There is Power in the Name of Jesus | Acts 18:24-19:7
by Eric D’Errico
Missionary Ventures International
Read Acts 18:24-26
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to
Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the
Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he
spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though
he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He 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. (NIV 2011)
Apollos is here first mentioned in the Bible and only features in several other verses (1 Cor
4:6, 9-13; Titus 3:13). We know he was an Apostle (1 Cor 4:6, 9-13) and a Jew (v24), but
very little else. Some, such as Martin Luther and biblical scholar Ben Witherington III, have
suggested him as the mysterious author of Hebrews, but we can not know for sure. Jerome
mentions Apollos as retiring to Crete with Zenas during the split in the Corinthian church.
Titus 3:13 does mention Apollos and Zenas as bearers of the letter to Crete. Beyond this,
Apollos remains a cult figure in the Bible, like Boba Fett from Star Wars or Pippa Middleton
from the Royal Wedding; he is one who features very little but inspires much intrigue due to
his high status in the early church.
What we do know about Apollos, particularly in these verses, was that he knew a lot about
scripture (our Old Testament), and even Jesus to some extent. However, Apollos comes
up short in his understanding of Christ (v25) in that he knew only the baptism of John. As
we will find in the next verses in the passage, the baptism of John was one of repentance
and right living. It consisted in acknowledging one’s sins and turning from them in order
to honour God. Many commentaries suggest this was the limit of Apollos’ and John the
Baptist’s understanding of Jesus and that an unidentified Messiah was to come. However,
we know John the Baptist must have had more understanding of Christ from Jesus’
response to John’s disciples’ questions to him in Luke 7:18-23:
18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,
19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or
should we expect someone else?”
20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us
to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect
21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and
evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to
the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and
heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy
are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is
proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on
account of me.”
If Apollos was a conventional Apostle, as in he personally witnessed the resurrection
of Jesus, it seems he had some belief in the peculiarity of Christ, even if only a basic
understanding. Matthew Henry describes Apollos’ belief in Jesus one where he believed
in the death and resurrection, along with the need for repentance according to John the
Baptist’s teachings, but lacked the complete understanding of who Jesus was and the power
that was there, as we will uncover later on.
Luke 7:18-23 also gives us an interesting snapshot into the personal struggles of
the believer and that of John the Baptist. John 1:19-34 reveals the Baptist had an
understanding of Jesus to some extent, so when he calls into question Jesus’ ministry he is
not doing so out of sincere intrigue or skepticism, but out of a need for assurance in a time of difficulty. Many preachers have denounced the actions of John the Baptist in this passage,but perhaps we should be looking more at John’s situation as not unlike our own. John was on death row, about to be beheaded. He had sacrificed everything, his own life, to follow God and foretell the coming of the Messiah. He believed Jesus to be that very Messiah, even though he lacked a full understanding of what that meant. In that moment, in a quiet, cold, lonely cell, counting the days to execution, John needed an assurance that everything he had given his life for, everything he had sacrificed, was worth it.
We too can easily find ourselves in places where we feel God to be distant, where we are at
a place of difficulty, where our faith is on the line, where we risk not only personal failure, but the possibility that everything we have sacrificed for this life of faith we live in Christ will be in vain. So what does Christ do? He testifies to the power of God operating in Him (v22). God is the only being imaginable who can perform the miracles Jesus lists, and as they are being performed through Christ, we can rest assured God is within Him.
But let’s get back to the main scripture.
Apollos learned from John the Baptist. In the same way that John the Baptist knew Christ,
Apollos did as well, if not more so. But Apollos still lacked full understanding of the Gospel
of Jesus, the Good News, and how that means total victory of sin and death for humanity
and ourselves individually as well. Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos that there was more
to Christ than even Apollos understood, and Apollos taught of Christ even with a limited
understanding of Him! This complete understanding of Christ and the Gospel involved the
power Jesus has over this world and the world to come and how that can operate within
us. Without this power, Apollos was preaching a message of repentance and amazing
testimony in Christ’s life, but little else. With this power Apollos understood Christ was more
than repentance, more than a great story, but power over sin, power over death, power over Satan and the forces of darkness.
