Text: Acts 18:23 – 19:10
Proposition: Discipleship of Christ has a steep growth curve, it never ends its upward call to know Christ and make Him known as the Christ.
Introduction: We were visiting a sheep farmer once and he invited us to come and watch as he moved a flock of over a hundred sheep into another pasture. He took us to the field and then with a quiet whistle of his lips and a gesture from his hand he sent two dogs out to the flock. One skirted way behind the herd to drive them. The other ambled out to the front of the flock and they lay down. When the one in the back began to bark the front one stood up and began to slowly walk towards the gate. Amazingly the entire herd just followed this dog which I suddenly realized was acting a lot like a sheep. The dog became a sheep in order to lead them to where the shepherd wanted. No matter how independent we see ourselves, we all follow someone or something. So who do you follow, what is it you are trying to be or do? In Biblical terms to follow Christ meant that you were being a disciple of Jesus. It meant you wanted to know more about Him, to know what He had taught, to be transformed in your life by Him. And that’s not easy. Last week we were reading in Acts 18 about how Paul was often afraid of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. It meant that there would be heat and light every time you spoke about Jesus as the Christ. After two years Paul left Corinth and took a couple named Aquila and Priscila with him. He left them in Ephesus and went on to Jerusalem and then to Antioch, ending his second missionary journey where it had begun. After a brief rest he sets out again on his third trip. Have a look at Acts 18:23 to 19:10.
I. If You Want Grow as a Disciple, Give Away What You Know About Jesus.
As this third trip starts the focus turns to Aquila and Priscila in Ephesus. They hear about this man Apollos who has come from Egypt, a Jew who had a great knowledge of the Old Testament. He knew about the Lord. He had even heard about the testimony of John the Baptist as he called people to repent of their sin, to humble their hearts, to be ready to meet the Messiah. John had invited people to be baptised in water as a sign of their changed lives. I think that there are a lot of very moral people who want to do what is right. Their morality is a great starting point, they don’t steal or cheat on their wives or swear or get drunk or do dope. But Jesus is not after good people who only need a little tweaking and then they are great people. He’s after people who know that in their pursuit of morality they are always discovering an underside to themselves that they don’t like. They see the existence of their sin. You can try to cover that over with morality but it’s like putting clean clothes on a corpse, what’s inside is still dead. That’s kind of where Apollos was, he had followed the teaching of John the Baptist but that was only meant to ready his heart, not remedy it. Aquila and Priscila help him to see Jesus as the One who came to lead us to God the Father by becoming one of us. He became perfectly mortal, the sinless man, completely human and yet completely God. He could now do what man and God would do. As man He would die, He would allow the cause of all death, sin, to now be put upon Him. As God that weight of sin would be perfectly carried and paid for. As God His perfection or righteousness would now be imputed or put upon us that we would in Him stand perfect before God Almighty. This is what Aquila and Priscila were doing in discipling Apollos, teaching him, giving away all that they knew about the Christ. Here’s the premise, disciples of Jesus grow as they give away what they know. Give it away by helping others who are yet to learn what you have already learned. Give it away by helping and caring for others in such a way that they have to ask what is it that has changed you? Give it away by answering their questions, by learning the Word, by not only knowing about God but now you know Him, His forgiveness, His very real love for you, His call upon you to follow Him. Disciples of Jesus are not called to arrive at a faith and understanding of Jesus, they are called to grow in that continually. Aquila and Priscila discipled Apollos, they gave him what they had and equipped him for the next step. Soon this Apollos would leave Ephesus and go to Corinth to pick up on what Paul had begun. He went to give away what he knew about the Christ, to make disciples, to be a disciple.
II. If You Want To Grow as a Disciple, Receive What Only Jesus Can Give.
Paul makes his way to Ephesus where Aquila and Priscila are. He finds 12 men who needed to receive what only Jesus could give. Look at what he asks them in 19:2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Their response was that they didn’t even know this was possible or necessary. They had only believed in what John the Baptist had taught. They were people who believed things about Jesus, who had tried to make their faith work by their own self discipline, obedience and understanding. What Paul was telling them was that what they were trying to do was impossible. You can’t reach down and take hold of your own shoe laces and lift yourself off the ground no matter how strong or self disciplined you are. If you want to grow as a disciple of Jesus receive what only Jesus can give. What is that? He gives you Himself. When you let go your grip on your own life, your will to be in control and invite Him to be your Saviour and Lord then you don’t just know about Jesus, you know Him. When you ask Him to save you, like a drowning man asks to be saved because all hope is gone, then He gives you Himself. He pays off the price of your sin. He changes you from the inside out, He sends into you, into your very being, the Holy Spirit.
Why is this so critical, when does it occur, how can I know for sure? It’s critical because apart from the Spirit of God you can’t understand what the Word of God is calling you to. It’s like apart from the Holy Spirit you are only standing on the porch at the front door. With the Holy Spirit you are invited inside to the kitchen table, to sit and eat with Him. The Holy Spirit equips us, He counsels us speaking to our conscience, He encourages us, He advocates for us, brings things to mind that helps us to better understand who the Christ is. He makes us effective. The Spirit is given to us a pledge from God, He seals the covenant bond between us and God the Father written in Christ’s blood and body. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us so that when you believe in the Christ with all your heart you shall be saved and by the Holy Spirit secured in that holy place. To grow as a disciple of Jesus you have to do it in the power that Jesus gives to you through the Holy Spirit.
Discipleship, following Jesus Christ, has a steep growth curve, it never ends its upward call to know Christ and to make Him known as the Christ.