Was Apollos at fault in 1 Corinthians 16:12?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:12: “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.”

On the basis of this verse, Apollos has occasionally been charged with willfulness (stubbornness) and/or inattentiveness (carelessness). In other words, “He should have gone to Corinth as Paul wanted!” Yet, this seems harsh—and likely an incorrect assessment of the situation. All we know from this passage is that, whereas the Apostle Paul intensely wished Apollos would visit Corinth and help resolve their many spiritual problems, Apollos declined because he preferred to travel there at a “convenient time.” Apollos probably had to address other, more pressing ministry needs elsewhere (perhaps help Paul in Ephesus?). Once he had tended to those matters, he would go assist the Corinthian saints.

Whatever the case, Corinth would have to wait until Apollos’ schedule afforded him a chance to come. Paul himself was unavailable to personally visit Corinth until later, for he had chosen to remain in Ephesus to preach amidst severe persecution (see verses 1-9; cf. Acts chapter 19). Should we then accuse Paul of being negligent in choosing not to go to Corinth himself?! Of course not—and neither should we fault Apollos! Thankfully, Paul would at least send Timothy and Erastus, faithful brethren in ministry, to Macedonia, and they could reach Corinth on their journey (see Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:10). Apollos, for whatever reason, would not be accompanying his brothers in Christ.

A more perfect application of 1 Corinthians 16:12 is apparent to those saints mature in their understanding of the rightly divided Word: God does not make our ministry decisions for us! We use His Word to arrive at a specific conclusion, and then we act by faith in the appropriate verses. Contrary to the tenets of Calvinism, God is not there “sovereignly” working by forcing people to do this or that against their will. “God said it, so you had better do it—or else!” This would be law and not grace. The Holy Spirit through Paul allowed Apollos to make a choice—and never does the Lord rob us of our volition. We will let the Lord alone judge whether Apollos made the “right” or “wrong” decision.

Also see:
» Should ministers study Scripture to prepare for teaching?
» How many Bible teachers should someone have?
» Does “touch not mine anointed” forbid us from correcting erring church leaders?