The power of God

During Paul’s two-year stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:10), a man named Apollos ministered to the Jews in Corinth. It says in Acts 19:27-28 that Apollos “helped them much which had believed through grace: for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Apparently, Apollos’ method of teaching was different than Paul’s. Paul was opposed by the Jews in Corinth and it was there that he “shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Apollos on the other hand was born at Alexandria and was described as “an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24), meaning Apollos was a great speaker that was probably able to captivate his audience with his relevant application of God’s word and understanding of Christian living.

The stark difference between Paul and Apollos’ styles of preaching caused the believers at Corinth to prefer one them over the other and to form subgroups or cliques that divided the congregation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed this problem in a very direct manner. He stated:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12, ESV)

Paul’s argument against the divisions that were occurring in Corinth was that no man could claim credit for the salvation of others. Paul stated, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21).

Paul’s reference to the foolishness of preaching in 1 Corinthians 1:21 was meant to stress the absurdity of the idea that a person could be saved by someone explaining the scriptures to him. Paul pointed out that a person had to be “called” or invited into God’s kingdom and that it was the power of God that made it possible for people to accept Christ and be born again (1 Corinthians 1:24). Therefore, Paul concluded, “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Paul went on to say that true wisdom was a gift from God and explained that the power of God was conveyed through his Holy Spirit. According to Paul, God can only reveal things to us through his Spirit and he stated, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Christians

Before Jesus came to Earth, God’s chosen people were selected by birthright. The idea that someone could be born into the family of God was thought of more literally than spiritually before the New Covenant was established. The term Israelite originated as a descriptor of the people that were descended from Abraham’s grandson Jacob. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel after he won a divine wrestling match that lasted all night (Genesis 32:24). Genesis 32:28 states, “And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” The segment of the Israelite population referred to as Jews was typically associated with the small remnant that returned to the Promised Land after a 70 year exile in Babylon (Nehemiah 1:2). The Hebrew word translated Jew, yehudiy (yeh-hoo-dee) means a descendant of Jehudah (that {is} Judah)” (H3064).

Luke tells us in Acts 11:19 that “they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” In spite of what seemed to be an intentional effort to exclude the Gentiles from God’s free gift of salvation, it says in Acts 11:20-21, “And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” The phrase “the hand of the Lord was with them” indicated divine approval and blessing on the activities that were going on in Antioch. The Grecians that were being saved were not Greek-speaking Jews, but Gentiles (note on Acts 11:20). Therefore, it could be concluded that God wanted the Gentiles to hear the gospel and was helping the men of Cyprus and Cyrene to do that.

When the church in Jerusalem heard about what was going on in Antioch, they decided to send Barnabas to check it out. Luke’s detailed description of this important turning point in church history can be found in Acts 11:22-26. It states:

Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas unto Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people, and the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

The preacher

The queen of Sheba represents a fulfillment of God’s plan to use the Israelites to make himself known throughout all the earth (Exodus 9:16). “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). The word translated prove, nacah means to test (5254). The queen of Sheba wanted to know God and so she went to see for herself if Solomon was speaking the truth, if he really knew God in a personal way.

As a result of her visit, the queen of Sheba became a believer. It says in 1 Kings 10:6-7, “she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it.” The word translated believed, aman is the same word used in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham “believed in the LORD.” The queen of Sheba “communed” with Solomon (1 Kings 10:2). She and Solomon had a lengthy conversation about spiritual matters. Solomon revealed to her spiritual truths that opened her heart to God.

During the queen of Sheba’s visit, I believe Solomon was in the role of preacher and it is possible that the book of Ecclesiastes is a record of what Solomon shared with her during their time together. At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about having a relationship with God. He said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” and after depicting the process of aging stated, “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Solomon’s emphasis of life lived apart from God in the book of Ecclesiastes and his conclusion that a relationship with God is necessary indicates that he was trying to convert whoever he was speaking to and he was successful in doing that with the queen of Sheba.