By Mike Willis
There are literally thousands of saints who have preceded us in death whose lives, if we knew about them, would be worthy examples for us to follow. Unfortunately, however, we do not know about them and must wait until we meet them in heaven to learn of their noble deeds. However, there are a number of Christians concerning whom short statements are made in the Scriptures which show that their lives are also worthy of imitation. Such is the case with a couple of noble Christians, a man and his wife, named Aquila and Priscilla.
The Scriptures do not have a lot to say about these Christians. As a matter of fact, reproduced below is the sum total of the Scriptural comments about them:
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 . . . . 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. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there . . . . 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 18:1-3, 18-19, 24-26).
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 (Rom. 16:3-5).
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).
Salute Priscilla and Acquila, and the household of Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 4:19). Let us notice the lessons which we can learn from their lives.
Lessons From Their Lives
1. These people loved the Lord and the brethren more than they loved life itself. The passage in Rom. 16:3-5 demonstrates that they were willing to lay down their life, not only for the service of Christ, but also in the service of His servant Paul. They had, indeed, learned the lessons regarding putting. Christ first in their lives. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26): Apparently, they had learned this lesson.
In addition to this, they had also learned love of the brethren. John wrote, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 4:19). In the service of the Lord, this is exactly what this godly couple had done; they had “laid down their own necks” for Paul’s life. We need to learn to put Christ first in our lives and to live to serve, as this couple did.
2. These Christians gave of themselves to promote the gospel of Christ. The first evidence which we see of this is that they opened their homes for the travelling servant of the Lord, Paul (Acts 18:1-3). During the time that Paul worked in Corinth, he stayed with this man and his wife. Hence, they were “given to hospitality,” willing to entertain strangers (see Heb. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:9).
In addition to that, they opened their home in order to provide a place for the church to assemble (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19). Having worshiped with brethren who met in the home of one of the members on some occasions, I know a little of the inconvenience which this places on the people opening their homes. Yet, this couple opened their home on more than one occasion for the church to assemble and meet. This shows to me the extent of their dedication in the service of Jesus Christ.
3. They shared the gospel with their friends (Acts 18:24-28). The account of Luke relates their work in showing Apollos the way of the Lord more perfectly. It demonstrates their zeal in teaching others the right ways of the Lord.
Apollos is a good person to study in himself. He was an Alexandrian Jew who was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures. I know quite a few eloquent men, through the television and radio networks, but none of them are “mighty in the Scriptures” as was Apollos. He was “fervent in the spirit,” a man of zeal. He had the courage to speak boldly and the desire to spread the truth of God’s word which he knew. Hence, he came to Ephesus to tell what he knew about the Christ. Despite these attributes, he knew very little about the Christ.
His sole source for knowledge about the Christ came through John the Baptist. It was limited to what John knew. Remembering that John died early in the ministry of Jesus Christ; we can rather safely assume that Apollos knew nothing of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the atonement, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the ascent into heaven, and many other important truths revealed to us by Jesus. Hence, Apollos had only partial knowledge of Jesus.
Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and taught him the word of the Lord more perfectly. This couple knew Jesus and wanted to share Him with their friends. They had imbibed the zeal of the Christians to take the gospel to every creature under heaven (Acts 8:4-5; Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; 2 Tim. 2:2). We need to remember several important facts about their teaching the gospel to their friend, Apollos.
These humble tentmakers took the educated, eloquent, “mighty in the scriptures” Apollos aside and taught him. Sometimes, men learn the truth from the lowly and simpleminded. The most important professors which Apollos ever sat under were Aquila and Priscilla. (His willingness to be taught by such a couple as this manifests admirable traits in his character.) Furthermore, Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos despite the fact that they were not full-time preachers supported by the church to spread the gospel. Sometimes we have the tendency to expect all of the preaching to be done by those who are supported from the congregational budget. Aquila and Priscilla did not have that attitude.
In order for the gospel to be taken to as many people as possible, we are going to have to cultivate the attitude that every man is a gospel preacher. Our older men need to teach the gospel on the job, our older women need to teach the gospel to the people with whom they work or meet as their neighbors in the community; our younger boys and girls need to spread the gospel to their friends in the schools across this nation. When Christians learn this aspect of spreading the gospel in contrast to expecting the supported gospel preachers to do all of the preaching, the church will grow faster.
Let us notice that Priscilla participated in the teaching of Apollos. The Scriptures plainly so state. There is no hint in the Scriptures that Priscilla usurped the authority over Apollos (1 Tim. 2:12). Yet, she participated in the teaching. Women need to realize that they, too, have a responsibility to help spread the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. In many of the passages where the word “man” is used, it is used without respect to gender and, therefore, obligates both man and woman to work to spread the gospel. Such is the case in 2 Tim. 2:2 which states, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Women are commanded to be “teachers of good things” (Tit. 2:3). Let us be careful not to impose greater limits on the woman in her teaching than the Scriptures impose. Furthermore, let us get the gospel in the hands of every Christian and engage all of us in spreading it!
4. They were wise in the manner in which they did their teaching. Jesus sent forth His disciples to preach the gospel telling them, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Paul instructed the Colossians, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (4:6). Knowing how to answer the different kinds of men is not easy. Hence, Paul wrote, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). Similarly, Jude said, “And on some have compassion, making a different: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (23).
Aquila and Priscilla knew how to handle Apollos’s instruction. They did it at the right time (when they heard), in the right place (they took him unto them) and used the right message (the way of God). They did not seek to embarrass Apollos by publicly correcting him. They did not treat him so harshly in their rebukes that they drove him away from the truth. Rather, they carefully taught him more about the ways of the Lord.
Another thing that we need to notice about this couple, they did not simply ignore the differences in doctrine which existed between them and Apollos. The modern ecumenicals, both inside and outside the body of Christ, tend to salve over the doctrinal differences which exist and pretend that unity can exist in spite of the major doctrinal differences. That was not the method of Aquila and Priscilla.
We need more couples dedicated to the service of the Lord as this couple was. Too often, a family is divided religiously; one member chooses to serve the Lord and another member chooses to go the way of the world. Even among Christians, one member is sometimes on fire with zeal for the Lord and the other somewhat lackadaisical. The amount of good which can be accomplished in such situations is decidedly less than when both members of the family labor in the same harness to bear the load of spreading God’s word.
Remembering the example of Aquila and Priscilla, let us examine our families to see if we are laboring together as partners in the Lord. Our wives are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7); hence, let us work together in our service to God as did Aquila and Priscilla.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 15, pp. 243-245
April 12, 1979