Next on Paul’s list of lesser known friends in Romans 16 are Priscilla and Acquila. Well, maybe they are a little better known than some of the others on Paul’s list, nevertheless they are well worth meeting. Paul’s history of them is far too brief. The little insight that he gives into their lives makes the reader want to know more. How valuable a full biography of their lives might have been to the early Church, and even to the church of the 21st century. You can be sure that they would never have written their autobiography. They were humble servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The interesting thing is they are never mentioned apart. There are six references to them in the New Testament. In three of them, Priscilla is mentioned first and in the other three, Acquila’s name comes first. One writer describes Acquila as, “The man who is always linked with his wife”. Their two hearts beat as one. Together they served the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. Priscilla means ‘worthy’ or ‘venerable’ and Acquila means ‘eagle’, the emblem of the Roman army. They are both Jews, but their names are Roman. Could it have been that their families had important positions in the civil service of Imperial Rome?
Let’s start with the history of this remarkable couple in Acts 18 (v’s 1 —3). We find them living in the city of Corinth, the leading political and commercial center of ancient Greece. Corinth housed the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It doesn’t, therefore, take a great imagination to understand the sinful lifestyle of many of its citizens. But why were Priscilla and Acquila in Corinth at this time? They were refugees from Rome. Verse two of Acts 18 tells us that the emperor, Claudius, had expelled all Jews from Rome. Their Roman names and possible Roman connections could not save them. Even in those far off days, antisemitism was flourishing. However, in the providence of God, it worked out for good because there they met the apostle Paul. They were warm hearted hosts and welcomed Paul into their home. Paul, if you like, became their lodger — he may have worked for his keep! Why do I think that? Well,
the last part of verse three reads, “… he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers”. Paul was also a tentmaker – these were probably leather tents. All Jewish boys were expected to learn a trade, no matter what profession they might enter. The old rabbis used to say, “He who does not teach his son to work, teaches him to steal!” So, by having a trade Paul was simply following the tradition of his fathers.
Not only did Priscilla (sometimes she is also called Prisca) and Acquila provide hospitality for Paul in Corinth, but they also provided companionship for him on his travels. In verse eighteen of Chapter 18 of Acts, we find that when Paul left Corinth, Priscilla and Acquila travelled with him. What good fellowship they must have enjoyed. We can imagine them discussing some of the great doctrines of Scripture, praying together and even discussing plans for the future. Plans that may have included how best to spread the gospel in Greece and Turkey. Paul was returning to Syria and his home church in Antioch, but Priscilla and Acquila didn’t go the whole way with him. They stopped off in Ephesus and verse nineteen tells us that he (Paul) ‘…left them there…’ this was again providential. Why? Because, not long afterwards there arrived in the synagogue, in Ephesus, an eloquent, fiery young preacher by the name of Apollos. As Priscilla and Acquila listened to him, something did not quite ring true (v25). He had got some of the truth, but not all of it. His error needed corrected, his knowledge needed to be increased and who better to do this than Acquila and Priscilla (v26). We read that, ’…they took him aside…” or ”…they took him with them… ’ (ANT). They may have invited him home for a meal and opened the discussion. We cannot be sure how it came about, but they were wise enough to discuss the matter with him alone. In their own gracious way they tactfully explained the truths of the gospel more fully to him. As Herbert Lockyer says in his book ‘The Women of the Bible’ — Zondervan, “….all that Apollos became he owed, under God, to the quiet instruction of Priscilla and Acquila”. How we need gracious Priscilla’s and Acquila’s in our church today. Could you be such a person?
Paul was pleased to call this fine couple, ”…my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16 v 3). They may not have been out in the forefront of the battle. They may not have had the great power of oratory of an Apollos, or a Paul or a Peter, but they had the gift of hospitality, the gift of encouragement, the gift of companionship. They served the Lord Jesus in their own quiet, gracious and effective way. Not only were they quiet, gracious and effective but they were also courageous. Paul tells us in verse four of the same chapter of Romans that, ”… they risked their own necks for my life…” Yes, they were courageous, but they were also loyal — loyal to the apostle Paul because this risking of their own lives was for Paul’s sake. We would love to know more about this incident. Where it took place, when it took place and how close Acquila and Priscilla were to losing their own lives? Apparently others knew about their unselfish act. For Paul continues in verse four; “…to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” While the details of their unselfish act were well known in the first-century church, we in the 21st century know only the barest details. Could it have taken place during the great riot at Ephesus recorded for us in Acts 19? As Warren Wiersbe writes, “Where and when they risked their lives for Paul we do not know, but we are glad they did!”
This couple had a big heart for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for those outside of Christ. In each city they visited and settled for a while, they opened their home for a church. In this chapter it would appear that they have returned to Rome, for Paul sends greetings to “… the church that
is in their house.” While in Ephesus they had also opened their home for a house church —1 Cor. 16:19, “Acquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” The Corinthian letter was written from Ephesus. If Child Evangelism Fellowship® had existed in the first century and a CEF worker had visited the church that met in the home of Acquila and Priscilla and presented the need for Good News Clubs®, we can imagine this couple being among the first to open their home for a Club!
We say “Goodbye” to them with Paul’s greetings to them via his second letter to Timothy (4:19). Timothy was serving the Lord in Ephesus, he was going through a difficult time. Could it have been that Priscilla and Acquila had returned to Ephesus, specifically to help Timothy through the challenging time he was facing? Every local church, every missionary organization need Acquila’s and Priscilla’s! Herbert Lockyer, on closing his comments on the exemplary husband and wife team writes, “How much we owe to the quiet and useful lives of the world’s Acquila’s and Priscilla’s, as well as its more conspicuous saints, we shall never know this side of Heaven!”