God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the Book of Acts we learned about how Paul kept a vow. If you’re interested you can learn more here: Vows, Promises, and Keeping Your Word–Acts 18:18-23. In today’s post we’ll learn about a man who was teaching an incomplete version of Jesus, and what happened when a couple of mature believers found out about it.
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.Acts 18:24-28
When I was in the fire department there was this young Christian firefighter, I’ll call him Michael, and some of us in leadership saw a lot of potential in him. One of the Jesus followers on our department even sent Michael a scripture and a note saying he believed the Lord had it in mind for Michael to become a captain one day. (Kind of a weird thing to do because Michael was still “the new guy” at the time.)
As it happened, over time, Michael proved to be one of our best firefighters and also one of our best paramedics. He was a great decision maker too. But there was something in his personality that rubbed some people the wrong way. After Michael had been there for a number of years he was eligible to compete for a captain position, but this small vocal group who opposed him would bend the Chief’s ear, and so for quite a long time Michael was passed over for promotion.
Eventually his supporters gained the upper hand and Michael became a captain. He’s a very good one too I might add.
A Beautiful Reaction to Nathanael
Nathanael was critical and cynical when he heard the news from Philip that he had “found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote…”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael responded.
At the time, Nazareth didn’t have the best reputation as a city. It may even be Nathanael’s cynicism and criticism were understandable. However, to Nathanael’s credit, though he had some tough questions, he decided to accept Philip’s invitation to “Come and see” for himself.
Nathanael’s decision had far greater impact than he realized at the time.
Imagine with me how different Nathanael’s life would have been, had he focused on what he perceived to be a flaw in Philip’s conclusion. Had he remained focused on his own critical perception of problems in the scriptures, rather than the opportunity to develop a relationship with the Messiah, Nathanael would have missed out on the most important three years of his life! His misplaced focus would have resulted in eternal consequences.
But Nathanael doesn’t do that. He’s cynical, yes, critical, sure, maybe even negative on Philip’s report about Jesus, but he moves toward Christ anyway.
And then we see how Jesus responds to Nathanael’s negativity.
“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Jesus says enthusiastically as He sees Nathanael approaching.
“Behold, an Israelite…” The very first words out of Jesus’ mouth are words affirming Nathanael as an Israelite, as one of God’s chosen people.
“…in whom is no deceit!” (or guile as the King James Version renders it) This was a play on words by Jesus. He was referring back to Jacob. Jacob, who was renamed Israel by the Lord, was a man known for his guile and deceit. You may remember Jacob tricking his blind father Isaac out of his older brother’s blessing. One of a number of instances where Jacob used deceit and guile to get his way. So here we see Jesus, rather than defending Himself against Nathanael’s cynicism, using this play on words to emphasize Nathanael’s genuineness and honesty.
Nathanael, recognizing Jesus knew how he felt about a prophet coming from Nazareth, says, “How do you know me?”
“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Jesus replies.
At which point Nathanael answers, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
And Jesus answers back, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” Jesus commends Nathanael for his faith.
(See John 1:45-50)
A Beautiful Reaction to Apollos
While I was considering today’s passage I was reminded of Michael and the way his supporters and opponents responded to him. And I was also reminded of the way Jesus responded to Nathanael. In Michaels case he eventually had enough people respond to him charitably that he overcame his opposition, and he became a great fire captain. In Nathanael’s case he was completely wrong about Jesus and yet we see Jesus respond to him with amazing grace and generosity, and Nathanael went on to become an Apostle. In today’s passage we see a Jew named Apollos with a lot of potential. He was teaching about Jesus but he didn’t have the whole story. And I appreciated how Priscilla and Aquila came alongside him and helped Apollos share Jesus more accurately.
I’ve been around Christians who are charitable toward other believers who don’t have a complete understanding of Jesus, or who maybe have some misconceptions about Him, or who are more orthodox in their beliefs, or less orthodox in their beliefs, or different in some other way. I appreciate those Christians and the way they choose to engage others. There are so many scriptures that admonish us to be gentle with each other and others, to be charitable with each other. (If you’re interested you can learn more about that here: One of the Most Disrespected Dismissed Discounted Attributes of Christian Character.)
Priscilla and Aquila didn’t cancel Apollos when they learned what was wrong about what he was teaching. They didn’t rant against him to their friends and family. They weren’t snarky. They didn’t troll Apollos. They didn’t make a disparaging video about him and post it on social media.
They went to him directly and helped him. And the results were spectacular.
That’s who we’re supposed to be in Jesus.
We’re supposed to encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,Romans 15:5
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Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.