Summary: To establish that God calls upon ministers, teachers and leaders to make a difference in their messages, in their methods and in their ministries. The difference is the substance of the message, and not the style of the presentation.
1. The Difference in the Message
2. The Difference in the Method
3. The Difference in the Ministry
1. The setting of this lesson is in Ephesus; sometime after Paul had left for Antioch, closing out his second missionary journey. A new preacher has come to Ephesus and delivers a lesson in the synagogue of the Jews. He was a Jew born and educated at Alexandria, the second largest city in the then known world. As qualified as he was, he knew only part of the message of the Lord. We will be discussing the theme: “the difference that makes the difference.” We will notice three things: the difference in the message; the difference in the method correction; and the difference in the ministry.”
2. First, we will discuss the difference in the minister's message concerning the gospel of Christ. His understanding was unfruitful as it related to the entire Christian System. Luke was careful to list and enumerate the minister’s qualifications; his zeal, his talents, his spirit and sincere convictions for the truth he knew concerning the Old Testament Scriptures. Yet with all these qualifications, he hadn't been taught himself the "difference that makes the difference." Luke reports: "He knew only the baptism of John." Apollos knew of the preaching of John the Baptist – regarding the coming Messiah.
3. Second, we will consider a man and his wife in the congregation that “made a difference” by their method of correction and instruction to the preacher. This husband and wife team was able to “expound the way of God more perfectly to him.” We would be wise to follow their example; and sincere concern not only for truth; but also for the messengers. Their example of wisdom fostered an attitude of heart of the minister to listen; to take heed, and make corrections where it has been pointed out, in a constructive manner. It was their method that assisted this minister in obtaining the needed understanding of the gospel of Christ. Priscilla and Aquila’s approach "made the difference" in this minister's life and ministry.
4. Finally, we will notice how the congregation made a difference in Apollos’ ministry, by supporting him. The church encouraged him and sent a letter accompanying him to the brethren in Achaia (church at Corinth) to receive him. Thus, this correction, teaching and support affected a positive change in the minister’s message and ministry! This congregation had become the "difference that made the difference” in the ministry of Apollos. Could we do any less? This was a method used for many years in introducing younger ministers to the church. With this introduction let’s consider our first point, “the difference in the message.”
BODY OF LESSON
I. THE DIFFERENCE IN THE MESSAGE
A. To lack understanding concerning the gospel of Christ could prove fatal. He lacked a full comprehension in an important matter. Webster says, comprehension means: "The act or process of comprehending; ... having perception… the capacity of the mind to perceive, to know and understand." It was clear Apollos’ lacked a good understanding concerning Christ and the gospel. Notice:
1. First, Solomon wrote: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding,” Proverbs 4:7.
2. Further, Isaiah wrote: “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall we make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little,” Isaiah 28:9-10; James 1:5-8; James 3:17-18.
3. Next, Paul wrote: “Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is," Ephesians 5:17. He encourages the brethren to have a good understanding of the will of the Lord.
4. Finally, Apollos although having a good education; trained in one of the finest schools in Alexandria, Egypt; did not understand the truth of the gospel of Christ. Some have noted:
a. He was a learned rabbi, a disciple of John the Baptist.
b. A great orator, and knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures.
c. But, deficient in his understanding concerning the Christian System.
d. Luke wrote: "He knew only the baptism of John," Acts 18:25.
B. Luke lists Apollos’ outstanding qualifications and deficiencies, in Acts 18:24-25.
1. Here are his outstanding qualifications. He was:
a. An eloquent or learned man (in the use of words, ideas and thinking).
b. Mighty in the scriptures (powerful in his presentation and appeal).
c. Instructed in the way of the Lord (pertaining to John’s work as a prophet).
d. Fervent in the spirit (he had fire in his preaching). Illustrate: Brother Warren’s remarks unto me regarding my preaching: “Put some fire in that sermon; or put that sermon in the fire!” (There came a sound of laughter in the assembly).