27 When 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. 28
For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving
from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
By holding to a more perfect understanding of the power of Jesus, Apollos was able to
give great encouragement to the believers of Achaia. When we walk in the complete
knowledge of Christ’s restoration in our lives, the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing through
his blood, and the breaking of chains that have surrounded our lives through a life lived in
darkness, we are more effectual in our ministry as God’s power is being made manifest
in our lives. When we are walking in the power of the Gospel, chains are broken in our
lives in the physical, emotional, and spiritual world. This is a powerful testimony to other
believers who may lack this understanding and suffer from low morale. Just as John the
Baptist struggled, so too do many believers, and through this power and understanding of
the Gospel, we can be greatly encouraged through the demonstration of God at work. A
complete understanding of God’s power in Christ Jesus gives us greater weapons in the
public world to refute opposition and false accusation against the Truth. It also gives us the
ability to stand with conviction and proclaim this Truth and rescind the forces of darkness in
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior
and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples2 and asked
them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the
people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Now that we have established our background, we enter the meat and potatoes of our
passage. Apollos had previously been in Ephesus and apparently prior to receiving further
instructions about Christ from Priscilla and Aquila. Due to this, when Paul arrived in
Ephesus and spoke to some disciples he found them to be without the power of the Holy
Spirit. There is a longstanding debate about whether this can be used to prove a need for
a second(third) baptism in the Holy Spirit as is common within Pentecostalism, or whether
it is simply dealing with a situation that is no longer an issue today, such as some people
believing in John the Baptist’s teachings on repentance but with little to no understanding of
Christ. Let’s observe a few points:
1. Verse 1 states these men Paul comes across were disciples. This means they were
not only teachable men but men who likely had some understanding already of God.
2. Verse 2 reveals these men had no understanding of the Holy Spirit whatsoever. It is
interesting here that it is the lack of knowing the Holy Spirit that is at issue rather than
that of Jesus. At no point does this passage indicate these men didn’t know about
3. The disciples had been baptised, but it was John’s baptism.
4. John’s baptism involved the need for repentance: acknowledging sin and turning
from it. Jesus preached this exact same message at the beginning of His ministry
(Matt 4:17), but Christ’s ministry went further, because it was a ministry of power.
Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the
blind, and washed people of their sins. This Jesus was one greater than John
the Baptist, and these disciples lacked understanding of the completion of John’s
ministry in Christ Jesus.
Some other observations that can be added to this list:
5. Jesus stated the it is for our good that we have the Holy Spirit (John 16:7).
6. Acts 2:38-39 states: Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one
of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is in the name of Jesus
we receive forgiveness of sins, and it is in so doing we receive the gift of the Holy
From all this we can make a few points:
1. Though the disciples of John the Baptist differ somewhat from modern day examples,
they share a common trait in their lack of full understanding of the power of Jesus.
2. We can know about Jesus and still not know His Holy Spirit.
3. Full understanding of Christ and the Holy Spirit begins with repentance and baptism
for the forgiveness of sins, but continues with the power of the Holy Spirit in walking
out our new life.
Let us continue with the rest of the reading:
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6
When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and
they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in
Notice here they were baptized in the name of Jesus and then Paul lays hands on them to
receive power. This means that though they received the full message taught by Christ, they
still had yet to experience his divine power operating in their lives in those few moments.
Paul lays hands on them and they begin to display signs and wonders of the presence
of God, such as tongues and prophesy. The bible also states in Mark 16:17 that signs
and wonders will follow those who believe. This should not necessarily be taken to use
in a legalistic sense, but it is something we should take to heart. Are signs and wonders
operating in our lives? If not, why do you think that is?
In the Name of Jesus
The phrase in the name of Jesus has been repeated here a few times and much throughout
the Bible, but its significance should not go unmentioned. When the Bible mentions the
phrase in the name it isn’t saying we should say a ritualistic prayer and slap Jesus’ name
on it and think it would be okay. Conversely, many a Christian has been discouraged with
the lack of the divine and miraculous in his or her life despite praying prayers ending with in
the name of Jesus. The phrase has more meaning to it than this. To do something in the
name of someone or something is to do something in the spirit of that person or thing. In
other words, what would that person do in this situation? Therefore, when we are praying,
we should be praying according to His will, not ours. We can not acquire a nice house or
nice car simply because we claim it in the name of Jesus. We fail to find scripture displaying
Christ’s example in doing this very thing. No, we must look to Christ, both in scripture and in
His Holy Spirit to know Him more and see what He is doing, then pray according to that.
When we spend time with Him, we get to know Him better and what He wants. When a man
begins dating a girl, he only knows so much and hopes certain things will impress her, even
though he isn’t entirely sure. Most guys have gone through the drama of not knowing what
her likes and dislikes are, what she thinks is the perfect date, when to make the right moves
on her would be, and none of this is more epitomized when she makes the ‘all hell breaks
loose’ statement “I don’t know you decide”. Thankfully after a few years, we can begin to
make those decisions in her name successfully because we know her.
So when we say there is power in the name of Jesus, we are not saying by declaring the
literal words ‘Jesus’ that that contains power like in a magical spell. We are saying there is
power in this one we call Jesus. There is power in His Holy Spirit which works according to
However, as we have learned, it isn’t enough to say the right things, we must walk in the
name of those things (Matt 21:21). We must do more than agree Jesus has power, we must
believe it, just as Apollos had to do. This is the God who defeated sin and death, the God
who created the world, the God who healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, and more. If we truly believe in Him, we have access to His unlimited power. Not for our purposes, but His, according to His will, which is to bring victory to this world and our lives,to forgive our sins, heal our diseases, rescue us from bondage and addictions, and give us hope for a new life.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may
overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV 1984)