Catch Up or KEEP Up?

There is a saying that it is easier to KEEP up than to CATCH up.

We’ve all had to play “catch-up” at one time or another, and it isn’t easy.

Perhaps we took time off work, and when we came back we found it really hard to “catch up.”

Or we were sick and missed days of school. When we finally were able to return, we had to “catch up”—the class had gone on without us!

Does our need to “catch up” get a negative judgment? It all depends on WHAT put us behind, whether we were negligent, or delinquent, or whether it simply happened.

For one named Apollos, it was circumstances. He hadn’t had all the instruction he needed. And he didn’t even realize it.

Not until a kindly brother and sister in the church offered to help him “catch up.”

What did Apollos do? He was humble enough –and gracious enough—to accept it. Put yourself in Apollos’ place and realize the good character Apollos showed at that moment.

The story is told in Acts 18.

It was Paul’s second missionary journey, and he with Priscilla and Aquila left Corinth and sailed east across to Asia Minor, and came to Ephesus.

While Priscilla and Aquila were in Ephesus, we hear a new name come into the church: Apollos. Notice Luke’s description of this zealous brother in the faith.

Acts 18:24 24Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.

What a good start – he was “eloquent” and “mighty in the Scriptures.” Luke says more:

Acts 18:25  25This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.

Apollos had been

1) instructed in the way of the Lord; was

2) “fervent in spirit”—fervent means “boiling,” as with enthusiasm, and

3) he “spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.”

What a great addition to the cause of Christ. BUT…

Acts 18:25  “… he knew only the baptism of John.

Where had Apollos been? Since John there had been the entire ministry of Jesus, and at least ten years of Peter and John preaching—how did he miss so much? Luke tells us why:

Apollos was a “Jew… born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, [recently come] to Ephesus.

Apollos had only recently come from Alexandria, down in Egypt. But someone in Alexandria had taught Apollos the Scriptures—which tells us there were other believers in Alexandria that we know nothing about—and will not know until the day when all are gathered together at Christ’s return.

But at that time there was likely little communication between believers in Alexandria and the churches Paul had set up.

Nevertheless, Apollos was ready and eager to teach what he knew.

Acts 18:26  26So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.

But knowing nothing since the baptism of John, he needed to “catch up.” How? Two kindly brethren in the church at Ephesus came to the rescue.

Acts 18:26  26…When Aquila and Priscilla heard [Apollos], they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Apollos accepted the new teaching, but he didn’t plan to stay in Ephesus. He wanted to go on west, to Achaia (Greece) and Corinth. So what did the brethren in Ephesus do for Apollos? Knowing the brethren in Corinth would not know him, and might not accept him—he was obviously “new” to the church—they wrote letters to send with him, to the Corinthians.

Acts 18:27–28  27And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Apollos taught the gospel in Corinth, and taught it well. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians shows it—there were believers in the church who were convinced because of Apollos’ teaching—they wanted to be identified as “his.”

1 Corinthians 3:4–6  4For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

They needed to learn, but they were listening because of the good effect of Apollos’ work.

Paul had another situation that needed “catch up” for a different reason. This was with the churches of Galatia. Here the reason was very different. They should have been  KEEPING up, but they had listened to the wrong advisors and were going the wrong way.

Serious problem.

People who don’t KEEP up aren’t always willing to CATCH up.

What did Paul say to the Galatians?

Galatians 3:1  1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

Paul says much more. What a change has come over them, since they turned away from the truth he had taught them and gone back to the old Jewish customs they had been delivered from, a gospel that could not save them. They were not KEEPING up, they were TURNING back. Paul says: 

Galatians 4:11  11I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

He says more:

Galatians 4:13–16  13You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

They had gone back to the very things they had left behind—worthless customs that were not of God. The very things PAUL himself had left behind. As he said,

Galatians 2:18  18For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

They were pulling back, they had great need to CATCH UP. But first they needed a turn of HEART! How zealous they HAD been, and now the zeal was gone—because they had listened to the wrong advisors. Paul, telling them the truth, had become their enemy?

Galatians 4:17–18  17They [the Judaizers] zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.

If zealous in a “good thing,” they could CATCH up and KEEP up. But they first had to turn around.

This was the problem with Israel as a nation. They were constantly turning back, getting behind, because they refused to follow the law of God. They wanted their own way, not God’s, and were so persistent in it that God sent His prophets to tell them it would soon be hopeless, too late to catch up.

Finally, by their persistence in their own way, they reached the inevitable point of no return. Jeremiah had warned, and warned, and warned. But to no avail.

Jeremiah 17:1  1“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; With the point of a diamond it is engraved On the tablet of their heart, And on the horns of your altars,

Finally, their wound was “incurable.” God’s judgment was inevitable. There was no time left to catch up.

Jeremiah 30:12 12“For thus says the Lord: ‘Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe.

They were so hardened in their sinful state, they had no desire to change. Jeremiah wrote for the record:

Jeremiah 13:23  23Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.

At this point Jeremiah sent a petition to God for himself. He didn’t want to be caught where the people were. And he meant it. He prayed sincerely:

Jeremiah 10:23–24  23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. 24O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.

He wanted to KEEP Up, not have to CATCH up when it is too late.

Let this be our prayer also.

24O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.

Jeremiah sounds the warning we can’t miss. We cannot let old age find us still trying to CATCH up.

Jeremiah 13:1616Give glory to the Lord your God Before He causes darkness, And before your feet stumble On the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death And makes it dense darkness.

Jesus’ warning to the church at Ephesus was a “CATCH up” warning:

Revelation 2:55Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

His words to the church at Smyrna were “keep up” words: Be faithful, KEEP UP with what you are doing and…

Revelation 2:1010Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

As we have said many times, the trials and temptation in life grow good character, if we endure.

He will not give us more than we can bear at any age. Be glad we serve such a righteous, kind, and loving Father. And if we fall back and get behind, remember, we must not  delay, we must CATCH UP as quickly as we can, and KEEP UP.

We want the reward that will come to those who have overcome!

Revelation 3:2121To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Brother Paul had that reward in view

2 Timothy 4:7-87I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have KEPT THE FAITH. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.