Imagine for a moment that your church is looking for a pastor. After carefully and prayerfully working through the process, the search team presents its candidate to the church. “He is eloquent in speech, competent in the Scriptures, educated in the way of the Lord, passionate in spirit, and accurate in the way he speaks and teaches all things concerning Jesus.” Too good to be true? Perhaps. But that is precisely how Luke describes Apollos in Acts 18:24-25.
Apollos Had a Blind Spot
While Apollos sounds like the perfect pastoral candidate, there is one problem. He has one glaring deficiency, except he can’t see it. That’s what we call a blind spot. Apollos only knew the baptism of John the Baptist (Acts 18:25). John’s baptism was a preparatory baptism. He called all Israel to repent from their sins and receive forgiveness in order to prepare for the coming Messiah. John baptized with water, but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). More than likely, Apollos had received John’s baptism and led others to receive it as well, since that’s all he knew.
There’s lots to unpack, and even debate, in what it means that Apollos only knew John’s baptism, but let’s not lose sight of Luke’s point. It is crystal clear. It’s not enough to be an eloquent, competent, educated, passionate, and accurate teacher. To be useful in ministry, the gospel we share must be complete. Gifted teachers may wow and win audiences, but because of their theological blind spots, they may also lead them away from Christ and his gospel. Incomplete theological teaching stunts Christian growth, harms spiritual well-being, and, as we see in many cases on social media and in our churches, causes division.
We Have Blind Spots
Sadly, because of all the media options available to us, we have access to many eloquent, competent, educated, passionate teachers who accurately teach the things concerning Jesus but are unaware they possess some theological deficiencies. Some emphasize repentance to the neglect of faith and grace, crushing those with tender consciences who think they can never repent enough to be accepted by a holy God. Others stress faith and grace to the exclusion of repentance, leading immature believers to think they can go on living like the world. Some exhort you to unhitch the Old Testament from the New, unknowingly giving life to an old heresy condemned long ago. Others actually unhitch the Old Testament from the New, neglecting to preach the Old Testament as Christ and the apostles did. Be vigilant! Just because a Christian teacher has written dozens of books and has tens of thousands of Twitter followers does not mean they are accurate in all areas of theology.
Blind Spots Are Not “False Teaching”
Notice that I am not talking about false teachers. I’m speaking of Christian teachers with theological blind spots. I understand Apollos to have been a Christian teacher. The major clue to his Christian faith is that Aquila and Priscilla did not ask him to be baptized – the public identification of membership in the new covenant community, the community of the Spirit. Instead, because they saw him as a Christian, Aquila and Priscilla took him under their wings. Apollos taught the things concerning Jesus accurately (Acts 18:25). Aquila and Priscilla discipled Apollos that he may teach the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).
We have much to learn from Aquila and Priscilla. Because they saw Apollos as a fellow brother in Christ, they didn’t call him out publicly and wave the “heretic” flag. Neither did they gossip to the members of the synagogue about his teaching, calling him a false teacher in order to get him removed. No! Instead, they upheld his dignity, taking him aside privately to disciple him, showing him his theological blind spot.
Of course, we have much to learn from Apollos as well. Because he was eloquent, competent, educated, passionate, and already accurately teaching the things concerning Jesus, he could have brushed Aquila and Priscilla aside. Instead, he humbled himself and received their instruction.
We all have theological blind spots. Just admitting that fact will begin to humble us, I hope. We all hold systems of theology that are prone to particular doctrinal deficiencies. Acknowledging that fact will begin to allow Scripture to reshape our systems wherever necessary, I trust. Of course, it’s hard to do that alone, or in an echo chamber. That’s why we need our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree. May we humble ourselves and learn from one another instead of waving the “heretic” or “liberal” or “false-teacher” flags prematurely. If we cry “heretic” every time we meet someone we disagree with, no one will listen when we actually need to warn the church of false teachers.
Like Apollos, we all need brothers and sisters in our lives like Aquila and Priscilla who are more mature in the faith and can expose our theological blind spots. So, let’s humble ourselves. Let’s lovingly disciple one another, that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and be more useful in gospel ministry (Acts 18:27-28).