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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Acts 18



Verse 9-10


‘Be not afraid … for I am with thee.’

Acts 18:9-10

The living Christ as the life of His Church is the keynote of the Acts of the Apostles. Such is the glorious truth which lies like a core of gold at the very heart of that book.

‘Be not afraid,’ says the Master to every loyal servant, ‘for I am with thee.’ And what follows?

I. Safety.—As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so Christ is round about His people. God never leaves the work of grace unfinished (Philippians 1:6).

II. Rest.—‘My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest’ (Exodus 33:14). Rest from vexation and doubt, rest from the accusations of conscience and from the power of sin.

III. Happiness.—Heaven is not made by its gates of pearl, and streets of gold, and walls bright with precious stones. ‘The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.’ And must I wait for all my heaven in the gloryland? No, if we have the Presence of Christ with us in our hearts and about our daily path our heaven will begin below.

IV. Strength.—He will surely give strength to those who trust in Him; help will come in time of need. Where is your hope? Is it in a dying world, or on the living Christ?

—Rev. F. Harper.


‘In Legh Richmond’s sweet story of “The Young Cottager,” in his Annals of the Poor, he tells how, when he visited the dying girl, he said to her: “My child … Where is your hope?’ She lifted up her finger, pointed to heaven, and then directed the same downward to her own heart, saying successively as she did so, ‘Christ there, and Christ here.’ These words, accompanied by the action, spoke her meaning more solemnly than can easily be conceived.”’

Verse 24


‘A certain Jew named Apollos.’

Acts 18:24

That Apollos should have left such a mark on the history of the Church, and especially the Church at Corinth, is a striking proof of the eminence of the man. He was a great man, and here in our first introduction to him all the elements of his greatness are apparent. Consider the qualifications he possessed.

I. He was fervent.—We read that he was ‘fervent in the spirit.’ His earnestness was undoubted. There was nothing in him of Laodicean lukewarmness. Lack of zeal is one of the great failings of the Church to-day. There are too many people not really in earnest about anything; they have no deep convictions; their motto is anything for a quiet life; they have no wish to be disturbed; they are at ease in Zion, and have no desire to face the inconveniences which often accompany a life of devotion.

II. He was intelligent.—It is possible to have a zeal for God which is not according to knowledge; to be on fire, but the fire to be wildfire. It is well to be in earnest, but we need wisdom to direct our earnestness. A zeal that outruns discretion is often likely to defeat its own ends. But this was not the case with Apollos; he was instructed in the way of the Lord; he was a student of Scripture.

III. He was eloquent.—The Greek word so translated may also bear the meaning of ‘learned,’ but we may abide by the Authorised Version. Apollos, unlike St. Paul, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, was educated at Alexandria, famous in those days for its Greek scholarship. The Hellenists, as distinct from the Aramæans, spoke Greek and read the Septuagint version of the Scriptures; they were not so rigid in literalism as the Jews of the Babylonish dispersion, who are called in the New Testament Hebrews.

IV. He was valiant.—We read, ‘he spake boldly in the synagogue.’ He had the courage of his convictions; he was not ashamed of Jesus, for we read, ‘he taught diligently the things of Jesus,’ as the Revised Version gives it. It is not easy to espouse an unpopular cause in public, and before a Jewish audience it needed no ordinary courage to testify of Christ, but Apollos did it, and with such success that his labours speedily attracted attention.

Rev. E. W. Moore.


‘Few characters in the Acts of the Apostles stand out with greater interest than that of Apollos, partly from the circumstances of his life, partly from the exquisite beauty of his character. Apollos was an Alexandrian, and brought up at the fount of philosophical, critical, and theological learning. His powerful mind grasped not only the ancient and weightiest matters of the law, but it met and welcomed the newer current of thought, though the way by which those newer currents of thought came to him cannot now be ascertained. He may have passed through Jerusalem at the time when John the Baptist or Christ Himself was teaching, or if he did not meet John, he may have met one of his disciples. Apollos had a mind keenly alive to truth and a soul thirsting for the kingdom of righteousness, and the sympathetic power of his character, together with the eloquence of his words, were eagerly welcomed in Ephesus.’

