Aquila and Priscilla, Steadfast Servants

{alt}

  • a couple devoted to service
  • a couple who exemplified hospitality, diligence, and faith
  • a marriage based on mutual respect

KEY VERSES

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. —1 Corinthians 15:58

PROLOGUE

Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple who lived during the time right after Jesus Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection in the early years of the New Testament Church. This was a time of both zeal and fear, for many followers were being persecuted as they grew in their knowledge of the Way, while also dealing with politics, exiles and prejudices of their own. This is a story about a couple who worked steadfastly to serve God’s Church during this tumultuous time, staying faithful to His truth and helping to preach His gospel.

Aquila and Priscilla and the rest of the Jews in Rome would have to find new homes.

STORY AND STUDY

(This story is based primarily on the events recorded in Acts 18.)

Exiled to Corinth

In the town of Corinth there lived a husband and wife named Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jewish immigrants who had been exiled from their home in Italy. Around the year A.D. 49, the Emperor Claudius issued an edict exiling all the Jewish people from Rome, the seat of the Roman Empire. Aquila and Priscilla and the rest of the Jews in Rome would have to find new homes.

Pause for thought: What does it mean to be exiled? In definition exiled means “to be banished from one’s native land.” Can you imagine having to pack up your belongings and leave your home, not knowing if you’d ever be able to return? What would you take with you? What, or even who, would you have to leave behind? How would this change you as a person?

Aquila and Priscilla packed their belongings, said goodbye to their friends in Rome and started anew in Corinth. They opened a small shop in the city market to work their trade of tentmaking. The Bible doesn’t record whether they had any friends or business contacts who helped them establish their business in a new location. Either way, their decision to start over in a new city required faith and determination.

Factoid: Tentmaking in the first century consisted of cutting and sewing cloth, usually made from goat or camel hair and attaching ropes and loops. A tent might be used by a traveler or a person caring for pastured animals, or perhaps even as a sun awning for a private home. A tentmaker would have likely learned such a skill as a youth, since many trade professions were passed down from father to son.

A new friend

Working as a team in their small shop, Aquila and Priscilla found they could accomplish more together than they could alone. It wasn’t long before they met another tentmaker—someone who would change their lives forever.

“Priscilla, come and meet a new friend,” Aquila said as he gestured to his wife sitting within their small open-air shop that they worked and managed together. “As it turns out, he’s quite familiar with tentmaking himself.”

Priscilla looked up from her work to see a man she had never met before standing next to her husband. She smiled politely. He looked to be of Jewish descent, mature in age, but somehow different from other tentmakers they found within their trade.

“Paul here tells me he has just come from the great city of Athens,” Aquila continued.

“Tentmaking might be my trade, but my primary work these days is of a much higher calling.”

“Oh, is that right?” Priscilla asked, placing the goat-hair tent she was sewing on the ground beside her work bench and rising to her feet to greet him. “Were you there for work or for pleasure?” she asked inquisitively.

Paul gave a warm smile, pausing slightly. He had a twinkle in his eye as he responded, as if he was sharing an inside joke. “I suppose one could say I was there for both, though my work was not what you might think.” He looked down at the tent Priscilla had been working on, admiring the craftsmanship. Though in its early stages, the tent held great potential to be a beautiful dwelling place for a willing customer. He continued, “Tentmaking might be my trade, but my primary work these days is of a much higher calling.”

We can imagine they would have had many heartfelt conversations about God’s Word, pouring their lives into God’s work.

After this first meeting, Aquila and Priscilla invited their new friend back to their home to stay and work with them at their market stall. Having no home of his own in Corinth, Paul was sheltered and provided for by this hospitable couple in his time of need as they all worked together as tentmakers (Acts 18:1-3). Each Sabbath he went to the Jewish synagogue in Corinth to teach (verse 4).

