Priscilla – Partnering in God’s work

Woman of God series

Priscilla drawn by Katie Oerlemans, 2021

PRISCA (Πρίσκα, Priska). Her name means worthy or venerable. The name is of Roman origin, and it is suggested that she belonged to a distinguished Roman family. She is also known as Priscilla (Πρίσκιλλα, Priskilla), the diminutive form of Prisca.

Although Roman by birth, she was a Jewish-Christian teacher and coworker of Paul who supported and led churches with her husband Aquila in at least three cities (Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus).

Prisca and her husband, Aquila, were tentmakers who facilitated a church in their own houses at various points in Corinth (Acts 18:1–11; 1 Cor 16:19–20), Ephesus (Acts 18:19; 2 Tim 4:19), and Rome (Rom 16:3–5). Her name appears both in Acts and in Paul’s letters.

Expelled from Rome!

The couple were among the first Christians in Rome who also belonged to the synagogues of the city. She and her husband were expelled with all Jews by Claudius from Rome in AD 49, after the local Jewish community quarreled publicly over a so-called ‘Chrestus’. This was before Paul had travelled to Rome.

They travelled to Corinth, where they met up with Paul and became his honored and much-loved friends. In fact, they were the most distinguished among his fellow-helpers in the cause of Christ (Rms 16:3-5), loved by both him and the gentiles.

A couple working together in service

Priscilla is always paired with Aquila, her husband, and we see them working together in the service of the church. They are never mentioned apart, of the 6 times they are referenced, Priscilla is named first in 3, and Aquila in the other 3. There is much discussion in the commentaries why this would be so, but no real consensus. What we see here is another wonderful instance of the early church, including Paul, giving pre-eminence to women.

They are an amazing example of a couple serving as one before the Lord. Opening their home to the church, and to the teaching of the word. That they both taught is indicated when we are told that “they took him (Apollos) aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). They must have had a wonderful knowledge of the scriptures, able to teach Apollos, who himself was considered eloquent and well versed in the scriptures, and then together leading a church in their home in 3 cities. What was the impact of their work? Apollos became so mighty hat he became known himself as an apostle and was able to “powerfully confute the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28). Moreover, Paul says of Priscilla and Aquila how the gentiles gave thanks for them! They understood how to be leaders who trained and equipped other leaders!

Friends and supporters of Paul

They were great friends and supporters of Paul, inviting him into their home, into their business, and at one point (Rms 16:3) – probably during the riot in Ephesus, risking their necks for him! He met them in Corinth, then traveled together to Ephesus (51 AD) to establish the church there. At some point they moved back to Rome (55/56 AD) and established a church in their home there.

A portrait of a biblical woman leader

What do we learn about Priscilla that we can take on board in our own lives as women? Contextually, we see Priscilla as a strong woman, and contrary to the customs of the day, an equal with her husband. She stepped outside the boundaries of the expectations placed on women of the day. We too need to be willing to step outside of the expectations placed on us by our contexts so we can serve the Lord. (Think of Esther here!)

She did not work alone, Priscilla and Aquila are a wonderful example of a couple partnering together in the work of the Lord, leaders who train and quip other leaders for ministry. Be prepared to work with someone. If you are married think about what this looks like for you. But it may be that God is calling you into partnership with another woman or women in your church or sphere of influence. And so you will need to work out what that looks like for you in that situation. But remember, the rewards of that work is great! Ecclesiastes 4:9 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil”.

She is not known for her housekeeping (though the fact she had a church meet in her home tells us something about it!) but for her ability to work in a business and teach the bible. Her focus was on the spreading the gospel of Christ. Let us too, focus on the work of the Gospel of Jesus (Heb 12:1-2).

She was willing to take risks for the gospel, it was both her and her husband that risked their lives to save Paul! Oh, this is a hard one, but are we willing to take risks for the gospel? (Phil 2:25-30 another example of someone willing to take risks for the gospel).

Because she was willing to serve, she and her husband, were able to have a major impact on the church in 3 cities and beyond, through their mentorship of Apollos. Priscilla understood what was needed and was willing to use her talents to fulfil the call of God on her life, teaching, mentoring, working in ministry, running a business and a church, even if that call was counter cultural.

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