I would like to share with you an experience that happened 19 hundred and 58 years ago, in 51 A. D. It’s found in the book of Acts. If you’d come to the eighteenth chapter. We’re going to study verse 18 up through the end of the chapter and a little bit of 19.
Paul was on his second missionary journey. He had been in Corinth for almost two years, the longest he had spent in a lot of areas.. And he and Aquila and Priscilla packed up their bags and all of their tent making tools and they left and walked through southern Greece.
Paul probably looked like a hippy with his long hair because he had taken a vow. We’re in Acts 18, verse 18 and 19. He had taken a vow. We don’t know what the vow was, and so, when you take a vow like Samson, you have to avoid alcoholic beverages. You have to not cut your hair. And so he had long hair. Two years worth, at least. And at the port city of Cenchrea, they ran across a barber shop. The vow was over. He had his hair cut. In fact, he had it shaved. He took this vow. He had his hair cut off, and when you walk through Palestine and you observe people with shaved heads, you probably would know that person just came through a vow that they completed successfully. They’ve shaved their hair. At Cenchrea these three calloused tent makers used some of their hard-earned money, purchased tickets on the ship and sailed to Ephesus, which was in Asia. And in this city Aquila and Priscilla were dropped off to stay behind. They were church planters. And Paul said, “You plant a church here in Ephesus. I'm going to go on.” And he did.
Let's read verse 19. “They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews”. He stayed there a few days, and then he went on. Does something grab you in this verse? Look at the first part of that verse. Let's reread it. What grabs you in this verse? It says, they arrived at Ephesus, nothing particularly there, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. Doesn't that ring a bell in your mind. He left who? Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla was a woman. He mentions her first and he does this quite often. When the Bible refers to them, it refers to Priscilla a lot first. This lady was a lady of eminence, and she is very prominent. Her name is listed first. She could've been the dominant influence in this big church plant there in Ephesus. You don't usually find that. In fact, Paul later says, “I don't even want women to speak.” But here she’s listed first, that Luke writes down.
Priscilla took the lead in this church plant. I remember my grandmother. I was born just south of Fort Wayne, Indiana in Hartford city and my grandmother Jordan was the leader in that church. She carried the ball. The church would not have operated very well at all without my grandmother. And if you would take the godly women out of the McDonald Road Church or out of about any of our churches what would be left? We have a lot of men. The very first person in this church this morning, other than myself was a woman. Came in, getting ready for the service. Women are exceedingly important in the scriptures. Romans 16 and verse three Paul says, “Greet Priscilla,” the woman, “and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me.” Actually, they were almost decapitated. They were really quite the people and he said not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. They ministered to all these churches. Priscilla and Aquila. Great people.
Actually this couple were very prominent leading citizens of Rome. Remember reading that last week, and to this day, I looked it up on the Internet this morning, there is a really large church in Rome named after Priscilla, because she was a prominent citizen of Rome. I looked at the church on the website. It's far taller than our church. Far bigger. The organ is huge, and there's also a cemetery in Rome called the cemetery of Priscilla. This lady was a very prominent woman, married into the Acilian family. A great lady, and she met Aquila, a humble Jewish tent maker and the two fell in love, and the Roman aristocrat married the Jewish artisan and the two worked as a team and built up the church. That's what you have here. That's what's going on.
And we know that they were wealthy. How do we know that? Well, Romans chapter 16 verse four speaks of the church that met in their house. And you can’t have a shack and have a church meet, of 50 or 60 or 75 people meeting in your little hovel, so they had a big home. A large home. They were wealthy people and they shared their wealth with the church. They helped found the church, gave of their means to the church. And many of us were raised thinking that our home is a place to shut out the world, but actually, what did they do with their home? They invited the world into their home so that they might not become like the world, but so that they could convert the world.
You need to have non-Adventists, non-Christians into your home. Give Bible studies to them. So often we just have members in our homes.
Now strangely, Aquila and Priscilla were nomads. They moved. The moving van was always at their door. They lived in Rome, and there was a huge anti-Semitism movement and the Emperor of Rome said, “All the Jews get out. You've got to go. You cannot stay here.” So they had to move. They moved to Corinth. Then they moved to Ephesus and eventually they were back in Rome later when things settled down. Then they were back in Ephesus. They were just moving all around. Why did they do this? A better word for ‘nomad’ would be ‘missionary’. They were missionaries trying to build up the work and Priscilla and Aquila were a mission team. You know, you never read about one without reading about the other. They were partners for Christ, and it is heavenly when a husband and wife are so blessed as to have a common purpose. So often, the man is, maybe he’s the leader in the church and the lady is sort of silent and smiles a lot. Or maybe the woman is a member of the Church and her husband, he doesn't even attend the church. He's unconverted. Now that happens a lot. But they were together.
