Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Multi-Step Change

Last Sunday I wrote about the Life Group lesson I taught, and how an itinerant preacher, Apollos, was helped by laymen Aquila and Priscilla. In that post I mentioned that I was only writing about half of the lesson I taught, and that in a future post I'd write about the rest of the lesson. That future is here.

Paul mostly avoided the city of Ephesus in his second missionary journey. He stopped there, it being a major metropolis of the time, and a trans-shipment port. He left Aquila and Priscilla there, took a little time to go up to the synagogue and reason with the Jews, then continued on his way back to Antioch in Syria, from whence he had departed a few years before.

Later he set out again, on his third missionary journey. His overland route took him to Ephesus. This time the first place we see him go to isn't the synagogue, but rather the church. He comes upon a group of about twelve Christians, and learns that they haven't been told the full story about Jesus. In fact, they only know about the baptism of John the Baptist. They don't appear to have heard that people were baptized into Jesus' name (not John's name), and that there was a further baptism, that of the Holy Spirit, which was available to the believers.

As I taught this last week, right on the heels of Aquila and Priscilla explaining all of this to Apollos—in Ephesus—it sounded comical to be reading it again in the same chapter of scripture. Some in the class snickered at it. I used this to say, "If Aquila and Priscilla were doing their job at spreading the gospel, and discipling new believers, how could the church possibly not understand this?" My thought was to be provocative. The way Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul to Ephesus, then remained there as he journeyed on, seemed to me to be an intent for them to be lay evangelists, and to plant the church in Ephesus. Maybe they were setting up tent-making franchises at the same time. But Paul seems to have put them in charge of spreading the gospel in Ephesus. They helped Apollos there. What went wrong with the rest of the church under their leadership?

The class was smart, however, and quickly said that the church at that time consisted of home churches, not a centrally organized body. This congregation of twelve men may not even have been touched by Aquila and Priscilla. They may have started from outreach by a congregation started by someone who were under Aquila's and Priscilla's teaching, and were thus three times removed from the lay evangelists. The full teaching hadn't reached them yet.

Fortunately, Paul arrived at the right time, when he could correct the not-quite-correct behavior and beliefs. Good news for these twelve men, for the church in Ephesus, and for us who now read the story.

We are through with this story. Today my co-teacher taught from Acts 26. Next week we start a new, all-church study, titled "Jesus is Lord", from a book by that name. I'm looking forward to it, and to having one more week off from teaching!

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