Priscilla: Called to Minister

Acts 18:1-3, 18-21, 24-26; Romans 16:3-4

I. Paul’s Arrival in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3) As he often did on his travels, Paul earned his living in Corinth by working for a time at his trade of tent making (reference 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 3:8). In so doing, he met a Jewish married couple, Aquila and Priscilla, who were also tentmakers and who were to become his lifelong friends. They, along with other Jews, had recently been forced to leave Rome by command of the Emperor (18:1-3). No doubt they went with Paul to the synagogue, where he preached the gospel (verse 4). (Flemming)

It is still worth mentioning that scholars have advocated opposite positions with regard to whether or not Aquila and Priscilla were Christians when Paul met them. Milligan thought they were not, basing his view on Luke’s introduction of them, not as Christians, but as being of the same trade, tentmakers.

F.F. Bruce said, “The odds appear to be in favor of the view that they were already Christians when they left Rome.”

But it was not Christians, but Jews whom Claudius expelled.

It might have been, as Matthew Henry thought, that “the Gentiles were so confused that they could not tell a Jew from a Christian.”

Flemming, like a number of other Bible scholars, agree that we simply do not know.

Aquila and Priscilla ... (verse 2) — became firm and faithful friends of Paul, even saving his life on one occasion, for which they are extravagantly praised in Romans 16:3-4.

Tentmakers ... (verse 3) — Traditionally, all Jews, even the wealthy and learned, were taught a trade. “The Jewish law, after their exile, held that a father who taught not his son a trade, taught him to be a thief.” (Campbell)

II. Faithful Companions in the Cause of Christ (Acts 18:18-21)

But who was it that shore his head? Paul or Aquila? Some think the latter, who had bound himself by the Nazarite vow, probably before he became a Christian; and, being under that vow, his conscience would not permit him to disregard it. It seems to have been the act of Aquila alone; and therefore both Paul and Priscilla are mentioned before Aquila; and it is natural to refer the vow to the latter. Yet, there are certainly some weighty reasons why the vow should be referred to Paul, and not to Aquila; and interpreters are greatly divided on the subject. Each party has its strong reasons — the matter is doubtful — the bare letter of the text determines nothing. Two Latin versions, instead of “having shaved,” in the singular, appear to have read “they shaved;” and thus put both Paul and Aquila under the vow. (Adam Clarke Commentary) This sheer act alone substantiates the claim that these three were quite obviously “faithful companions in the cause of Christ.”

III. Priscilla as Guardian of the Faith (Acts 18:24-26) Apollos is here presented to us as a man of superior biblical knowledge for he was “mighty in the Scriptures” and “instructed in the way of the Lord.” Likewise, he was astute to historical facts, these embody principles that have to do both with the procedure of God and the duty and destiny of man. Additionally, he had a grasp for principles, facts that are doctrinal and ethical. Lastly, Apollos had an aim. And what is the grand aim of the Scriptures? Certainly, it is not to build up creeds, to establish sects, to make man the creature of dogmas, rituals, and pharisaic moods — such a use is a perversion. Rather, the central aim of scripture is to make men morally good. (The Biblical Illustrator)

“When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him to them, and expounded to him the way of God more accurately.” (verse 26) — The youthful Apollos began to proclaim his teaching in the synagogue in Ephesus which was attended by Priscilla and Aquila. When they heard what he had to say, they took him to one side and updated his teaching, explaining to him “the way of God more accurately.” In other words, they filled him in on what was lacking in his teaching through lack of knowledge, telling him about the death of Jesus as Messiah, and His resurrection and enthronement through which men could be saved and as a result of which He had sent the full blessing of the poured out Holy Spirit. And he seemingly responded to such an extent that the Ephesian believers then felt able to recommend him to the churches in Achaia.

IV. Co-workers for Life in Jesus Christ (Romans 16:3-4) Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were a wife and husband (Acts 18:2) who had ministered alongside Paul and were fellow tentmakers (Acts 18:3). They were residents of Rome who had been expelled by the Emperor Claudius when he had issued an edict expelling all Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). On his death, many Jews would have returned there, as seemingly had Prisca and Aquila. Paul had met them in Corinth, in Greece (Acts 18:1-2), and they had later moved with Paul to Ephesus in Asia Minor (Acts 18:18), where they had assisted Apollos by guiding him into fuller truth (Acts 18:26). They were clearly widely travelled, possibly for business reasons. They were also seemingly wealthy, as is indicated by the fact that their house was large enough for a house church (“the church which is in their house”). It is interesting that, as here, Prisca (Priscilla) is regularly named first. This suggests that she was of superior status to her husband socially. Bearing the name Prisca, she may well have been connected, possibly as a freedwoman, with the aristocratic family of that name in Rome (freedmen and freedwomen tended to take the name of the families they were connected with).

Paul commends them as those who had risked their lives for his sake, although he does not tell us how. This may have been why “all the churches of the Gentiles” gave thanks to them, although he may also have in mind the fruitful ministry that they had had among some of them. It is probable that he kept in close touch with them.

Central Text: 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. — Romans 16:3-4

Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.

Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.

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