Priscilla and Aquila are a fascinating couple. Although little is said about them in Scripture, that little is interesting and instructive. At every instance of their appearance they are mentioned together. More striking is the order in which their names are given by both Luke and Paul. Nine times out of ten, Priscilla comes before her husband. By any social standard, this is unusual. To add to the intrigue, their names have a coincidental rhyme that makes them sound like siblings. 

Who was this couple?

The conversion of Priscilla and Aquila is not recounted. The fact that they were grounded enough in doctrine to instruct Apollos (Acts 18:26), an exceptionally able and knowledgeable preacher, indicates that they may have been converted earlier than Paul’s stay with them.

Aquila was of Jewish origin. His stay in Italy was cut short by the expulsion he and his fellow Jews suffered at the hands of Emperor Claudius. Inconveniently exiled to Corinth, the couple soon found their feet and sorted their hands and economy by doing what they knew best, and that was tent-making. Jewish custom, you will recall, required boys to be taught a trade for their personal survival and as a moral safeguard. The demand for these tents among travellers and by the military was high. The returns out of their sale could have only been as high.

The home of Priscilla and Aquila must always have offered an endearing smile to visitors. Attracted by this and the common identity of trade, Paul stayed with them for about eighteen months. In the midst of all this, i.e. the busy atmosphere of running a flourishing tent-making factory, Priscilla and Aquila, admirably, were very active in the Lord’s work. They were to impact Christians. Both the church and the unconverted world felt the impact of their Christianity. 

What distinguished this couple?

The key attraction about this couple was their partnership in ministry. 

  1. They worked as a unit: Firstly, this was a couple that was inseparable. They had a bond such as is not commonly found among many couples. In nearly all they did, they worked as one. To start with, it is not usual that couples are professionally homogeneous. This couple was. Both were tentmakers (Acts 18:3).

Aquila may have learnt this trade as a boy. What about Priscilla? The extraordinary woman that she was, she may have learned it by observing her husband out of sheer curiosity and the habit of affectionately tying herself to him. She may have insisted that he train her. At any rate, this was a couple that interpenetrated their interests, if only to consolidate their mutual usefulness and ecclesiastical productiveness. They were not lucky to be this. They must have worked at it.

Second, they jointly exercised hospitality. When Apollos was invited to their home for counsel, both were involved (Acts 18:26).

Third, they even conducted private teaching ministry as a couple. Acts 18:26 reads, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Notice the plural pronouns. Of course this was private, informal, and non-official teaching by Priscilla which is not prohibited by 1 Timothy 2:11–14.

Fourth, even in his business trips Priscilla was with her husband. With Paul, they travelled to Ephesus for ministry (Acts 18:18, 19). Paul considered them his “fellow workers in Christ” (Rom 16:3). Not just Aquila, but his wife too.

This obviously meant that each supported the other in their respective services to the Lord at home and abroad. Neither excluded the other, nor did either show disinterest in the other’s sphere of spiritual interest, gifting and service.

It is worth noting that Priscilla is mentioned ahead of her husband in four of the five instances their names come up (Acts 18:18; 26; Rom. 16:3; 1Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19). This speaks of a woman of note; a woman of influence and extraordinary abilities. She evidently played a significant role in the life of her husband and her church. Probably she outstood and outshone her husband in many respects. This does not, however, mean that she dominated him or that she overturned the tables of domestic authority. Like smart Abigail (1 Sam. 25), she would have used her wit, wisdom and influence to coolly counsel and support her man. Here is a model couple for all who wish to be partners in ministry. 

  1. They ventured on strategic evangelism: Although secular in their vocations, Priscilla and Aquila engaged in an aggressive missionary lifestyle. By “missionary” I mean the business of taking the gospel to the lost. They engaged themselves in two kinds of evangelistic activities: itinerant evangelism (Acts 18:18) and hospitality evangelism (Rom. 16:3–5; 1 Cor. 16:19). In the former, as the Spirit led them, they travelled along with other missionaries to take the message of the gospel wherever people were in need of it. In the latter, they adopted a twofold domestic strategy.

First, they turned their home into a spiritual hospice. Paul talks about “the church” which met at their house. This was both at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19) and later in Rome (Rom. 16:5). It is important to note, that in the first century the church was principally a place for gospel preaching. The world of sinners was drawn into the church to hear the message of salvation.

