On Wisdom

Acts 18

Paul arrives in Ephesus and stays for a brief while. As was his custom, he began by entering into the synagogue and reasoning with the Jews. Once he felt secure in his departure, he bids farewell to Priscilla and Aquila. Though they ask him to remain, he declines stating that he must keep the coming feast in Jerusalem. While it doesn’t state exactly which feast he is referring to, it is worth noting that even this early in the Church history, there is already evidence of liturgal calendars and festal cycles.

Then the story shifts to something which we must pay careful attention to. Apollos comes to Ephesus. And the Scripture describes him as “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures.” It tells us that he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.”

Now, consider this. This man, who was not yet in the Church, comes in fervently proclaiming Christ, accurately teaching with full knowledge of the Scriptures. And yet, what happens when he arrives? He concedes to Aquila and Priscilla when they approach him. Rather than pridefully rejecting the teaching of these two tent-makers, one of whom is a woman (offensive to most educated men of the time in question), he acknowledges that there is much to learn from joining himself to the Church to receive their teaching.

This displays unequivocally the importance of the Church in our lives. Apollos was not an ignorant man, as could be said about others in Scripture. Here we see a man who could boldly rebuke the Jews using the Scriptures, thus he was highly educated. A well educated man who had been properly taught the ways of the Lord. And yet, for all of his education, for all of his knowledge, even he acquiesces to being joined with the Church, and humbly accepts her teachings, even though the vessels chosen by God are often “less-qualified” by cultural standards. The single wisest theologian of all time would be foolish compared to the wisdom that exists within the Church, with thousands of years of wise and studied men, anointed of the Holy Spirit, and he realizes that. Rather than seeking his own glory and causing division, he joins himself to the one true Church and adds to it’s strength.

Our generation too often does the exact opposite. In a post-reformation era, we would see reliance on the Church and the writings of the Fathers as weakness, relying solely on our own wisdom to understand the things of God. In our turning away from the traditional teachings of the Church, we have removed the very foundation upon which the truth of the Gospel is built. In proclaiming the Scriptures to be the one governing authority, we instead trust in our own wisdom, finding whatever we seek to find contained therein. The early Church sought unity and fought against division, the contemporary Church seems to thrive on that very division. The reason Peter warns us so strongly against personal interpretation is that he understands that you can find in the Scripture whatever you search for. Francis Chan once said, “look for any sin you want to justify and I can find a verse that will justify it for you.” And that’s true. Once we remove the foundation of the teachings of the Church, no one can ever say someone else is wrong, because it’s all a matter of interpretation. John Macarthur and Joel Osteen both quote the Scriptures, so if the Scripture is the sole authority, then no one could ever declare either of them to be wrong.

No, my beloved brethern, like Apollos, we must be educated in the Scripture, but we must cling to the foundation of the Truth the Church has handed down for nearly two thousand years to help us understand that Scripture. I can here only speak for myself, but I highly revere the words of Scripture. And, because of that, I consider my eternity to be far too important to trust to my own finite wisdom. If my car stops moving, I take it to a mechanic to find out why. If I have pains in my chest, I go to a doctor to seek treatment. In every are in my life, there are those who are experts whom I trust more than my own wisdom. Thus, when it comes to something as important as eternity, why would I trust in my own wisdom? I would rather go to the house of the Lord, the Church, to learn the words of the Lord and their meaning.

Christ is in our midst.

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