Verse 28


‘For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ.’

Acts 18:28

‘He convinced.’ But what was the process which he took to convince? You find it in the following chapter, as Paul used it—‘Disputing and persuading.’ ‘Disputing’ in the Greek shows exactly what is meant—it is reasoning—‘reasoning and persuading.’ First there was the explanation of the passage, then there was the exhortation to adopt it. First his address was to the human intellect, and then the address was to the human heart. This was the reasoning he adopted, and which St. Paul adopted too.

I. Reason is not ignored by Christianity; reason is honoured by the Christian faith. Your sceptic and your rationalist and your atheist, when they talk of reason, say that we ignore it, misjudge us. We ignore reason as the foundation. We say it is not the foundation. Just as Bacon did in the principles of philosophy. Before Bacon’s day reason was supposed to be the foundation of philosophy, but he showed that the foundation was really the laws of nature, the discoveries of natural science, and reason was the builder and operator upon those discoveries. And so precisely in Christian ethics; reason is not the foundation, because I am a fallen man.

II. Truth is the foundation, and the glorious facts of the redemption revealed by Jesus Christ, and reason builds upon these the superstructure of Christian faith. Thus it is, you see, St. Paul and Apollos convinced. Well, there is need to convince now. Never was a time since the Ascension of Christ that Jesus was more passionately adored than at the present moment; but there never was a time when he had to bear the glare of hatred and defiance of man more than he has at the present moment; and between these two poles of contemplative thought, brought to bear upon the person of the Master, there are varied shades of thought and feeling, and these shades in some cases detract from the fullness of the trust in the work He did. And thus you find there is need to go forth to-day, to convince and show out of the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

III. There is reason for all things when you come to reason out of the Scriptures. When you and I travel farther on than Apollos travelled, and come to Jesus Himself, we see Him and His marvellous life, and see, moreover, the wonderful miracles He wrought; we see Cana of Galilee, how the water blushed to see its Maker and turned into wine, and when you come to think of Holy Writ, those beautiful Scriptures out of which he pled, I ask you, what is the Bible? Can you tell me it is nothing but human wisdom that was transfigured, that the water of human thought was transfigured by Divine inspiration until the human mind of the writer gave forth the beautiful language of Divine inspiration? And then you come to the miracle of the twelve baskets. Here you have the rays of His divinity poured forth. You see the man, but there shines out from time to time those marvellous miracles of His, and those miracles were the manifestations of divinity, for the fullness of the Godhead was in Him. No wonder that Apollos convinced them. No wonder the mind of man, oscillating between doubt and difficulty, became convinced and settled, because he was pleading with those who believed that the Old Testament Scriptures were given of the inspiration of God, and were profitable for doctrine, correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness.

—Rev. Dr. Concannon.


‘Apollos was instructed in the way of the Lord. That of which the early teaching of John in the baptism of repentance was the opening up, the teaching which he received when he was brought to the house of Aquila and Priscilla perfected, as he was taught in the way of the Lord, and the great dawn of the morning of Christianity that shone on his soul ripened into the splendour of the meridian light of the full Gospel. It was precisely the same thing with the celebrated Erskine, of Scotland, He knew what I call a confused gospel. There are some men whose minds are not clear, and if you do not know a thing clearly, you cannot convey it clearly. But it happened that on a Sunday morning that his study window was open, and his brother Ralph Erskine, a distinguished Christian, was talking to the wife of Mr. Erskine, both of them enlightened, and as he listened he found they possessed a secret he did not, and the consequence was that he came as Apollos did to Priscilla and Aquila, and he communed with them and the Spirit blessed it; and he came to know what I hope you know, the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Acts 18:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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