Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. ~ Acts 18:26 (CSB)
Apollos was a young man who had a great desire to tell others about Jesus. He spoke well and had a boldness that was evident to all who heard him. Yet, there was a problem. We’re told in Acts 18:25 that he spoke accurately about Jesus but only knew about John’s baptism. This seems to mean that Apollos was unaware of Jesus’ words we find recorded in Matthew 28—to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, welcoming them in as part of the Christian family.
We’re not told why Apollos was unaware of this, but it seemed to be deficient in his teaching. It was likely the case, then, that as he led people to faith in Jesus he did not proceed to see them baptized in obedience to Jesus. In this way, his teaching was lacking.
When he spoke in Ephesus he was heard by Priscilla and Aquila, a spiritually mature couple who loved Jesus and together proved to be a great help to Paul during his time in Corinth. When they discovered this deficiency in Apollos’ teaching, they took him aside (that is privately) and explained to him the bigger gospel story. And what was the result? Apollos continued on to the next town with the blessing of the church and “was a great help to those who by grace had believed” (18:27).
For us, we find here a lesson in correction. Christians who are more spiritually mature are humble. They can reflect back on their lives and they realize the growth they have experienced along the way. They understand they have had times where they had to learn the “more accurate” way. As they learned about Jesus through Scripture, some of their beliefs changed and sharpened with time.
What, then, is their response when they hear a younger Christian saying or doing things that might not be quite right? They seek to correct and offer guidance in love, just like Priscilla and Aquila.
This involved four things: First, they were willing to listen. They waited until Apollos had finished. They listened to everything that he had to say. Second, they were willing to engage. They didn’t say, “Oh, that doesn’t sound right” and then ignored it. They wanted to help this young man grow and mature. So, they went to him and engaged with him. Third, they corrected him in private. We don’t know exactly what this couple said to Apollos, but likely they opened scripture and shared things they had learned from Paul and others. In doing so, they didn’t make a scene. They didn’t browbeat the young man or try to show themselves superior. They didn’t want to embarrass him. They simply took him aside and spoke with him in private. Fourth, they encouraged him in his gifts. When everything was said and done, Priscilla and Aquila would have been among those in 18:27 who wrote to the disciples in Achaia to welcome Apollos. Though they had to correct him, they supported his continued efforts to share.
These same four things should be true for us. When we face a situation where we need to correct someone else, we should be willing to listen to them and observe what is happening, be willing to engage with them, be seeking ways to speak to them in private, and then be encouraging of them. This is a better path, or a more accurate way, than the harsh criticism that we see so much today in the world.