Second, this illustrious couple did more. They also opened their home for the use of needy missionaries. Their hospitality was not just for church gatherings. It was extended to missionaries passing through town. Paul stayed with them for many months while ministering at Corinth (Acts 18:2, 3). They bore bravely the risk of sheltering Paul in his persecution. And Paul was not the only recipient of this kindness (Rom. 16:3, 4). In other words, not only did they themselves do the work of missions, they did it through supporting others as well.

Not always will we have the time to participate in certain missionary activities as we do others. This should not discourage us. At the very least, surely, we should be able to make our homes available to host missionaries. We can avail the use of our houses, vehicles, computers, phones, etc. We can regularly send them and their work financial and other material support. Prayer for them is non-negotiable. Priscilla and Aquila bore a real cost as they engaged in this ministry. How much has it cost you to support some missionary? Are there any that you support?

Here is an astonishing thing about the eschatological implications of “collaborative” evangelism. The Lord gives those conscientiously involved in it an incredible promise: “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Mt. 10:41, 42). Believe it or not, you and I, ordinary folk without any notable gifts, by merely lending to their ministries hearty support, can actually share in the rewards given to great gospel preachers!

This remarkable couple skilfully used their gift of hospitality evangelistically. We learn from them that spiritual gifts ought to be a crucial contact point with the world in gospel terms. This agrees with Ephesians 4:11, 12 which teaches that spiritual gifts were given to equip the saints, yes, but also to build the body of Christ numerically.

Consider how you can use your talents, skills, native abilities and spiritual gifts to woo the lost to Christ. God has given you things that regularly draw unconverted relatives, friends, neighbours, schoolmates and workmates to you. Do you see these as providential links for their possible salvation? These are your “open doors.” Take maximum advantage of them. The days of successful door-to-door evangelism are diminishing—whatever the Watchtower zealots have done to them! So let us exercise imagination in employing methods of approach. Let us use every opportunity that our professions, trades, talents and any resources open to us, evangelistically. Hospitality is an entrenched part of our culture that easily draws the unconverted into our homes. Why can’t we consolidate hospitality evangelism? 

Home Truths

  1. Evangelism is not only for youths, for the gifted, or for pulpit preachers. It is for all believers. Couples have unique opportunities to penetrate, seeing that they are already united by so much in a ministry in which two are better than one (cf. Mk. 6:7).
  2. Ministry as a couple best works where the wife, like Priscilla, (a) is devout and zealous for the Lord’s work, (b) does not allow care for house and children to distance her from her man and her God, (c) is organised, disciplined and supportive of her husband’s activities. On the other hand, it flourishes where a husband is not a stumbling block to a wife keen to be useful in God’s service. A man who fails to provide spiritual leadership suffers the most shameful disability. Men, when blessed with a wife endowed with extraordinary abilities and imposing character, do not feel threatened! Humbly and wisely harness these to advance the Lord’s work. Not all couples will necessarily synchronise as well as Priscilla and Aquila in all or most areas. All should at least employ some of their mutual strengths and gifts to create opportunities for systematic gospel witness jointly.
  3. Secular callings and their demands should not be a reason for failing to minister for the Lord. Rather they should be catalysts of it. We come in direct contact with the world through our vocations. Priscilla and Aquila’s taxing trade did not hinder them from being useful in spreading the gospel. It was instead used to support themselves and others in missions.
  4. Being a foreigner or visitor in any part of the world, even as a refugee, as were Priscilla and Aquila, is no reason for being evangelistically inactive. Protracted “acclimatising” to a new environment in gospel work is a luxury. All are perishing sinners whatever the race, tribe, or culture and all need the same solution, which is salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
  5. Do not mourn about the change of fortunes in your life. Even in such, see opportunities for gospel witness. Aquila and his wife had their comfortable life in Rome severely disrupted by the exile. Still they quickly reorganised themselves and embarked on the work whose importance pervades circumstances.
  6. Knowledge of the scriptures is vital for a sound handling of the message of the gospel. This is how Apollos was helped understand truth better by Priscilla and Aquila, and hence became a better communicator of the gospel message. By it the couple ministered effectively.
  7. Only a Christ-centred life of constantly musing on the triumphs and glories of the cross will culture an evangelistic lifestyle. “In the Lord” Priscilla and Aquila did much of what they did (cf. Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19).