23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.
26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace;
28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
went over (v.23) = “went through” — with stops to preach
The epistle to the Galatians was undoubtedly written during the apostle’s second visit to Ephesus and it shows that perhaps immediately after the recorded visit in this chapter the judaizing element increased in strength. Most likely the news of the grave danger which was then threatening the Galatian churches had reached him in Antioch — Gaebelein, page 320.
Galatia and Phrygia (v.23) — The Galatic region was that part of Lycaonia which was included in the Roman province of Galatia and was popularly known by that name. It contained Derbe and Lystra, among other towns. Just so, the Phrygian region was that part of Phrygia which was reckoned to the province of Galatia, in which were situated Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. Thus Paul revisited his Galatian churches for the second time. — Walker, page 401.
Apollos (v.24) — of his later ministry, Paul said, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).
He was a native of Alexandria, the headquarters, so to speak, of Hellenistic Judaism, and the city in which the Jews had come into closest contact with Greek learning and philosophy. After his first stay in Ephesus, and the visit to Achaia described in verses 27-28, we find him back in Ephesus again (1 Corinthians 16:12), unwilling to revisit Corinth at that juncture because of the party factions there, in which his name had become involved (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:5-6, 22; 4:6). We then lose sight of him, till the period shortly before Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, when he is seen either in Crete or about to arrive there (Titus 3:13). He is characterized as being a fervent orator, with a philosophical tone about his teaching. — Walker, page 401-402.
Scriptures (v.24) — the Old Testament
way of the Lord (v.25) — For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight’” (Matthew 3:3).
It should be noted that whereas he had been instructed in “the way of the Lord,” Aquila and Priscilla now led him further into “the way of God” (verse 26). They could now tell Apollos the great basic truths of the mystery as they had learned them from Paul in his “gospel of the grace of God.” They could show him the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (of which he may have heard) in the light of that grace — all of it harmonizing perfectly with the Old Testament Scriptures, though not taught there. — Stam, page 152.
spirit (v.25) — Apollos’ spirit, not the Holy Spirit
things of the Lord (v.25) — should be “things concerning Jesus” — Apollos knew nothing (or very little) of Jesus’ death and resurrection and nothing of Paul’s gospel of the grace of God.
convinced (v.28) = “argued them down” — refuted them powerfully on every point
Apollos could now, of course, have returned to the synagogue, explaining that he had preached to them without full knowledge of the truth, and claiming that he now knew the way of the Lord more perfectly, but this would doubtless have served only to arouse the suspicion of his hearers, destroying his usefulness among them. Evidently feeling, therefore, that Aquila and Priscilla could better carry on the testimony at Ephesus and wishing to minister where Paul had already established the truths he had so recently learned, Apollos thought to go to Achaia, whereupon “the brethren” wrote the “letters of commendation,” evidently referred to in 2 Corinthians 3:1. The result was that upon his arrival at Corinth he “helped them much which had believed through grace” (verse 27). Not that he immediately led them further into the truths of grace, for he himself had but recently begun to see them, but he encouraged the believers as “he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (verse 28).
As might have been expected, however, some at Corinth began to prefer Apollos to Paul. Unlike Paul, they contended, Apollos had come with “letters of commendation.” Furthermore, Apollos was an orator while Paul was not (2 Corinthians 10:10). Thus Apollos unintentionally became involved in division and rivalry in the church at Corinth. One party boasted of him and another of Paul. There were others, but Apollos was chiefly involved, for after mentioning four such divisions (1 Corinthians 1:12) Paul deals mainly with his own and Apollos’ connection with the case (1 Corinthians 1:13; 3:4-6).
But neither Paul nor Apollos condoned, much less fostered this party spirit among the Corinthians. Indeed, it is touching to witness the humility of these two great men and their mutual consideration for one another.
Indeed, such confidence did Paul have in Apollos that he strongly urged him to return to Corinth just when the party rivalry was so great, and such consideration did Apollos have for Paul that in spite of Paul’s urging he would not go. In Paul’s words: “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you … but his will was not at all to come at this time …” (1 Corinthians 16:12). — Stam, pages 153-155.