PRISCILLA and Aquila
Bible readings: Acts 18; Romans 16:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19
What would you like to leave as your legacy?
- Not how much money you leave… but the impact you had as a Christian on those around you
- Something that accurately reflects your life and priorities
How about this one…
They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them (Romans 16 v 4)
This was what the Apostle Paul wrote about a couple that he got to know well after first meeting them in Corinth… Aquila and Priscilla
BUT WHO WERE THEY that Paul should speak in such glowing terms about them?
It appears that Aquila was a Jew … whereas the name Priscilla suggests that she was a Roman citizen.
- The Emperor Claudius ordered that all non-Romans were to leave Rome, so Aquila was forced to go and Priscilla went with him
- They settled in Corinth (in Greece) where they set up a small business making tents, clothes and other ‘tailored’ goods
- Paul subsequently met them on one of his missionary journeys…probably in the local market… and they formed what appears to have been a very successful ‘partnership’, both in commercial business and in the Lord’s work
They say that “two’s company; three’s a crowd”… but it clearly worked for the three of them… Paul, Aquila and Priscilla
So much so that when Paul left to continue his missionary journey, Acquila and Priscilla accompanied him on the first stage of the trip
Incidentally, Paul worked as a tentmaker (‘tailor’) to earn money because rabbis like himself never asked for payment
BUT IT’S PRISCILLA who is the focal point of our attention
There is much to say about this ordinary, yet at the same time, exceptional lady…
1. Priscilla was married… the wife of Aquila
- Marriage is not for everyone, though it’s desirable where possible… Jesus was a guest at a wedding in Cana where He performed His first miracle
- Of course, there are loads of jokes about marriage… some have a grain of truth; others are merely whimsical
Comedian Groucho Marx commented humorously that: Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?
Why does a woman work twenty years changing the character and habits of her husband then complain that: “He’s not the man I married”?
- But as we read in Mark 10: 6-9…
“At the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together let not man separate.”
Young Christian women today often struggle to find a suitable husband because there aren’t enough Christian men to go around. It’s a serious problem for women who believe that it is right to marry a fellow believer.
- One consequence of having a large number of single women is that there are fewer children being born into Christian families… Quite the opposite is true for other religious groups!
- Internet dating has become increasingly popular in the West with variable outcomes… some happy, others disastrous!
- Sadly, separation and divorce has torn many couples apart and created heartache for children and the wider family
But Priscilla was in what appears to have been a fruitful relationship with Aquila and, most important of all, it was a marriage in which God was placed firmly at the centre
2. Priscilla was faithful … she chose to go with her husband and leave her family and friends behind in Rome
- She could have stayed, separated from Aquila and enjoyed the security of familiar things… instead, she stepped out in faith, placed her trust in God and remained truly ‘wedded’ to her husband
We’re reminded of Ruth, Orpah and Naomi in the Old Testament…Orpah went back while Ruth clung to Naomi and went with her
- Most day-to-day decisions in life are of relatively small consequence and don’t involve agony of mind or periods of dedicated, sometimes agonising, prayer…
- But occasionally we have to make major decisions that can have huge implications for us and others… and we need all the help available from the Holy Spirit and godly friends to be wise
I wonder what you and I would have done in Priscilla’s case?
The right decision is not always the easiest one to make…
- So much depends on whether we are walking in step with the Spirit, or not!
- Often, our decisions are instinctive because we know that God will be honoured through them
- Other decisions are less straightforward because both of the alternatives seem reasonable
Mahatma Ghandi once commented: “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there will be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing”
If we do what we believe to be the right thing, God will honour that decision, regardless of how the world sees it or whether, in retrospect, we wonder if it was for the best.
3. Priscilla was a spiritual person
- She lived close to the Lord
- She appears to have shared the teaching of the Word with Aquila…
- In fact, out of six occasions when Paul refers to the couple, Priscilla’s name is put first… very unusual for those days
I don’t know how you refer to couples… which name is put first on your Christmas cards… but Paul seems to acknowledge that Priscilla and Aquila… or Aquila and Priscilla… are equally worthy of respect
- Notably, when Priscilla and Aquila stay in Ephesus while Paul continues his journey, they counsel Apollos, who is fervent for the Lord but lacking in a full understanding of the Gospel
- And it is entirely possible that Priscilla took a leading role in helping Apollos… because Aquila was probably busy minding the shop and running the business
NOTE: You might recall that later Paul refers approvingly of Apollos on a number of occasions in his first (second) letter to the church at Corinth… Time spent offering advice and guidance to new Christians is never wasted
- Remember that there was little or nothing written down at that stage to which people could refer… it had to be divinely revealed then taught orally
- Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the ancient tradition of storytelling is enjoying a revival
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a husband/wife team to be effective
- The principle of working cooperatively and serving one another should thread its way throughout the Body of Christ
- Too often, our effectiveness is compromised by petty disputes and an apparent unwillingness to be gracious
- I’m sure that Priscilla and Aquila had their disagreements and difficulties… but as someone has said, “if we must disagree, let’s not disagree disagreeably”
4. Priscilla was practical
Yes, we need to trust God, but He expects us to play our part… to work hard and use the talents that He has given us…
- Priscilla shared the task of producing goods for sale with her husband, as both Aquila and Priscilla are described as tent-makers.
Many ladies have a reservoir of skills and abilities, some of which are untapped… What a waste of God’s gifting!
- A well functioning church draws expertise from each and every person, male or female… though where possible it is Biblical for men to take the primary role in leadership
- In this regard, gentlemen please note that leadership is, first and foremost, servanthood, not domination or superiority! After all, Jesus is described as the suffering servant…
- To deny a capable and gifted woman opportunity to use her talents for the Lord is not only foolish but dishonours the Holy Spirit, who gives abilities to whom He will to be used for Kingdom work
Priscilla was not only spiritual but also believed that “faith without work is dead”!
Paul refers to them as “my fellow workers in Christ… they risked their lives for me” (Romans 16)
- Now that is really putting faith into action!
5. Priscilla demonstrated servanthood…
- She had a servant heart
- She and her husband faithfully served the church in many places and situations
- They moved from Rome to Corinth, on to Ephesus, back to Rome (dangerous!), and from Rome back to Ephesus
- Each time, Priscilla and Aquila offered hospitality to the saints and used their home for the Lord
NOTE: If my experience is anything to go by, ladies are usually more adept at creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Come on, guys!
- Paul was so impressed by this couple that some twenty-odd years later, as Paul wrote to Timothy, he asks first to be remembered to Priscilla and Aquila
So there is much to be learned from Priscilla’s life and witness…
(a) To spend time with, and liaise with people who can enhance our lives and help us to grow spiritually… and vice versa
(b) To be a faithful and reliable partner/ friend/ co-worker…
(c) To walk in step with the Spirit…
(d) To utilise and develop the skills and talents that the Lord has given us…
(e) To demonstrate a servant heart…
Of course, Priscilla eventually died… but she left a fine legacy
And the challenge comes to you and I, whatever our gender or situation, to do the same
May the Lord give us the desire to do so. For His name’s sake.