By Pastor David M. Choi
Paul and his co-laborers in the faith go on in reasoning with other Jewish and Gentile non-believers about the veracity of the Christian faith. Part of their task, therefore, is not merely to proclaim but to persuade (v.4). For this reason, it seems like the work of God’s Spirit has receded into the background, and that now it’s merely human beings trying to persuade other human beings through the means of human intellectual prowess.
However, from the very beginning of Acts, Luke’s agenda has been to show the church that the Spirit’s work does not end where human works begin and vice versa. Rather, it has been to display the work of God’s Spirit as coextensive with human efforts, that is, in and through the things we consider as merely “ordinary.” In this case, we observe that the Spirit of God is at work precisely in the “ordinary” human attempts to reason with others and to persuade them of the truth. But what makes the competency of such human efforts possible?
We already know that Paul was an incredibly well-educated man, possessing a sophisticated knowledge of the depth and breadth of the scriptures. Similarly, Apollos was trained in the prestigious and well-known school of Alexandria. He was highly educated in theology and philosophy, the Old Testament scriptures, and even in the art of rhetoric (v.24). Apollos, therefore, is an amazing addition to the church, because he, too, has acquired skills and knowledge that the Spirit can make great use of.
To be sure, God can make use of anyone, PhDs in theology not required. However, there is a huge benefit to growing in our understanding of scripture and faith (at a more technical level), as well as acquiring other skills that we can use in service to Christ. Notice, in the case of Paul and Apollos, the Spirit makes use of them, not in spite of their great learning but out of their great learning, by putting them in front of some of the most learned. For instance, Paul spars with the Greek philosophers (17:16-34), and Apollos with the Jews (v.28).
And it seems, now more than ever, the church is in need of educated Christians who are able to respond to the massive crises of our time. The mission fields are wide open, but sadly not many Christians have availed themselves of the deep levels of training required to enter said fields. Indeed, in the mission fields of education, environmental protection, artificial intelligence, natural science, medicine, public policy, geopolitics, and so forth, where are the Christians who can biblically and theologically reason about such things? But, of course, the church needs more than just intellectual missionaries, but also cultural missionaries as well, namely, the theologically-minded musicians, filmmakers, poets, painters, architects, and writers. God knows we need healing in our culture as well.
In line with one’s giftings and passions, as well as available opportunities for learning, we see, then, that the Christians of the early church truly embody how great learning and skills not only come as gifts from Christ, but are to be used by the Spirit for the sake of the glory of Christ and for his ongoing work of redeeming a broken and fallen world. The mission fields are wide open, but how will you go if you are not equipped? How are you supposed to do “big things” for God if you are not being faithful in the little things right now, by equipping yourselves with the opportunities you have in front of you?
Are you offering back to Christ the gifts he has given you, or are you using them in pursuit of your own ends? What are the opportunities of training in front of you right now? What sort of doors would you like God to open so that you can use your learning and skills in service to Christ (e.g. using your musical skills to lead worship, using your writing talents to script great works of literature like Tolkein or Lewis, using your love of STEM to tutor and help the underprivileged, etc.)?
Father, the needs of this world are complicated and many, and I know I cannot afford to be simplistic in my faith nor shallow in my thinking. So, help me, Lord, to see and approach every opportunity I have right now as a spiritual training ground for the mission field you are calling me to. I want to be mightily used by you, in mind, body, and spirit. All that I have been given I give back to you. For the glory of your name. Amen.