I have a family member who thought he was a Christian and now he realizes that he is not a Christian. How does that happen? Are you a Christian? Really, are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you persevering in the faith? Are you taking your belief system and your Christian worldview seriously?
My family member lived the Christian life for some fifty or sixty years. He was active in a church, really, really active. He served on a few boards, including the deacon board. He was baptized three times. Then when he was just over seventy years old my brother said that he was not a Christian. I resisted my brother in saying that. My mother resisted my brother in saying such a thing. My brother got on the phone with this family member and eventually, this family member realized, he really is not a Christian. He does not believe in the Trinity, he does not believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. He wrestles with much of the core teachings of Christianity. He is not a Christian.
Do you believe the whole Gospel? I am not asking if you understand the whole Gospel, do you believe the whole Gospel. Somethings we step out into faith believing.
I once read an article asking if I am preaching the whole Gospel. What does that mean? Well many times we stop our teaching and preaching at “just believe.” We never tell people they must follow Jesus. Though many people are believing but not trusting or really not even believing in Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Theologian killed by the Nazi’s in World War II. There is a great biography about him out right now. He was a brilliant man who would not cave to the Nazis. Many other German churches were going along with Hitler’s anti-Semitic comments but he would not. He was trying to organize churches that stayed true to Scripture. There was a time that he came to New York City to study. His impressions of our American church were not good. He wrote:
By this time Bonhoeffer is in his lower twenties and has almost, if not, completed his PhD.
“ [The Union Students] talk a blue streak without the slightest foundation and with no evidence of any criteria… they are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.”
On another occasion he wrote:
“In New York they preach about virtually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.”1
You see Bonhoeffer came to the U.S. soon after a pastor in New York City made some waves. His name was Harry Emerson Fosdick. Listen to what Eric Metaxis writes about him:
Fosdick had been the pastor at New York’s First Presbyterian Church when in 1922 he preached an infamous sermon titled, ‘Shall the Fundamentalist Win?’ In it he laid out a kind of Apostles Creed in which he expressed his serious doubts about most of the historic assertions of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth, the resurrection, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, miracles, and the Bible as the Word of God. This sermon was the opening salvo in a battle that would rage particularly hotly through the 1920s and 1930s. The local presbytery immediately conducted an investigation, but as a son of the moneyed East Coast WASP establishment, Fosdick had little to fear. His defense was conducted by another establishment scion, John Foster Dulles , who would serve as Eisenhower’s secretary of state, and whose father was a well known liberal Prebyterian minister. Fosdick resigned before they could censure him, and he was given the pastorate of the fashionably progressive Park Avenue Baptist Church, where John D. Rockefeller was a prominent member and whose foundation’s philanthropic arm was run by Fosdick’s own brother. 2
So, their Gospel was incomplete. Their teaching was incomplete and it was on purpose. They needed corrected.
I want to look at a passage where a brilliant man was teaching and speaking but he was incomplete in his understanding. So, he is corrected. Let’s look at the passage.
Read Acts 18:24-28:
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
27When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
- First, let’s talk about the passage. Meet Apollos.
- Apollos was a Jew and he was by birth an Alexandrian.
- We know about Alexandria and we know that Alexandria was an area in Egypt that was heavily sophisticated with a very large library. The library would later have a fire which was unfortunate because we lost a lot of good literature and history. Later many noble theologians and church fathers came from Alexandria.
- He was an eloquent or a learned man. Apollos was a Greek Jew. Alexandria would have had the largest population of Jews outside Palestine.
- Apollos will be referenced much more:
1 Cor 1:12
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”
1 Cor. 3:5:
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even bas the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
1 Cor. 3:6:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
1 Cor. 3:22
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,
1 Cor. 4:6:
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.
1 Cor. 16:12:
But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.
- Apollos is used much more in the New Testament, especially in Corinth.
- In verse 25 Apollos was instructed in the Lord. He was fervent in Spirit. The Bible even says that he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus. But he was only acquainted with the things concerning John. In Acts 19:3 there is another time people only knew the things concerning John. Or John’s baptism. The Bible says that he was boiling in Spirit and this means that he had fire within him. So, he was very passionate.
- But his message was incomplete. He only knew the things of John. Apollos only knew John’s baptism. There are different views on this and I am still unsure. Some think that he was already baptized because he is never shown being re baptized. Others think that he was only baptized by John and that he was like and Old Testament prophet believing the Messiah was still to come.
- I think we may not know why his message was incomplete. We may not know what he needed to know, but we do know that his teaching was incomplete.
- So, in the next verse Priscilla and Aquila take him aside and explain more fully the Gospel.
- Notice after this that verses 27 and 28 have Apollos going to Corinth and powerfully refuting the Jews in public demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. In fact, I wonder if that is what was explained to him: that Jesus was the Christ.
- So, what does this mean to us?
- It is vitally important that we understand a complete Gospel. Jesus was crucified, died, buried and rose again. (1 Cor. 15:3)
- So think about this, in what way or ways is our Gospel lacking? As we look across the United States what is going on? I believe that we allow to many people just like Harry Emerson Fosdick. He was the pastor whom I told you about in the beginning of the sermon. He denied many of the core truths of historic Christianity. This allows for people just like my family member, thinking they are Christians when they really are not. Their belief is incomplete. This cannot be, we must hold true to the faith.
- It is important that we recognize as Jesus said that believing in Him means following Him. Many times we allow or teach people simply to believe and that belief is separate from their life. This cannot be, believing in Jesus means following Jesus. We are not fans of Christ we are followers of Christ.
- But what else? We must do our duty just like Priscilla and Aquila did. We must explain the Gospel more fully when people do not understand.
- What did Priscilla and Aquila do? They took him aside and explained to him the full Gospel.
- Are you willing to do that?
- Notice also that they did not correct him in the open, they followed the Jesus model. They took him aside and in private corrected him. That is based off of Matthew 18:15-17.
- Everyone here, who is a believer in Christ, must be concerned with incomplete Gospel teaching. That means that you must be prepared that Jesus may use you to correct someone.
I know of a case where God used an atheist to correct someone:
Do you understand a full Gospel. Some do not: listen to this:
Unitarian Universalist Minister
and Christopher Hitchens Author, God is NOT Good: How Religion Poisons Everything
Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of the atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
Only in this respect: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth
was the Christ, in other words, the Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
I disagree with that. I consider myself a Christian. I believe in the Jesus story as story, as narrative, and Jesus as a person whose life is exemplary that I want to follow. But I do not believe in all that stuff that I just outlined.
I simply have to tell you that every major
Christian, including theologians, has said
that without the resurrection and without the forgiveness of sins, what I call the vicarious redemption, it’s meaningless. In fact, without that, it isn’t even a nice story – even if it’s true . . .
It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s true literally. It matters to me whether the story has efficacy for my life.
Well, that’s what I meant to say. When
C.S. Lewis, for example, says, . . ‘if this
man was not the son of God, then his
teachings were evil’ because if you don’t
believe that the kingdom of heaven is at
hand and you can get to it by the way, the truth, and the life, offered by the gospel, then there’s no excuse for telling people to take no thought for the morrow, for example, as he did. . . It would be an evil nonsense.
So, we see in this passage that Priscilla and Aquila explained the Gospel more fully to Apollos and then God greatly uses Apollos. I ask that you believe in and trust in the complete Gospel and let God use you as He used Priscilla and Aquila in order to correct inappropriate teaching or incomplete teaching.
Do you know Jesus?
First do you know Jesus?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
1 Eric Metaxis. Bonhoeffer Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, Tenn. 2010. (page 99)
2 Ibid. page 102.