Instructed in the Way of the LordFr. Barnabas Powell
It was so cool to watch this young man, wise beyond his years, share his insight about his philosophy of life. It was both encouraging and touching. Of course there were some areas he was still not very mature in and that showed. But still, to watch this teenage boy talk well beyond his years meant there was such a strong foundation to build on, the areas where he needed to strengthen would be both well received and believed. He’s a great kid.
No wonder the true test of a man is his character. His willingness to both learn and then embrace wisdom is directly connected to his humility and desire! It’s just not possible to help someone who doesn’t want help or doesn’t realize they need help. It’s at the heart of the wisdom of humility. And the reason why the development and strengthening of humility is at the heart of a Purposeful Orthodoxy.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 18:22-28:
IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the 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 and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
I like St. Apollos already. He was an eloquent man. We actually see him several times in the New Testament, but here is where his life in the Church begins. He has only heard of John’s baptism. This means he may have known that Jesus was declared by John to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And he seems to have been a disciple of John the Baptist and had received baptism by John. Here he is arguing that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, and he’s sharing all the wisdom he has. However, he didn’t know the whole story. That’s not that surprising in a world without the internet, safe or easy travel, or even a newspaper. In that age news traveled very slowly at times.
By God’s grace, Priscilla and Aquila, two believers who had the rest of the story, took him aside and gave him the full picture. Notice, we don’t see Apollos reject this deeper instruction. We don’t see him tell Priscilla and Aquila “Hey, I’m alright as I am and besides, I’m a good speaker!” No, his humility and his foundational desire to know all God has for him to know overcomes any temptation of ego. He longs to know more! And the result? He is embraced by the new community of Christians and he continues to use his eloquent gift to show “by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”
The truth is, we won’t learn what we don’t desire to learn. It is precisely in our desire that defines us and shapes our lives. If our desire is purified by love, specifically our love for God, then what we want is always what we need. Our egos bend to what is best rather than tripping us up by some false fear of being embarrassed or concern that we don’t “know it all.” A wise and mature person knows she is meant to be a learner her whole life. As a smart man once told me “90% of being smart is knowing where you’re dumb!”
Today, are you willing to learn? More importantly, do you want to learn? Most of us stay gripped by the sad consequences of our ignorance by choice. And that would be fine if our ignorance only affected us. But we pass on our unwillingness to learn to our children! If we are ever going to see our children keep this Orthodox Faith it’s going to be because we adults wake up to our need to want to have Orthodoxy taught to us “more accurately. If we don’t, we’ll never be Orthodox on Purpose!