God is not laughing yet. Today He is in tears! In a familiar Gospel selection (Luke 19:41-48) we read that he came near to Jerusalem, “and when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying. If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day (the day of grace), the things which be long unto thy peace!” Those words represent the tears of Jesus, His urgent beseeching that all men seek the Lord while He may be found. Open your hearts. He pleads, for now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.
The Savior’s tears of salvation will be changed to the laughter of destruction for His enemies. It will be too late when that same Savior says, “But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation,”—All of which came to pass within forty years; Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and thousands of people with them.
But until such a time shall come for all the world, there Is one thing that we must continue to do while there Is time: It Is the same thing as that which Jesus did—“He taught dally In the temple,” and although the chief priest and the scribes and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, the people were very attentive to hear Him. We have the same work to do before the day comes when the Lord will laugh His enemies to destruction. We must
In the text that we have read from the Book of Acts, we can see what we must do to help dry the Savior’s tears of compassion for sinners, namely, 1) know your Scriptures; 2) let It stir you to action; and 3) encourage people with their faith. The example of young Apollos from Alexandria, and the Inspiration from the divine record concerning him, will help us with this blessed work.
Yes, know your Scriptures. They will change your life. They will give you a new understanding of the big, wide world around you. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” Ps. 119:130. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined In our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God In the face of Jesus Christ.” II Cor. 4:6.
Apollos was “a certain Jew…born In Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty In the scriptures…this man was instructed in the way of the Lord.” He was a young man much like the young man Timothy, of whom St. Paul said, “From a child thou hast know the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” II Tim. 3:15. To be sure, Alexandria was a city of schools and learning, the location of one of the most famous libraries of all time. But not every man that goes to college and university knows his Scriptures. Here was an exception.
What he knew stirred him to action. When he came to Ephesus, one of the great cities of that time, where there was a large concentration of Jews, descendants of the Chosen People, who still kept up their synagogues, he went into their synagogues and began to speak boldly. Don’t be surprised at this, because the Jews had the custom of inviting anyone who might have something to say about the Scriptures that had been read to speak up.
Now something interesting happened. Here was a young preacher who was very handy with words, actually eloquent, who soon discovered that he had very much to learn. There was in the audience a business man and manufacturer of tent-cloth, together with his wife, who took him home with them, perhaps for dinner after church, and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” They did not do this publicly, but they took him into their house and taught him certain things “more carefully,” more perfectly and accurately. It was a delicate task, but one that was very much needed—a thing that every Christian needs, whether he be clergyman or layman, and which he needs as long as he lives. For the more one learns of the Scripture and the way of God with men, the more he finds that he has to learn, the more interesting it is, and the more satisfying.
Specifically, the young Apollos had not learned some things beyond the preaching of John the Baptist. He knew only the baptism of John, which Scripture calls a baptism unto repentance; he had not heard of the baptism of Jesus, perhaps, nor of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This was not strange. The New Testament was not yet written, and there were a lot of things about Christianity that were not heard of at once by all men everywhere. In fact, the very next verse after today’s text tells about St. Paul going to Ephesus where he met certain disciples who said, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Acts 19:2.
The point of it all is that here was a man who knew considerably of Christianity, and he taught what he knew, and he defended what he knew, and he went on in the synagogue and argued mightily with the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Christ who was to come. And here was a business man and his wife who knew so much more about the way of God that they could take this young man in and instruct him more perfectly and completely.
And this is the kind of activity among Christians which goes a long way toward drying the tears of Jesus weeping over His people for their ignorance and unbelief. This is what makes the Christian church thrive and prosper and grow strong among people.
So what kind of a church is it that Jesus does not have to weep over? It is one that knows the things that belong unto our peace with God. It is one in which people talk about what they hear in church and in Bible class. It is one in which people go home and take apart the sermon they just heard in church and see whether what they heard is really so—in which people really study their Bibles and judge whether these things are so, as the Christians in Berea did. And, come to think of it, a lot of things we hear from the Bible are such that they make you wonder whether they can be really so. The Bible is shocking us, running pins into us so that we jump to attention. It is full of things that you simply do not ever learn from other books. We had such a Gospel text a week ago: haven’t some of you been wondering all week whether it really is so that there is a way of using all of your money so that it can bless you for all eternity? But when you understand that, then you are going through the same development as was young Apollos in the synagogue at Ephesus. Then you are learning the way of God more perfectly, you are going from strength to strength, from semi-ignorance to brilliant illumination in the ways of God with men.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Prov. 9:10. It “shineth more and more,” says our God. We hardly get out of kindergarten in this life, for there is so much to learn and know and under stand. The greatest of all Christ’s apostles said the same thing: “I count all thing but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I might win Christ, and be found in him…Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press to ward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:8-14.
When the Lord Jesus Christ looks down upon a city or a Jerusalem or a church like this. He will not have to have tears welling up to fill His eyes because it does not know that today is the day of salvation. For He sees a church which not only knows its Scriptures, but which is moved into action, and in which Christians help one another with their faith. Apollos went on from Ephesus into Achaia into the city of Corinth, and the text says that he “helped them much which had believed through grace.” Apollos was a divinely disturbed man, on fire with the message of God to man. He was “fervent in spirit,” zealous, enthusiastic; the word says literally that he was “boiling” with it.
Likewise Aquila and Priscilla. They were active business people. We know that they had been in Rome, in Ephesus, and in Corinth, centers of civilization and business and art—every one of them. They had a lot of Christian experience, and they had suffered for their faith. They had been driven out of Rome in the persecution of the Christians under the emperor Claudius, we are told in this same chapter. And it is from these older and experienced Christians who have grown under trials and afflications that we should strive to learn all that we can. They often tend to be quiet, as we learned in Proverbs in Bible class; for deep waters do tend to run quietly. But talk to them quietly, tap the depths of their experience, as Aquila and Priscilla shared theirs with the young church in Ephesus.
The work that we have indicated is very important. As Jerusalem was in a state to make Jesus weep, so the world today is in a state that makes sensitive Christians weep. It is rushing to its own blind destruction, and it does not seem to know the things that belong to its peace—the peace of God that passeth understanding, the peace of captive death and conquered sin, the peace of conscience resulting from sins for given.
Because this condition of the world exists before our very eyes, and because we have the Good News of its redemption and salvation in the Gospel, we have the same work to do as Jesus did. He went into the temple and drove out the money-changers and the merchants. He denounced their making the house of God in to a den of thieves. We also have some argumentation to conduct and some denunciation to do, even as all manner of error and evil must be rebuked. But as with Him, and as with Apollos, His zealous follower, we have some teaching to do.
And that is our contributions to help the world see what belongs to its peace, so that it need not in ignorance thereof blunder into its own destruction. Ours is the task of so informing the world of the salvation accomplished for it that the Savior need not call out with tears in His eyes, “IF THOU HADST KNOWN!” If the world will not heed, let it not be our fault that it has not been told.
Let us know our Scripture; let it move us to action; and let us do all in our power to encourage one another in the holy faith unto salvation. That is the way to HELP DRY THE SAVIOR’S TEARS. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.