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PRISCILLA AND AQUILA: A 'MODEL' PASTORAL COUPLE!

A grandmother told her grandson that there are two kinds of people - those
who do the work and those who take the credit. She then told the boy to try
to be in the first group - there's less competition there...

This is true of the church too! Priscilla and Aquila were a  'ministering
couple'. They were dedicated, hard workers. Paul called them
'fellow-laborers'  (Romans 16:3) - a term he used for a select group of
co-laborers, such as Timothy and Titus.

DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS

They had different backgrounds: Aquila was a Jew from Pontus on the southern
shore of the Black Sea. Priscilla was a Gentile (Acts 18:2), perhaps from a
noble family. They are mentioned six times in the New Testament - and in
four of them she's named first. Perhaps she was the more 'gifted' of the
two, or had more of a leadership role.

Despite their differences - ethnically and perhaps psychologically - their
marriage had to be strong to put up with the stresses they lived
under. They moved home several times. They worked at a 'secular job' as
well as ministering in the church. Their home was open to all-comers...

CO-WORKERS WITH PAUL

When Paul was in Corinth - a city of half a million and with a bad
reputation - he met these two refugees, forced to sell up and leave Rome
because of  the Emperor Claudius' decree against the Jews. (The ancient
historian of Roman history, Cornelius Tacitus, reports that Claudius
expelled the Jews from Rome because the Jews were embroiled in a public
squabble over the leadership of someone named Christ). Like Paul, Aquila
and Priscilla were tentmakers. They were probably already followers-of-Jesus
when Paul met them. They were close to Paul - physically or in his
thoughts - for the rest of his life. You have to wonder about the
foundations of a church in a place like Corinth: maybe much of the credit
should go to this couple, as well as to Paul.

Paul and Priscilla and Aquila left Corinth a couple of years later, and went
to Ephesus. There Paul left them, to push on to Antioch.

WORKERS IN THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS

Aquila and Priscilla helped establish a strong church in Ephesus. And there
they 'fed into' the life and ministry of Apollos, a scholarly Jewish
Christian from the university city of Alexandria in Egypt. Apollos was one
of those unusual people who combined 'light and heat'. He was a scholar
well-trained in both secular rhetoric and philosophy, and also in the Old
Testament. He was not only an eloquent speaker; he also had a 'burning
enthusiasm' (Acts 18:25) - this is the word you'd choose in Greek to
describe water that's on the boil! Apollos taught about Jesus but 'knew 
only the baptism of John.' So Priscilla and Aquila taught him some things 
about Jesus he didn't know.

A couple of  points of interest:

