He said, “No!” Imagine saying no to the Apostle Paul. This was no frivolous request; no spur of the moment idea in Paul’s mind. A man with the “care of all the churches” on his heart would not make light suggestions. It was his exercise that Apollos should visit Corinth. In fact, he told his readers in Corinth that “he greatly desired” Apollos to visit them (1 Cor 16:10). Another has gone as far as to translate it, “I begged him often” (J. N. D.) to visit with the brethren. Yet Apollos said, “No.” He would go when he felt it was the Lord’s time.
How did Paul respond? With bitterness? With condemning words for someone who did not see the mind of God as he did? With rancor toward one who did not appreciate and share the burden for Corinth which he had?
You will search in vain for any innuendo in Paul’s words which would deprecate the man Apollos. There is no sense of frustration or anger. No dismissive words escape his lip or come from his pen. “He will come when he shall have convenient time” (v 12).
Are there lessons for us to learn? Is there an insight into godly relationships from which we might profit?
Paul had a deep exercise and burden. It is unlikely that he had a revelation from the Lord that Apollos should visit Corinth. He had no chapter and verse for Apollos’ direction. As such, he could only express his exercise and leave the choice to another man’s will, respecting his right – even his responsibility – to move according to the will of God. Dare we use the word “tolerance” here? It has so much evil baggage linked with it that we shy away, in fact run away, from the word. Yet Paul exhibited tolerance of others on many occasions.
When we have clear, definitive Scripture for our practices and movements, then we need to defend the truth of God with all our ability, even our lives. When, however, we are applying principles – whether about versions, pronouns, or appearance – and when we are expressing personal exercise, is there not room for tolerance which springs from a respect for another’s conscience and their need to move before the Lord? I must ask myself if I am forcing or legislating what is beyond Scripture; if so, I run the risk of losing what is Scriptural itself. To prop up personal exercises by twisting Scripture to defend myself results in a weakening of all Scripture.
This is not a plea for permissiveness or lower standards; it is a plea for what has been lacking to a large extent: a willingness to wait for spiritual growth in younger believers, and a patience with those who do not cross their t’s and dot their i’s as I do. It is also a plea for younger believers for understanding and patience with older saints who have lived their convictions all their lives. Young and old alike should strive for unity by showing respect and understanding of each other.
Paul would not tolerate evil at Corinth; but he would tolerate liberty for Apollos. He strove for, labored for, and longed for unity, not uniformity.
Is there a need for drawn swords, lines in the sand, and ultimatums? Is it spiritual to label Apollos as appalling?