Priscilla: Companion, Co-labourer and Co-host
Text: Acts 18:2;18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19
Priscilla first appears in Acts 18:2, together with her husband Aquila, while Paul was in Corinth. Both Aquila and Priscilla came from Rome to Corinth because of the command set by Claudius that all Jews must depart from Rome. This paved the way for Paul to meet this couple who would later on becoming even more fruitful in the work of the Lord.
In Proverbs 18:22, the Scriptures say: “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” How blessed Aquila was to have Priscilla as his companion! We read in Genesis 2:22 that God created woman out of the man’s rib. God created the woman for a purpose, which is to be a man’s helpmeet (Genesis 2:18). According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, to be a “help meet” is “to be an aid and companion to the man in his tasks.” Therefore, a woman’s role is to provide such help that a man needs to accomplish every task of man whether in life or in ministry.
Both Aquila and Priscilla are always mentioned together. As Lockyer puts it: “In the truest sense, Aquila and Priscilla were “no more twain,” and all that they covenanted to accomplish together from the hour of their marriage vows was realized as the result of the perfect unity of the spiritual, nature of purpose, and of aim” (Lockyer, 1995). In Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage, we see the transformative power of marriage, and the restoration of God’s original intent that married couples should be partners in all things in their life (Richards, 1990). Surely their marriage has helped each other and has helped further the cause of Christ.
In Acts 18:18; Romans 16:3 and 2 Timothy 4:19, Priscilla’s name was mentioned before Aquila’s. Though we really do not know the reason why Priscilla’s name was mentioned first, some commentaries suggest that Priscilla might be more energetic between the two, and perhaps had the stronger character (Lockyer, 1995). Whatever the reason may be, we can learn that Priscilla played a great supporting role in motivating Aquila in the work that they did, whether in tent-making or in the preaching of the gospel.
We do no read much else of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage life. However, the Scriptures do teach how a wife should support her husband. Wives should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24). Wives should encourage their husbands (Ephesians 4:9-10). Wives should strive to be like the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10-31).
Back in Acts 18:24-28, we read of a man named Apollos, who was from Alexandria. This man came to Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla lived for a time. Apollos was knowledgeable in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). He was described to be an eloquent man and diligent in doing the Lord’s work. Unfortunately, this man only teaches about John’s baptism. When Aquila and Priscilla heard about this, they took him out of the synagogue, brought him aside and expounded unto Apollos the word of the Lord more perfectly. Through the guidance and instruction of Aquila and Priscilla, Apollos became another fruitful workman in the Lord’s vineyard (Acts 18:28).
We can learn from this account in Acts 18:24-27 about Priscilla’s example of being a co-labourer to her husband. When they both saw Apollos, Priscilla did not just sit down somewhere and watch her husband Aquila teach the gospel. Instead, she was there alongside her husband in the teaching of the gospel. We see a woman in action, and a wife as a co-labourer who was interested in saving souls just like her husband. We see a woman who was on par with her husband in evangelism. Evangelism was not just Aquila’s job, it was Priscilla’s job too! Priscilla was one of those whom Paul commended as his fellow labourers in Christ too! (Romans 16:3).
Having learnt from Priscilla, it is good for us to reflect: “Are we interested in the mission field?” Are we interested in the gospel, and to be a co-labourer together with our Christian husbands? In Matthew 28:19, Christians in general (both men and women) are commanded to make disciples. Do we make disciples? In Luke 10:2, Jesus said, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” The harvest indeed is great but the labourers are few. Are we labouring in the vineyard together with our husbands? Do we look out for opportunities to evangelize? How commendable it is when wives labour together with their husbands for the Lord!
When Paul met Aquila and Priscilla back in Acts 18:3, notice that Paul stayed and worked with this couple for a few days. We can see Aquila and Priscilla’s hospitality towards Paul. Priscilla’s work as a co-host was instrumental in Paul’s missionary journey. In fact, Aquila and Priscilla’s hospitality was even extended to the saints, who were welcome in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19). During the first century, when church buildings were not common, Christians gathered in homes and worshipped God. Aquila and Priscilla opened their home for the saints to assemble and praise God. What a great example of hospitality that is!
Similarly, do we act like Priscilla in hospitality? When our husbands want to open up our houses for home zone gatherings or any kind of church fellowship, do we open up our homes willingly? Or do we dread having Christians in our own home and having to spend all the time and effort in cleaning up the house after the event?
In Hebrews 13:2, Christians are commanded to show hospitality to strangers. Surely Paul was once a stranger to Priscilla and Aquila. We do not have a clear record of when this couple became Christians, and they very well could have been converted during the time when Paul stayed with them. Do we act like Priscilla in showing hospitality to strangers? Her hospitality possibly led to her conversion to Christ. Similarly, do we entertain strangers into our houses? Do we use this opportunity to bring these strangers to know the gospel?
As Christian women, we are blessed to see the example of Priscilla in her role as a companion to her husband, as a co-labourer in the vineyard, and as a co-host in showing hospitality to the saints. These are just a few of the things we can learn from her. But hopefully, her example can be an encouragement to us and will help us strive to do our best in the roles God has entrusted us with.