Priscilla – A study on Ministry and Leadership

Acts 18:1-7, Acts 18:18-21, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19, Romans 16:3-5 

Let us start with a little trivia

1. How many times is Priscilla’s name mentioned in the bible? (7)

2. How many times is her name mentioned alone, without her husband’s name ? (0 )

3. What did they have in common with Paul before they met? (tent making profession)

4. In what order is their names mentioned (Twice Aquila first, and 5 times Priscilla first)

5. How long did Paul stay with Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth? (18 months) 

In the year 52 A.D. the Roman emperor Claudius issued an edict expelling all Jews from the city of Rome. It seems, from what the Roman historian Suetonius says, that they were persecuting their Christian neighbors and causing considerable disturbance in the city. Claudius cared little about the reason for the trouble, and even less about who the guilty parties were. He knew they were Jews, and that was enough; so all Jews were uprooted from their homes and banished from Rome, the innocent along with the guilty. This included a Jew named Aquila, who had migrated to Rome from the province of Pontus on the Black Sea, and he decided to migrate to the city of Corinth. By his side was his faithful wife, Priscilla. We do not know for certain whether she was Jewish or Roman, nor are we sure whether or not they were both Christians at the time. 52 AD would be approaching two decades after Peter’s Pentecost sermon of Acts chapter two. When Peter’s preaching brought thousands of people into the church by faith on Pentecost, there were visitors from both Pontus and Rome (Acts 2:9-11) who carried their new faith back to their homelands. Aquila and Priscilla were possibly already Christians when they opened their home to Paul in Corinth. This is not confirmed. Bible scholar Lenski notes that Priscilla’s name was Roman, possibly connected with the Acilan gens, which would have made her a noble Roman lady (Lenski, “The Interpretation of Romans”, pg. 903). Priscilla or Prisca means “primitive”, i.e. original, venerable (Commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position). Aquila, means “eagle” 

This couple whose names are always mentioned together did some marvelous work for the Lord. By the fact that Priscilla’s name is mentioned first more times (against the custom), it is safe to assume that Priscilla was sort of the leader among them. Let us see the events in their lives and see what we can learn from those events

1. They worked together, ministered together, and are mentioned together always: A true model couple. While it is clear that males followed the occupation of their fathers, there is no rule that was evident that the wife joined the profession of the husband. We do not see this practice in the other NT couples (Mary and Joseph) or Peter’s wife etc. but we do see that Priscilla chose to work together with her husband and make a living together. When one reads the New Testament, it is striking how few couples are mentioned in the first century church. We find men, both married and single, who are prominent and we find women who are prominent in the church but we find very few couples. Of those few, Aquila and Priscilla, especially stand out. It is also noteworthy to note that even after they got into ministry, they continued their profession, and earned their living, while continuing their ministry.

2. God uses this profession to connect Priscilla with Paul. When Paul arrived in town fresh from an evangelistic crusade in Athens, he must have started looking for people in the tent making profession to do some work, and make sure that he has an earning. We are well aware of the fact that Paul always worked for his living, and that he was a tentmaker too. So the Lord brought them together and Priscilla was hospitable enough to invite Paul into their home and let him stay with them. (Acts 18:1-3). A lasting friendship was born between them. We see God using Priscilla’s hospitality to put his plans into action further for the church here.

3. If Priscilla and Aquila did not know the Lord before, the stay of Paul would sure have sealed the issue for them. No one could be in Paul’s presence for a reasonably long time and not be infected by his passion for the Lord. After all, we are talking about the Paul who almost converted King Agrippa. We see the shift in focus of Paul’s ministry and the fruits that his ministry was bearing (Acts 18:4-11). Paul stayed with Priscilla and Aquila for a long 18 months. We see here, Priscilla and Aquila playing perfect hosts, happy to remain the background and silently supporting the great missionary. Later events will show that during this stay Priscilla and Aquila became very strong in the word, and that is not surprising; they had a great teacher in Paul. We see God using Priscilla to launch a great ministry by Paul. 

4. They followed Paul when he went to Ephesus. (Acts 18:18) They did not know what they were supposed to do in Ephesus at that time, and the purpose is revealed much later. But like Abraham, they followed God’s plans and moved lock stock and barrel with Paul from Corinth, where they had settled down, to Ephesus, just to be with Paul, and be part if his ministry. Responding to God’s call to move from the comfort zone is important so that God can use us mightily later.