Okay, let's go back to 18, verse 20. When they asked him to spend more time, Paul with them, he declined, but as he left he promised, “I will come back if it is God's will.” So you have in verse 21, 22 and 23 a distance of 15 hundred miles that Paul traveled in these three verses. And this left the tent making couple behind. Did they ever establish a church there at Ephesus? Absolutely. They really did. Remember the seven churches of Revelation. Ephesus is one of those churches. They did establish that church. In Paul's day Ephesus was a city of 2 hundred thousand people, bigger than Chattanooga.
And where would Aquila and Priscilla began? Well first of all they had to set up a business so they set up their tent making shop and then they built their home in this most commercial city of all of Asia. In this heathen capital city of the Roman province. They planted a church, and one of the seven wonders of the world was there in that city. It was the temple of Diana. They had so many temple prostitutes that it was just an exceedingly wicked town. One of the seven wonders of the world was that temple. Probably also one of the seven blunders of the world, there was so much prostitution going on. But that heathen temple covered three acres. That's bigger than Wal-Mart. And the roof in that temple was 60 feet high. The pillars were that tall. It took them a hundred and 20 years to build that temple and they used gold for mortar. It's what they claim.
God desperately needed a Christian church in that place. And Aquila and Priscilla needed help and so God sent help. You know, God knows your needs before you do, and so God sent a man by the name of Apollos. Paul and Apollos, great leaders for Christ. And God sent this man. They didn't know him. He didn't know them. He didn't even know that Jesus had died. Apollos didn't even know that Pentecost had happened. He didn't even know who the Holy Spirit was. He'd never heard of any of this stuff. And so one wonders, “Did God send the right person?” Here He sent an evangelist, and the evangelist doesn't even know half of the truth.
What kind of help would he be? Well look at verse 24 in Acts 18. It says, “Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.” He was from where? From Alexandria. The second biggest city in the whole Roman Empire, and it had also one of the seven wonders of the world. It had that huge lighthouse of Alexandria that was later destroyed and it had a library. The Library of Alexandria. Have you heard of that? It had 7 hundred thousand volumes in that one library.
In fact, the Moslems attacked the city of Alexandria in 642 A.D. and their commander asked the Moslem religious leader, “What are we going to do with that library?” And he gave this famous answer. He said, “The books will either contradict the Koran,” the Muslim Bible, “or they will agree with the Koran. If they contradict it, they need to be destroyed. If they agree with it they’re superfluous and they're not needed, so destroy the books.” So they did. The Arabs burned the books of that library to heat their bathwater for their Islamic soldiers. The library's collection was still substantial enough that it heated the bathwater of this huge army for six months until they finally burned the last book. And this basically hurt the world. Irreparable damage. Knowledge was lost, which probably contributed to the dark ages. Just think about all that knowledge burned. Destroyed. And some of those books, probably, Apollos had learned some of his wisdom from.
Look at verse 25 of Acts 18. “Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord. He spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately even though he knew only the baptism of John.” This man was a zealous teacher, but he only knew half of the truth. He didn't know it all and he vigorously taught what he knew but he didn't know the full truth. Somehow he didn't know anything past John the Baptist. There is where everything stopped. Look at verse 25. It says, “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue.” He was preaching away and Aquila and Priscilla came. They heard him preach. They heard him lecturing and they probably thought, “If only this man knew the whole truth what a help he could be to the message.” If you hear somebody in the pulpit, and they're not preaching right, do what Priscilla and Aquila did. Don't stand up and say, “Brother, you're wrong.” What did they do? They didn't jump up and interrupt him or correct him publicly or send out cassette tapes or mimeograph sheets. What did they do? Verse 26. “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him they invited him to their home and explained the way of God more adequately.” They said, “Come on over for haystacks.” They invited Apollos over to their home, and over a tasty meal, they lovingly filled in the blanks of Apollos’ knowledge of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They never made an unnecessary ruckus.
When you interrupt somebody publicly, in church or somewhere, you almost always alienate yourself from that person and your name will be mud. Do it the way that Priscilla and Aquila did it. Do it personally and instead of a preacher with a partial message he became a preacher with the full truth. And when people join the Seventh-day Adventist church, oftentimes I hear them say, “You know, we finally have the full truth.” That's what we get when we join the Seventh-day Adventist church. They did not belittle him.
There where I grew up in Indiana, and I can use that as an illustration, because nobody here knows any of those people. We used to invite somebody over to our house quite often. They were friends of ours and this couple would come on Sabbath after church and have lunch with us and he always belittled his wife. He would always say, “Well, let me get the old battle-axe,” which usually refers to a mother-in-law, you know. Well he would call his wife ‘the old battle-axe’.
Never belittle your spouse. Don't do that. Be supportive. I have seen a lot of people that trash their spouses or they trash their teenage kids. Don't trash somebody. I've seen too many men put down their wife, especially when they're with other men, and I know what women do too, because I went in a beauty shop one day. If you're a man don't ever go in that place. There were ladies getting permanents and they’re not permanent. And I've heard women talk when they’re with the girls, they diminish their husbands sometimes. Be supportive to your spouse. To your coworkers. To your children.