  • Here's a teaching situation where Priscilla's name is mentioned first and
  • Here we have a scholar who is willing to learn theology from a couple of tradespeople. Paul was soon in Ephesus again, and from there wrote one of his letters to the church at Corinth. He especially mentions 'Aquila and Prisca, and the church in their house' (1 Corinthians 16:19). Apparently, wherever they went, Aquila and Priscilla established a home-church. They were hospitable people, willing to make their home available for others. PRISCA AND AQUILA BACK IN ROME When we next hear of 'Prisca and Aquila' they're back in Rome (maybe it was after AD 54 when Claudius died). In a letter to the church there, written from Ephesus, Paul lists the people he especially wants to greet. And who's at the top of the list? You guessed it: 'Prisca and Aquila' (Romans 16:3, 4). Paul calls them 'fellow-workers' (or 'fellow-ministers'). And yes, again they have a church in their home. But Paul also reveals that these two had risked their lives for him. Not only Paul, but 'all the churches of the Gentiles' are thankful for the courage and commitment of these two. What an honour to be remembered like that! When Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting execution he wrote his final letter, this time to the young pastor Timothy. Paul had finished his course and was ready to 'go home'. But in his final letter, he remembers his old friends Priscilla and Aquila (2 Timothy 4:19). These godly people are now with Timothy: who knows what kind of powerful influence and encouragement they were offering him! AQUILA MENTIONED TWICE IN THE ORTHODOX CALENDAR There are few saints who are commemorated twice in some church's calendars, but such is the case with Aquila and the Orthodox Church. He is remembered both singly on July 14th and together with his remarkable wife on February 13th. One commentator writes: 'Priscilla's name is synonymous in ecclesiastical history with piety and Christian zeal of the greatest magnitude.' A "MODEL COUPLE" IN MINISTRY And so here we have a 'model couple', who were partners in ministry, and 'soul-mates'. Wherever they went they led people to Christ and helped them grow into Christ. Life for them was not always easy, but they were prepared to make many sacrifices for the Gospel of Christ. I can think of no greater praise for any pastoral couple than that they're 'another Aquila and Priscilla'. May their lives be an inspiration to us today! (However, never forget: our Lord is in the process of growing people towards maturity and faith who haven't yet arrived!). ----------------------------------------------------------------- DISCUSSION STARTERS Select any from the following (perhaps members of the group could nominate which questions are important for them): 1. Pastor's wife to counselor: 'You know, I'm living in the shadow of the "ideal pastor's wife". She was here three ministries ago, and she did everything - taught Sunday School, chaired the women's guild... She was an excellent organist, a great hostess, and a very good women's counselor. She's mentioned around the church all the time, often in my hearing. I can't live up to those expectations. What should I do?' 2. Paul and Aquila and Priscilla were close friends, for life. The ultimate test of a true friendship is that your friends would be prepared to die for you - as these two were, for Paul. Many pastors and their spouses don't have dear friends like this... Why not? 3. Priscilla was a 'working wife' with a job outside her home. What do you think about that? A generation ago many churches would have frowned on the pastor's wife having a 'secular' job but that's all changing. Or is it? 4. Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers. Talk about the advantages of having a profession or trade as well as being in pastoral ministry. (Many pastors experience great difficulty getting back into the workplace if there are no pastoral opportunities for one reason or another). 5. In some marriages the woman is the 'stronger' of the two. In a few of those marriages this works O.K. In many others it doesn't. Why and why? 6. Re Apollos. Have you heard the 'plaint: 'Why aren't more Christian scholars evangelists and why aren't more evangelists scholars?' 'Why do many of our leaders seem to be either zealots or academics but not often both?' Well, why / why not? 7. Notice that Priscilla and Aquila 'took Apollos aside' (some translations read 'they took him into their home') to help him with more information. We all know of situations where God's people aren't as discreet as this, where the truth is not spoken in love. Some choose to reject others who have a different perspective on a doctrinal issue. Without condemning yourselves or others too much, would you like to comment on the value of 'discretion' - not condemning/correcting people in front of others... 8. Apollos was humble enough to be willing to change his thinking with the help of others. How do humble people get to be like that? 9. It's O.K. for Aquila and Priscilla to open their home regularly to others, but do we all have to do that? Should there be limits sometimes? When? 10. There are many parts of the world where a pioneer husband and wife started a little worshipping group in their home, and dynamic churches have resulted from those faithful labors. Can you share some stories you know? 11. Priscilla and Aquila were marriage partners, and also partners in their business and their spiritual lives (they are never mentioned separately in the New Testament). This doesn't always happen. Why? What can a pastor's wife who is not truly in partnership with her pastor-husband do about that? 12. This couple was prepared to go where the Lord told them to go. Leaving pastorates - and friends - isn't easy, is it? Perhaps you have some hard stories about that to share with each other... 13. Priscilla and Aquila might have been 'laypeople' - they're never mentioned as elders or deacons. So...??? 14. Have you had an 'aha' experience when someone who knew the Lord and the Gospel well instructed you and you changed your mind on something important? Want to tell the others about that? 15. Apollos had a very good education - both Greek and Jewish. What are the pros and cons of good 'secular' and 'theological' learning? Name some other outstanding biblical leaders like this. However, how about this one: 'For the past two generations mainline Protestant denominations have been declining, despite their having the better-educated clergy. Young churches which are growing have, on average, less well-educated pastors.' What do you make of that? 16. There are excellent reasons for having 'home churches' even when the 'Church' meets in a special building. What are they? 17. Two theological questions, if you want them: (a) What's so different about the baptism of John and Christian baptism? (b) Many have speculated about whether Apollos was a Christian. (When discussing this one remember the ancient Christian wisdom: 'Those who are seeking God have already been found by God'). Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, who is patient with us as we journey towards wholeness, help us to be inspired by the courage and commitment of Priscilla and Aquila, but also patient with ourselves when we fall short of their high standards of faith, hope and love! Pray for one another, especially about anything mentioned today which is a concern for someone. And pray for Christians around the world who today are 'risking their necks' because they follow Jesus. Written by Rowland Croucher, February 2001.

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    rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
    Email Jan and Rowland