There is something amazing, in a strange sort of way, in the Bible. There aren’t many stories of great marriages. Think about it. Most of the stories of couples don’t leave the impression that they worked together to do much except have children. Too often even that didn’t work out really well for them. We have way too many stories of people like David who had lots of wives and lots of kids but didn’t do a good job as a husband or parent. But there is a story in the New Testament about a great couple, who didn’t have any children that we are aware of, but who served God and others for a life time. Their names are Aquila and Priscilla. We are first introduced to them in Acts 18:1-3 when Paul left Athens and travelled over to Corinth. He had been through a rough patch and came to Corinth somewhat shattered. The Lord would appear to him there to tell him not to be afraid because he had many people there and that He wouldn’t let anyone harm Paul.
When he arrived “He found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they ere tent-makers.” My feeling is that Paul needed a friend in Corinth. When he found this couple and they were fellow Jews and worked making tents like him that he was drawn to them in an unusual way. Likely the fact they had recently come there and had been run out of Rome made them anxious to meet someone and build some friendships as well. So they welcomed Paul in and the stayed there for a long time.
We aren’t told of anything special they did to help him except that Paul helped in their work. Somewhere along the way they believed the gospel message and became followers of Christ instead of just Jews. Luke never tells us their conversion story or what happened along the way with their journey with Paul. But it is obvious they became devoted to Christ and the spread of his kingdom among them. When Paul left Corinth after 18 months they travelled with him. They went down to Cenchrea where Paul had a haircut because of some vow he had made. When they arrived in Ephesus, Paul left them there and travelled on. In Ephesus we get the second picture of this couple in action.
Apollos, an Alexandrian came to Ephesus and began preaching for the church there. He was eloquent as a speaker, had a great knowledge of the Scriptures and had been instructed in the way of the Lord Jesus. But he had a problem in his knowledge. He only knew about the baptism of John and not about the baptism of Jesus. He, of course, preached what he knew and that was John’s baptism. Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers, not theologians. But they took it on themselves to get involved and to help Apollos learn the message better. They took him aside and explained to him the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism. He changed and began preaching correctly. Since I’ve been preaching for almost fifty years now I’m always impressed with good, godly couples who rather than causing a stink in church took responsibility on themselves to quietly take him aside and teach him God’s word better. They could have shouted him down and demanded his resignation. He would have been shattered and most likely made useless for the remainder of his life. They took him aside and quietly took time to teach him better without the rest of the church even knowing about . Their only evidence would be his peaching differently now. The cause of Christ and the preaching of his word would be blessed eternally if we had more people like Priscilla and Aquila who cared enough about a person and their future to use care, compassion and love in correcting them. No one does right in every situation.
Our next encounter with Priscilla and Aquila finds them in Rome again. When Paul wrote Romans he came to the end of the Book in chapter 16 and started naming the people whom he knew and who made a difference for God. He asked them to assist Phoebe in whatever work she needed them since she was a great servant in the church in Cenchrea. Then in verse 3-5a he said, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.” They had gone back to Rome, perhaps because it was a better place for their business but also to build the church of the Lord in the capitol city of Rome. It doesn’t seem that they were wealthy at all but their house became the meeting place of a church everywhere they settled. It is worth noting that by the time the church had gone on this long and the church was becoming more settled that Paul refers to this good couple as Prisca and Aquila. Notice how he described them as ones who had risked their lives for his good and for the good of others. They may have been low key in their work but they were always people given to hospitality and solving problems in the church and country around it.
Notice at the end of I Corinthians we have another mention of this dynamic duo working for God. In verses 19-29 he said, “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Now they are evidently in
Asia and again the church is in their house. I wonder how it all took place for them to have moved on from Corinth to Asia. Whatever was involved they are still doing their thing of starting churches in their home and watching them grow for the Lord.
This amazing couple helped to build the church wherever they went. I suspect they encouraged and built up one anther. Since her name often appears first it may be that she was the more dominant one of the two. Either way they served side by side. It wasn’t their church but they made certain their home was a good place to meet. Praise the Lord for their goodness and grace. So far as we know neither of them ever preached a sermon, presided at the Lord’s Table, led publicly or any other up-front kind of duty. But they deeply impressed those who knew or heard about their work because they were so dedicated and so determined to serve the Lord faithfully.
May God bless the world with married couples like these who serve him together wherever they are.