Apollos was educated far beyond Priscilla and Aquila and yet those humble servants taught him. And he was humble enough to accept the truth and he knew the truth when he heard the truth and he began to teach it. You know, you teachers that teach other people like Priscilla and Aquila did, you invest your time in another human being. You coach them. You teach them. You mentor them. You lead them to the truth. You are changing lives for eternity. What a blessed occupation you are in.
Let's go to Acts 19 now. Acts 19, verse one. It says, while Apollo was at Corinth, Paul took the road. He hit the road and left. Paul found some disciples who needed to be rebaptized. I had a lady that came to me one day and she said, “Pastor, I need to be rebaptized.” Now whenever anybody tells me that I say, “Why do you need to be rebaptized?”, cause that's fair for a pastor to ask. “Well, why do you want to be rebaptized? You’ve been baptized before, what's the problem?” And she said, “Well, I got into a bad argument with my husband. He yelled at me. I yelled back. It was awful, and we were yelling at each other and finally he said, ‘You are not a Christian. You need to go back to that church that you go to and crawl back in that baptistery and be rebaptized because you are not a Christian the way you're acting. You should not be arguing. I'm a heathen. I can argue. You can't.’”
Well, let me ask you. Do you have to be rebaptized every time you yell at your spouse or you kick the cat? That's what forgiveness is for, isn’t it? Are there any grounds for rebaptism? Yes, there are here in Acts 19, we’re going to find out. But not for that. Not at all. Should you be rebaptized every time you lie? If we pastors rebaptized people for all those types of things, we would all have dishwater hands and look like prunes. We'd be in the water all the time. You can’t do that.
Should anybody ever be rebaptized? Well of course they should. The Bible precedent is right here. In the first seven verses of Acts 19 we have a dozen men who needed to be rebaptized. They did. And why did they need to be rebaptized? Well, because they were disciples of John the Baptist. They were probably baptized by John the Baptist himself. I don't really know. It doesn't say. They were baptized into the baptism of repentance and not into the baptism of Christ. When we baptize people we baptize them in the name of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They were not baptized like that. And so they needed to be rebaptized. The 12 were living on the backside of the cross. They stopped where their leaders stopped. When John the Baptist was beheaded that ended their growth and to new truth and they never advanced beyond their founder.
And you know, a lot of denominations are like that. When Martin Luther died, they stopped right there. I think if Martin Luther would have lived another five or 10 years, Lutherans would have been Sabbath keepers. We stop where our leader stops. We don't advance. We just maintain those traditions.
One day in 1903, the Russian Czar was walking around the Kremlin. He was walking around the Kremlin grounds and he noticed a sentry soldier guarding a particular piece of grass out there in the beautiful lawn, and he did some research. Nobody seemed to know why the soldier was there just guarding the lawn there. He did some research. He found out that back in the year 1776 Catherine the Great had walked on that spot on a spring day and found the first flower of spring blooming right there, and she had said “Post a guard to guard that spot. I don't want anybody stepping on that flower,” and the guard had been there for a hundred and 27 years. They had a guard guarding that spot 24 hours a day. Nobody knew why they were doing it. They were just doing it. Maintaining the tradition. Stopped where the leader stopped.
These 12 had been preaching Christ, according to Acts 19, in the John the Baptist framework, but they did not have the Holy Spirit. Romans eight, verse nine says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” If you don't have the Holy Spirit in your life you are not a Christian. So these 12 men were lost. They were lost. They were none of His.
You know, if a Jew was baptized by John the Baptist, he remained a Jew. If a Jew was baptized by the apostle Paul he became a Christian. They hadn't arrived at that. These 12 were walking in their own righteousness without the righteousness of Christ. They were lost. And many churches today are filled with people that assume, “Well when I die, I’m going to be in heaven someday.” Don't assume that. Unless you have a relationship with Jesus and you know the truth and you’re doing your best to follow Jesus, you could be just like them. We want to become full Christians, and when somebody is a member of another Christian denomination, and they learn the full truth, they should be rebaptized just like these 12 were rebaptized. There is grounds for rebaptism and that is new truth. Discovering new truth. Following new truth.
I'm going to ask you before I close, do you need a new start in life? Are you following the old way? Have you stopped growing, and you're not advancing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you attending church and you think, “Why are we attending church?” You need to probably figure out what you're going to do with your life. You need to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not just be pew warmers. That fabric on these pews doesn't need warming. Our hearts need warming. That's why you come here. Because you're in the assembly of the saints, and that's what God wants His people to do, is to assemble together to worship Him. That's why you're here. Get connected to the mighty power of God.
My final text is Romans 1:16. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Are you a believer, or are you just a pew warmer? Maybe we can learn from this experience.
Dear Father. We thank You for these interesting stories in Your Bible. Help us to discover them each day in our own home Bible study and help us to be like Priscilla and Aquila. To be missionaries. To go forth and do Your bidding. To share the truth. To know the truth. To know Jesus Christ. To be filled with Your Holy Spirit. Dismiss us with these joys and blessings, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #10, The God of Abraham Praise Scripture: Acts 18:24-26 Hymn of Response: #365, O Zion, Haste
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 11/4/09