1-3 Corinth was the main city of southern Greece (see 1 Corinthians: Introduction). When Paul first arrived in Corinth from Athens, he knew no one in the city. But he soon met a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla (or Prisca). Aquila was a tentmaker, as was Paul. Wherever Paul went, he earned his own living by making tents (see Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8). In Paul’s day, even highly educated Jews earned their living by some manual trade. For example, Jewish teachers did not demand payment for their teaching; they worked at some other job to make their living.
Cenchrea was the port city of Corinth (Romans 16:1). From there Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla sailed for Ephesus.
19-21 In Paul’s time, Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the Middle East. It was a major commercial and cultural center. It was situated on the eastern coast of present-day Turkey. But even though Ephesus was a great city in New Testament times, today there is nothing left of it but ruins.
On this trip Paul spent only a few days teaching in the Jewish synagogue in Eph-esus. “I will come back if it is God’s will,” Paul said, as he took his leave of the Jews there. But Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus, and started a house fellowship in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19). In 54 A.D. the Roman emperor Claudius died, and following that, Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome (Romans 16:3).
22 From Ephesus Paul sailed to Syria (Acts 8:40; 10:1). After he landed in Caesaria, he went up to Jerusalem to greet the church there. Some Bible scholars believe that Paul, in accordance with his vow, went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, which was at that time. The word “Jerusalem” is not mentioned in this verse, but it can be understood from the context. Jerusalem was in the mountains; thus from Caesaria (on the coast) Paul went up to Jerusalem. Then from Jerusalem he went down again to Antioch.
23 The church at Antioch had sent Paul and Silas out on this second missionary journey (Acts 15:40); therefore, just as Paul and Barnabas had reported to the church after their first missionary journey, Paul also on this occasion reported to the church all that God had done through Silas and himself (Acts 14:26-27).
Then Paul again set out for Galatia and nearby Phrygia to strengthen and encourage the believers in the churches he and Barnabas had established on their first missionary journey. Thus began Paul’s third missionary journey.
24 Apollos was a learned Jew from Alexandria.80 He had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.
25 It is not known who first instructed Apollos in the way of the Lord (Christ). He knew much about Christ, and he preached the Gospel with great fervor.81 But there was something missing in his teaching. He had learned only about John’s baptism, which John had performed in order to prepare people to receive Jesus (Mark 1:2-4). He had not learned about the baptism in Jesus’ name, of which Peter had spoken on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). From this we can understand that Apollos had not received the Holy Spirit, because in the New Testament, baptism in Jesus’ name usually takes place before one receives the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38; 8:15-17 and comments). Apollos had not heard the words that John the Baptist himself had spoken: “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8).
26 As soon as Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos preach, they knew there was some lack in his understanding. But they did not point out Apollos’ mistake in front of other people. They did not want to embarrass him. Instead, they invited Apollos to their home, and there in private they instructed him more fully in the faith. Even though Apollos was already a famous preacher, he humbly accepted the correction of this older brother and sister.
27-28 Paul had just left Corinth. There was now no apostle or other well-known Christian leader in Corinth. Therefore, the brothers in Ephesus encouraged Apollos to go to Corinth in order to give leadership to the church there. And so Apollos went to Corinth, and gave the church much help. Being a Jew like Paul, Apollos was able to argue effectively with the Jews from their own Scriptures, the Old Testament, that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.
Apollos went on to become a great Christian leader. He greatly benefited the church in Corinth. His influence there was so great that some members of the Corinthian church became his disciples and followed him (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4). Paul considered Apollos to be his fellow worker and fellow apostle (1 Corinthians 3:2122; 4:6,9). In Corinth, Paul planted the seed, and Apollos watered it (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Let us learn from this story of Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos. All of us have some lack or defect. Let us correct each other privately with humility and gentleness. And like Apollos, let us humbly accept such correction when it is given. Then we, too, will grow to be mature and effective servants of Jesus Christ.