If they did not already know of Jesus Christ and His teachings before meeting Paul, it can be assumed that Aquila and Priscilla would have been introduced to these doctrines during this time. We can imagine they would have had many heartfelt conversations about God’sWord, discussing scriptures and pouring their lives into God’s work, helping to teach others what they themselves were learning.

The Bible tells us Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half teaching the word of God primarily to the Greeks (gentiles) in the area (Acts 18:4, 6, 11). Though he did not stay with his friends Aquila and Priscilla the entire time, they must have grown to be very dear friends and people he trusted greatly, because when Paul set sail for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila went with him (verse 18). They selflessly left their home and tentmaking business behind in Corinth to join Paul as he traveled to further the reach of the knowledge of God and His truth and share with others the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

While in Ephesus...

After landing in Syria, they then made their way west to the city of Ephesus (on the west coast of what is now the country ofTurkey). At that time, Ephesus was an important port city for trading merchandise and was home to a large tourist attraction: the pagan temple of the Greek goddess Artemis (also known as Diana in Roman mythology).

Factoid: The temple of Artemis was a place people in Paul’s time would go to visit, worship and pay tribute to the pagan goddess. They might bring a sacrifice to the temple and ask her to perform an act for them or request something of her. In Acts 19:23-41 you can read how Paul upset a silversmith, Demetrius, who made his living by crafting silver shrines of Artemis. Demetrius did not like Paul teaching the people about the one and only true God because it was going to put him out of business!

A teaching moment

“What a great speaker this man Apollos is!” whispered Priscilla. She was sitting next to her husband in the synagogue of Ephesus where they had met many Sabbaths before. “He speaks with such passion and conviction for the scriptures!” she exclaimed. “The people are captivated by him.”

“Yes, he does seem to have the congregation’s attention,” Aquila whispered back so that only his wife could hear him. “And yet, he knows only the baptism of John, nothing of Jesus or of what He taught, nor of the resurrection or of the Holy Spirit.”

Her husband was a strong man who was willing to serve God, no matter the consequences, and she admired him deeply.

“That was us not too long ago,” Priscilla smiled as she looked at her husband. Her love for him had grown even more within the recent years. Their regular conversations with Paul had taught her so much more about how to show godly love to Aquila, and had given them both greater understanding of the roles of husbands and wives. Her husband was a strong man who was willing to serve God, no matter the consequences, and she admired him deeply.

Aquila looked at his wife with similar admiration. He was proud of her courage to venture far from her home and he loved her for her support and wisdom. He knew she was a wife to be trusted, and he respected her devotion to and understanding of this new faith that had brought such fulfillment to them both.

“Let’s meet with him after the service and see if he might be open to learning more,” said Aquila. “It’s clear he is passionate about what he already knows. Maybe he will embrace and want to share the Way with more people.”

Aquila looked at his wife with similar admiration. He knew she was a wife to be trusted.

After the service, Aquila and Priscilla met with Apollos and patiently taught him of Jesus Christ, His life, His teachings, His death, and His resurrection. They may not have been practiced speakers or eloquent of tongue like Apollos was, but they were knowledgeable. They exercised great wisdom in approaching Apollos at the right moment and in the right setting, speaking to him privately, outside of the official service, and not confronting him while others watched. If they had called him out in front of the synagogue, he would have been embarrassed and shamed.

Apollos, no doubt grateful for this knowledge, went on to share it with others in his inspiring sermons (verses 27-28). By teaching just one person more about the Way, Aquila and Priscilla were able to make an impact on many lives as God called more disciples into His Church.

Pause for thought: Have you ever heard of a “teachable moment”? A teachable moment needs two things: a thoughtful teacher and a willing student. It might be a father teaching his daughter about God’s creation on a hike through the woods, or a mother and son reading Bible stories together by the fireplace. The best part about a teachable moment is that it’s the right time for the student. These teachable moments can leave lifelong impacts.