5. However, when they reached Ephesus, Paul left them again and proceeded to his home church at Antioch. This time, again according to God’s plans, Priscilla and Aquila stayed back at Ephesus. (Acts 18:20). This was a key move. It is because they stayed back in Ephesus that they were able to meet another great preacher (Acts 18:24-26). While Paul was gone “a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue” Aquila and Priscilla went to hear him and were deeply impressed by his sincerity, his love for God, his knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and his brilliant oratorical ability. He could be mightily used in the service of Jesus Christ, but his message was deficient. All he knew beyond the Old Testament was the message of John the Baptist, which merely looked forward to the coming Messiah. “But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). They lovingly and patiently rehearsed the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, His sacrificial and substitutionary death on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world, His victorious resurrection from the tomb and glorious ascension into heaven, the necessity for personal salvation from sin by faith in His finished work, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the birth of the Body of Christ, and other great New Testament doctrines. Aquila and Priscilla may not have been accomplished public speakers, but they were diligent students of the Word, and they loved to share it with others. They were even willing to invest the time necessary to take one young man under their spiritual care and pour into his life the things of Christ. Apollos had a keen mind and a quick understanding. He absorbed the truth they taught him and made it a part of his life and ministry. And as a result of this encounter with Aquila and Priscilla, he became an effective servant of God whom some of the Corinthians later placed on a level with Peter and Paul (1 Cor. 1:12). This is one of the biggest lessons I draw from Priscilla’s life, the leadership principle of “passing on”. Those of us who know about the discussions on the authorship of the book of Hebrews know that Apollos is one of the possible authors of that strong book.

When we come to Christ for salvation, God calls us to Go.. and make disciples (Matt. 28:19) Similarly when God calls us to leadership, He directs us to help equip others to lead more effectively.

6. The further happenings show us that they nurtured and developed a church in their home in Ephesus, and Paul was able to see it himself when he returned to Ephesus later on . We know this through his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:19). They used their home to do the ministry that Paul entrusted them to do. Ephesus was a former Greek city located on the mouth of the Cayster River on the western coast of Asia Minor; it was the capital of provincial Asia, and the leading commercial city of Asia Minor. Ephesus was famous for her goddess, Artemis (“a nature-goddess, associated with carnal fertility rituals, orgiastic rites, and religious prostitution”: “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible”, vol. 2, pgs. 324,325); for a cult-object of a meteoric “image” stone; and for a shrine to Artemis known “throughout the province of Asia and the world” (ACT 19:27). Ephesus sure needed a strong ministry since it was a wicked city. Priscilla and Aquila performed this duty very well.

7. When Paul left Ephesus for Greece, they evidently believed God was directing them back to Rome. Claudius was dead now, so the move seemed safe, and Rome surely needed a gospel witness. So off they went! Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans from Greece on that third missionary journey, and 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” (Rom. 16:3-5). They had hardly gotten to Rome and already there was a church meeting in their house. Churches in New Testament times could not afford to own land and build buildings, nor would it have been wise to do so if they could, in view of the continual pressure and persecution. They met in homes. And the home of Aquila and Priscilla was always open to people who wanted to learn more about Christ, and for Christians who wanted to grow in the Word. There was one short statement in the greeting in the Book of Romans that we cannot afford to pass over lightly, however: “Who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” We do not know what Paul was referring to, nor when it happened, but somewhere, somehow, Aquila and Priscilla together endangered their own lives to save Paul’s. And for that we also can give thanks to God. Our knowledge of divine truth would be incomplete without the epistles which God inspired him to write. His two friends were willing to give everything in the service of the Savior, even their lives. What a testimony!

8. Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned one more time in the New Testament, in the last chapter of the last book the Apostle Paul wrote. It had been sixteen years since Paul first met them at Corinth, and now he was in a Roman prison for the second time. His death at the hands of the emperor Nero was imminent, and he was writing the last paragraph of his long and fruitful life. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 4:19). He is thinking of his dear friends who were then back in Ephesus where Timothy was ministering, possibly having left Rome to escape Nero’s latest outburst of persecution against Christians. It was just a brief and simple greeting,. But Paul wanted to be remembered to them in the last hours of his life. Imagine the impression that Priscilla and Aquila left in the mind of the apostle Paul.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HER? 

1. Sometimes God moves His people, His “light” around to “spiritually dark” areas for the purpose of illuminating the darkness- preaching the truth and ministering to others in Jesus’ name. 

2. “Bloom where you are planted” was the motto Priscilla and Aquila lived by; they were faithful in serving the LORD wherever they were. 

PRO 31:30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

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