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Studies on the Women of the Bible
by Davis W. Huckabee


Chapter 19

PRISCILLA


"After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers," (Acts 18:1-3).

Here is the first of five references to the woman named Priscilla, and in each of these she is associated with her husband in the work of the Lord, and these traveled with Paul and the other missionaries on occasion. "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow," (v. 18). She is undoubtedly the same person referred to in 2 Timothy 4:19 under the shortened form of "Prisca." The cause of the expulsion of all Jews from Rome was the confusion in the minds of pagans over Jews and Christians, both being accounted the same people, though they disputed over Jesus being the Messiah.

It is thought that the reason of this edict was, that the Jews in Rome continually opposing and disputing with the Christians, about Jesus being the Messiah, Claudius, who was of a timorous disposition, was afraid of a tumult, and that it might issue in his detriment, and therefore banished all the Jews, with whom the Christians were involved; for by the heathens they were all called Jews, the first Christians being Jews.—John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. V, p. 941.

One of the things that stands out regarding this Christian couple is that wherever they resided they had a "household church"—an assembly of saints meeting in their home. When they moved on to another city as their business took them, they would leave an established church in that place. Their business as tent-makers would probably require a building larger than most homes, and so, would be a convenient meeting place for a church. In Bible times there were no "church buildings" per se for the churches met in homes and other places of convenience. Houses specifically for the purpose of meeting places for churches were of later development and however they may be more convenient than the meeting in homes and other temporary meeting places, sometimes they may be detrimental to the faith of believers in some ways. As the churches' teachings were compromised and corrupted, the members became more carnal and worldly, and so, they desired more and more elaborate and flesh-pleasing buildings. Often unnecessary church finances are expended on that which does nothing but please the carnal man and his desire to be able to "see" glorious things with his fleshly eyes. But God is not impressed with elaborate church buildings, but is desirous that there be worship in spirit and in truth, (John 4:23-24).

Nothing is said about when or where this couple came to know the Lord, but some twenty years before Paul meets them, on the first Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection and ascension back to the Father, people from Pontus, Aquila's birthplace, were at Jerusalem when the Comforter came, (Acts 2:8-11). It is possible that he and his wife may have been among the thousands converted at that time. Or their conversion could have taken place at any of a number of places, even while they resided at Rome before Claudius expelled all the Jews from the imperial city.

There is no evidence that Aquila was a minister, but he and his wife seem to have been dedicated Christian laymen that were very knowledgeable in Christian doctrine. This is seen when they take a very young and ignorant preacher and instruct him in the faith. "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly," (Acts 18:24-26).

If we allow Priscilla to have contributed towards the instruction of
Apollos, as doubtless we may, it is certain it was only in private discourse. Which being joined with a meek and humble behavior, might be very effectual for the conversion of souls, I Pet. 3:1-2. Thus, Timothy was indebted for his knowledge in the things of God to his mother and grandmother, II Tim. 1:5. But otherwise it is not lawful for a woman to teach, I Tim. 2:11-12.—Matthew Poole, Commentary On The Holy Bible, Vol. III, p. 446.

This man Apollos had apparently been converted to the Lord many years before, perhaps when he came up to Judaea and heard the preaching of John the Baptist. But he had probably returned to North Africa to live until now when he comes back with a zeal to do evangelistic work. However, he knew nothing of Jesus' coming, crucifixion and resurrection and the coming of the Comforter. He was endeavoring to perpetuate John's ministry, the only form of Christianity that he knew, which was never intended to be perpetuated beyond John. John's work was to prepare a people to be Jesus' disciples, and he did this. Priscilla and Aquila recognized his genuine Christian character, but that his theology was defective in certain points, and so, they take him into their home to instruct him more perfectly in the Truth. Another possibility has been suggested as to his knowledge of the Lord.

This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, etc. Which John, whose baptism he only knew, came to prepare. The word here used signifies catechized; and suggests, that he was trained up by his parents in this way, who might have been the disciples of John, though afterwards removed from Judaea to Alexandria. And that he only had been taught the rudiments of the Christian religion, or doctrine of the Gospel; here called the way of the Lord, or which directs and leads unto him, as the only Savior, and is the path of faith and truth.—John Gill, Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. V, p. 947.

Later, when Apollos felt led to remove to Corinth to minister there, the disciples at Ephesus, which met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, grants him a letter of recommendation to the disciples at Corinth. Thereby they encourage them to receive him, and this was a tremendous help to the saints there, (vv. 27-28). After Apollos leaves Ephesus for Corinth, Paul returns to Ephesus and finds a sort of church that had apparently been gathered by Apollos, but which was seriously defective on several fundamental points, and Paul straightens them out and scripturally baptizes them and organizes them into a sound church, Acts 19:1-7.

The next reference to Priscilla and Aquila is found in Paul's greetings to them in Romans 16:3-5 where they now reside and are acquainted with the Roman Church. This would have been some five or six years after the last reference, but here again they are meeting with a church group in their own home. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house." Note what is said about this couple. (1) They were Paul's helpers in his ministry for Christ. (2) They had put themselves at risk of their lives for Paul's sake. We have no clear details about when this took place. (3) They had a renown among all of the Gentile churches. (4) Once again they have a household church in their home that is separate from the Roman Church to which Paul writes. There were apparently several churches in this large city, as was generally so in most major cities. In the New Testament a "church" is always and only a called out assembly of believers that have been scripturally baptized and gathered in an orderly manner to worship and serve the Lord. Most "churches" then were small assemblies that could meet in homes.

When Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, this couple was apparently in Asia Minor, possibly back at Ephesus. "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house," (1 Cor. 16:19). And when Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy just shortly before his martyrdom, he asks Timothy, who is thought to be pastor at Ephesus at this time, to salute "Prisca (a shortened form of Priscilla) and Aquila," (2 Tim. 4:19). They are now back at Ephesus or, at least, in that vicinity, and, if we may judge by their past way of doing things, have a church in their home here.

Priscilla, though, quite noticeably a woman of a strong character and very wise concerning the Scriptures, should only be viewed as a woman who worked alongside her husband, aiding him in his work, and we must not infer, from this, the picture of a woman who did "her own thing," separate and apart from the teachings, in His Word, concerning the woman's role in the family and in the local church. Later, we find Priscilla and Aquila back in Rome, and Paul sent his greetings to them, also mentioning the church in their house. It seems that Paul was very grateful for this couple for having, at some point in time, risking their own lives for him. The circumstances involving this event are not known. In his letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul sends greetings from Aquila and Priscilla, who were, at that time, living in Ephesus, and again, Paul mentions the church in their house. In his second letter to the young pastor, Timothy, Paul once again sends greetings to Priscilla and Aquila. We must never forget the impact that this couple had on Paul's ministry, their effect on the young Gentile churches.—Wendy Gale Barkman, Women of the Bible, Compared and Contrasted, pp. 154-155.

What a blessing it would be to any true church to have couples such as Aquila and Priscilla, for they would be definite assets to any church and to any pastor. And without a doubt their household churches were much more efficient than the large modern day monstrosities that go under the name of "churches," but which so often only glorify men and have an appeal only to the carnal and worldly ideas of men.

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