At some point during this time frame, Aquila and Priscilla began hosting regular church services in their home in Ephesus. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul acknowledges the devoted couple for their commitment to the growing Church in Asia, a reference to what would today be described as Turkey (1 Corinthians 16:19). They faithfully and selflessly served the early Church.

Full circle

There are two more places where Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned in the Bible. One is in Paul’s letter to the Romans where we find that Aquila and Priscilla’s lives have come full circle: they are now living back in Rome after the emperor Claudius has died and the exile has ended. Paul wrote, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3-4).

They were there, ready to help and even ready to give their own lives to serve their friend as well as serve God’s Church.

It is left a mystery to us as to what Paul’s dear friends did to help him, but what matters is that they were there, ready to help and even ready to give their own lives to serve their friend as well as serve God’s Church. Beyond this, we find that while in Rome they were allowing the church members to meet in their home each week, an example of their commitment and devotion to serving God’s Church.

The last place we read of Aquila and Priscilla is in Paul’s very last letter before his death (2 Timothy 4:19). As he contemplates his life, his race as a Christian, he remembers his precious friends who housed him, helped him and served with him as fellow workers and laborers in Christ. Paul even refers to Priscilla with an endearing nickname: “Prisca.” No doubt he loved this devoted couple dearly as a brother and sister in Christ.

Paul remembered his precious friends who housed him, helped him and served with him as fellow workers and laborers in Christ.

Conclusion

Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple who led and served not with loud words, eloquent speech or persuasive evangelism, but through their quiet and steadfast examples, their love for the Way, and their love for each other.

Consider Aquila and Priscilla’s relationship. Every time they are mentioned in Scripture, their names are together.

QUESTIONS

1. Knowledge

What kind of occupation did Priscilla and Aquila have?

Who was the man they met that shared this same trade while he also worked to serve God?

2. Comprehension

Why did Aquila and Priscilla have to leave their home in Rome and move to Corinth in the beginning of the story?

Why did Paul consider them to be such good friends and fellow laborers with him?

3. Connections

Think about your own friends, especially your friends at church if you have others your age in your congregation. Why do you value them? Why do you think they value you? Read the scripture Proverbs 27:17 and think of how that relates to your friendships. How did it relate to Paul and his friends?

Ask your child what kind of qualities they would like their future spouse to have.

DISCUSSIONS

1. Consider Aquila and Priscilla’s relationship. Every time they are mentioned in Scripture, their names are together. What kind of qualities helped them to have a strong marriage? Ask your child, What kind of qualities would you like your future spouse to have, and what kind of qualities should you possess as a husband or wife? Maybe write out a list of some of these qualities.

2. Reflect on why Aquila and Priscilla waited until after Apollos was done speaking in the synagogue to talk to him. Why might they have invited him into their home instead of staying at the synagogue? What might their tone have been as they taught him? Would they have pointed out all his errors or would they have taught him in humility?

ACTIVITIES

1. Thank You for Your Service

Try to think of a husband and wife who work hard to serve in your congregation—maybe a couple who serves diligently without a great deal of recognition. Create a card and write a thank you to them for their commitment and hard work.

2. Build a Tent

Pretend you are Aquila and Priscilla and try your hand at the tentmaking trade. Take a sheet and some chairs and get creative! As you work, explore the different ways your tent can be set up and what might be appealing to guests. Then invite your siblings, pets, toys or parents to come inside. At the end of the day, reflect on how a tent is a temporary dwelling place, because just like Aquila and Priscilla’s tents, yours will have to be taken down and relocated.

Further Your Study

Lessons We Learn From Their Lives

Lessons We Learn From Their Lives

The examples of individuals recorded in the pages of the Bible can teach us valuable lessons about life. God often worked with ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Learn how our biographical studies are organized and get tips on how Read More >

Serving

Serving

Proper Christian service requires an outward focus on the needs of others carried out in humility and not self-seeking glory. It emulates our ultimate example, Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. Develop this habit in Read More >