God’s People, part 265: Priscilla and Aquila

Read Acts 18:1-3

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.” (Romans 16:1-2, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 265: Priscilla and Aquila. In our passage today, we are told that Paul became aquainted with a disapora Jew in Corinth, named Aquila, and his wife Priscilla. They were actually from Italy, but had moved to Corinth after the Emperor Claudius deported all Jews from Rome. This much debate as to why Claudius deported the Jews. The Ancient Roman historian Seutonius, as well as Acts 18:2, are two sources, independent of each other, that mention the event. Seutonius states that this was because of multiple disturbances caused by Jews in Rome at the instigation of Chrestus.

Scholars debate that Seutonius might have been mistaken in his hearing and spelling of Chrestus, as that word is awfully close to the word Christus, or Christ. In other words, Jews in Rome might have been angered by Christian missionaries claiming that Jesus was the Christ, and this caused a disturbance of the peace. We really cannot be sure exactly what happened; however, whatever caused Claudius to expel the Jews from Rome, it led Aquila and Pricilla to Corinth, where they met Paul.

The couple, like Paul, were tentmakers and carried that vocation out in Corinth. That is how Paul met them. In order to support himself and his mission, Paul worked as a tentmaker. In other words, Paul was a bi-vocational minister. He served Christ as the Apostle to the Gentiles, but he was only able to support that mission by working as a tentmaker. Working alongside of Paul in tentmaking, Pricilla and Aquila got to know him and join with him in Christian ministry.

There is also something else that is noteworthy about this couple and that is how Paul referred to them. In Acts they are first introduced as “Aquila, and his wife, Priscilla”. This was done because that was the social norm; however, Paul referred to them differently. In Romans 16:3, he wrote, “Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Jesus Christ.” In 2 Timothy 4:19, Paul wrote, “Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and those living in the household of Onesiphorus”  (2 Timothy 4:19, NLT).

Paul almost always put Priscilla’s name first, followed by her husband’s name and, truth be told, despite his intial introduction of the couple, Luke followed suit throughout the rest of Acts. This is no accident as name placement was a way of bestowing authority and honor. The fact of the matter is that Priscilla was an important minister and co-worker of Pauls, as was Aquilla. This is further evidence that Paul had a favorable view of women in ministry.

This should challenge us. For those who are opposed to women in ministry, a few select verses are always brought up to support that position; however, if we look at the totality of Paul’s ministry, we see that he worked alongside of women, even benefited from some of the, and he was quite comfortable to admit that. Women such as Priscilla was someone that other churches new and so Paul sent them her greetings as well. This is not a woman who was sitting quitely in the back of the church, but one on the frontlines of the mission of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles.

Let us, like Paul, not oppose people who desire to enter into ministry. Regardless of whether one is a male or a female, God created us and calls us all into ministry. Some of the best ministers/pastors/clergypeople I know are women. In fact, I am the pastor I am today because of the women who taught, mentored, and encouraged me. Let us be a people who encouarage all people to answer the call that God has placed on their lives. Amen.

“Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church… nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that every where I am in Thy Presence.” – Susanna Wesley

Lord, help me to see value in all people answering the call you have placed on their lives. For who am I to deem unworthy whom you have deemed them worthy. Amen.

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